John 16:13 NIV
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
One of the greatest leadership lessons I ever learned was to treat communication with others as a collaboration, rather than as a one-way enterprise. Sometimes we need to restate something in a conversation, reading the eyes of the person to whom we are speaking, to help both of us unpack a meaning we don’t want to miss.
In John 16:13, a verse very similar to John’s earlier words in John 15:26 appears. In the earlier verse, Jesus, explaining the work of the Holy Spirit, says, “he will testify about me.” Now, a bit later, Jesus restates a similar idea, but with a slight twist: “he will guide you into all the truth.” He follows this up with a further, more detailed description: “he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Jesus then clarifies even further in verses 14-15: “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
I don’t know about you, but I need some Holy Spirit guidance in this lifetime. Since I was a young man, I have actively gathered wisdom for key decisions from family members, mentors, friends, co-workers, pastors, and a network of acquaintances. All my sources offer valuable input when I ask for it (and sometimes when I don’t). In many cases, those I ask seek to guide me toward “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable . . . excellent or praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). But their perspective is limited, and I still have to discern the best course of action on a big decision before the Lord.
This is why it is so important to cultivate our ability to discern, to perceive, what the Holy Spirit “who guides us into all the truth” is saying—as it may be in contrast to what others might be saying! Instead of learning to discern and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, many of us immediately draw on those around us, our experiences, best practices, or even what we have learned in corporate or church worlds.
We waffle and struggle, because both our sources and we have limited understanding. We may try to call that spiritual discernment, but it’s not the same thing. Experience is helpful, but what if Jesus, speaking by the Spirit within you, has something to ask of you that contradicts those experiences, best practices, and contextual learning environments? Remember Peter and the vision of the unclean animals (Acts 10:9-23)? Remember Paul and the man from Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10)? Our best thinking is not always . . . best.
Discernment comes by cultivating a listening life to the Holy Spirit. We wisely take in all the information on a decision, weighing the pros and cons of the various directions we might take. We do so soaked in the Scriptures and living a life yielded to God. But then we offer to God what Ignatius of Loyola called our “attachments”—preferred outcomes (even good ones) we are clinging to inwardly that may get in the way of hearing the Holy Spirit speak to us. We name our preferred outcomes, and lay them out on the altar, saying “Father, your will be done; I desire only to do your will.” At this point, our hearts are ready to perceive God’s peace, or what Ignatius called “consolation,” about a decision.
The Holy Spirit is going to speak to us the heart of Jesus. Learning to pause and discern God’s desires for a course of action must become part of the Spirit-led leader’s toolkit and the toolkit of the Christian (Rom. 8:14). Truth is not easily found in a world where falsehoods and personal preferences are often more intriguing. The Holy Spirit helps us become captivated by truth, for the purpose of revealing Jesus in the world.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. Teach me to discern your voice of truth speaking through the noise of my daily life. Come, Holy Spirit, teach me to lay down my own wisdom to begin to access the wisdom of heaven. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Do you have a process by which you make decisions? What have you learned about following the Holy Spirit’s promptings from a few decisions you have made?
For the awakening,