And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [paraclete:] Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—(John 14:16-Amplified Bible).
In early January, a college student announced he was taking a leave of absence to get his severe affliction with anxiety under control. He is a student athlete. His father is the basketball coach, and the young man was the team’s third highest scorer. The leave of absence has been for six games, thus far.
I have not known if my concern for him was a God-given burden or an obsession. I knew I was to pray for him and to ask God to send someone who would have his confidence and be an agent of healing and spiritual companionship—probably a 6’-8” basketball player.
During these past weeks I’ve been re-reading Revolution, The Early Church-First Seventeen Years, by Gene Edwards.(Seedsowers, 1974). The author retells the story of “church life” beginning at the Day of Pentecost. (Used copies available at Amazon.) Edwards tells about “church life” that few of us have experienced, but we want it to be. At least part of it!
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
If we were to select Acts 1:8 as the only definition of Holy Spirit’s work assignment or skill set, evangelism would be our only anointed task as a Jesus Follower. The felt needs of people in Jerusalem versus those in Samaria differ greatly. To be able to get the attention of unbelievers in Corinth and Antioch would be in another range. The Paraclete is multi-faceted. Listen to what Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3:16ff:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being. …may have power—that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”
That Holy Spirit power is not just about evangelizing, but every detail of your life—healing, saving, nurturing, growing, informing and filling. And Holy Spirit equips us to meaningfully minister to the diverse people of biblical-day Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Egypt and Ethiopia. Moving into Century 21, Holy Spirit empowers us to be about the Good News among nations: ethnos, generations, preferences and races.
I know a 6’8” former college basketball player who may be the conduit I’m praying for. The student-athlete needs more than the salvation rhetoric—more than words. He needs a power confrontation and then capability to manage and be victorious with the nagging, scary emotions.
When he began his leave of absence, he decided to live it out with his team mates—on the practice floor, in the weight room and on the bench. They would be part of the healing team (I don’t know that he used that term). We need companions.
When Jesus said he had a promise for his team, he chose the word “Paraclete” which, as you know, is translated Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby. Jesus reassured, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
“I will not leave you comfortless.” The word “comfortless” is taken from the Greek word orphanos from which we get orphan.
There is a phrase commonly used to describe discipling and nurturing a new convert to Christ: “Walk beside and pour into.” We can’t call that in from the bleachers. Such dedicated participation demands companionship. To help, comfort, advocate, intercede, counsel, strength and standby requires that we know someone and their dreams, as well as their barriers and sin-tendency so we know what needs to be “poured in” and what requires our companionship to walk with them—like a special, intimate, trusted friend. That is no less true for work of Holy Spirit. “I am not going to abandon you. Ever!”
The big white dog on the cover of my ebook, Meanderings, comes to visit us and sometimes spends a few days. Kona adores Carole and likes me. She’s been with us for a few days. The other evening she came rushing into the living room in panic mode. She was frantic. She may have separation anxiety. It was obvious to me she was having a panic attack or anxiety. I put my arms around her and talked to her—she settled a bit. I got a pillow and laid beside her and caressed her. Every time I quit petting her she nuzzled me. If I moved, her big paw would grip my arm and pull me closer—back into action—”touch me.” I got up after half-hour and sat in a chair. Kona got up and moved to be next to me.
No matter what kind of “animal” you are, there is within you a desire to be close to someone when you hurt. The promise is you receive when you are appropriately touched. Where there is life, there is a hunger for touch. It is true that a human may not be the preferred hugger for a bear or silver-backed gorilla. I saw a man call an elephant’s name. He had rescued her when she was very young. Hearing his voice, the elephant ran to her human friend and took her herd along. They touched him and asked to be touched. Where there is life, there is a hunger for touch.
The Holy Spirit is not human or made of flesh, so how do we receive His touch? How does He touch us? The Holy Spirit is spirit. The Spirit touches and talks to our spirit. I wonder if that can be explained. We do know when the Holy One touches us. Our constant companion. We may not be able to explain how He works—touches, speaks, convicts, convinces, heals. We don’t need to explain it with graph paper and architect’s pens. Our responsibility is to make our souls a welcoming place.
©2023 D. Dean Benton