Partners In Service With The Holy Spirit
By S. D. Gordon
Jesus was on a missionary errand. He had been sent by His Father, even as later His disciples and we have been sent. With awe ever growing, one remembers that the divine Jesus in the days of His humanity gave Himself over to the control of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was dominant in His life and in all His activities. All His teachings and movements were at the suggestion and direction and control of the Spirit. The power in speech and action, in healing, in raising the dead, and in the wondrous mastery of Himself – was the Holy Spirit’s power working upon and through Jesus.
Then it was that as He was going away He said, "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). With that He coupled the significant breathing upon them with the word, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (v. 22). We are to be as He, both in our utter dependence upon the Spirit and in our assurance of His power in us.
Ever since then that has been the effective partnership for world service: men and the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit and men. If you are thinking of the human side you say, "Men and the Holy Spirit." If you are speaking of the divine side, you say, "The Holy Spirit and men." The two belong together. Where men have failed to go, the Spirit has been hampered in speaking to men. He has spoken, but the story of salvation through Jesus has not been known. The Spirit’s mouthpiece for the telling of that story was lacking. That seriously hindered Him in His work.
Where men have gone without the Spirit, that is, without yielding themselves habitually to His control, they have been sorely hampered. It is like having the kindling wood set in order for a fire, but the fire not started. There is no heat, nor any of fire’s results. The kindling must have the flame, and the flame must have the coals. The two are partners in service.
This partnership belongs peculiarly in the worldwide service of winning men to Christ. If anybody needs the Spirit’s presence, he does who attempts to win a man to Jesus anywhere. But if any winner of souls needs that presence more than another, he does who goes into the atmosphere of a non-Christian people. On the other hand, if anybody can be sure of the Spirit’s presence and power always with him, and working through him, he can who has gone out on the world errand.
That man is in the direct line of obedience to Jesus’ command. The Spirit Himself is sent by Jesus, and comes to us in direct obedience to Jesus’ desire. These two, the man and the Spirit, are as one in the purpose that controls them. That man may depend on the gracious, irresistible Spirit’s power at every turn. He is thrice blest if he has learned to depend upon His unseen Partner.
The Power That Never Fails
You and I have to remind ourselves constantly that our chief dependence is not upon organization, nor method, nor personal talent, nor personal training, but upon the Holy Spirit working through these. The better organized the human machinery, the better the methods used, the more there is of personal gift, and the more thoroughly one’s powers have been drilled, the more there is at the Spirit’s disposal for Him to use. What must be remembered until it is like an instinct in us is that the power is all from Him, through us. Not without Him, and not without us; the two together; but always His the far greater part – indeed, the real part.
The Holy Spirit has a double work to do: with us who go, and upon those to whom we go. Within us He has to work out the character of Jesus. He opens the Word, making its meaning stand out clearly. He wakens the mind to do its best work. He guides in our decisions, suggesting and directing and controlling our thoughts, and in our actions, in our dealings with men. In things that are little in themselves, but on which so much hinges, He guides.
It constantly occurs that we are not at all conscious of His control at the time. But afterward we can see how He has been deftly, softly guiding, with His rare light touch upon us. When we may be pressed hard in the thick of work, and a bit wearied, and in doubt, He sends the quiet, quick suggestion into our thoughts that leads out of the tight corner and into the achievement of the thing desired. He works through us, and through what we do, giving power that otherwise would not be there. While you are talking in conversation or in public address, He is working through what you are saying.
And He works upon those to whom we go. He opens doors, the doors of circumstances that we find locked and padlocked against us. He opens the yet tighter-shut, harder-to-open human doors. He inclines men favorably toward us personally and to our message. Under His touch the message becomes as a tongue of flame, kindling, disturbing, softening, burning down, and molding over into new shape, the inner man to whom the message comes.
It seems to be a part of our makeup to make plans, and to count on the plans. Planning does much. We do not want to plan less necessarily, but to learn to depend more in our planning on the soft, noiseless, but resistless power of the Holy Spirit.
Full Power in Winning Souls
Full power depends upon three things. There is a trinity of service, a human-divine trinity. The full results can come only through its working. The ideal winner of souls needs to believe thoroughly in this trinity.
First of all is the message. There needs to be a clear understanding of the Gospel. That is the winner’s message. That is the direct thing he uses in approaching and laying siege to some man’s heart. It is a simple message, but very often it is grasped only partly by those who tell it.
That message needs to be understood clearly and fully by the man who would have the greatest power in winning men. The message extends from its first plain teaching about sin, on to the terrible results that sin left to itself works out; through the blessed teaching of love as shown most in the sacrifice for sin which Jesus made on the cross; the need of a clean cutting with sin and complete surrender to Jesus as Savior and Master; the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart; and then the climax of service out among men. This simple message needs to be grasped fully and clearly. This is the first great essential in the trinity of service.
The second thing that must go with this first is a man who embodies the message in himself. It is not enough to know the story of the Gospel, nor to tell it. It must be lived. The best telling of it is the man who is a living illustration of the truth he is telling. He may be conscious of not illustrating it as he should. The earnest man is never aware that he is as good an illustration of it as he is. He may think himself a poor illustration. He is quite apt to, but he is yet more apt not to be thinking of that side as he attempts to win men. He will be all taken up with Jesus and with getting men to know Him.
If a man’s life fails to live out the truth he is speaking, while he is talking his life is discounting his words and taking away some of the power that belongs with them. Those he is talking to may not know about his life, whether it embodies the message or not. But the life that is true breathes a force and power into the man himself and so into his words. The message takes on the quality of the man. One man’s talking catches fire; another’s does not. The listeners know that it is so, though they do not usually know why. All the while you and I are trying to win others, in Sunday school class or small group meeting, in Gospel service or church preaching, in personal conversation or letter writing, there is a subtle something that goes out of us, as an atmosphere that affects the power of the message we are giving out. That may be a touch of flame making the truth burn within him who is listening. It may be a deadly, dampening chill checking the fire that is naturally in the truth. The man is important along with the message.
The Holy Spirit Tops All Else
Then there is a third thing that is yet more than the message of the man or than both message and man together. It is this: the Holy Spirit controlling the man who embodies the message. By controlling him I mean that the man has surrendered himself to the Spirit’s control. And further than that, the man cultivates the Spirit’s presence.
There needs to be an habitual cultivation of the Spirit’s presence and friendship, even as we cultivate our human friendships. There needs to be time spent alone habitually with God’s Book, the Bible. It is something more than merely studying the Bible to get better acquainted with its contents. It is thoughtful meditation on its truths, the quiet, steady holding of one’s self open to the searching and stimulating and enlightening influence of this rare Book. The Holy Spirit speaks through these pages. Yet it is to be feared that many careful students of its pages do not get deeper in than the print. They do not know and meet the Person who speaks in the print and through it.
Beyond the quiet time with the Bible, there is the holding of one’s whole life open to the Spirit’s suggestion and subject to His direction. He guides through our thinking, and sometimes He guides us when our thinking for some reason, has not gone up high enough for Him to guide through it. Samuel thought that David’s oldest brother was God’s chosen one. But into his rarely sensitized inner ear the Spirit said, "No." His thinking was not keen enough to be the channel through which he could be guided. But he had learned to hold his thinking subject to a higher power (1 Sam. 16:1-13).
One time Paul thought it would be good to go over east into the province of Bithynia, and even tried to make a start that way. But the Spirit made plain His plan that they were to go in the opposite direction – to the west. Had Paul’s thinking been more open to the Spirit’s touch at that point he would not have made the false start. But he was wise beyond most of us for at once he dropped his own thought-out plans, and did as he was bid (Acts 16:6-10).
The keener our mental processes are, the better informed we are, the better poised our judgment – the better can the Spirit reveal His plans to us through this natural channel if it is open to Him. But there is one thing higher up than our thinking power. That is the spirit perception. The mental is not at the top. It is a step up to the spirit floor, the highest of all.
Some men of splendid ability and training and consecration are constantly hampered because they insist on living on the mental floor. All their decisions are made there, not subject to change from above. And the Holy Spirit, Who is the Commander-in-chief of all the forces in this campaign, is unable to use them as He would.
They do not have the sensitized inner ear of the quiet time that would lead them up into higher, broader service. They go faithfully plodding along on the lower level. The Spirit can use them, of course. He does, but never to the full. The Spirit of God controlling the man who embodies the message – this brings fullness of power in winsome service, and only this can. It is not keenness of thinking, nor fullness of learning, nor shrewd, well-balanced judgment, but by the Spirit of God working through these, and sometimes working higher up than they have reached. The message full and clear, the man who lives it, the Holy Spirit possessing and controlling the man who lives the message – this is the trinity of service through which alone the floodtide flows.
Blessed Holy Spirit, breath of God, and breath of my life, help me to let You have full sweep within me, so that my life may be kept sweet and full, and so Jesus can flow freely and fully out of me to the great hungry crowd.
– Excerpted from Quiet Talks With World Winners, by S. D. Gordon (1859-1936), American writer and lecturer.