Last week we started a three-part conversation on The Holy Spirit by answering the God Question – Who Is The Holy Spirit?  Hopefully, you left with a greater understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and were able to see how essential the Spirit is to your Spirituality because the Holy Spirit is the activator of our faith.  The Holy Spirit is God, He is God in us.  It is God in us, who completes our faith by making it real.  Without the Holy Spirit, there is no action, no living it out…and everything about Christianity is how we live our lives.  Our faith life should be seen, felt, and heard.  It is The Holy Spirit that takes all we know and allows us to live it out!  This is such a big deal, because the blocker for so many Christians to truly experience their best lives in Christ, is the action step of their Spirituality.  The Holy Spirit activates our faith, takes all we know and learn about this God stuff, and allows us to live it out, making it real!  Now that we know who The Holy Spirit is, we are going to spend the next two weeks talking about how this activator of our faith can help us.  We will start looking at what The Spirit does in our lives.  There are so many blessings that we get because we have God in us, and over the next two weeks Ken and I will show you some of that but today I want to focus on something we all crave and that is the peace we can experience as we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives.  I think we all want peace but I’m not sure we understand what it means to have this peace that comes from God.  This is one of the many reasons that we need The Holy Spirit in our lives, to have peace, a peace that is not attainable for us without God because life…well, life isn’t easy.  It’s a peace that Paul also says doesn’t even make sense to us humans!

Philippians 4:7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. NLT

In so many Christian circles we get so excited to discuss the gifts of the Spirit, and peace may not be as exciting or on your radar as some of the other gifts we focus on with The Holy Spirit, but I believe God’s peace in our lives is the greatest gift of all.  You know, I kept thinking heading into this second part of the conversation that as we talk about what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, it may add more questions and even more tension to our lives.  Especially as we read Scripture and see things that we should experience because of God now in us.  Like last week, we read that we should experience freedom if God is in us.

2 Corinthians 3:17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. NLT

This sounds awesome but can leave us wondering why we aren’t experiencing that freedom in our lives.  We can read of the Fruit our lives will produce with God living and active in us, and it sounds amazing…

Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. NLT

We love this list of what The Spirit produces in us, but it can leave us wondering why we struggle to find or see this fruit in our lives.  It sounds amazing, but we just seem to continue to struggle to experience those things in our lives, don’t we?  We have this craving for this freedom, for this vibrant full life, for a fruitful life, for inner peace in our lives and Scripture tells us that stuff is ours due to The Holy Spirit.  How often do I bring up living our best lives possible around here?  It brings tension because we want it and aren’t experiencing it.  We also hear of things like peace and can come to some interesting conclusions.  We can begin to think that a life filled with Him means we won’t have struggles, or that life will be easier because we have this victorious, empowered, and peaceful life.  And here’s the problem, life keeps happening.  We continue to have struggles, and life continues to be hard.  We continue to face pain, hurt, and adversity.  We have moments of clarity where we look around at our lives and see that nothing looks like we thought it would.  So, our circumstances around us are hard, and don’t let up, I haven’t brought up our inner world and struggles yet.  We continue to struggle to live a Godly life, we continue to be challenged by life.  That can be confusing or even discouraging because, who in their right mind would associate living their best life, a peaceful life with a life that is difficult, that still has challenges, adversity, and pain?  Maybe we are looking at it all wrong though…so let’s talk.

Because we don’t understand what this peace is, we come to some conclusions that we just shouldn’t come to.  If we aren’t careful, we can feel like we must be failing, or that we just aren’t good Christians, or that the Holy Spirit must not be active in our lives.  Or that it just isn’t working for me.  We can live frustrated lives because our plans and what is happening don’t line up.  It’s tough!  Then we read our Bibles, and we read things like what Jesus says here in John 14, that He came to give us peace, and we want it and need it in our lives…but struggle to experience it because our lives are so difficult.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. NIV

We want this peace, this deep Godly inner peace in our lives, don’t we?  The issue is, we continue to struggle, life still hits and hits hard, and in our inability to find peaceful circumstances in life, we think we are doing something wrong…but what if we are not?  What if we are misinterpreting what peace is?  What if we do not understand or we simply are not identifying what God’s peace truly is?  Think about this, can you have inner peace and still face challenges and walk through tough things in your life?  Does this peace The Holy Spirit produces mean your life will be easy?  Does it mean your life will work out the way you want and that your relationships will be smooth and easy?  Does peace in my life mean no more adversity, no more pain, no more conflicts, no more trials and temptations in your life?  You see, the problem I have with that idea is life.  It continues to press us, hurt us, and challenge us, it just doesn’t let up.  Life in this busted-up, broken world is not easy, and I want you to understand that more than that, I want you to see that the gift of The Holy Spirit is how we get through all of it.  What if God in Us, gives us peace as we walk through it all, rather than taking all our challenges away?  You know, a few chapters later in John, Jesus once again speaks of peace, but he adds something important to this concept.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  NLT

Again, we hear that Jesus came to give us peace, which is a beautiful thing and something we all want, and we assume we will have it as we invite God into our lives.  I mean it was in so many of the terms used to describe what God does in our lives.  It’s one of the descriptions of what the Holy Spirit produces in our lives, and we all crave it.  But I think we can miss that second sentence there…where Jesus says,

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.”

So, can I ask you something?  What if this peace is deeper than giving you an easier life, or peaceful circumstances?  What if inviting God into your life allows you to have peace regardless of what you face in life?  Wouldn’t that be a gift?  Have you ever been around someone who you clearly see is filled with The Holy Spirit?  You just know, don’t you?  They have this joy, this life, this…peace in their lives, don’t they?  Here’s an important question.  Do you think their life has challenges?  Do you think they deal with painful things, adversity, and trials?  Do you think everything in their life goes as they want?  Do you assume their life is just easier than yours?  Can Christians, who have invited The Holy Spirit into their lives, still struggle?  Will they face trials, sorrows, and painful moments?  Do they struggle with their inner worlds, and things like sin too, or has life just let up on them?  Can I have peace and still face tough things?  I mean Jesus did say that we will face many trials and sorrows, so what does that say about peace in my heart, mind, and soul?  When you invite the Holy Spirit into your life is that the end of all challenges, temptations, issues, and hardships in life?  This is an important question, and how you answer it will determine so much in your Spiritual journey.  Here is why I say that.  If you answer this one way, you will walk in freedom and peace and grace, with an ability to grasp your imperfections and God’s love for you while continuing to grow into who God created you to be regardless of what life throws at you.  If you answer the other way, you will always feel guilt, always wonder why your Christianity doesn’t work, like you are failing, and think life is easier for others as life hits, and we know it will.  That is a hard spiritual life lived under the weight of what you can never accomplish because you will still struggle here in your time on this Earth.

I want to talk to you today about life, just the challenges we face in it, and the true gift we have in The Holy Spirit as we try to navigate all the adversity, challenges, and battles of life both inside and out.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we can experience this peace we all crave…and I want you to understand that this peace isn’t about peaceful circumstances or an easier life.  Having The Holy Spirit in your life doesn’t mean life lets up, it means that you aren’t doing it alone anymore, you have The Helper, The Friend, and as you live by the Spirit you find peace regardless of what you face in life.  That is different, that is meaningful, that is a gift.  Paul encourages us often to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives, and to follow the Spirit’s lead.  We will focus on a section of Galatians 5 today, but he does this throughout his letters.  This will give us a chance to not just talk about the challenges we face as we navigate our difficult lives, but also the battles we all face in our souls.  Because as hard as our circumstances are on the outside, we also face a battle on the inside.  Paul talks of this inner battle between our flesh (our desires) and The Holy Spirit (God’s desires) for our lives.

Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. NLT

Ok, we are to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives, and I want you to understand today that this is the way to that peace we all crave.  Now, in those few verses, we see the talk of two forces constantly fighting each other, God’s desires, and our fleshly desires at war within us, which doesn’t sound very peaceful…does it?  While Paul is focusing on the battle within here, I think it continues to build into what we know about our lives and how difficult they truly are.  Think about how I started this talk and that question I asked you about inner peace and whether a good Christian will struggle in their lives.  Inside and out, we must understand that living a Godly life is completely opposed.  It won’t be easy.  If you think about who The Holy Spirit is, and just some of how He is described it reveals a lot about life.  So, just a few of the reasons we need The Spirit in our lives, He is The Helper, The Guide, The Advocate.  This tells us we need help in this difficult life, doesn’t it?  Let’s talk about a few of the things we know The Holy Spirit does in our lives.  He strengthens, empowers, guides, and convicts us of sin.  This reveals the truth about the lives we live on this Earth, and we must understand this.  Life is hard, and we need help.  This is why Jesus said, it was better for Him to go, so He could send us The Helper.  We will battle and struggle.  We will deal with challenges and opposition and the biggest battle we face is the one the human eye doesn’t see.  It is happening in our soul.

You know, it’s amazing to me how many people beat themselves up in their lives.  I will tell you; I am really good at that in my own life.  I can love and forgive others, but when it comes to myself, I tend to not be so gracious or forgiving.  And I don’t think I’m alone in that. It’s amazing how we assume so much and struggle to anchor to truth and reality, and those assumptions can cause so much damage in our lives.  We already talked about some.  We see someone rested and peaceful and what do we assume?  Well, their life is easier than mine, or God loves them more, or their faith life seems to work while mine does not!  Or we assume they must be doing it right, and we must be doing it wrong!  It is also amazing to me how often Christians try to hide, pretend, or put on masks.  It’s like we don’t want people to know that we struggle!  Somehow saying we are a Christian is the unspoken way of saying I’m good now, all good, no issues.  Now I do not deal with sin, challenges, and temptations in life…even as we read things like what we just read in Galatians or like the words from Jesus we read earlier!  It’s like we don’t want anyone to know that we don’t have all the answers and that we struggle.  But the reality is WE ALL DO.  Let me be clear, we aren’t perfect, life is hard, we all struggle, and we all deal with sin, challenges, and pain.

Life isn’t easy, and in so many ways every desire and instinct that we humans have seems to lead us away from God’s desires for our lives, which is why we are thankful for The Helper (The Holy Spirit) in our lives.   We come to know God as our Lord and Savior.  We genuinely love Him and are so thankful for His amazing grace and love for us.  We are so thankful for Jesus, and all He has done for us.  We love Him and set out to live our best lives in Christ.  But let’s be honest, we still struggle, inside and out.  We have issues and temptations; we still mess up from time to time.  We don’t want to, but we do!  We also deal with adversity, hurts, heartaches, and so much in life…and with God in us we can still walk in peace, just like Paul told us we could.  Everything just pushes against us experiencing all that could be in God.  For so many of us, as hard as life is on the outside, the biggest challenges and battles we face are on the inside, in our souls.  Many struggle to even say that out loud or be honest with this inner turmoil and sin stuff but hiding it and pretending it isn’t happening only magnifies the challenges we face.  It’s like there is this tug-of-war in us, with our human desires pulling one way and God pulling the other.  Can you relate to that?  You ask God into your life and genuinely want to live for Him, but your life continues to go up and down, back, and forth, it’s two steps forward and a step or two back.  It’s frustrating because you keep hearing of this life in Christ and what it should be.  But this freedom, this victory, this peace we are to be experiencing just isn’t there.  It’s just a battle.  Can you relate?  I sit with so many people stuck in this tug-of-war, and they are truly hurting over it.  I think it’s very important for us to understand that we aren’t bad humans or failing Christians if we struggle.  It simply means we are human!  And we know that we humans will struggle through difficult times.  This makes Paul’s words in Romans 7 so relatable to us all, even those of us who try to pretend that it wouldn’t relate to us…

Romans 7:15  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. NLT

There is something comforting in knowing that Paul, the great church planting apostle struggles with this same tug-of-war in his life that we struggle with in ours.  But can I ask you, is something wrong with Paul’s faith if he struggles to do what is right or is this just life, and showing us why we so desperately need God’s help to live life as we would like?  Think is proving our deep need for The Holy Spirit to help us navigate a difficult world where everything right down to our fleshly desires pushes against the ways of God.  What I love is that Paul gives us the solution to this deep issue we face in our souls.

Romans 7:24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. NLT

Through Jesus, we are freed from this life dominated by sin and death, and he moves right out of that thought into the concept of The Holy Spirit freeing us from the power of sin that leads to death!

Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. NLT

This is huge.  It’s important to point out that while Paul says we are freed from this sin-dominated life, and that there is no condemnation for those of us who belong to Jesus, he didn’t say that life or the enemy would let up on us.  He didn’t say life would get easier; he said you can walk in freedom from it.  This is why it is so essential that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives.

Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. NLT

Earlier I wanted to address this tension that so many of us walk in.  If we struggle in life does that mean, we aren’t good Christians or that our faith doesn’t work?  Are we failing in some way?  Do we not have the Holy Spirit living and active in our lives if we struggle inside and out?  If I’m to have peace, can I have peace and still deal with tough things, even face trials and sorrows of many kinds?  As I write this, I can’t help but think of Jesus, peacefully sleeping amid a life-threatening storm.  Not to veer off topic, but let’s read it because I think it paints a picture.

Matthew 8:24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. NIV

In so many ways, we tend to think that as we walk with God there will be no more challenges, adversity, battles…no more storms.  If we think this way, when the storms come, we can conclude that we don’t have this peace of God in us…but that isn’t what we read in our Bibles.  Jesus has something the disciples do not at this point, remember?  The Holy Spirit is in Him, but the disciples haven’t received it, they are terrified in the storm and think they will all die.  And if you remember, these guys were fishermen, they were very experienced with boats and the water, and they are terrified here.  This is important.  Jesus is also in the storm, but at rest, at total peace.  Take this imagery from this story as an example in life.  Jesus was at total peace as a life-threatening storm raged against them.  He is in the same difficult circumstance the disciples are in, but He is at peace.  That is what it means to walk in peace, it doesn’t mean the storms won’t come, it means we can have peace as we face things in our lives as we allow The Holy Spirit in, to guide, to live in us, to whisper to and direct us.  Life will still happen, storms will still come, and the peace of God is internal which means it won’t be affected or taken from you regardless of your external circumstances, this is a true gift!

We want this, and we can have it.  But we must learn how to live a life that is guided by the Spirit.  So how do we do that?  Well, let’s go back to Galatians.  If we switch to the NIV, we see something that stands out to me, the term “guided by” in verse 16 is “live by, and in verse 18, “directed by” in the NLT says, “led by” in the NIV.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  NIV

We must live our lives led by The Holy Spirit.  So, take a moment right now and think about your life.  Who leads it?  Who is running the show?  We often talk about how God should be, but who is?  If your life is led by The Holy Spirit, it shows.  If your life is led by your desires that shows too.  The way to live a Spirit-led life is to actually allow The Holy Spirit to lead your life, which requires you to surrender your life and make the choice to follow God and His desires, not your own…which we have established is challenging because God’s desires will be so opposite of our fleshly desires.

I want you to think with me right now.  Why does that matter?  Why must I be led by God in me?  It’s because there is a battle waging for your soul.  This is such a big deal for us to process today.  We hear of the Fruit of The Spirit that should be seen, felt, and heard in our lives…and it’s awesome, and so real.  We can hear of this peace we should feel in our lives, and struggle because we know of the battles we are facing inside and out.  Some of those battles on the inside are the hardest as our soul seems to pull in two directions.  In these challenges, we can come to some very wrong conclusions thinking that we shouldn’t struggle with God in us.  If The Holy Spirit is living in me and leading my life, I mean, my life shouldn’t be hard, I shouldn’t struggle, there should be peace…right?  And who out there associates a peaceful life with difficulty, challenges, and a war within our soul?  We know life is hard on the outside, and I think we can get to a place where we can see and admit that stuff, but this war within?  Well, that can be much harder to share openly about, can’t it?   This leads to many people faking it, hiding their issues, and leads to an unauthentic faith that we just don’t want you to get stuck in.  Scripture is clear there is a battle for your soul.

Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. NIV

It is a battle between your human desires and God’s desires.  Paul is helping us see that we must live and be led by the Spirit and in verse 17 he helped us understand that this is a battle between our sinful nature and The Holy Spirit in our lives, a battle we can only win with the help of The Holy Spirit in our lives!  Here’s another example found in Romans about this from Paul which brings us full circle back to that word again…peace.

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. NIV

As I live by the Spirit and allow God to control my mind, I find life, and…peace.  We have already established some things about life today.  I started today with a question.  Do you remember that?  The question was, do Christians experience trials and challenges even with The Holy Spirit living and active in our lives?  Can we have peace if life is still hard?  If life is working out the way we want, does it mean we are failing or not doing something right?   Does God’s peace mean an easier life and better, more peaceful circumstances?  What if we struggle on the inside?  Does that mean we are failing or doing something wrong?   No, it means you are human, working your way through this godless, broken world.  Christians will experience challenges and struggles.  We will deal with trials and sorrows inside and out.  You are not a bad Christian if you struggle.  It means you are human and shows you how much you need God.  We must have The Holy Spirit living and active in our lives, guiding us toward God and away from all the things that pull us away from Him!  So, while we all strive for inner peace, want freedom and victory in our lives, and want to see The Fruit of The Spirit coming out of our lives…hear this.  That conflict, conviction, or pull you feel in your soul isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  You may have heard this said before, but I love this thought and I think in many ways it helps us with this mindset.  The shadows prove the sunshine.  In so many ways that battle in you is proving that The Holy Spirit is in you because you are in the fight, and not just living by the flesh anymore.   The point is that through the power of The Holy Spirit, we can have victory over the flesh, which we can’t find in our strength.  We can live a Godly life through The Spirit.  We can have peace in the chaos.

Listen, we will face challenges in our lives.  I don’t know how you read the Bible and come to a different conclusion.  We will continue to have trials, sorrows of many kinds, and adversity, inside and out.  We must understand it is through the Holy Spirit, that we have peace in the chaos.  Peace in the middle of the storms we face in life.  Peace regardless of our circumstances.  Peace as we walk through this difficult world.  This is such a gift, and it is yours when you allow God in, and then let Him lead your life.

So as we close can I ask you, what storms are you facing in your life right now?  How do you respond to those trials and sorrows?  Are you able to feel God’s presence and His peace in the middle of the difficult circumstances you find yourself in?  When, not if, but when the tough times hit, are you open to God and what He may be leading you into and through or do you wonder why a loving God would allow you to walk through difficulty?  Could it be possible that this peace we are all searching for isn’t God easing life up on us, but God working inside us, guiding us through this busted up, challenging life we all face on this Earth? 

Listen, life won’t let up on this side of Heaven.  You will continue to walk through tough times, and all I wanted you to see today is that regardless of what you face when you allow The Holy Spirit to guide and lead your life, you can have that peace that we all want, but struggle to find.   We can get so excited over the gifts of The Holy Spirit, but peace in the chaos of life, to me, is the greatest gift of all.  Because life is hard, it won’t look like you want it to look, and thankfully you don’t have to do it alone.  If you want this peace, it’s time to invite God in and allow The Holy Spirit to lead your life today.