"No matter how much you know the Bible, no matter how much you discipline yourself, no matter how hard you try to serve and please God, if you are not properly related to the Spirit of God, the Christian life will not work for you. That's because the Christian life is not a ritual or a set of teachings but a relationship-a relationship with God through His Holy Spirit."~ Robert Heidler
Those words resonated within me as I can relate to them from an experiential perspective. They came from a book I recently started, Experiencing the Spirit, by Robert Heidler. In his book, Heidler, using Scripture as his guide, shows reasons why there is an absolute necessity for every believer to have an active and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, the often overlooked third person of the Trinity. To experience the fullness of God's presence we must discover God within us, Who has dwelt within hearts since the moment we first believed.
When I first came to Christ it was a time of great joy and peace in my life. Many fears I had experienced dissolved as I clung to the cross in trust and obedience, laying everything down and fixing my eyes on Jesus. I was taught the historical perspective of what Jesus came to do, and what he still does, in our lives. How he ministered to people, showing us the path to love, compassion and redemption. I accepted all of this with great fervor and faith. It seemed as if I ended up, over time, knowing much about Jesus and the Father, but very little about the Spirit other then what was mentioned in Scripture. And though the Spirit is mentioned in abundance within God's Word, I never drew a parallel between the Spirit of God being applicable in a tangible way in my faith or life, nor was taught any such notions. Never emphasized was the amazing source of peace and communion with God the Spirit offers us to be, if only we awaken to the reality of His presence. Practicing the presence of God within was something hardly mentioned, if it was mentioned even at all I cannot recall.
A little over a year ago I began to wrestle mightily with a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction in my faith and walk with God. Theological questions began to consume my thoughts and a deep desire of peace that I couldn't find haunted me. How could I feel so alone and yet be a child of God? Where was God and why couldn't I hear or sense Him in my time of need? Doubt began to infect my faith and I started reaching out to other philosophies to see if I could find peace by other means, so desperate I was to cling to something for comfort. God just wasn't cutting it.
This is why I could relate to the above passage from Heidler. There was a time when the Christian life was just not "working out" for me and I wasn't sure why. It was a dark time in my faith. A time when I felt tested and I felt like I was failing the test. It wasn't until, through a process of grappling at all the resources I could find, reading from various sources coming from a plethora of perspectives, that I came across the concept of practicing the presence of God. I came across the concept of finding Him in the present moment, of contemplative prayer and this opened my heart and senses to the internal awareness of His presence.
When I felt the deep peace that surpasses all understanding that God offers all of us everything changed. My angst over theological questions was immediately lifted. A love poured through my heart that sparked an intense desire and thirst for His Word, which in turn, led to more amazing experiences of His infinite and compassionate presence. I came to know why Scripture refers to God's love as being better than life, a concept that used to baffle, even disturb my past cynical mind. When before, trials having made me bitter, separation from God having numbed me, I had read the Bible as more of a skeptic then a believer. Now I read it as if they were the very words written by the lover of my soul. For they truly are!
Heidler's book introduces some concepts that are entirely new to me in what a believer in Christ is capable of doing through the power of God's Spirit within. Perhaps some of you are a lot more knowledgeable about some of the topics the book presents than someone like me, who comes almost exclusively from an evangelical protestant perspective with the exception of what I've studied on my own over the past year, which has been primarily contemplative prayer.
Heidler's book doesn't really go into contemplative prayer but more into revealing through New Testament accounts of what the Spirit was capable of doing through believers-healing, impartation, deliverance, speaking in tongues and showing that these same manifestations of God's power are done today and can be experienced and are applicable to any believer in Christ.
If any of you have ever wrestled with your faith and came out stronger at the end, I'd love to hear your experience and what helped you get through the dark period of your faith. If you are presently struggling with your faith it would be my honor and pleasure to pray for you. I've been there, it's not fun! Also, if any of you have any opinions/experiences on some of the topics that Hediler presents in his book, I'd love to know your thoughts.
Comments are always appreciated! Thank you :)