Walking in the Spirit means living a life of faith. God created us with a capacity for experiencing a broad range of feelings. Thank God you have them. But you cannot depend on them to validate your walk with the Lord Jesus. Validating emotions are simply the byproduct, the result, of faith and obedience. While feelings have their place in our lives, God did not intend for them to be emphasized above faith in his Word. To seek an emotional experience repudiates the command to walk by faith and is, in fact, an insult to God. Let emotions find their proper place in your relationship with Christ.
John 14:21 indicates that the most valid way to have an emotional experience is to be obedient to Christ. One of the greatest acts of obedience is to share Christ with others in the power of the Holy Spirit. Since he came to seek and to save the lost and has commissioned you to be a witness for him, nothing could please the Savior more. If you want a valid, vital, exciting awareness of Christ in your experience, begin to share Christ with others as a way of life.
To walk in the Spirit, you must live according to God's promise, trusting in the integrity of God himself. Faith must have an object, and the object of your faith is God, made known through his Word. God has proven himself to be worthy of your trust. There are thousands of promises for you contained in God's Word. When God says something, you can stake your life on it — you can know that he will not fail you.
In Romans 8:28 Paul writes, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."* Do you believe this promise of God's Word? If so, you logically acknowledge the reasonableness of the command of God in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Have you learned to say, "Thank You, Lord," when your heart is broken because of the loss of a loved one? Do you thank God when your body is wracked with pain? When you receive a letter terminating a love-relationship? When you have financial reverses? When you fail an exam? When you are unemployed? Do you thank God when you are discriminated against personally, religiously, or racially?
You may say that only a fool would give thanks to God under such circumstances. But you know "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). And if God has commanded you to give thanks, then there is good reason to do so. This is one of the most exciting lessons I have ever learned — the lesson of saying "Thank you" even when things go wrong.
Before I made this discovery I used to lose my patience when things went contrary to my wishes. Closed doors would often be forced open, if necessary. If they did not open before me, I tried to break them down. I was often tense inside and impatient with others. Then I discovered what a fool I was. Tragically, we injure our brothers and sisters in Christ with our impatience, our criticism, and our thoughtlessness. When Christians act this way, the entire Body of Christians suffers.
But God has given you a better plan. You can relax. You can say "Thank you" when the whole world is crumbling around you because your God is sovereign and omnipotent. He holds the world in his hands, and you can trust him; he loves you. And he promises to fight for you.
He has commanded you to cast all of your cares upon him because he cares for you. He personally visited this world and took your sins upon himself, and he is waiting to bless and use you. But he will not bless and use you if you are worried and unbelieving, or if you complain and criticize and find fault.
Some time ago, a young woman came to our headquarters for one of our training conferences. After one of my messages, she came for counsel. Through her tears she shared how her dearest friend had been killed in an accident. They were coming home from their engagement party, and an oncoming automobile crossed the center line, forcing her off the road into a telephone pole.
The tragedy was compounded by the guilt she felt because she had been driving the car. Her heart was broken.
"What shall I do?" she pleaded.
Months had passed and she had gone to psychiatrists, psychologists, ministers, and many others seeking counsel. She said, "If you can't help me, I fear for my sanity."
I asked her if she were a Christian, and after some discussion she said, "Yes."
We read Romans 8:28 and I asked her, "So you believe that all things work for good?"
She said, "Yes, I believe that."
We turned to 1 Thessalonians 5:18. She read it aloud: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I said to her, "Have you thanked God since the loss of your loved one?" She was shocked and could hardly believe she heard me correctly. Looking at me in disbelief, she said, "How can I thank God when I have experienced such a tragic loss?"
"You do not trust God, do you?" I asked.
"Yes, I trust God," she insisted.
"Then why not show him that you do?" I asked, "I know it will be difficult and may seem ridiculous at first, but will you pray and tell God that you trust him and give thanks in everything even though your heart is breaking?"
As we knelt together, she prayed through her tears, "God I don't understand why my dearest friend was killed, but I know I can trust you; and I do say, 'Thank you.'"
When she said, "Thank you," she was saying to God, "I will trust you." The Bible says that without faith you cannot please God, and the best way to demonstrate faith is to say, "Thank you." You may think that you hate God because you have lost a loved one, your inheritance, your money, your business, or your health. You may ask, "Why did God do this to me?" But God says, "Give thanks in all circumstances."
That young lady came to my office early the next morning literally bubbling with joy. She said, "Last night I slept without medication for the first time since the accident. And this morning when I awakened, my heart was filled with praise and thanksgiving to God. I just cannot understand it, but I know that it has something to do with what you taught me about saying 'Thank you' to God."
I could share hundreds of similar stories about Christians whose lives have been transformed by learning the simple lesson of saying "Thank you" in all things.
Some years ago we had a desperate need for more than a half million dollars toward the purchase of Arrowhead Springs, the Campus Crusade for Christ International Headquarters. The future of our worldwide ministry was at stake. Because of a technicality, our financial position had taken a terrible turn for the worse, and there appeared to be no hope. The whole ministry was in danger of being destroyed and my own reputation would be shattered.
When a word came to me from a friend that the money which we had been promised was no longer available, I fell to my knees and said, "Lord, what am I to do?" I opened my Bible to look for help and assurance. And I was reminded that all things work together for good to those who love God — that without faith, it is impossible to please him, and that the just shall live by faith. I read the command from God to give thanks in everything.
So I thanked God in spite of what had happened. I thanked him through my tears. I thanked him that in his wisdom and love, he knew better than I about what should be done and that out of this chaos and uncertainty would come a miraculous solution to our problem.
There on my knees, while I was giving thanks in spite of the disappointment I was feeling, God began to give me the genuine assurance that a miracle was really going to happen. Within ten days God provided an incredible solution to our problem — a true miracle. He demonstrated again that, when we trust him, he is faithful and worthy of our trust.
The greatest privilege of life is to learn to trust God and walk by faith. I am still learning and am confident that one day I shall be able to trust God for infinitely greater things than those for which I am now able to trust him. What a great opportunity we have to walk with the King of Kings every moment of every day of our lives, from the time that we awaken in the morning until we go to bed at night.
For many years it has been my practice to begin my day the night before by reading God's Word, meditating upon the attributes and trustworthiness of our wonderful Lord before I go to sleep at night. Then throughout the nightwatches, when my subconscious mind takes over, I continue thinking about Christ. When I awaken in the morning, my first thoughts are of him.
I usually awaken with a psalm of praise on my lips and with an attitude of thanksgiving:
Oh, Lord, I thank you that I belong to you. I thank you that you live within me, and I thank you that you have forgiven my sins. I thank you that I am your child. Now, as I begin this day, and as I continue throughout the day, I invite you to walk around in my body, love with my heart, speak with my lips and think with my mind. I thank you that you promised to do greater things through me than you did when you were here on the earth. By faith, I acknowledge your greatness, your power, your authority in my life, and I invite you to do anything you wish in and through me today.
Although the words of my daily prayer may differ, my commitment remains the same. I try to begin each day on my knees as a formal act of acknowledging his lordship. I seek to begin the day walking in the fullness of his power. What an adventure awaits those who trust the Lord!
In summary, may I remind you that if you desire to walk moment by moment, day by day, in the fullness and power of God's Spirit, you must:
- Be sure that you are filled with the Spirit, by faith — on the basis of God's command to be filled and by claiming his promise that, if you ask according to his will, he will hear and answer.
- Be prepared for spiritual conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- Know your resources as a child of God. Your strength must come from the Lord. You must abide in him.
- Live by faith, drawing daily upon the strength of our Lord, upon his wisdom, upon his power and his love, giving thanks in all circumstances.
Why should a Christian desire to walk in the fullness and control of the Holy Spirit moment by moment as a way of life? There are several important reasons: to please and honor the Lord, who delights to have fellowship with his children; to enjoy a fuller, richer, more exciting life with our Savior and with others; and to be more fruitful in your witness for your Savior.
Sharing Christ with others is an expression of gratitude and an act of obedience to the Lord. It is the natural result of walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Since every Christian is commanded to be a witness for our Lord, not to be involved and committed is to disobey him and would indicate that the Christian is not walking under the control of the Holy Spirit.
As you walk in the Spirit and faithfully apply the revolutionary concept of Spiritual Breathing, you too can become a member of the great multitude of fruitful disciples whom God is raising up around the world to work, to plan, to pray, and to witness for Christ — to help fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord in this generation.
Self-study and Group Discussion Questions are available here.