Thunderstorms form under special conditions. High convectional clouds with swirling updrafts and downdrafts cause water and ice droplets to collide. The collisions dislodge electrons and generate super-charged areas within the cloud. The energy is discharged in a flash of lightening followed by a crash of thunder.
Circumstances sometimes do something analogous inside us. Faced with unclear wording in an insurance policy, and an agent reluctant to press the underwriter for definitions and clarifications, I became contentious. I wasn’t rude. I simply stood my ground and laid out the details of my concerns and the potential for legal problems if the policy was not clear. My brain kicked into overdrive. Thoughts raced. I spent a few hours analyzing the policy, defining words, anticipating problem scenarios. It was hard to switch off, even to sleep. In the end things were resolved. I got a suitable policy and I felt satisfied.
Or did I?
The truth is that while this was going on I felt disturbed. I wasn’t impolite, pushy, or frustrated; instead I remained calm and gentle. I wasn’t wrong to ask for clarification. But something inside me was wrong. My brain was so electrified I couldn’t stop it thinking about the policy. My spirit had taken shelter in a corner, waiting for the storm to subside.
Special conditions trigger all of us in some way or other. Jesus had two followers who must have been especially prone to freak outbursts. They got the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Once, James and John took offense on behalf of Jesus because a Samaritan village refused to host Him. The brothers wanted to firebomb the village.1 Jesus pointed to the core of their problem:
“You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55) Then Jesus and His followers simply moved on.
That question—what kind of spirit are we of?—is vital. The world trains us in self-confidence and self-expression with the idea that who we are is set, and we are basically good. We sometimes debate nature versus nurture but do we ever consider that the source of who we are has a spiritual component and can change? Indeed, it would be better if it did change. The bombastic brothers’ inclinations developed as they grew up; Jesus offered them a new life from a new source. Jesus calls us to die to self, to be re-born and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then springs of living water will flow from us, just as they did from Him.
Behavior and words can be measured on a scale just like thunderstorms. Some people deserve a “severe storm warning”. They are manifestly evil, cruel, uncaring, dishonest, seething, irritable, manipulative etc. Others (like me, usually) control their responses. The lightening stays in the clouds and never strikes anyone. We can be calm, polite, patient, gentle, and give wise responses. But if all those “nice” attitudes come from the self and not the Spirit they may only boost our pride and, if people are observant, they might still sense the rumbles. Only the Holy Spirit deeply transforms. Only the Holy Spirit can take us beyond refraining from harm to actually loving people and doing good that leaves a lasting blessing. It is that rebirth as God’s children that matters.
Be aware of your natural self. Don’t hate or reject it but invite the Holy Spirit to take over. Learn to walk away from conditions that stir up storms of self-life, whenever possible. Let the Spirit of Jesus be your life source.
The goal of Bible Maturity is to promote spiritual growth and faith in God. Please share these short Bible devotions with your friends and family and pray for revival.
- Perhaps remembering Elijah in 2 Kings 1:9-12. [↩]