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The Prompting of the Holy Spirit
The passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book, “Walking Wisely,” published in 2002.
The very first prompting of the Holy Spirit that any person experiences is to accept Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior, and then to follow Jesus Christ as the Lord of one’s life.
After we have received Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells within us to guide us in the way we should walk—--the choices and decisions we should make, the work we should undertake, and the new attitudes and opinions we should adopt. Jesus said that one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth (John 16: 13).
When God wants to clarify the next move He has for us, or to move us in a new direction, He very often creates what I call a “prompting” in a person’s spirit. A prompting is like a flash of lightning in a person’s spirit that creates an almost immediate knowing of which way to turn, what to do, what to say, how to respond. The prompting comes with a deep assurance and confidence that the choice or decision is right.
Anytime you have a prompting of the Holy Spirit, you can be assured that our all-wise God—--the omniscient Holy Spirit—--is saying to you, “I love you enough to tell you what to do in this situation.”
Much of what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do involve a potential loss or gain of something important or valuable. At times the Holy Spirit prompts us to take an action that could result in a loss or gain in the life of another person.
There are certain things we should avoid . . . should discard. . .should ignore. . . should put away. There are other things that we should reach out and receive . . . should pay attention to . . . or should act upon.
As much as the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or to say certain things, He also prompts us not to act or to speak. There have been times when I have clearly felt the Holy Spirit prompting me, “Sit down and don’t say a word.” There have been times when I have felt the Holy Spirit telling me to do nothing in a particular situation, even though everything in me was boiling and eager to take action.
How do you develop this sensitivity? Ask God to make you sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The work of imparting sensitivity to you is His work. However, if you fail to act on the prompting that the Holy Spirit gives you, you will never learn how to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. When you experience what you believe to be a prompting, act on it immediately. Don’t second—guess what God tells you to do.
You will quickly discern if you have heard correctly. If you have not heard correctly, you will feel unrest in your spirit; you will not have peace. On the other hand, if you have heard correctly, you will feel a growing peace and confidence at the action you have taken.
As in most things in life, we learn by trial and error.
A few months ago, I flew home from a pastors’ conference I had addressed in another state, and as I stood up to leave my air plane seat, I had a strong prompting of just one word, “Look!”
I glanced around as I prepared to leave the plane, and I didn’t notice anything. The truth is, I didn’t seriously heed that prompting. After I had walked away from that plane and was about halfway down the concourse, I thought, I should call to make
certain the person who is picking me up is on his way. I reached for my cellular phone and discovered that it wasn’t where I usually keep it. I searched my briefcase and pockets . . . no phone. Suddenly I remembered that I had used the phone on the plane before takeoff, so I concluded it must still be there. I walked back to the gate only to discover that the doors to the aircraft had been locked. It took a few minutes, but I finally found someone who would let me back onto the aircraft. And sure enough, when I searched more diligently, I found my cellular phone tucked into the space between the seat and the armrest. A simple glance hadn’t been enough, but that wasn’t what the Holy Spirit had prompted. He had said, “Look!”
That was a simple matter, but my failure to heed this prompting wasted a good half hour of my time, and about the same amount of time in the life of the person who was waiting at the curb to pick me up—time in both of our lives that could have been used in more productive ways.
You may be asking, “Does the Holy Spirit really lead us in such practical, simple matters?” Yes, He does. He leads us in matters great and small—--nothing is beyond the knowing of the Holy Spirit. The closer we follow Him and the quicker we are to heed His prompting, the more detailed and practical it seems the Holy Spirit functions in our lives.
Let me give you another example that I heard about just recently. A young woman was facing a decision about where to go to college. She and her parents had narrowed the choice to four Christian colleges, and her parents left the final choice to her. They encouraged her to pray and ask the Lord where He wanted her to go.
The first two colleges she visited resulted in a clear “no” from the Holy Spirit. She felt uncomfortable or ill at ease before she had spent two hours on either of the first two campuses. Although these were good schools with excellent reputations, she knew in her spirit that they were not right for her. It wasn’t anything a specific person said or did; she just felt restless in her heart.
The last two colleges, however, seemed almost equal as she weighed them in her mind and heart after visits to the campuses and conversations with others who attended the colleges. She finally decided one evening to attend the college that was closest to her home. She announced to her family that she had made her choice, and she went to bed. She later recounted what happened: “I was awake most of the night. I tossed and turned and felt miserable. I had a nagging feeling that I was making a mistake and that feeling just wouldn’t leave me.”
The next morning, this young woman announced to her mother, “I think I made the wrong choice. I am changing my decision.” She later told her parents and grandparents, “I felt peace all day. By the end of the day, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had finally made the right choice.” The issue had been settled definitively as far as she was concerned.
As the days and weeks before she left for college unfolded, she came to the point where she said, “I can’t imagine ever having had a problem in deciding. My choice seems so right that it’s difficult to believe I ever even considered the other three schools.” After one semester at the college, she wrote to her parents, “I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad I learned to hear God for myself and that I did what He led me to do.”
This young woman had experienced a series of promptings that led her to the final decision that was God’s best plan for her. Now let me ask you: Do you believe this young woman has a much clearer understanding about how the Holy Spirit speaks in the human heart and prompts a person to move into right actions or decisions? Absolutely. She has learned a tremendous lesson about what it means to hear from God and to walk wisely.
You may be saying, “Well, this sounds like intuition.” I encourage you to change your vocabulary. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, and He desires to lead you step-by-step into the fullness of God’s plan and provision for you. Intuition for the believer has a name: Holy Spirit.
WHEN WE FAIL TO HEED GOD’S PROMPTING
What should you do if you fail to heed a prompting of the Holy Spirit? First, confess that you have made a mistake or a sin against God. Receive His forgiveness. But then, take a second step. Ask yourself, “Why did I fail to heed this prompting? Why didn’t I act immediately on what I felt the Holy Spirit was telling me to do? How can I keep this from happening again?” Don’t just confess your error—--learn something from it!
I learned from that incident in my life not to lay my cellular phone down after I’ve completed a call. Instead, I put it back in its case and in the place I have designated for it in my briefcase or luggage.
Now a cellular phone is a fairly minor thing to almost lose. There are far more important things that we are in danger of losing if we don’t heed the Holy Spirit. Not only can we lose possessions, but also we can lose our health, a relationship we deeply value, an opportunity that won’t come our way again, or an encounter that could make a significant difference in our lives.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you heed His promptings in the future. And then. . . heed them! (90-96)
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