The wind of the Holy Spirit


On May 18, 1995, exactly 29 years ago, I was putting myself through my last year of seminary by driving a school bus for Jessamine County in Kentucky. I had a wheelchair lift on the back of the bus, so I had mostly disabled students on my route. On that particular morning I drove through a torrential downpour, skies completely black. I drove the bus around to the back of the school where I was to let off a couple of students. The dispatcher came over the radio telling us all to keep our students on board while the worst of the storm was hitting us. It was a good call.

About a minute later I saw debris blowing off of the roof of the school. The bus started rocking back and forth, and I told the aide on the back of the bus just to keep everyone calm. Stuff started to hit the bus, a lot of stuff. I had happened to pull in facing the school that morning, which was unusual. That was to our advantage compared to many of the other buses. The debris was hitting my windshield, which cracked like a spider web but miraculously stayed intact. The front of the bus and the roof were taking a beating. I found out later that many of the other buses had passenger windows blown out with shards of glass cutting their students.

The wind continued to pick up, and the emergency pop top on the roof blew open. I stood on a couple of seats and pulled down to keep it closed, but I felt the power of the wind trying to pull it out of my hand. I had never experienced such a powerful wind before. Though you might think I would be terrified, I felt a calm come over me that I cannot explain.

The kids on board stayed calm as well. After what seemed like an eternity, the wind finally died down followed by a steady cold rain. I opened up the bus door and saw debris all around the bus about knee high. We later learned from the news reports that we had been in the path of an F2 tornado. It had lifted parts of the high school roof off with over $2 million in damage to school facilities and buses. There were many cuts and scrapes, but thankfully no one was killed.

I was thinking about the anniversary of that storm when I read about Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2. According to that story, when the Holy Spirit came upon the little band of Jesus’ disciples, suddenly there was “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind that came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” I know what that sound is like: it is like being in the path of a tornado. Even as violent as that sound might have been at the time, I imagine the disciples felt an unexplainable calm come over them as the power of the Holy Spirit coursed around them and through them. When the Holy Spirit comes on you in power, you know it, and with it comes a calmness.

Jesus had spoken about the coming of the Holy Spirit on several occasions. Once, in talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, he said, “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.” (John 3:8) In other words, you don’t control or manipulate the Holy Spirit. You cannot make the Holy Spirit do your bidding any more than you can affect the path of a tornado. The Holy Spirit is God, and therefore, the Spirit will determine where, when and how to work.

On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples that he would ask his Father, and He “will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17) The word translated as “advocate” literally means one who comes alongside. Even though Jesus left us physically to join with his Father above, the Spirit of truth was sent to be of aid to the faithful disciples of Jesus. Like an aide on the back of a bus, the Holy Spirit is a companion to provide guidance, strength, comfort and conviction in the life of the one who believes in Christ. Remember though, God’s Spirit is one of truth. The Holy Spirit will not always tell you what you want to hear. The Holy Spirit will sometimes confront you with a word of correction in order to shape you into the person God wants you to be. The presence of the Holy Spirit means help, not just the help you think you need, but the help you actually need.

Right before Jesus ascended into the heavens and left this world behind, he told his disciples to wait for the gift that his Father wanted to give to them. That gift was the One who came like a mighty rushing wind, the Spirit who gave them power to speak to people all around them (in their own native languages) about who Jesus is and what he has to offer. The Holy Spirit is a gift, meaning, God the Father gives the Spirit to those who are seeking him. The filling of the Spirit of God results in a deep cleansing of the interior life and the power to witness about Jesus.

Sunday is Pentecost on the church calendar, when we remember what happened as the Holy Spirit blew through the lives of the earliest disciples, giving them the power to reach their world with the good news. The presence and power of the Spirit can fall on you as you seek God, and with the power comes a calm surety that enables believers to witness to Jesus Christ.

Derek Russell is pastor of the Hillsboro Global Methodist Church. He loves Jesus, family, dogs and football.

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