“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
One evidence of being filled with the Spirit is some result in our work for God we can’t account for by a person’s natural abilities or training. The Bible doesn’t tell us how to distinguish spiritual gifts from natural gifts. But it’s fairly easy to tell. Is the outcome supernatural? The Corinthians said that Paul was an unpolished pulpiteer, in fact a sorry communicator (II Cor. 10:10). And he didn’t dispute their judgment (II Cor. 11:6). But when Paul taught the Bible, lives were transformed. There’s the touch of the Spirit! Others may seem gifted, but is there a spiritual impact? Are lives changed? That’s the touch of the Spirit.
As you reflect on the effectiveness of your role or ministry, remember that “effectiveness” means some Holy Spirit effect, some outcome that can’t be fully explained in terms of your natural abilities, training, or experience. If God so empowered you that whatever gift you had was greatly used so that everyone could plainly tell the origin of your success, maybe that could be called “full.”
Actually, that’s the way the Bible seems to use the term most often. The Apostles were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 people were converted (Acts 2:41), not just “someone” which would have been evidence enough of the Spirit’s presence. I’d call 3,000 responses really full. Yet a few weeks later they had a special need—their leaders had been arrested. So they did the only thing they knew to do, they called a prayer meeting. Once again they were filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:31) and as a result proclaimed the word with boldness. “ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Amazing! Spirit-filled men were filled! It’s common throughout Acts—Spirit-filled people are said to be filled. How can that be?
Remember, it’s a picture word. We get the picture of a great schooner plowing through the Atlantic with sails full of wind when suddenly a gust of wind sweeps down and the schooner surges ahead under really full sail. So it is with the wind of the Spirit (the Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” are “breath” or “wind”). Sort of an overdrive surge of power, as when a car appears from nowhere, heading toward you, and you put the pedal to the floor to get out of there. Perhaps you’ve had such an experience: Your language is still halting and you find it difficult to give a clear explanation of the gospel to your neighbor, you plead with God for help, and you’re astounded to hear yourself give a winsome, clear presentation; or as you taught your Bible study class, suddenly a hush fell over the group and several told you later their lives had changed.
Did you notice? You may be steady-state “filled,” but sometimes there’s a surge of Spirit energy and you’re over the top. Any need to fill up on the Spirit? Every day. And sometimes, when things are particularly frustrating we cry out for fresh power and he never fails to hear that prayer. Like us, he likes to be needed!
I do some preaching and writing. Before I preach I always remind the Lord that though I’ve been at it a long time and can explain Scripture and tell stories and people will listen and say nice things, if He doesn’t act, nothing of eternal value will happen. Then I watch in wonder as God transforms lives. Sometimes there’s a mighty “wind” of God and many are moved. Other times, I watch in vain for some small sign of the Spirit at work and my heart is wounded, sometimes broken. I need to be filled up once again.
How we long to be ever filled up with the Spirit so that people will know for sure it is God and give Him the credit. Do you have some gift at a minimal level, but it’s not full-throttle, other people can’t tell for sure whether it’s God or just you? Now’s the time to ask Him to fill you up. Open your heart to the wind of the Spirit and trust Him to do His thing. And begin the habit of asking Him, at the time of special opportunity or challenge, to put it on overdrive and fill you really full!
To be full of the Spirit, then, is so to live a miracle quality of life that others can see the “fruit” and the “gift.” There’ll be a bumper crop of fruit, attitudes and actions that are produced by God-power. The Holy Spirit will be seen clearly in the ministry God gives. That’s a small glimpse of what “full” looks like.