Full and filled…
What is the difference between the two words?
Billy Graham* uses people from the Bible to illustrate “full”. He said John the Baptist was full. The Apostle Paul was full. Let’s go further. He says they “were full of the Spirit all the time; that is, it was a continuous state.”
Can you imagine?
Some of you reading this post may think “what is the big deal?”
Here is the big deal.
Most of us may not be able to stand being full of the Holy Spirit all the time. Words come to mind: intense, extreme, focused, obsessive. Can you imagine “being on fire” about something for twenty-four hours a day, for seven days a week all your life?
Most of us could not bear the challenge; the experience would be too stressful.
If you understand the need for the Holy Spirit, most of us would admit that we need to be filled, not full.
For example, when I am asked to speak [not preach, I am not a preacher] I ask the Holy Spirit to help me throughout the process, from giving me words to say, to reworking the words and adding to the words, to practice with my manuscript, to editing into more useful notes, to practice at the podium, to delivery of the message. In this particular time, I ask the Holy Spirit to empower me with a message that will be what my audience needs. I ask the Holy Spirit to come and bathe the whole process of me giving a presentation. There was a time in my life when I did not do that. I crafted a message with my own knowledge under my own power, not relying on God.
When God is part of the process, it is much, much better.
He gives me what I need in my moment of great need. I depend on His provision and He does just that, He provides.
I depend on Him. I trust Him.
Note the words I am using…provision…dependence…trust. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert wilderness, they began to grumble about lack of food. God promised that He would provide and He gave them manna to eat. Those who gathered a lot of manna had no leftovers. Those who gathered only a little had enough.
God provided just enough to get the job done.
What is the meaning of this story? The Israelites were a bit upset that they did not know about the next day. They wanted leftovers. That way they could make their food plan for tomorrow. God did not allow that. God wanted them dependent on Him. One interpretation of the entire episode is that they experienced a daily exercise in dependence on God.
What would have happened if God had given them too much and allowed them to have leftovers?
They would soon lose their spiritual hunger. They needed their hunger filled on a day-to-day basis. He wanted them to believe that He would provide. He wanted them to depend on Him. He wanted them to trust Him.
When we do totally for ourselves, we can lose the meaning of those three words. We think we can do what we need to do on our own, “thank you very much.” If we can take care of our own provision, we don’t need God so much.
At such times in my life, my faith wavers. I don’t pray as much and I lose a close connection with God. I definitely find less time to read His word. I have had periods when I did not even feel the need to read a short, one page devotional. Yes, a one page devotional.
Bottom line…I just forget that I need God. I forget that I am dependent on Him.
Maybe I don’t need a 24/7 full Holy Spirit existence. Maybe Graham is right. I could not stand it, but here is what I need. I need a filling of the Holy Spirit from time to time. Circumstances big or small come my way every day. God is there for me in the big and in the small. Mark Batterson** writes that “God is great not just because nothing is too big for Him; God is great because nothing is too small for Him.” He continues by saying that the reason we miss God working in our lives is that we are not looking and listening.
In the context of the Holy Spirit working within our lives, we not only miss opportunities by not looking and listening…
We miss opportunities because we think we can do it on our own and we aren’t asking.
*From his book The Holy Spirit
**From his book The Circle Maker