1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. This is the number of stars in the universe—one septillion—within an estimated one trillion galaxies.
But think. We live in just one of those galaxies. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, contains over 400 billion stars. Our sun, only one of those stars, takes over 225 million years to orbit its center.
In space, objects are so far away that distances between them must be measured using light-years, or the distance that light moves in a year. Light travels approximately 186,000 miles per second, which is almost six trillion miles per year.
According to modern measurements, the edge of the observable universe is about 46 billion light-years away. This signifies that the light we see has been traveling for 13.8 billion years before it even reaches our eyes! These numbers bring to mind what King David was inspired to record: “What is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psa. 8:4).
It is obvious that such magnitude, detail and precision could only have come from an all-powerful supernatural force. One look at Creation—the Earth and the vast universe—is all it takes to understand this.
The power that keeps all this together? God’s Holy Spirit (Col. 1:15-17).
Amazingly, God offers us access to this same awesome, superhuman power! Once He calls us (John 6:44, 65), we must “repent and believe the gospel” of His coming Kingdom and be baptized (Mark 1:14-15). It is at this point that we can receive God’s Spirit and qualify to become one of His (Rom. 8:9).
Prior to baptism, it is not uncommon to think about how receiving God’s Spirit will affect us. You may have wondered: What will it be like to possess this kind of power?
Vivid accounts of supernatural acts may fill your mind as you think of Peter’s shadow healing the sick (Acts 5:15) or someone being raised from the dead (20:8-9). Common New Testament Greek words for power—dunamis (meaning “force” or “miraculous power”) and exousia (“privilege,” “force,” “capacity,” “freedom,” “master” or “delegated influence”)—only add to this.
A soon-to-be baptized Christian may ask, “Can I really have this same power in me?”
The answer is a resounding yes!
During baptismal counseling, you often hear phrases such as, “Don’t expect to feel any different,” “God is fulfilling His promise of a tiny down payment of His Holy Spirit—truth—into your mind,” or, “This same spirit will guide you into all truth throughout your lifetime if you continue to yield to God.”
You might think that acquiring such power will make you feel different. Yet, at this current time, God rarely displays His awesome power in overt ways or allows it to make us feel different.
Rather, for those He is training to rule in His Kingdom, He works in a far more concealed way.
Still, Small Voice
The prophet Elijah experienced firsthand how God’s Spirit works. In a well-known account in I Kings 19, Elijah hid in a cave from wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel (vs. 9). While there, he and God engaged in an important conversation filled with many lessons.
At the beginning of the account, God questioned Elijah as to why he was hiding. Elijah immediately began making excuses to justify his actions (vs. 10). He did not “hear” the message God was trying to convey.
God then revealed Himself to Elijah through one display of tremendous power after another. First, He sent winds strong enough to break rocks, then an earthquake, then a fire (vs. 11). What happened next, though, is truly fascinating: “and after the fire a still small voice” (vs. 12).
God used shock-and-awe displays to get Elijah’s attention—then spoke to him in a calm, quiet, little voice. It was after this display of awesome power that Elijah was ready to listen and change his course of action.
Similarly, God occasionally shocks us to get our attention. But it is how He works after getting our attention that makes the biggest difference. That same “still small voice” is what leads us to change our lives. It is the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7) that, if heard, will quietly guide us in every decision we face.
Ears to Hear
Throughout the New Testament, the Bible states that the reader should “have ears to hear” immediately prior to or following essential instruction.
Each segment to the seven eras of the Church, the book of Revelation states, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” (See Revelation chapters 2 and 3.)
These prophecies were recorded in advance so that those intended to “hear” them could understand without listening to an audible noise. Each era was to read the spiritual message and let it “speak” to them.
We experience something similar when we study God’s Word.
Daily, we must use the Bible to search for areas in our lives where we need to change and grow (II Cor. 4:16). When we do this, a powerful process swings into motion, which ultimately helps us become better Christians. God’s Spirit works within us, guiding us to put into action what we learn so we can move closer to being in His Kingdom.
Paul recorded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). This amazing transformation only occurs through the power of God’s Holy Spirit and us “hearing” the message that is “spoken.”
Our lives are a constant battle of replacing our carnal will with God’s will. In II Corinthians 10:3-5, it states: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Each battle we face begins in the mind. We cannot physically hear the sounds of struggle or fighting. No audible battlefield instructions are there to help us. This kind of listening has nothing to do with how well we pay attention to our physical senses. Rather, we are given quiet spiritual instructions to be “heard” with “ears to hear.”
This “still small voice” can only be observed by paying careful attention (Heb. 5:14).
Exercising the Senses
For the human ear to hear subtle sounds, it must become accustomed to listening for them. This can require many hours of time and focus.
For example, concert pianists can easily tell if one key is slightly out of tune. This level of perception can only be achieved by carefully paying attention to the subtle details of their instruments for much time beforehand.
Similarly, a sound technician can develop an acute ear for “feedback” or other noise by paying attention to certain sounds and how they interact with the immediate environment.
A Christian led by God’s Holy Spirit is no different. We must be familiar with our instrument or equipment (the Bible) and aware of how we interact in our daily environments.
Sometimes we are placed in situations that make us feel discomforted. Yet if we are alert and approach them with spiritual mindsets, we can quickly discern the reason.
Remember, God’s Spirit is one of peace (John 14:27; Gal. 5:22). If we are uncomfortable with someone or something, often it is God’s Spirit attempting to tell us to change our circumstances.
For instance, when watching a television series filled with questionable language, violence or sexual innuendo, you may feel uneasy. When this happens, you should turn it off or find something more suitable to watch. This will quickly make you more comfortable.
Or perhaps upon returning home from the grocery store, you realize the cashier never charged you for a five-pound pot roast. Your “gut” response may be to return to the store and inform them.
Listen to it! If you do, you will be assured you did the right thing. If not, you will feel guilty for eating it.
Consider another scenario: A woman with three children at the mall is carrying multiple bags while pushing a stroller. Do you move quickly to open the door to help her or do you awkwardly pretend not to notice? What does your inner voice tell you? While pretending not to notice might be easier, have no doubt that you will think about it later and your conscience—God’s Spirit—will prick you (Acts 2:39) and possibly keep you up the next night.
Or imagine you are faced with a financial dilemma. This month’s paycheck is a little light and you will not have enough to pay rent if you tithe. What do you do? Tithe and face eviction or steal from God? The answer is obvious if we “listen.”
Each time we actively train ourselves to do the right thing, it makes the next time we face a challenge much easier. It is not just about practice, though. It is perfect practice that makes perfect!
Circumstances like these happen every day. While some might not seem that important, they are huge in God’s eyes. Confronting these and other common situations is how Christians build character.
This is how God’s powerful Spirit works in us. In each case, no one was healed by a shadow, nor did they see cloven tongues of fire on heads. Instead, the work was simple and subtle.
By displaying that we can be faithful in smaller matters, we will be rewarded in a BIG way—by being given eternal life ruling with Christ! We will each be given an awesome reward based on what we did in the time we had to live (Luke 19:17).
We must all be ready to hear the “still small voice” at work in us and act on it. Doing so is exercising the Holy Spirit. Only then can it grow.
Do not wait for howling wind, raging fires, or earth-rattling quakes. Instead, attune yourself to the quiet voice of God that works in your mind—leading you to do what is right.