Success in the Spirit

Over the last few weeks, I have been experiencing a personal outpouring of the Spirit along with an outpouring happening at our church. I have been ready to run through a wall at any moment, and a weepy puddle the next. It’s been messy, and it’s been beautiful.

I witnessed the most powerful, drastic baptism in the Holy Spirit I’ve ever seen the Sunday before last when I prayed for a friend. Another baptism in the Spirit the Tuesday following that. This Sunday, the Holy Spirit broke out at our church in a dramatic, powerful way. Deliverances, Holy Spirit Baptisms, and all that kind of goodness.

I have believed for this stuff on a regular basis since my own Holy Spirit baptism at 19. There have been glorious seasons and slower seasons. I am so encouraged by what I am seeing, and yet after years of this kind of ministry, it’s not how I define “success” anymore. 

Good Grief

I was reading Mark 3 a little over a week ago and one part hit me like a bag of bricks:

“He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He *said to the man with the withered hand, “[a]Get up and come forward!” 4 And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 3:1-5 NASB 1995

At this point, I actually felt the “grief” the passage was talking about, as if it was freshly happening at that moment, in my heart. 

Though I’m aware of this truth, it’s like a Rhema reminder came crashing into my thoughts that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus (Philippians 1:19, Acts 16:7, Galatians 4:6). I know it sounds basic, but the reality of it suddenly felt so real. I was watching and understanding in a fresh way what it looks like to grieve the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30)

In this outpouring season, with a greater awareness of His presence, there is a stronger desire in me than ever before to not grieve the Spirit. Not in a religious, law-minded way.

It’s just that the Presence is so wonderful…I want nothing in me to cause my sensitivity to it to wane. Everything in me just wants to partner with Him in even the subtlest ways, as long as it means deep awareness of that Presence.

Grieving and Quenching the Spirit

There are two specific warnings about how we are to interact with the Spirit that, if not taken seriously, will seriously limit the breakthrough we experience in the spirit realm. Of course, as I mentioned before, grieving the Spirit is one side of that coin. The other side of the coin is not “quenching” the Spirit, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. That quenching usually refers to the stifling of the Spirit, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from accomplishing what He desires. We usually quench out of fear of losing control, fear of man, or just plain bad theology. 

Both of these effects put a strain on our connection to the Holy Spirit and must be addressed accordingly. Once again, not out of religion, but because connection to the actual Spirit of God is the most important relationship in my life. 

I remember going on a walk with Holy Spirit in my first year of marriage, just telling Him honestly “I want to be the best friend you’ve ever had on earth.” I sincerely meant it. 

If I’ve grieved Him, you can bet my number one priority from the moment I recognize it, is to get alone with Him and ask for forgiveness. There is a relational forgiveness I seek, not so that I can resecure my ticket to heaven, but because I have just driven a wedge between myself and my best friend. In the same way, when I’ve wounded my wife, I go and ask for forgiveness, not to restore our covenant, but to restore our connection.

I am not for one second suggesting that Holy Spirit is an easily-offended personality, either. It’s just that He’s unflinchingly holy and unflinchingly correct in all He does. If there’s a wedge or grief in our relationship, He surely didn’t create it. The key is to recognize when I’ve grieved Him quickly. When is the last time you’ve spoken something and immediately realized it grieved Him? Many times our sensitivities are so dull we may not recognize them for hours or days.

I recently made a subtle agreement to pick up an offense and didn’t recognize it for four days. I know my decision grieved Him. In His mercy, He shined a light on it, and I let it go immediately. It was easy because I wanted nothing between Him and me relationally. He didn’t “leave” me. He won’t. It’s just that the strength of our connection was hindered because of my agreement. I felt a sense of grief when I realized that for four days I held on to something that was stopping me from fully receiving from Him.

I believe one of the ways you can know you’re getting close to Holy Spirit is that whatever grieves Him, grieves you. And you know it quickly.

I like to think I don’t quench the Holy Spirit much, I have always been very open to allowing the Holy Spirit to do what He wants. I am not offended or scared of crazy manifestations, the possibility of people just wanting attention or things getting “out of hand.” 

In my ignorance, up until this outpouring, I would have patted myself on the back for this. However, when the “more” shows up, you realize just how much you’ve settled for less. It has been made clear to me how often I have pushed down who I really am out of fear of man. This is especially true with members of my family. In my church life, I have restrained who I am for fear of disrupting things or being seen as “too much.” I have, at times not acted on impressions that I knew were from the Lord. I, a revival-hungry, tongue-talking, healing and deliverance junkie…have quenched the Spirit.

I am realizing more and more, just how second by second, minute by minute this relationship with Holy Spirit should be. Maybe that’s why we’re instructed to pray without ceasing. This continued, open fellowship with Holy Spirit is meant to be so close, so intimate, that I can sense even the slightest movement He makes. I can sense immediately when something pleases or displeases Him.

So I celebrate this outpouring I’m experiencing along with the outpouring in my church family. I am laying my life down on the altar for it to continue and become our new way of life. But it’s not how I’m defining success

Whether things are crazy or quiet, it’s harvest time or planting time, success in the Spirit, every day, for me has become as simple as this:

When I lay my head on the pillow as I’m falling asleep, I want to know that for that day, I neither grieved nor quenched Holy Spirit. That He had unhindered access to my heart for every waking hour to make me more like Jesus.

All the fun things that come with revival are outcomes…this is the journey.