by Shannon Caughey
When my kids were small, the basketball hoop in our driveway was about 7 ½ feet off the ground. One evening while shooting baskets with one of my sons, I said to him, “Dunk it, Matthew!” Matthew, who was only three at the time, looked at the basket with both desire and distress. He longed to dunk it, but he also faced the barrier of his limitations (small size, even smaller vertical). Yet moments later he was indeed dunking the basketball – thanks to his dad’s two (can I add “strong”?) arms lifting him up to the rim.
One significant goal for this year is to continually get better at living for Christ in all areas of life. When we think about this goal, we might feel a mix of desire and distress similar to Matthew’s response to the encouragement to dunk. We genuinely want to keep growing spiritually, but we’re also aware of the barriers to this – whether in our personal life or in our environment. We really need the equivalent of two strong arms to lift us up.
In this series of devotions, we’ve repeatedly said that growing spiritually is about doing the right things in the right ways with the right consistency – all by Christ’s grace and power. That last part is critical. To keep getting better at living for Christ, we must draw upon the help we need: Christ’s grace and power.
How can we do this? Because Jesus has promised to always be with us, even though he’s no longer physically present on earth. How is this possible? Through another promise Jesus makes to all who trust and follow him: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit, who is also called “the Spirit of Christ”(Romans 8:9), dwells within us from the moment we surrender our lives in faith to Jesus.
The Spirit’s work is to teach about Christ and draw us closer to Christ (Jn. 14:26, 15:26). The Spirit empowers us to live for Christ (Eph. 3:16-17). The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes for us as we pray (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit guides us and enables us to desire what Jesus wants rather than continuing to sin (Gal. 5:16-17). The Spirit produces the fruit of the character of Christ in us (Gal. 5:22-23). Through the Spirit’s work, we experience more and more of the peace, joy, and hope we have in Christ (Rom. 15:13).
If you’ve placed your faith in Christ, you’ve been given the Spirit of Christ to dwell within you. Because you have the Spirit, you have full access to the power and grace of Christ. The Spirit is like the “two strong arms” you need to lift you up so you can do what you cannot do on your own: keep getting better at living for Christ.
What’s your role? Draw upon this help you need. Prayerfully ask the Lord to make you more aware of the Spirit’s work in and through your life. Daily express your desire to respond to the Spirit’s leading and lean into the Spirit’s empowering. The Spirit will not force you to do anything – but he’s always ready to fill you, guide you, and enable you to trust and follow Jesus as you’re willing. Through the Spirit’s help, you really can keep getting better at living for Christ in all areas of your life.
For reflection: Take a moment to thank Jesus for giving you his Spirit. Express your desire to respond to the Spirit’s work and draw upon his help.