It was reading the book ‘Blessing your Spirit’ by Arthur Burke and Sylvia Gunter that first introduced me to the thought that we could help ourselves to grow bigger in our spirit, to enlarge our spirit. Previously it had always seemed to me that when we were born again our spirit, that had been dead to God, had now been given new life and so the struggle between the old man and the new man was on, between the newly alive spirit and the ‘old man’. The result being a kind of tussle between the old and the new that was fairly equal. Sometimes the old would win and at other times the new.
We have always been familiar with the idea of ‘growing’ in our faith. We knew that we need to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, 2 Peter 3:18. We knew that with our fellow believers we were encouraged to ‘grow into a holy temple in the Lord’ Ephesians 2:21. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 encourages us to see growing in faith and in love for one another as of great importance. In fact growing is so fundamental to our life as a Christian that Paul encourages us ‘to grow up into Him in all things’ Ephesians 4:15, but the idea of ‘growing’ my spirit hadn’t really occurred to me.
In his introduction to the book mentioned above, Arthur Burke describes a picture the Lord gave him of a person whose spirit was thin and tiny, undernourished, while his soul was the size of a sumo wrestler. ‘The spirit’ he writes; ‘had no chance to implement the will of God in this person’s life because the soul had been so over fed for so long’. Quite a thought! But if you think about it we feed and exercise and look after our bodies, we feed and train our minds with many things that are good and necessary for life and work, and some of us spend much time and energy staying emotionally healthy too.
By contrast, the time we spend developing and growing our spirit can be a brief five minutes every morning and an hour on Sunday. Please don’t be offended, I am exaggerating to make a point here, not pointing the finger!! We know that like the psalmist we can speak to our spirit and say, wake up!!! Psalm 57:8 ‘Why are you downcast?’ Psalm 43:5, but on the whole I think in the western world we tend to be quite passive and let our feelings and thoughts (our soul) run the show, not realising that very often our mind and emotions are being run by the ‘old me’ and not by the ‘Christ in me’.
Arthur Burke speaks of the need for us to ‘bless our spirit’, to grow and strengthen our inner man in Christ, and to encourage our spirit to take the lead over our mind and emotions, telling them to take a step back and follow the lead of our Holy Spirit filled spirit. Rather than see ourselves as a body, which has mind and emotions, and a spirit inside too, he encourages us to see ourselves as a spirit being, with mind and emotions through which we can express our spirit, all housed in a body. Thinking this way means that we give our spirit priority, and since this is the part of us where the Holy Spirit comes to dwell primarily, we will find that we can learn to be led more easily by the Spirit.
We can ‘grow’ or strengthen our spirit in many ways. Arthur Burke has written down for us many meditations and declarations in his book, based on passages of scripture. Feeding on God’s word is of course a fundamental way to build up our spiritual strength. We also know that speaking in tongues is something that ‘edifies’ or builds us up in our spirit, 1 Corinthians 14:4. If we spend time in worship and prayer we will also find that we are more alive spiritually and stronger when difficulties or temptations come.
So today let us give thanks that with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can be more intentional in finding and practising these ways of ‘growing in our spirit’. As Paul encourages the Ephesians let us ‘make the most of every opportunity…… and ‘be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Ephesians 5:17-20.
Blessing your spirit, Sylvia Gunter and Arthur Burke 2005.