Acts 20:22-23 NIV
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
When it comes to hearing and obeying God’s voice, we have to move, to some large degree, in the world of the subjective. It would be wonderful if we received an angel-gram every time we made a decision or sensed we were to do something, where a voice from heaven said, “That’s it! You’re doing the exact right thing!” But that doesn’t seem to happen that often for most of us.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us, with more regularity, in the language of impressions and intuitions. And it seems that the Holy Spirit is comfortable with human beings being human beings—with all of our strengths, weaknesses, subjectivity, personal histories, hangups, personalities, emotional wiring, maturities, immaturities, and sensitivities coming to the moment of hearing his voice.
Yet while we trust Jesus and Jesus trusts us, we often are not able to trust ourselves—or our “impressions” or “intuitions”—because we’ve headed down the wrong path following those subjective inner leadings at other times in our lives.
When we choose to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us, and we go into intensive and long-form discipleship training to become spiritual athletes living out the way of Jesus (1 Cor. 9:25-26), to learn the way of love, and to express the fruits of the Spirit. It is in that process that the Father helps us recover wholeness in our senses as he begins to heal and transform us on our journey. He does this for our good and so that he can use our intuitions, thoughts, and feelings to guide us to do his will.
Taking Paul in Acts 20:22-23 as our example, as Scripture-soaked people who are also seeking to live like Jesus in the world, we can learn to receive guidance and to practice obedience in the form of responding to subtle impressions, mental pictures, “senses” that something is the right thing to do. As we practice obedience, our discernment gets stronger.
Recently I was with my daughter at a restaurant. In public settings, I try to remain open to the Holy Spirit because there may be a life God wants to change. I’ve seen too many lives transformed by the gospel—why would I be happy for others to continue to live in brokenness, negatively impacting others and generations beyond them, just because I’m an introvert and don’t want to be embarrassed? Jesus is about transformation, so I am about transformation. Jesus is about transformation, so you are about transformation. As a family, it’s our way.
When our waitress walked up to us, two things happened. I had a picture flash in my mind of this young woman in a graduation gown and cap. It came and it went. Then, I had a sense of compassion for her that felt more like Jesus’ compassion within me rather than just my own empathy at work. I perceived her life to be difficult, and that she didn’t see herself very highly because of repeated failures. This felt like Jesus was in the lead.
When she came over, I took a risk: “Thanks for being such a great waitress. Can I ask you a question?” “Sure!” she said. “Are you in school, or are you planning to go back to school?” “Yes!” she said enthusiastically. Then her voice dropped lower: “But I’m not sure if I should.” There was the clarity I needed, so I went for it. “I really believe that you’re to go back to school, and it’s going to go well for you. Follow that dream; you’re so worth it. There are good things ahead.” I didn’t mention Jesus because I didn’t feel like I needed to this time, but someone else has or will along her path. Her face beamed, and her countenance was brighter the rest of our time there.
Take a chance encouraging people as the Spirit leads you. It’s a great, low-risk way to practice following impressions that the Spirit gives. Just be normal, or “naturally supernatural” as my mentors would say, and follow that inner lead. You’ll be glad you did.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I am thankful that your salvation has reached into my thoughts and emotions and is healing them as we walk together. Come, Holy Spirit, give me impressions and guidance so I can partner with you in the healing of hearts. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What kinds of impressions or intuitions have you experienced in your life that you felt were from the Holy Spirit? How did you know, and were others positively impacted?
For the awakening,
P.S. – This series is now available for pre-order as a book. Get it from the Seedbed store here!