The work of the Holy Spirit in us (part 1)

von Johannes Justus

We get excited quickly when the Holy Spirit wants to work through us. However, what if the Holy Spirit wants to work in us? Are we open to change – even when it concerns our personality?

I was once asked by a Russian journalist in Saint Petersburg what I consider to be the greatest miracle of God. I told him: “Except for the redemption of man I consider the change of a human being’s personality the greatest miracle.” I know from both the lives of others and my own experience how difficult it is to work on the development of one’s own personality. Yet, I am convinced that this is absolutely necessary.

God looks at the character

The term “character” is used to comprehensively describe the sum of the attributes and attitudes and the behavior of a human being. It refers to what constitutes the personality, i.e. that which is characteristic for a certain individual. The term “character” originated from the Greek language and initially described a stamp used to mint a coin. Thus, the value of a coin was not determined by the metal it consisted of, but by the minting or stamping it received. In a transferred sense I would conclude that the value of a human being is not determined by his or her outward appearance, but by his or her character.

I am fascinated by the fact that God does not attach great importance to outward appearances. Instead he focuses on the inner condition of a person (1 Samuel 16:7) and, by his Holy Spirit, intends to change, shape and mould what is within a human being. In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul speaks of walking in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit. The result of this he calls “fruit of the Spirit” and lists nine divine qualities associated with it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Yet, this fruit is not simply there – it must grow. Therefore the development of character and personality is always a process.

Cooperation with the Holy Spirit

We are accustomed to have our needs met immediately. It is only unwillingly we wait for our food in a crowded restaurant and stand in line in a supermarket. We simply lack patience. Nevertheless the formation of our personality will not occur at the flick of a switch. A common saying is: “Money can buy a bed, but not sleep. It can buy a clock, but not time. It can buy a book, but not knowledge.” And I would add: “Money can buy outward beauty, but not character.”

Those who want to develop their character need to be willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and begin a process of change. The Holy Spirit influences, shapes and moulds. However, we must consciously allow and seek his work in us – if we don’t, nothing will happen. One could say: Development of character is the result of intense cooperation with the Holy Spirit while working on one’s own personality. Character stands above charisma and competence. Therefore it is rightly said: “People are hired on account of their competence and fired on account of their character.” In the end, character will speak the loudest.

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