Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)
The other night, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was spinning with thoughts of stressful situations.
But then it occurred to me that I have a resource that can get me through all of the challenges, including getting back to sleep.
I have the Spirit.
The Spirit is like an extra thing. I don’t have to depend on the same old stuff that hasn’t worked. There’s something in me waiting to be tapped, waiting to give me hope and strength, telling me I can make it.
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (John 4:4)
When I remembered that I have something in me that is stronger than those things that daunt me, I felt empowered. I knew that I could handle the trials. Sleep began to creep over me in a supernatural way, and soon I was snoozing once more.
The Spirit is amazing. So it’s no wonder that Jesus would tell believers that they need to be born of the Spirit. They would need a piece of the divine in them to carry out his mission. They would need extra strength to overcome temptation and persevere. They would need to be different than the world.
Here are some things we can take away from today’s red letter passage.
We’re a part of a spiritual kingdom. The context of this passage is that Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about how to see the kingdom. Jesus said the flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit to spirit. In essence, Jesus was saying, “What you seek is actually invisible. It’s a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. And so, to be a part of this kingdom, you’re going to need to be born of the spiritual.”
Do we understand that those of us who follow Jesus are born of the spiritual, and that’s our milieu? We work through an invisible realm. It’s counter-intuitive. Yesterday, I coached someone who was being pulled in two directions. One one hand, they wanted to solve their financial challenges by finding ways to make more money. On the other hand, they wanted peace, and to be more centered in God. They decided that focusing on the latter would help them achieve the former.
This is what we have to keep remembering. We look for physical solutions to our problems. And this is not a bad thing. But the way we operate is to seek the kingdom first, and pray. Our solutions start with the spiritual, with faith.
The Spirit is a moving force. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind, which is anything but stationary. As I’m writing this, I’m on an airplane flying across the US.
It would do me no good to be on the airplane and sit on the tarmac. I did that once before, when there was a thunderstorm delay, and we were stuck for hours on a hot airplane. That was the pits!
And so it is with the Spirit. It’s meant to take us places. Sometimes it motivates us to physically move to a different place or situation. Other times it empowers us to grow internally.
“For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” (II Tim 1:7)
The Spirit takes us to unexpected places. Jesus said that the Spirit is like the way the wind blows and no one knows where it came from or where it’s going.
Do you ever look around you and say, “This is crazy. I don’t know how I got here. But it’s good.”
I was talking with my son in law recently. Over the past four years, he, my daughter and my grandchildren have lived in Chicago, Seattle, Indonesia, and now in in the San Francisco area. It’s been a wild ride. But he’s come to realize that God took him and his family to a place where they will do their best and thrive. He said this is not how he would have planned things! But he sees that God’s way is much better.
The same is true with my own personal development. Believe me, I would have self-helped myself in different ways than the trials I’ve endured. My way would have included a lovely smooth path. But the Spirit has brought me from a place of being opinionated, judgmental and full of myself, to being more surrendered and more dependent. I’m more joyful and peaceful. I feel more ready for heaven.
In conclusion, let the Spirit work. Don’t restrict it! Do we open ourselves up to the workings of the Spirit, or do we quench it? (I Thes. 5:19)
I’m off the airplane now. But on the flight, there was a little boy behind me who kept up a constant stream of commentary. He exclaimed about what he saw out the window. He expressed his excitement at take off. He asked random questions. Whatever he said was unfiltered. Meanwhile, no one else on the plane was talking. They kept their thoughts to themselves.
It reminds me of the way we are with the Spirit. We’re reserved. We’re civilized. We’re fearful and cautious. We don’t let that inner self run wild and free.
But where would the Spirit take us if we let go a bit? Recently, my friend Marge was inspired to take her small group to visit a church right around the corner for midweek services. She wanted to promote unity. It was kind of a bold crazy thing, to walk a diverse group of people into to a little country congregation. But they ended up having a great fellowship.
Who would the Spirit create in us if we let go a little bit? As I’ve studied life coaching, I’ve been able to throw off more of my negative self talk. I’ve had so much more room for spiritual thoughts and growth.
After I got off the airplane, I drove through the prairies of Eastern New Mexico. Along the way, I saw the giant windmills that are becoming more prevalent as the nation utilizes wind energy. The windmills are a great visual for me. The propellers are set way up high, where their motion can be unimpeded. (Okay, there’s a telephone wire in the picture, but it’s actually far away.) It reminds me that the “wind” of the Spirit works best when we raise our focus to God, instead of at the level of our worries and fears. The blades are continually rotating, and it reminds me that the Spirit is an ongoing force. If we get in the flow of it, we will have a constant cycle of love, joy, peace, patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self control.
Let’s appreciate how incredible it is that Jesus came to bring a spiritual kingdom.
Let’s live as citizens of this kingdom, and draw on the amazing resource we have in the Spirit.
Let’s be conscious of the times we clench up and inhibit the Spirit, and strive to open up instead.
It’s a wild ride! But it’s going to take us to amazing places, and do amazing works in us.