Holy Spirit. It sounds quite ethereal, perhaps also scary, a spirit. Who is it anyway? What role does he play within the Christian faith? And how does he work? Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is inextricably linked to Christianity. Together with God and Jesus he forms the Holy Trinity. You might also know him as the Spirit of God. But he is so much more than that. Read on and learn more about this mysterious person.
The Holy Spirit is compared to several things. In the original texts of the Bible, the word Ruach is often used to designate the Holy Spirit. This means both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’. The wind is therefore a good comparison to explain the Holy Spirit.
You cannot see, touch or catch the wind. You have no control over it and you cannot own it. The same goes for the Holy Spirit. Yet you can see the presence of both of them. Not because you see them yourself, but because you see what they do. You notice the presence of the wind, for example, because the trees are moving or because the clouds are moving. Another description of the Holy Spirit is “God in action.” Christians often refer to the actions that God does on this earth as the Holy Spirit or “the work of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit in the Bible
We read about God from the beginning of the Bible. We read hints about Jesus in the Old Testament and we get to know him better in the New Testament. Now the question is, where in the Bible do we read about the Holy Spirit? Well, that’s super soon; in the 2nd Bible verse of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, already! At the very beginning, after God is introduced as creator, we read about the Holy Spirit. He is here referred to as “the Spirit of God” hovering over the water. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit appears a few times in the Old Testament and a lot in the New Testament.
People in the Bible who received the Holy Spirit
Bezalel was a designer chosen by God to provide artistic design for a Tent of Meeting. This tent was located in the camp of the Israelites and symbolized God’s presence. God says He has filled Bezaleel with His Spirit. The Spirit can thereby give him wisdom, understanding and knowledge to do this work perfectly. Read the story here.
Samson was a special man who had been given a special purpose by God. It says in the Bible that he was blessed by God and that the Spirit of God inspired him. You can read his story here.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit often enters many people at once. This is also known as an ‘outpouring of the Holy Spirit’. One of those outpourings occurred at Pentecost. That was the first time that happened.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is much more common than in the Old Testament and we learn more about him as well. We know that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. This means that in his choices Jesus left a lot of room for what the Spirit wanted and was, as it were, led by the Spirit. This is also known as ‘being full of the Spirit’. The moment at which Jesus is fulfilled is recorded in the Bible. John, the nephew of Jesus, baptized him and after this the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove.
Have you ever heard of Pentecost? It is one of the lesser known Christian festivals. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he went back to heaven after being on earth for a while. He made the promise that something would come after he left. Jesus’ followers waited for this while praying in Jerusalem. After 10 days it finally happens, the Holy Spirit comes! Everyone present is filled with the Holy Spirit and extraordinary things happen. Read more about this story here.
Difference between the fruit and the gifts
The next section of this article explains the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. So this is a good moment to explain the difference between these things! The fruit of the Spirit consists of seven aspects that are focused on your personal life of faith. Primarily, The gifts of the Spirit are aimed at building up churches and communities.
The fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not there to make life easy. His job is not to remove all obstacles so that you never have to put in the effort again. In fact, living with the Holy Spirit can sometimes be uncomfortable. The Spirit challenges people to become a better person and that is not always easy. It also sounds quite vague now; how is he going to do that then? Does he have a manual somewhere? But it really isn’t that vague.
Besides the Bible being a good manual for improving your life, the Spirit has properties that it gives to you as a kind of bonus. We call these qualities the fruit of the Spirit. It is a fruit that consists of several aspects; like a tangerine. One fruit with several segments. When you live close to God, the fruit of the Spirit, through trial and error, becomes more and more visible in your life.
All aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit consists of 7 aspects. You can read about it in Galatians 5:22. They are all beautiful qualities from God that you receive. It doesn’t have to be perfect all at once. Strive, along with God, to practice these qualities as much as possible.
In 1 Corinthians 16:14 it says: “Do everything in love.” In other translations it says ‘Let love and kindness be the motivation behind all that you do.’. That is quite a challenge, but a good way to live. The world would be a much nicer place if everyone lived with this text in mind!
This quality does not mean that you should always be happy. Jesus wasn’t always happy either. Joy is much deeper than happiness, joy is a foundation. A beautiful and good foundation. You can find that foundation with God, how? Start praying, that’s a good first step! Find a step-by-step plan here if you find it difficult to start praying! Finding that foundation also has everything to do with knowing and realizing what Jesus has done for you. Through Him we receive grace, and therefore also joy!
Another quality is peace. Peace with God and peace from God. Peace with others and peace with yourself. It doesn’t mean that you should always avoid confrontation, sometimes confrontation is good. But consider whether it is necessary and do not argue. That makes living for the other, but also for you much nicer.
“Give me patience, and I want it now!” A well-known phrase for many people, you may have heard it too. Patience is difficult, especially in a culture where everything has to be done as quickly as possible, preferably yesterday. But patience will get you so much further! This quality is directed at the other in the first place; be patient with others. But after that it is also focused on yourself; also be patient with yourself.
Dealing with others in a good way is also a beautiful quality. A quality that is also aimed first at the other person and then at yourself. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. You can’t achieve everything with it, but often you can achieve more than you think! In addition, be kind to yourself, also with that you often achieve more than if you are very hard on yourself.
This one is quite similar to the previous quality, but this one is more practical. Be good to others. Give them a hand if you can. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something of yourself for that, but you get gratitude in return! With this quality it is again meant to first focus it on others and then on ourselves.
This aspect of the fruit asks you to strive to be trustworthy. Or as the Bible says it; “If you say ‘yes’, it has to be ‘yes’. And if you say ‘no’, it has to be ‘no’.” Make sure people know you as a trustworthy person.
Don’t hurt others. Sometimes put yourself aside and choose the other person over yourself. This is not always necessary, of course, you also have to take good care of yourself. But sometimes it’s good to put the other person above yourself.
If you live close to God, you also receive this quality. It’s a quality we all struggle with from time to time. Self-control is about keeping your emotions in check. That you don’t take your anger out on someone who doesn’t deserve it. Self-control is also about enjoying things that are actually not good for you. You can lose yourself in your focus on your position in your work, sexuality or eating patterns that are not healthy for you. You can come a long way with resisting these kinds of things yourself. But you receive this quality from God and He is going to help you! It will certainly not always be easy, but you are no longer alone! You can now learn step by step to let self-control be more of a part of yourself.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit
When you receive the Holy Spirit, you receive special gifts, a bit like talents. They can be gifts that are an extension of talents you already have, but they can also be completely new gifts. These gifts are intended to help the Church work together in the best possible way. The church, or congregation, is sometimes compared in the Bible to a body. Every part is useful and to make the best use of the body, limbs have to work together. Ears can’t talk and hands can’t see, each member has their own talents, as it were. When everyone grows in their talents, you achieve the most together.
Examples of gifts of the Holy Spirit
There are many gifts of the Spirit and you can read about many of them in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The Holy Spirit distributes these special gifts as he pleases, because he knows which gift is best for whom. But you can always ask for specific gifts!
Encouraging other christians
This is a gift that often takes place behind the scenes, but it is indispensable. Everyone gets discouraged from time to time, including Christians. That is precisely why it is so important that there are people who have the gift of really encouraging people. This can be done in many ways. You can send cards to those who need it, but there are also Christians who travel to other countries to encourage Christians there. The gift can be found in Romans 12:8.
Be helpful and serve
For the people around you it’s quite nice if you have this gift! People with these gifts are extremely helpful. They figure out where they can best help and relieve you so that you can focus on tasks that require your gift. Servant people put their own interests aside in order to help someone else. This gift is mentioned in Romans 12:7.
Sharing their faith with others
A gift that is needed to let more people come into contact with the good news about Jesus. Many Christians find it difficult to talk about their faith, afraid of the reaction of others. People with these gifts talk about it very easily. They can adapt well to how much the other already knows about the faith. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 tells of someone who, by adjusting, wins others for the Lord. That means he tells them about God and then these people choose to follow God.
Some people have been given the gift of healing sick people! This gift is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. They do this through prayer and it is often accompanied by the laying on of hands. It sounds super unrealistic, straight out of a fairy tale. But it really happened! Take a look at this testimony of Sutton about how God healed her!
The previous gift is of course also doing a miracle. This gift is broader. Do you know the story about Jesus turning water into wine? There was something that was not present at the time, but it was needed. In such a case, a person with this gift can perform a miracle with the help of the Holy Ghost. Curious about the story? Check it out right away! This gift can also be found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
Music is a big and important part of the Christian faith. Musicality and honoring God with music is therefore a gift of the Spirit. You can read about this in Colossians 3:16. This is a gift that, like the others, is meant to build up the church. People often sing together and you can use this gift at such a moment to accompany the rest.
This gift is obviously directed towards others. People with this gift open their homes and welcome people with open arms. You can read this in 1 Peter 4:9-10. But it’s not just about opening up their home, they’re also there for their guests. They take care of them and offer practical help where necessary or just a listening ear.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
The moment you decide to choose Jesus, there are a few steps you still have to take. The first is that you must repent. That means you choose to follow Jesus. The next step you can take is to be baptized. By taking this step, you will receive forgiveness of your sins and begin a new life with Jesus. Anyone who does this receives the Holy Spirit. You can read this in Acts 2:38. Would you like us to pray for you? Send us a request here.
It is good to know that this is not about having a certain feeling. You can lose motivation because you expect a special feeling and focus on that, but it’s not about a feeling. It is about the certainty that you have because of what you have read in the Bible. Feelings sometimes come later and it is good not to rely on it too much.
Experiencing the Holy Spirit
You now know how to receive the Spirit, but how do you notice more of him in your life? The Holy Spirit does not force himself into your life, you have to give him space. The most important thing, therefore, is to pray. Ask him to come into your life and work in prayer. Ask for His help, wisdom, peace and fulfillment. He will always accept your invitation, whether you notice it or not. In some people there are sudden, big changes. Others don’t see what the Spirit did until they look back on certain periods of their lives after a long time.
Another way is to use your gifts. Try some things out, test what gives you energy, what you get a positive reaction to, what you like to do. Quite a chance that you will encounter your gift that way. Then you can start working on that gift.
As mentioned before, living with the Holy Spirit is not always comfortable. The Spirit is going to clear up in your life, as it were. If you invite him to do that, he will heal old wounds and make things better. That can be uncomfortable at first, but in the end it causes much less trouble, a real relief. This does not always happen super fast, it can take years and memories of bad things may remain. But with God there, you can increasingly give this pain and these thoughts a place. The Holy Spirit has big plans for you, better than you can imagine right now.
Would you like to discuss this topic or something else? Talk to an e-coach here. You can also talk to someone at a church. They can help you see and place things better. Do you want us to pray for you? Send us a request here.
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