This guiding principle, like all of Risen Lord’s statements of faith, is aspirational. It is an earnest desire and goal that each of us would walk a spiritual journey to maturity, but actually living a spiritually empowered life is something of a mystery. Like the apostle Paul, we must use an earthly metaphor to help us understand its meaning.
We prefer to think of it as a long road with each Christian Pilgrim ending at the same destination - spiritual maturity. All of us baptized Christians are on this same road. The key is to continue walking regardless of where we entered or whatever our current location along the way. The distance traveled has nothing to do with our chronological age. For example, one of our youngest members exhibits more Christian hospitality than we can ever muster; it is a natural gift for him, and he practices it well and often.
The danger for most Christians is that we tend to compare ourselves to others on the spiritual road as a reference point to our own progress. It’s easy to become discouraged when we see others farther ahead on the road and think there must be something missing or inferior about our own walk. As theologically incorrect as this thinking is, it is equally wrong to look along the road and assume others are behind us. Being spiritually judgmental can be a roadblock to our own growth.
For our purposes, we will substitute “We Live” with “We Walk,” because living a spirit-filled life is definitely a race toward an achievable prize according to the apostle Paul. However, we use the word “walk” instead of “run” because it is a marathon, not a sprint. On this walk we meet many saints along the way. Recently, we went to a memorial service for Lynn’s aunt, who reached her destination at age 91. The remarkable comment by one of the officiating pastors was, “it is rare these days to perform a funeral for someone who has been a believer her entire life.” Was she perfect? By no means, but we are certain she heard these words at her journey’s end: “well done good and faithful servant!..... Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:23 (NIV)
So how do we Live/Walk empowered by the Spirit? The following paraphrased thought by Norman Vincent Peale offers an encouraging guideline:
“I believe that I am always divinely guided. I believe that I will always take the right turn in the road. I believe that God will open a way where there is no way.”
What is the key phrase in each of these statements? “I BELIEVE,” not I prayed more (though we should); not I read and studied more (though we should); not I worshiped more(though we should) and not I served more(even though we should).
What a blessing and relief to know that believing in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are gifted and then empowered by the Holy Spirit. We can then live with the assurance Mr. Peale so eloquently expressed.
According to William Barclay in his book, The Mind of St. Paul, the apostle’s great insight was that, “The gift of the Holy Spirit is the first installment of that perfect blessedness which God has prepared for those who love him. The life which is lived in the Spirit is a foretaste and a guarantee of the life of Heaven itself.”
What a tremendous insight that no matter where we are along the road to spiritual maturity (beginning, middle, or end), we can experience “the kingdom of God” and be assured we will reach our destination by faith and the empowering spirit of the Father.
The following prayer by Thomas Merton sums up this journey of “living empowered by the spirit:”
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Living empowered by the spirit means we are never alone, we have a guide, and we will most certainly reach our prized destination.