The Art of Practicing What You Preach

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It’s easier said than done. Practicing what you preach, actually living the lessons and advice we are so quick to offer others, can be in itself an overwhelming task. Tomorrow morning, I have privilege of doing just that.

Throughout the past few weeks I’ve been leading my community of faith, my church, through some of the core essentials to the Christian faith. Faced with the challenge that most day-to-day Christians struggle to answer even the most basic questions about the faith they profess, I felt compelled to kick off the new year with this teaching series helping my tribe wrestle with questions such as…

“Who is Jesus, really?” “What is the purpose of the church?” “Why was Jesus crucified?” “Isn’t religion just a way to make us feel better about death?”

Tomorrow morning, however, we wrestle with the question, “What/Who is the Holy Spirit?”

The Holy Spirit – the one who floated over the empty abyss before the dawn of creation; the one who spoke through the prophets and psalmists and the leaders of the Jewish people; the one who descended on Jesus like a dove upon his baptism; the one who came as tongues of fire upon the first apostles on Pentecost; the one even Jesus couldn’t fully describe – that’s who I’m supposed to explain in 20-30 minute talk tomorrow morning.

I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of understandings of the Holy Spirit. I mean, in one corner you’ve got some churches who literally seem to worship the Spirit’s manifestations and in the other you have those who will do anything to snuff out any kind of Spirit-led supernatural or outwardly spontaneous act. Meanwhile, the New Testament is all over the place in its depiction of the Spirit. Depending on the chapter and verse, the Spirit is a Counselor or Advocate; it’s like wind and fire; the Spirit is a deposit and an anointing; it is with us; it is within us; the Spirit is a guide, a voice, a shepherd, living water. If nothing else, the picture given us of the Holy Spirit in scripture is that it is absolutely essential to the life of the church and the expansion of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Needless to say, the goal of describing the third member of the Triune God-Head not only adequately and justly, but in a 20-30 minute long talk with relevance and a tangible application for the day-to-day lives of the people in my tribe is a monumental task!

And, maybe that’s the point, you know? Maybe, even preparing for the gargantuan task of discussing the identity and the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, is a discipline in trusting said Spirit.

The lesson I’ve prepared for tomorrow morning is the result of many, many years of prayer, study, reflection, devotion, and personal experience. Yet, tonight, less than 10 hours before I offer some semblance of a cohesive lesson on the subject matter, I find myself overwhelmed with what I must do.

But, I know why, I know why I find myself unable to tossing and turning, unable to sleep. I know why I am worried about whether or not I’ve balanced the heavy theology with relevant stories and rapport building anecdotes. I’m worry because I’m not the kind of guy who trusts others easily…even Spirit of God.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I’m a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get the job done” kind of person. I’m the person, if someone calls with a problem, it doesn’t really matter what it is, I’ll do my darnedest to solve it, myself. I don’t want to bother anyone else. I don’t like to depend on anyone but myself. I’ll size up the task and climb whatever mountain is before me without even asking my closest confidants for advice or assistance.

Here’s the rub: that’s not the kind of people God’s looking for. God isn’t interested in the most capable, self-motivated, fully qualified, knows everything, kind of guy. God’s looking for the person who’s willing to humble him/herself and say, “I can’t do this alone. I need you.”

And the beauty of it all, the irony, is that God’s response to that kind of humility and submission is to fill us with the very thing I’m striving to describe….on my own.

Lord, help me practice what I preach. Help me depend on you and you alone. Help me to trust in your Spirit’s presence within me. I know your promise is real. I’ve experienced Your faithful presence more times than I can remember. I know You’ve spoken through me before in spite of my ignorance. I know You’ve worked in me in spite of my weakness. I humble myself before You and declare Your will be done, both today, tomorrow, and through the rest of my life.

Let’s do this thing.

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