‘The presence of Jesus in his absence.’
An over-simplification, some might say, of what theologians refer to as the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
This third person of the Trinity, ‘he’ not ‘it’, occupies so much space in the Lord’s teaching, as he explains to his disciples that a certain point he will have to leave them, but will send ‘another Comforter’ to support them.
That was 2,000 years ago, of course, so what relevance, if any, does the event have today?
Well, we celebrate Pentecost once in twelve months in our churches, maybe more, depending on our persuasion. And for every genuine Christian believer, the Holy Spirit is an everyday reality, bringing hope, guidance and deliverance.
Tim Cracknell, friend and colleague, recently declared, quite boldly, that he had in a particular situation ‘responded to a Holy Spirit whisper whilst playing squash’! Fascinating.
I wanted him to back up his statement with hard facts, is at all possible. He kindly gave me half-a-dozen suggestions for consideration.
“When the tell-tale signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence are tested by sharing with other, mature believers, they also sense that it could be from God. Then, when we act upon the Spirit’s leading,
doors which one would not necessarily expect to open do in fact open.
“In addition, we find we have peace in the midst of adversity. Often we are only aware of the Holy Spirit with us as we look back; that’s the benefit of hindsight.
“We recognise that we receive special wisdom in a time of pressure or need. Courage and strength are ours at those moments.”
Tim also makes the point, especially when he is teaching young people, that although we are not able to see the Holy Spirit, we can illustrate his unity with God the Father and God the Son by using the analogy of water, steam and ice.
It’s a wonderful truth, then, that we have all three members of the Trinity to help us day-by-day as we seek to respond to God’s call.
Philippians 3, 12 – 15: “ ... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. ... you shine like stars in the universe ... “
The old hymn also puts it well, reminding us again of the Holy Spirit’s grace and mercy to us.
‘And his that gentle voice we hear, soft as the breath of even,
That checks each thought, that calms each fear, and speaks of heaven.’