“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19,20)
The picture word “full” (of the Spirit) seems to have three different emphases. A person is full when, in his or her relationship with the Spirit, the Spirit is in full control. Second, a person is full when plenty of evidence shows the Spirit at work-a miracle quality of life (fruit) or a miracle impact in ministry (gifts). People can see it. The third emphasis is more elusive, as feelings always are. Do I feel full?
Feeling full is a mystery, like a good marriage. Full can also speak of a personal relationship – the kind of thing that defies scientific analysis . How do you analyze a relationship? Like a good marriage, the outward evidence, such as a home and children, may be obvious, but the feelings are more mysterious. A relationship includes moments of shared ecstasy and shared agony, a deep and constant sense of well-being and surges of passionate love. So it is living in a deep relationship with the Spirit. If we’re filled with the Spirit we’ll have joy, confidence, or peace when there’s no earthly reason to have any peace at all. Our affection for God will be filled with passion – an excited sense of anticipation when we worship Him, a rush of pleasure when we think about His love for us. We may not sustain an emotional high; but we will have moments of uninhibited ecstasy, especially in devotional times alone with Him. But also, unexpectedly in the midst of a busy day the wind of the Spirit may blow in gale strength. I can’t explain it, but we can feel it .
Have you recently had such a surge of affection or some other emotional response to God’s presence? If you can’t remember anything out of the ordinary in your relationship with God and you are thirsty for a full surge of awareness of God’s presence, why not pause right now and tell Him so? But don’t leave it there. Tell Him how much you love Him, how grateful you are for Him, for His constant companionship, and for all the wonderful blessings He floods into your life. Ask Him to fill you up with Himself. Pause now and write out in your journal either the description of your experience of fullness, your prayer for fullness, or both.
Which of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 are emotional words? You may choose some or all. Several of the fruits involve our emotions, but even the ones that seem mostly matters of feeling have practical results. To love, for example, is to act lovingly no matter how you feel. Maybe that’s why God seems to expect us to have these qualities as a steady state in our lives-all the fruit, all the time. Their presence is evidence of the Spirit at work. But the emotions that accompany them may not be surging all the time.
Perhaps God intends the fruit to be constant and the surges of feelings to be special outpourings?
- Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He agonized in the garden of Gethsemane, but he also experienced times of surging joy- “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21 .
- David, the joy-filled singer for the ages, experienced dry times. When God seemed distant, David cried out in alarm, “Do not . . . take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11) .
- Paul had times of fear and called on friends to pray for the Spirit-gift of boldness (2 Corinthians 7:5; Ephesians 6:19-20).
For these Bible characters, the inner sense of fullness seems not to be “steady state .” In my own life, I can count on having a truly exalted experience of God when I go away for my annual time of fasting and prayer. So much so, I can remember most of those occasions, even decades later. But only occasionally do I have that rushing sense of God’s presence in my daily quiet time; even less often do I have it unexpectedly in the midst of a busy day.
The following are most of the examples in the New Testament where the context indicates the meaning of being filled with the Spirit. Each example gives the evidence of the Spirit’s fullness and indicates which seems to be subjective awareness or feeling. What feelings do you find in the following?”
- All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues” (Acts 2:4).
- “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13 :52).
- “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said, . . . ‘Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.’ And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”
- (Acts 4 :8,29,31).
- “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6 :3).
- “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11 :24).
- “Then . . . Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said…” (Acts 13:9).
Most of the examples have to do with power in ministry, but some subjective evidences appear. We find joy, boldness, and faith. However, both the boldness and faith are related directly to ministry! So, in the biblical examples, the subjective element of feelings, which we so emphasize today, is not prominent. Your obedience to the Spirit or lack of it should be clear to you. If you have a full crop of faith and ministry effectiveness, that should be clear to others. But the inner sense of fullness may not be all that apparent-it may defy analysis. But that is OK. Think about it: in filling us with Himself God promises to give us a love beyond comprehension (Ephesians 3:19) and He speaks of a peace that is unfathomable (Philippians 4:7). How exciting to feel the mysterious surge of the Spirit!
So let’s keep praising God for the sporadic winds that blow and stay on the alert for a more constant walk on the highest plane-however God defines that for you. Fullness, then, in the sense of an inner feeling is not subject to analysis; but it can be a glorious experience. The Holy Spirit will give it to those who love and stay close to Him.