Here is the quickest way I know to see his presence in a life where it seems to be hiding. After a fast establishing of the basics of belief, ask what I call "beyond" questions:
- When was a time you loved beyond your natural ability to love?
- When did you feel joy beyond your natural joy?
- Was there ever a time when you shouldn't have been able to forgive but you did?
- Tell me about a time you felt peace beyond your own peace.
You see the pattern. I have yet for these questions to fall to the floor.
The Quiet Work of the Spirit
If the Bible's teaching is true, then the Spirit's work in our lives is not only often quiet, I think it might be usually quiet. Now, I am personally a believer in all the "sign" gifts—tongues and prophecy and all the rest. I have seen miracles done in the name of the Spirit that I hold to be legitimate. He has spoken to me as an inner voice, unmistakable and specific, through deep dreams, the voice of community, even through the shape of a flock of crows, through the languages of rocks and ice. The dramatic stuff, the moments that are easy for me to believe in.
But do you know what? I have learned that those are wonderful exceptions to the norm. It's much more usual for me to feel him in the quiet moments of beyond, when the life of Jesus somehow stretches to reach something that I did not think possible. When I lived out the fruit of the Spirit beyond any ability of my own. When I knew something, or did something, or said something, or felt something that was right. That was God's work. That was the Spirit in those moments, sure as breathing.
Those moments ought to be painted as miracles. Because they are.
As leaders, it's easy to give halfway answers. It's easy to say the right things that fix the problem of a moment, yet miss an opportunity to change the course of a lifetime.
To see such moments for the rare treasures they are requires God's sight and insight—the work of the Holy Spirit. It requires invitation, sensitivity, and inner peace. Sometimes it requires silence to hang in a room longer than is comfortable. Sometimes it requires waiting for that last person to speak when you know they need to, but don't want to.
You remember, small-group leader, some moment in your leading when you did all this "beyond," right?
Well, that was the Spirit too.
What will it take to trust his leading? When will we be ready to surrender a little more, invite a little more, allow what has always been working powerfully beneath the surface to break out into the open?
Leaders, let's learn to see the Spirit in our lives where we least expect him, so that we can speak with confidence into the lives of others. Let's be honest, free of pretension, free of false spirituality, so that we can let him work freely. Let's begin to understand what it means that in him "we live, and move, and have our being."
Let's be Spirit-filled, in the quietest and most powerful ways.
I walked to her table. I sat beside her, and looked in her eyes. There was water welling up.
I smiled. "Do you belong to Jesus?"
"Yes," she said in a quiet breath.
"You were baptized in the name of the Trinity?"
"Yes," a little louder.
"Then from the moment you believed, the Spirit has been in you. He has loved you, gifted you, sealed you, and helped make you holy," I replied.
She looked me right in the eye—the kind of stare that gets you somewhere. That says, do not play with me.
Good. I wasn't playing.
"Now let's try to see where he's been hiding."
—Paul J. Pastor is author of The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit. The book, a blend of theology and creative non-fiction, includes guided questions for small-group discussion. He lives in Oregon. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.