In Step with the Spirit, Not Others’ Opinions
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”Galatians 5:25-26 CSB
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we make decisions. How I make decisions. I’m dismayed to realize how often I hesitate to do or not do something because I’m afraid of what someone else might think. I’ve also noticed I’m not alone in this. Despite our rather independent-minded culture, our choices are largely influenced by others’ opinions. Sometimes it’s not even what we know to be others’ opinions, but what we assume they are.
We watch what others do and assume we should follow their lead. This is why fads thrive. It’s our nature to want to be like everyone else because we believe it will fill our human need to belong. It doesn’t. True belonging happens when we accept each other as we are in all our differences. Ultimately, keeping in step with others only leads to false identities and inauthentic belonging. Worse yet, it leads us down the wrong path for us.
Following God’s Custom Blueprint
When God created us, He did so according to the custom blueprint He designed for our lives. When we follow others, we adopt their blueprint rather than our own. But the blueprint they’ve adopted may not be theirs, it may be someone else’s, and that someone else may have adopted someone else’s. Do you see how messed up this becomes?
That’s why God instructs us to keep in step with His Spirit. His Spirit, who is always present with us, will continuously lead us according to the blueprint our Creator designed specifically for us. A big indicator we are keeping in step with the Spirit is when our life looks different from anyone else’s.
Growing up Mennonite, I’m keenly aware of how whole communities of people pattern their lives after a few people’s opinions, namely their church leaders. The result in some groups is that they all dress alike, comb their hair alike, drive the same color of vehicle, live the same lifestyle, and follow the same man-made rules.
I was privileged to have parents who dared to step out of that man-made blueprint and follow God’s blueprint for their lives. While they remained connected to the Mennonite denomination, they kept in step with the Spirit even when that meant deviating from the “Mennonite way” of doing things. I’m grateful for their courage and integrity to do so.
However, none of us escape the pressure to conform, and that pressure is not just within faith communities. It also comes from the news media, social media, TV shows, movies, advertising, business associates, social networks, as well as our own friends. We can’t escape it.
So what do we do?
We make the choice to ignore those messages as we keep in step with the Holy Spirit even when that means making different choices from anyone else we know.
How to Keep in Step with the Spirit
How do we keep in step with the Spirit? It takes practice, for sure, especially in recognizing when He’s speaking to us.
Know His Written Word
The best way to prepare to hear Him is to know God’s written Word so well that we easily recognize what messages are coming from the Holy Spirit and which messages Satan is masquerading as being from God. This knowledge of Scripture comes from reading, studying, and meditating on it repeatedly until it becomes a part of us. It means learning to know verses within the context of the passage, and each passage in the context of the whole of Scripture. Many Christians think they can’t understand the Bible for themselves and depend on their pastor or Bible study leader to tell them what the Bible says. Once again under pressure to conform, they adopt another’s interpretation not realizing it may be wrong.
Start with reading a chapter a day or even just a few verses. You may even want to use a Bible reading plan. I especially enjoy the chronological plans that take the reader through the Bible in the order that events took place. It helps me to see the bigger picture of how God works in the world and in the lives of His people.
If you’re not a reader, listen to Scripture on your phone or on CDs. We’re so blessed these days to have many options to carry the Bible with us so that we can read and listen to it wherever we are. You can even ask Alexa or Google Assistant to read it for you.
Then take time to think about what you’ve read or listened to. Dig into Bible study resources to know what it’s actually saying if you’re not sure. Most of all, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal its meaning to you.
Talk to Him
The second way to prepare to hear God’s Spirit is to talk to Him about anything and everything. Pour out your heart to Him. Tell Him your thoughts, your desires, your misgivings, your doubts, your joys, your fears, your dreams, etc. Hold nothing back. He wants to hear your heart. He knows already, but He still wants you to tell Him. It brings you closer to Him.
Listen to Him
The third way to prepare to hear the Holy Spirit is to listen. Be still and silent long enough to listen to what He’s saying to you. Daily. Multiple times a day. Use those moments when you’re waiting to just pause and tune your heart to the Holy Spirit.
Commit to Obeying
Finally, commit to obeying whatever He tells you. When you obey in small matters, He will reveal bigger and bolder matters to act on, and those bigger and bolder matters will lead to greater things. You need not fear them as God always has our good at heart and the furtherance of His Kingdom. What a privilege to be involved in that Kingdom and to be part of increasing His Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
What if We Don’t Hear Him Correctly?
If you’re afraid you might not hear Him correctly, your fears are justified. You won’t always hear Him correctly because you’re human, and God already knows this about us. He’s a merciful, gracious, and redemptive God, and at whatever point we realize we’ve heard incorrectly, we can pivot and go in the direction we believe He is pointing instead. And if that turns out to be wrong, we can pivot again.
Walking in step with the Spirit is a learning process, just as learning to walk physically was for us. We will fall down. We will stumble. But just like a toddler, we will gain confidence as we get up and try again and again until finally, we’re keeping in step with the Holy Spirit more than we’re not.
Amazing Experiences Ahead
Keeping in step with the Spirit is an exciting journey. And since we can’t look to others’ journeys to know what that might be, it truly is an adventure because we don’t yet know what amazing things lie ahead!