When I was leading a group on a tour of Israel, we went out on the Sea of Galilee in a tourist boat. We could see many of the special places where Jesus taught and ministered. The operator then played a recording of “How Great Thou Art” at high volume. We all sang the three verses—with more and more gusto. In that setting among believers I knew, our emotions overflowed. The experience blew me away. We were filled with the Spirit and special awe, joy, and unity.
The Spirit works through trigger events. He shapes our response to situations we associate with God. The feeling of awe was aroused by seeing where God walked in the person of Jesus. The feeling of joy came singing a favorite hymn. The feeling of unity came from a special sense of fellowship with other believers we knew. There was a fourth trigger also. The boat was rocking in the water, a mildly unsettling experience. The Spirit often does his best work when we are off balance from our usual routines.
How do we know it was the Spirit moving? For us it was in the setting where the Father’s love and Christ’s grace were evident from Bible stories that happened where we were. Does it work that way with others? I don’t know. But I am certain this was the Spirit moving strongly to shape our feelings.
What kind of feelings should we look for?
Paul presents the sort of feelings the Spirit produces when he lists the Spirit’s fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Martin Luther describes the Spirit’s work as calling, enlightening, sanctifying and keeping us in the faith. Look for stories of individuals today who experienced a calling to a specific ministry, or received new insight into the ways of God. I believe being sanctified by the Spirit amounts to growing into the motivations and behaviors that Jesus Christ exemplified in his loving outreach to others, the joy he emphasized in his parables, the patience he showed with his followers.
Luther has a second list for the Spirit’s work in fellowships of believers, that is, in churches. It is the same functions with the addition of “gathering.” This function can provide plenty of stories today of how individuals are gathered into any kind of organized or informal Christian fellowship. What feelings were involved by those in this new relationship? Did the Spirit have anything to do with that?
John Tish leads our Repair Mission teams. Several times a year over a Friday and Saturday, we go south about 120 miles to do small house repair projects in the area of Caldwell, Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians. On his first mission, John was appalled by the living conditions he saw among the poor who could get no help. What feelings were involved in this new commitment? He reports empathy, gratitude for his blessings, a sense of calling to lead this ministry. Do you think the Spirit was involved?
Kevin Park is the church member who designed and minted the two-sided coin described in “Look on the Other Side of the Coin.” In the last 15 years he has distributed 150,000 of them. When the conviction came that he should personally make this coin, he describes hearing a rushing sound like snow falling from tree—Whummpf! It was clear to him that he had been called to this ministry. He is still responding.