Friday, February 20, 2009

The best gift

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13).

This is how Jesus concluded his response to his disciples’ request to teach them how to pray. First, he gave them "The Lord’s Prayer." He followed that by an illustration of a man successfully receiving assistance from his neighbor by persistent entreaty. He applied that to prayer by instructing his disciples to be persistent in asking, seeking, and knocking. Then he highlights the willingness of earthly fathers to give their children the good things they ask for, rather than something harmful. Finally, he concludes with the statement that God, who is far better than an earthly parent, will surely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

I must admit that this statement has mystified me. I wonder how much Jesus’ disciples knew about the Holy Spirit and whether they had the remotest intention of praying to receive the Holy Spirit. I’m sure there were many other things for which they were interested in praying.

Through the years, I’ve reasoned that Jesus was pointing out that if one has God, one has everything. That is, if one is rightly related to God, one can “come boldly to the throne of grace, [to] obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

But today, my thoughts on this statement of Jesus’ took me somewhere else entirely. I had been reflecting on the joy-to-be-alive, security, sense of direction and purpose, fulfillment, and love that fill one’s inner landscape when living in communion with the Lord by his Spirit. I realized that this inner landscape is where we really live. Outer circumstances cannot override what is in one’s spirit. The best of circumstances cannot put a smile on the face of an insecure, grasping person; and the worst of circumstances cannot take the song out of the heart of a person whose “mind is stayed on [God]” (Isa. 26:3 NKJV).

The writer of Proverbs had a similar thought when he said

The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,/But who can bear a broken spirit? (Prov. 18:14 NKJV).

Truly, the glorious presence of the Holy Spirit within us is gift enough. He is a better answer than we usually ask for.

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