We start to make spiritual progress only when we grasp that we really can do absolutely nothing on our own. It is only by depending completely on the Spirit that we can minister in the Spirit.
Depending on the Holy Spirit
1 Kings 18 illustrates the differences between a Spirit-filled prophet and false-prophets. The important point for us here is that Elijah did not try to make anything happen, instead he did everything possible to prove to the people that he was not responsible for the miracle. Like Elijah, we need to make it difficult for people to think that what happens in ministry is due to human manipulation or pressure. We need to make it as clear as possible that it is the Spirit or nothing.
This principle is very clear in Jesus’ ministry, for example, John 5:30. Time and again, Jesus insisted that he could do nothing, say nothing and go nowhere on his own authority: it was God or nothing.
A striking feature of Jesus’ ministry is the way that he sometimes asked people to tell nobody about the miracle. Mark 7:31-37 & 8:22-26 illustrate his holy desire to work unobtrusively – which is one of the hallmarks of the humble, self-effacing Spirit.
When we genuinely and fully depend on the Spirit of truth, we will surely be characterised by his straightforward speech, and will not feel the need to use worldly methods which overstate facts, ignore mistakes, and rarely focus all attention on Jesus.
The Spirit’s anointing
Depending on the Spirit means relying on our anointing with him. There is a terrible temptation in ministry to rely more on our personal experience, and the experience of others, than on the prompting and guidance of the Spirit. But we must never forget the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we will do well to remember that the whole of Jesus’ ministry was conducted under the anointing of the Spirit. As we see in Knowing the Spirit, it was only after his anointing with the Spirit that Jesus began his public ministry. Jesus chose not to use his divine nature when ministering because he was modelling the way for us to minister and therefore relied just as much on prayer, the Word, the anointing and the gifts of the Spirit as we do. If Jesus needed the anointing of the Spirit for his ministry on earth, how much more must we need the same anointing to do everything that God has called us to do?
Of course, we must always follow biblical principles, and both common sense and experience are important, but we must depend consciously on the Spirit and submit to his authority at all times.