Can I be completely honest with you right now? I struggled for years trying to understand how to live “Spirit-led”. I don’t know if it’s because I hoped to find a step by step booklet (like “The Four Spiritual Laws”) that would guide me or if I expected God to speak loudly, “Here I am, do this…” Nonetheless, I could not find the ‘magic’ formula for living Spirit-led.
Can you relate? Take heart! I want to encourage you, the Spirit-led life is for you. Through much prayer, trial and error, plus just plain desperation, I am learning the joys of living Spirit-led both in big decisions and daily moments.
One of my most profound Spirit-led decisions was when God led me to plant a community garden. I became a Master Gardener in 2011 and started praying, “how can I serve our community with my new skills?” Then while driving to the church, the Spirit unmistakably spoke to me, “plant a community garden.” Since hearing the Spirit’s voice was a rare occurrence for me, I was surprised by the clear message. After checking it out with several trusted spiritual people, I was convinced God was calling me to use my gifts, talents, and training as a Master Gardener.
My first thought was that the garden could be a comfortable space for my fellow Long Beach neighbors…but the Spirit had a very different plan. Comfort was not at the top of the priority list, but hope was. As I sought the Spirit’s guidance it was clear He was leading me to Compton. A place with a history of crime, gangs, and drugs. A place that didn’t make sense on paper but a place chosen by God to bring life into.
Unbeknownst to me, many believers had been praying for years for a community garden in Compton. Through a series of miracles, the gates of the first Compton Community Garden opened in November 2013. Where a one-night stand hotel previously stood, where drug deals were going down daily, now a beautiful garden is growing, providing both food and hope to the neighborhood.
The Spirit doesn’t just lead us in our big decisions but in daily opportunities, too. In Ephesians 5 where it commands us to “be filled with the Spirit” it also tells us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16). I am learning how to live Spirit-led in small ways. When I go to the garden I ask, “Who do you want me to talk to today? Who needs prayer?” These daily questions result in the Spirit using me as I make myself available to pray with prostitutes, give hugs to homeless veterans and share Jesus with my friend Jamez, who lives across the street in a motorhome.
What have I learned about living Spirit-led? Three things stand out in my mind—the Holy Spirit leads uniquely to each individual’s gifts and call; living Spirit-led requires a courageous spirit, and living Spirit-led will be unpredictable.
Unique—I believe that the Holy Spirit moves uniquely to the temperament, experiences, personality and spirituality of the individual. If we are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist writes in Psalm 139, then why would we think that the Holy Spirit would lead me the same way he leads you? His Church, the body of Christ is made up of many diverse parts that work together under the conducting of the Holy Spirit. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). As individuals hear and respond uniquely to the Spirit’s calling, God begins weaving their collective work into a beautiful, glory story.
Courage—a Spirit-led life will not be easy, but in His power and strength, you can step out boldly. It requires a brave spirit. That courage is not just a matter of personal resolve but of reliance upon the Spirit. The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy, his mentee, to be strong in the calling, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Sometimes we are confused when we think we are following the Spirit but then are met with opposition. There are times we feel so weak in ourselves. When I experience this in my garden ministry, I remind myself of the Spirit’s words to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “…my power is made perfect in weakness”. Paul’s response in verse 10 was, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Living Spirit-led requires daily courage. It is hard to say “yes” to something that doesn’t make sense; like me going to Compton to plant a garden. Saying “yes” to the leading of the Spirit may mean bravely going into situations where women have not ventured before. It may mean saying “yes” when others say, “don’t do it”. That is why having mentors, wise pastoral counsel, scripture and much prayer is necessary when you sense the Spirit’s leading.
Unpredictable—I love having step-by-step instructions for doing something new, but the Spirit of God is often mysterious and unpredictable. The Spirit’s work in the first Church was definitely unpredictable. We see the disciples led to bring the Good News to ‘unclean’ Gentiles, led to go places they didn’t intend, led to confront government officials with truth, led to places of danger and opportunity, led to cast out demons.
A Spirit-led life will never be predictable, but it will be exhilarating. There is no one-size-fits-all guide. Living Spirit-led has become an exciting adventure for me once I really understood the nature of the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit leads me. But it requires openness and receptivity to His prompts. I have to posture myself in a way to listen and then respond. Positioning my life to hear the still small voice of the Lord requires intentionality and a daily surrender of “not my will but yours be done.”
How can you posture yourself to live more Spirit-led? Here are some things that I do to position myself to listen and then respond to His prompts:
- Create daily space in my schedule to read Scripture and pray for the things on my heart.
- Ask God—What do I need to work on IN my life right now? What work do you want to do THROUGH my life? Then I sit quietly to listen for the Spirit’s voice.
- I connect best with God when I am in nature, so taking prayer walks helps my mind settle down to listen for the Spirit’s promptings.
- As I move through my day I pray, “Spirit fill me, Spirit use me.”
As I have slowed down enough to make more time to pray and listen my prayer life and my heart have been transformed.
Rather than telling God what I want, I am learning to ask Him what He wants.
It takes practice listening for God’s still, small voice in the midst of life’s clamor, but the results of living Spirit-led have been a grand adventure of Kingdom work!
Light and Life Christian Fellowship, Co-Pastor