Over the month of November, I took a sabbatical from my work as a pastor. During this time, one of my goals was to draw closer to God and more specifically to study the person of the Holy Spirit. I learned many lessons about following the Holy Spirit over the course of the month. (I believe these lessons are the foundations of future writings, and possibly a book on the Holy Spirit, Lord willing). One such lesson about life in the Spirit is the importance of learning how to slow down our internal life. I am under the conviction that the speed of God’s kingdom and the pace of our American culture are not in harmony. The speed at which our Western lives run is often high-paced and accelerated. I think this tends to be even more prominent in certain areas of our country, including the Northeast where I reside.
What This Means
So what does it mean to live in accordance with the pace of God’s kingdom instead of the pace of this world? It means to have a quiet and surrendered heart to the working of the Holy Spirit throughout your day. At all times and in all circumstances, our hearts can be yielded to the peace and presence offered freely by God as a gift of the Spirit. While we may be moving along in our day as fast as everyone around us, we do not need to allow our hearts to run at the same pace: busy, frantic, anxious and unsettled.
Living in step with the Spirit also means that from time to time throughout our day and ideally one day during the week, we take time to pause, get our minds focused on the person of Jesus and invite the Holy Spirit to refill us. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
Slowing down our internal life also involves the diligent guarding of our hearts and minds. (Proverbs 4:23) The racing thoughts of this world’s system try to make us anxious about having enough, being enough and doing enough. As God’s child, you have the grace to rest in God’s love and your identity in Christ without being obligated to worry about your daily provision or compete with the world’s standards in order to find your significance. (Matthew 6:33)
What This Does Not Mean
Slowing down our hearts does not mean that we are required to live a monastic life of prayer in isolation from the world. However, it will require us to more consistently and intentionally pause, quiet ourselves and reconnect with God through Scripture, prayer or mediation.
Slowing down our hearts does not mean we have to be any less diligent in our work or less competitive in our play. It does however mean that as we grow deeper in fellowship with the Holy Spirit our temperament and conduct will increasingly reflect the values of Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said of his disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16)
Living a life in the Spirit, does not mean that we become less productive or fruitful. In fact, a life truly connected to God will bear more fruit, not less. Do you know anyone who lived a more fruitful life than Jesus, the one who was continually led by the Spirit? It may however mean that we begin to create new boundaries for our work lives that reflect a greater priority on our relationship with God and others. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
Making a Habit of Slowing Down Internally
While some of our personal spiritual transformation can happen in a moment, much of our spiritual growth and maturity takes place over time as we form new habits of thinking and living. Taking time to slow down, pause, focus on God and invite the Spirit to work within us is a habit worth cultivating. Even now, I encourage you to take a moment to pause, quiet your heart, take a deep breath and invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill you. A simple prayer in faith such as, “Come Holy Spirit” or “Fill me Holy Spirit” can do wonders. Selah.