I realize the title is very broad. Being led by the Spirit is essentially what it means to follow Jesus. Maybe a story will help to clarify and narrow the definition I’m using here:
Led by the Spirit: A Short Story
I had just graduated Bible College and was working at Tim Horton’s while (impatiently) waiting for a church to call. Every day I would rollerblade or walk to work, praying the simple prayer, “God, I invite you by your Holy Spirit to lead me to do and say what you want me to do. I pray that I would have the opportunity today to share Jesus with someone.”
On this particular day, it was a raging blizzard outside (so I was walking 😉). We were only there a couple of hours when the manager indicated that they were going to send someone home by random draw to save on costs. One of my co-workers was almost breaking down. She indicated to me that her mom was in town to see her oncologist, and it would mean the world to her to have this day. In that moment, I felt the Spirit *nudge* me. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was almost like He whispered, “tell her that you are sure she will get picked because God cares about her.”
Now, if it wasn’t the Spirit, I was setting myself up for a disaster. I mentioned this casually to God, but the insistent feeling in my gut wouldn’t subside, so I told her. It probably went as smoothly as this: “I know this sounds crazy, and I might be totally wrong, but I feel like God asked me to tell you that you will get picked to go home because He cares about you.”
Sure enough, she was picked to go home. Maybe the managers knew about her situation. I don’t know. What I do know, is that in that moment I got to participate in a miracle. Days later, she asked me about the incident, how I could be so “certain.” Well, that was a stretch. But I told her again that God cared about her. It led to an abnormally deep conversation, especially for a workday. The Spirit was already at work in her life in a very significant way.
Taps and God Sightings
At a YC, I heard Pastor Dave Overholt helpfully refer to this as “Taps.” At VBS, they call them “God Sightings.” They are not usually as dramatic as the one I described, but they always involve a moment of risk, courage, and decision. God “taps” you to do something. In my experience, taps almost always precede the “manifestation” gifts of the Spirit, like prophecy, tongues, miracles, faith, knowledge, healing, etc. They can also lead to what feel like very ordinary works of kindness or goodness: paying for the car behind you, noticing a stranger (or friend) who could use an encouraging word, bringing a cake to a neighbour. There is a moment where God illuminates something to you, brings something to your awareness, and you get a nagging sense that you should do it.
I used to think that the frequency of “taps” was totally random, that when God was about to do something or wanted to use you for something, you would just know. As I age, I am more convinced that it has everything to do with the prayer I used to pray on my journey to work. I believe it is possible to cultivate a greater awareness of the Spirit’s work in the world by engaging simple listening practices like this.
Pentecostal Practice: Slowing
One practice I have engaged in recent years, I will call, “slowing.” It involves shutting off the distractions, hurry, and mental lists that we all rehearse almost constantly, and intentionally being in a posture of listening and awareness. When I engage this practice, I will walk at the pace of the elderly person ahead of me, drive in the slow lane, not check my phone at set times throughout the day, take time to really listen. When I constrain my constant desire to hurry to the next task, or to alleviate my boredom with technology, I am able to better notice what God is doing in my soul, in the world, in the people around me.
Have you had experiences where God has “tapped” you to do something? What practices are you engaging to make sure that you don’t miss the next opportunity? If you’re interested in reading about other Pentecostal practices, check out our earlier post here.