Are you “under the influence” of God?

Drinking

I love a good word picture. I especially like one that can change our lives. To set this picture up lets imagine for a moment what it would have been like to listen to the Apostle Paul as preacher. He says that he was not a great orator, but his comments sure had the ability to get a crowd worked up.

One of those moments might have been when the church in Ephesus first read the letter written to them. Paul paints a simple picture with the words, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” (5:18) I am guessing that it would have gotten an interesting reaction from some in the crowd. It might still today.

Now the life changing word picture I want you to see here is not about whether Christians should drink or not. I will leave that for another day. But the picture that Paul is drawing should capture your imagination of what is possible in the Spirit filled life. Leaving aside the questions of drinking in moderation, Paul is saying don’t get drunk because of where it leads your life.

The power of what he points out as is its parallel: being filled with the Spirit. He is saying how getting drunk can lead down a road you don’t want to go so a life filled with the Spirit can take you to powerful places you never thought possible. He uses the language of drinking to give us a picture of God’s invitation to “drink” more of Him. As most sins are trying to fill a need that can only be found in God, so getting drunk is trying to fill a need that can only be filled by living a life in the Spirit.

There is a lot of depth to this word picture but let me give you one simple outflow. Smith Wigglesworth, the plumber turned preacher, talked about this verse and pointed out that a person “under the influence” may not realize how much they are impacted by what they have drunk. He said the same is true of people who are filled with the Spirit. Let me give you a couple examples.

The fruit of the Spirit: Have you ever been around someone who is so full of the Spirit of God that they just naturally express love, joy, peace and others of the fruit of the Spirit. It is not like they are trying hard, but since they are “under the influence” of the Spirit it is the natural “fruit” of their life. Have you ever seen a fruit working hard to grow? No they are connected to the tree and that is what comes out of their life.

The gifts of the Spirit: I have been around people who are so filled with the Spirit that the gifts just naturally flow out of their life. They may say something that I realize later was very prophetic and it didn’t even seem like they noticed. They asked God to fill their lives and that filling impacted people more than they realized.

Why is this word picture have the possibility of changing your life? Because the invitation is still extended to you. You too can be “under the influence” of the Holy Spirit. No matter where you are in your journey with God, let me encourage you to carry a two word prayer with you, “Fill me.” I think we will be amazed to see what happens. 

6 Places You Should Pray More

Checkout

Let’s have some fun today. What locations could we pray more? Where are some places that would have a big impact on our life? How much do you pray in each of these locations?

Shower

Two points for the shower. First the bookends of our days, getting ready for the day or bed, are great times for more prayer. As we prepare our body and mind we might as well prepare our spirit. Second, often our best thoughts come in the shower so why not engage God in that process.

Waiting in line

So much of our life is spent waiting. Maybe that drives you crazy. It can feel so unproductive. By praying while waiting you can be touching the world in the most productive way.

At your work or school

You don’t need to work in a monastery to be about the life of prayer. Walks to the copy machine can be moments with God. Routine tasks can be seasons of praise. I imagine that most of us would like more of God’s involvement in the part of our world we spend so much time.

Where you have fun

One of the dangers of our age is to separate God from the ordinary activities of our life. I am not saying that the next ball game that you go to needs to be what you imagine of a prayer meeting. But try acknowledging God in your heart a couple times. You will be surprised how amazing it can be.

Church

This might seem like something that goes without saying, it is not something that goes without saying. We live in an age where it is easy for church services to become a spectator sport. Give your heart to prayer when you gather with others from the family of God.

Where you sin most

Now this may seem like a strange thing to say, but think about it with me. What is the sin that you struggle with the most? Don’t worry you don’t need to confess to me. Is there a location where this happens the most? If yes, then you have two choices. First, and best, is to flee that location. But if that is not an option making that place a place of prayer should help.

To be fair I could have picked any location Christians go to and suggest that we pray there more. The Bible calls us to a life of prayer. This is not about guilt but about opportunity. Anywhere that you go it is a location that you can spend time with God.

I started doing these things and was amazed at what God did

Oak Tree

Sometimes in our fast paced world it is easy to miss things that are not happening at the same pace as we are going. A while back I skimmed a book called the Jesuit Guide To Almost Everything where the author talked about the danger of missing the slow work of God in our lives. The irony that I skimmed a book talking about the slow work of God is not lost on me.

We forget that sometimes God works fast and sometimes His work takes time. Sometimes there is a miracle healing that happens in an instant. Sometimes Jesus spoke a word and demons left. Moses put his rod in the Red Sea and the waters parted. Our breath is taken away by a field of flowers that seemed to bloom overnight.

Other times God’s work happens over time. Jesus worked with His disciples over the process of years and it seemed at times that they were hardly making any progress. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and God worked with them for 40 years to get them ready to take the promise land. Like a field of flowers that seems to grow up overnight it is also amazing when you look at an oak tree that takes decades to grow.

Personally it is easier for me to notice the fast work of God. When I see someone get up out of a wheelchair those types of things are hard to forget. What is easy to forget is a simple impression I get when reading my Bible. It is easy for me to remember protection in a car accident. It is harder to see the slow gradual growth He is making in the ministry that I lead.

Since I realize this, I have created simple systems to try and get better at the long game of God’s activity in my life. They are helping me to notice and be encouraged. You may come up with different systems than I use, but I hope that you think about how you are seeing God’s slow work in your life.

Capture and review impressions from God

When I have an impression of God speaking something to me that is more than just for that moment I log that in Evernote. It can come from all the different avenues that God speaks to us but if it doesn’t make sense yet or seems not just for today I type it up. I then tag that note as “word from God” or “word to me”. I then have an email sent to me once a month from www.followupthen.com to take 10 minutes that day and look through all of those notes over time. Kind of nerdy, but it has helped me a lot.

Set aside time for reflection

Two times a year I take some time to look over my Google Calendar for the last 6 months. This helps me better see events and patterns in my life. I do this at the same time as I am preparing for our Christ Connection board meeting so I see patterns for the ministry as well.

Keep track of the simple things 

Finally I have two things recently that has helped me with when I read my Bible and pray. For my prayer life adding a list of 100 things that I am praying helps me see work that God is doing in situations that I would otherwise miss. On the Bible front for my 40th birthday I bought myself a Bible with wide margins. Adding dates to my notes when reading helps me see how God is speaking themes to me over time.

Again you may use very different methods than I use, but let me encourage you to make an effort to notice the grace and mercy of God following your life. With some simple practices you may appreciate more of the oak trees of God’s work in your life.