For the past couple weeks, we have been looking at Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit-the Advocate and Counselor: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
That promised Spirit is an Advocate, a Counselor. In Greek the word is parakletos meaning an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter. It is someone who is called on to help and assist; someone who, like a defense attorney, pleads the case. We are told that this Spirit, this Paraclete (to use the old terminology), will ‘abide’ or stay with us forever. Because of that we can be ‘strong and courageous’, as God advises Joshua (Joshua 1:9), in the face of any and every thing. That doesn’t mean that everything will be sweet and lovely and easy. Living the work of God is not an easy path.
It can be easy to become fearful when you listen to all the news and look at the world. One anagram of the word Fear that made the circles on Facebook a while back said that Fear is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. We can be fooled by what seems to be reality, when the true reality is that God is in Control!
You would think that the Israelites would have had faith and living into God’s plan all figured out. However, even a quick glance at the stories in the Bible reassures us that they were just as apt to fail as we are. Through all their ups and downs, God was with them in and through the Spirit.
In Micah 3:8, we hear Micah say, “I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” This doesn’t, at first glance seem like the work of an advocate or comforter. Yet, stop for a minute and remember that sometimes we have to have our faults pointed out before we can change. We don’t LIKE to have someone, or God, point out that we have slipped up. Unless we know we made a mistake, we cannot change.
As God’s Advocate with us, the Holy Spirit may just tap us on our shoulder and say, ‘Oops, looked like you took a wrong turn. Let’s change direction.’ Because God does love and care for us, he corrects us. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7) quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 when he says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” It is the discipline (the disciple-in’) of our hearts and souls by God’s Spirit that empowers us to do God’s work. We are each being trained and taught like a beloved child. Even if the lesson feels uncomfortable, we don’t have to be afraid because we know God is in it all.
The Holy Spirit’s empowering action is found in this promise from Isaiah “you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off, do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9-10) God promises to strengthen, uphold, and protect us. Therefore, we can be unafraid, no matter what happens.
The graphic tells us to “Replace FEAR about What If, with FAITH in I AM”. How can you work on replacing Fear with Faith in your day to day living?Is it comforting to think that what seems like punishment is really God at work empowering us to be better disciples?