In 1951, my husband, Bill, and I leased a home 1 block from the UCLA campus. Students poured into our home like it was Grand Central Station, and I subconsciously equated my busyness with commitment to Christ.
I continued to be faithful with my prayer and Bible reading, but I was not seeing spiritual fruit in my life.
In my spiritual immaturity, I didn't understand the importance of responding to His voice as soon as I heard it.
I had complete confidence in my salvation, but I did not understand that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, wanted me to surrender my life totally to Him.
That summer I attended a Christian women's retreat. There, I felt like I needed to apologize to a few people about some situations from years past.
The matters seemed trivial, and so much time had passed since the incidents that I tried to brush off the gentle nudging I was feeling. But I had a nagging thought that God couldn't really use me until I was obedient to what I knew He wanted me to do.
Finally I sat down to write the letters of apology. That nudging was the Holy Spirit working in my life.
I soon received wonderful responses to the letters, bringing me great relief. The incidents could now be forgotten.
I had been obedient to God, and I was beginning to understand the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:13 records, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting His own ideas; He will be telling you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future" (New Living Translation).
The Holy Spirit is the One who dwells in us, guides us and convicts us of sin. We couldn't live a holy life without His power.
However, we cannot experience His power without totally yielding to Him.
From the moment of spiritual birth, the Holy Spirit indwells every Christian. But to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we must, as an act of our wills, completely surrender our lives in obedience to Christ.
One afternoon years ago, I had happily mopped the kitchen floor. While the floor was drying, our younger son Brad came running into the house with a group of little boys trailing behind him.
They wanted some milk, so Brad, without asking, decided he would get it. But while he was pouring the milk, he spilled it on my shiny floor.
When I saw the spill, I snapped loudly, "Get out of the kitchen! I just mopped the floor!" All the boys scurried out wide-eyed, scared because Brad's mother had spoken harshly. I felt terrible.
Where was the Holy Spirit in this? He was still in my life, but I was not yielding to His control. I had exerted my will over His. My attitude was wrong.
To avoid such incidents, Bill and I began to practice what we call the "throne check." It is based on the idea that in each life there is a throne, or control center.
When we yield to the Holy Spirit, our ego or self is dethroned. But self can steal control at any moment, as it did in my floor-mopping incident.
This doesn't mean the Holy Spirit leaves us; it means at that moment we have taken Christ off the throne, thereby limiting the Holy Spirit's influence in our lives.
When we allow Christ to be in control, we experience harmony and peace. When we try to put self in control, we suffer with discord and frustration.
We taught this concept to our boys from early childhood, and we all practiced it. Every once in a while, when dispositions were not very pleasant, someone would ask, "Who is on the throne?"
I remember vividly an incident when Brad was about 4 years old. I had fixed a special breakfast dish I called "egg in a bonnet": a fried egg in a piece of toast with a hole in the center.
Brad complained, "I don't like my egg like that, and I'm not going to eat it." He manufactured tears in a second. Bill dealt with the situation by asking Brad,
"Who is on the throne this morning?"
Brad responded in his preschool language, "The debil (devil) and me."
"Who do you want on the throne?"
"What do you do?"
With the wisdom of a child, Brad responded, "Pray, 'Dear Jesus, please be on the throne and help me eat this egg.'"
At 4 years old, Brad knew that putting Jesus on the throne of his life would allow him to overcome his own will and attitude.
Any sin in our lives can prevent the Holy Spirit from exercising His influence in us, so I have tried to develop the habit of keeping a short account with God.
As I walk closely with Him, my acts of disobedience become less frequent. The more I obey Him, the more the Holy Spirit strengthens me to resist the temptations.
My husband called this corrective action "spiritual breathing." Consider the process of taking a breath-we exhale and inhale.
Spiritually, we exhale by confessing our sins and inhale by appropriating God's promise of filling. I can claim God's marvelous promise of forgiveness and filling, and know that He hears me.
As a result, I am able to continue in unbroken fellowship with God. When we walk in the Holy Spirit, God can begin building in our lives the skills necessary to be an instrument for Him.
Just like when I was at the conference, you may have felt the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit and ignored it.
It seems easier to pray about major decisions and overwhelming challenges, but the real joy and true blessings that God promises are realized when we obey Him in anything, anytime, anywhere.
Obedience is a lifestyle. When we learn to live an obedient lifestyle, our perspective on every challenge becomes one of peace and confidence.