Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
I am not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16, Berean Study Bible)
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (Luke 19:13, KJV)
On Spiritual Occupation
You might say that when believers are born again (by putting faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) the Holy Spirit imparted to us enables us to become a kind of “stealth occupation” in the world.
Only this occupation is not in a new land, but on the one beneath our feet (figuratively and literally); we don’t “migrate” due to conquest, cataclysm, or climate imperative, but according to the work of the Holy Spirit Who operates silently, invisibly, and unpredictably, and usually in the very same spot, context, and circumstance we occupy “in the flesh”. As Jesus explained it to Nicodemus
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
At our spiritual rebirth we become yet another light shining in a bleak place on the horizon,* our unique position, because of, and in concert with, Jesus Christ, Himself, Who is the Light of the World. As we follow Him, we enable others to see Him, also. As St. Matthew put it (chapter 5, verses 15-16), quoting Jesus,
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The “house” we occupy is at home, work, social settings, and everywhere our feet touch ground.
Some of us impact a few people, others impact many, but when we are about our Father’s work (for “occupy” is literal term, pragmateuomai, meaning “to carry on a business”), the occupation magnifies and intensifies, no matter what the machinations of that other spirit who is bent only on destruction.
And as we “listen” to God’s commands and yield to His guidance, nothing can stop us until He calls us home.
On Hearing God
But how can we know it’s “God’s voice” and not just our idea or somebody else’s interpretation?
Just as getting to know other human beings takes association and commitment, so, too, does getting to know God. Fortunately, the “business” of God’s people includes many and varied callings and gifts that help us do this, relationship aids, you might put it, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.
Here is a good explanation of this treasure trove of assistance, including how we can know it is truly God’s spirit “leading the occupation,” as it were (hint: “By their fruit you will recognize them,” Jesus).
But, of course, there are, as Jesus warned, false christs. What can help us then? Prayer and context lead the way, here.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
To context: a go-to idiom espoused by bible scholars and teachers is “a text without a context is a pretext.”
In other words, checking to see whether or not some “word,” “tradition,” or “teaching” advertised as from the mouth of God is, in fact, the Word of God. To determine this we are wise to do as the Berean believers did:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11, emphasis mine)
In order to examine what we hear (and whose “orders” we are to follow for the duration of the occupation), remaining in the Word of God for guidance and direction is essential. The Bible is the Art of (God’s) War, as it were, the Field Notes of spiritual as well as temporal survival.**
I encourage you to be about your Father’s business today, to be about those assignments to which you have been uniquely gifted and called and for which you have the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit for assistance.
*This reminds me of an old (children’s) hymn written by Harry Dixon Loes a hundred years ago, “This Little Light of Mine“. Many people know it today as one of the signature songs of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. This version was sung by Odetta, famed singer, songwriter, guitarist, and human rights activist, also known as the “voice” of the Movement.
The hymn reveals both the simplicity and the profundity of what happens when we allow Jesus’ Light to shine through us as we go about our temporal and eternal business on the earth, that others might know Him, too, even as we remain close to Him.
Be inspired and encouraged in your own corner of the occupation.
**Before you head out, remember who the real enemy is that you are to dislodge in your assigned territory, to to speak, and remember to “armor up” for the real resistance. For some very practical tips on how to work and occupy at the same time, see here.
Phyllis, Thank you for the insights that you provide in all your articles. They are encouraging, uplifting and insightful and I appreciate being able to read and be edified by your thoughts.
In this day of so much bad, angry, depressing news everywhere, we need as much good, calming, uplifting news as we can get. Fortunately, there’s a whole Book full–and plenty of metaphor out there to reinforce it!
Cheers and blessings,
Jesus transforms lives. Just as we have blood coursing through our bodies to sustain our lives, so Christ’s presence within us is our spiritual life-force. Your post captures all the elements – the Holy Spirit and enlightenment; hearing the Word; spiritual fruits. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that we cannot go to the Father except through him (6.40, 44, 65; 14.6, cf. 17.11-26) and that ‘it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ (6.63 JB).
Thank you so much for reminding me of one of my favorite, all-time verses” “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
It is one of the verses that served as a light that led me out of the tunnel of the religiosity of my upbringing into the full light of grace and truth. And each time I spend even more time in God’s Word, it shines brighter and brighter.
Cheers and blessings,