I recently had a profound realization. It came to me after one of those chilling moments where I was alone in the house at night, and I heard a creak. Usually that doesn’t bother me, but this time it gave my heart a jump. Then my mind started to race, thinking of all the demon stories I’ve ever heard. And I had that feeling of desperately trying to calm my nerves, half-running, half-walking toward my bedroom or wherever I thought I would be safe and could turn on the lights.
Later I was thinking about that experience, and I wondered what that silly episode looked like in the spirit realm. It called to mind scriptures that depict God’s Spirit and the manifestation of the Spirit as light—Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12); there are golden lamp stands that represent God’s seven spirits (Revelation 4:5, compare Zechariah 4); the description of the New Jerusalem shows Jesus Christ will be the source of light (Revelation 21:23); God led Israel with a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21); for examples. That’s when I had the realization: In the spirit realm, because I carry God’s Spirit within me, I am a light walking around amongst darkness.
A minister told me a story once about a disturbed woman who waited around for him after Sabbath services. He walked her out, and as he turned to leave, she told him, “I’ll say hello to your Father for you next time I see Him.” Stories like this give you the chills, but consider what the spirit inside the woman would be looking at when it saw that minister: God’s Spirit dwelling inside him.
Having this realization profoundly changed how I regard my place in the world. My frame of reference is completely colored by my intimate knowledge of my own shortcomings, failures, embarrassments, and probably most of all, my fears. Whether or not I feel confident usually has to do with my mood, my knowledge of what to expect from the situation I’m in, how I feel about how I look, how well I know the people I’m around, and so on. But reframe things and instead of obsessing over how you look or feel physically, picture yourself as someone carrying God’s Spirit of power, and that changes everything. The dark basement isn’t somewhere to fear; even if there were an evil spirit around, he’d fear you. There’s no reason to feel at a disadvantage around people who might seem smarter, cooler, more important or more successful than you; you have a power that transcends it all.
Thinking this way can also make the power scriptures so many of us look to (Philippians 4:13—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” for instance) not just ones we think about when we’re feeling weak and insecure, but ones that become empowering forces, foundational aspects of how we look at and engage with the world.
Wielding Power Doesn’t Feel Like Wielding Power
Once we reframe our perspective, what’s the next step? Besides having the profound and life-altering ability to look around and know we have the most powerful force in the universe inside of us, how do we shine that light? How do we wield that power?
Jesus basically said it in one sentence: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It’s thinking a certain way, interacting with people a certain way, and doing things a certain way that bring about positive results in your life and in the lives of those around you. Paul called it the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It’s the great paradox of God’s way—wielding power doesn’t look like wielding power, it looks like serving.
I was reminded how big of an impact you can have even by expressing just a small, seemingly insignificant amount of the fruit of the Spirit when I was at my high school reunion last summer. In high school I kept to myself for the most part and had just a small group of friends who were I guess what you’d call academics. I was happy, though, and liked being nice to everybody, trying to get along with everyone. My graduating class was very small, even for the size of our high school (62 graduated my year). Although we didn’t have those hardcore, calcified, brutal cliques, we still had different groups of friends who stuck mostly together. My junior and senior years I started branching out and got to know a few people outside my typical group. I didn’t spend a lot of time with any of them outside school, but it was nice to have some friends in most of my classes. We all graduated, moved on, and mostly lost touch (except for the occasional Facebook post).
Move forward to the summer of 2015, and I’m with my wife at my 10-year high school reunion. My core group of friends from back then? None of them were there. But a few of those other people I had gotten to know those last couple years in school were. And it turned out to be awesome. After the reunion wrapped up, a group of us stayed out later into the night catching up and having a blast. And in the course of our conversation, two of those friends said, “We didn’t know who would show up tonight, but we both agreed you were the number-one person we wanted to see.” Whoa. Really? Me? I was astonished that they’d say that. My perception of my high school self was unspectacular, unmemorable, boring. But it turns I had made such an impression on them just by being nice, that I was the number-one person they hoped to see.
Just our base-level interactions with people can shine a light even if it doesn’t feel like we’re actively trying to—that is, if our base-level behavior reflects godly love and outgoing concern for others. God’s Spirit is something that you can yield to or you can ignore. Do you try and give people the benefit of the doubt? Do you smile and react positively even if you’re not feeling well? Do you ignore and deflect insults and meanness, or respond in kind? These are the basics, yet even these basic gestures shine God’s light. And as we do these, we grow in spiritual grace and love. The fruit of God’s Spirit goes beyond just responding to our circumstances positively. It ultimately means actively engaging our world, seeking to shine the light of God further than just inside our comfort zone. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world,” wrote James (James 1:27).
Our Father has given us the greatest power there is. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” said Jesus (Matthew 10:28). Not only do we not have to fear, but we can boldly power through even the most intimidating circumstances in faith. The power that is with us is greater than the power that’s in this world. Yield to the Spirit of God, and “may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20, emphasis added).