By Will Graham
Have you ever noticed how life’s distractions and temptations can change your spirit? Think about it. You go into work in the morning with a smile on your face and a song in your heart, only to overhear a co-worker denigrating your abilities in front of your boss. How do you react? Later you have an opportunity to work your way out of a difficult situation by bending the truth to fit your needs and cover your back. How do you react now? Finally, you see an accounting error that could add some extra money to your paycheck if you simply stay quiet and do nothing. With all of these frustrations and temptations piling up, you probably would not be feeling overly spiritual at that point.
The fact of the matter is that in our fast-paced society, with so many different distractions around every corner, it is easy to be filled with a worldly mindset and not filled with the Holy Spirit. That, however, is no excuse. Frankly, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? It means that you are to be under the total influence of the Holy Spirit—God, dwelling in you, ordering your steps.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr in the Scriptures, gives a beautiful picture of someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:3 and 7:54-8:1 offer a few key characteristics in this example of a man who was facing the cold reality of death at the hands of an angry mob.
First, someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit is of good report (6:3). It is not that having good report—being known by others as virtuous and pure—fills you with the Holy Spirit, but it is the Holy Spirit that allows you to have this trait. The Sanhedrin were opposite of this. They called murderers, betrayers, stubborn, and disobedient (7:51-53). Why? Because they resisted the Holy Spirit. They wanted nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
Second, unlike the Sanhedrin, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit welcome the truth (7:55-56). Stephen sees Christ standing at the right hand of God, and he commits his spirit to God. He was glad to see Jesus and trust Him with his spirit. Those who are not filled with the Spirit were the same ones that—in verse 57—began to “cry out in a loud voice” because they heard truth and wanted to drown it out by their own words. They also covered their ears, trying to prevent the truth from affecting them.
Finally, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will intercede for others (7:60). Stephen was falsely accused, falsely arrested, and was about to be stoned, and yet he prayed for those who were about to stone him. What compassion! The only way Stephen could do this was because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This was not a one-time deal but a way of life for Stephen. Acts 6:3, 5, 8 and 7:55 all state that Stephen was a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit.
This needs to be a way of life for us as well. Too often we only want to be filled with the Spirit on Sundays, and as soon as we leave church, we return to our worldly routines of mundane tasks, acceptable temptations or angry confrontations.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit—being of good report, welcoming the truth, and compassionately interceding for others—has a lot to do with your effectiveness as an evangelist for the cause of Christ. If you are someone who truly wants to reach the lost (a motivation all believers should share), you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you have been witnessing to that friend from work, but then turn around and terrorize your colleague for speaking ill of you, or bend the financial rules for dishonest gain – My friend, you are doing more harm than good for the Kingdom of God.
Conversely, if you are living a Holy Spirit-filled life, in which—much like Stephen— you take the distractions, frustrations and temptations of this world and handle them with the purity, truth and compassion of the Holy Spirit, others will want to know what it is that makes you tick. They will want to know what is missing in their life that is present in yours.
My friends, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Eternity is at stake.