I had heard that hell was hot, but it surely couldn't be hotter than this place.
It was early July in the oil fields near Gillette, Wyo. I was between my freshman and sophomore years in college, experiencing my 5th day as a roustabout for Gane Production Company.
Our backhoe had broken down, so I was given a pick, a shovel and an assignment to dig a ditch about 15 feet long and 3 feet deep, so they could connect a flow line from a well to the oil/gas separator the next day.
They told me the ground might be a bit hard, but apparently somebody had paved that entire part of Wyoming -- at least that's the way it seemed.
Rescued from Defeat
After 6 hours of hand-numbing labor in the blistering sun, I'd gotten about 5 feet done. My despair had just about reached its zenith when I heard a chugging noise in the distance. Crawling out of my hardpan rut, I squinted my eyes to see what was coming.
Before long, I could make out the distinct scorpion tail of a backhoe heading my way.
Within minutes, the shiny, yellow machine drew up next to me.
"Howdy, young feller!" the grizzled driver shouted down at me. He looked at the separator, the ditch, my shovel and me. "Got yourself a bit of a job, ain't ya?"
"You've got that right," I said, trying not to sound as tired and defeated as I felt. I'd never seen this guy before, but I noticed that his backhoe sported the logo of a competing company.
He glanced up at the blazing sun, then at his watch, and chuckled. "Don't suppose you'd want a little help, would ya?"
My heart leapt. "You mean it? I don't work for your outfit, you know..."
"Don't matter. I can see you're out-gunned. It'll only take me a minute."
He motioned me up onto the machine. I swung up and stood next to him as he positioned it at the end of my 6-hour ditch. In the space of about 6 minutes, I'd finished the job -- I, the stranger and the backhoe, that is!
It's the same in the Christian life -- we can accomplish far more when we become a partner with the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit than when we try to do things in our own strength.
A Vital Lesson for Christians
Not understanding this fact is one of the primary reasons young Christians bail out of their walks with Christ so quickly, and why so many older Christians experience lives of weakness and defeat.
As Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright once said, "The Christian life isn't difficult, it's impossible -- without the power of the Holy Spirit."
When you have the opportunity to lead someone to Christ, it's vital to help the new disciple understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
He needs to know that the power, the joy, the fruit and the abundance of God come only when we are "filled" -- controlled and empowered -- by the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few key principles you can pass on.
The Eternal Perspective
As Christians, we want to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Part of this transformation is God's responsibility, but part is ours. How we exercise our will bears strongly on the pace of our growth.
If we choose to stay in the ditch with our pick and shovel, ignoring -- through disobedience, ignorance or disinterest -- His offers of help, we'll deprive ourselves of incredible blessings and hamper our progress toward spiritual maturity.
But if we position ourselves in league with His power and grace, we'll benefit greatly. What should a Christian do when he finds himself digging a desert ditch because of sin in his life?
Reconnecting to the Source of Power
Jesus made it clear that after He returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit would be given to "indwell" every believer and provide power for the supernatural life He wants us to experience (Acts 1:8).
But beyond being merely indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God wants us to be filled with Him, giving Him total control of our lives.
In Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul gives a pithy illustration of this: "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."
Just as alcohol can take control of a person and make him act in ways he wouldn't normally act (usually to his later embarrassment), the Holy Spirit will also cause a person to act in unnatural ways -- supernatural ways that please and glorify God.
However, since Ephesians 5:18 is a command that we "be filled with the Spirit," it must be possible to choose the alternative and not be filled.
In fact, elsewhere the Bible says that Christians can "grieve" and "quench" the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19), thereby diminishing His influence on us.
This happens each time we reject His promptings, say yes to sin and re-establish ourselves as lord of our own lives.
At this point, we are still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but we are no longer filled.
When you find yourself in this condition, there are 3 steps you need to take to reappropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit and re-establish that vital link to God...
1. Want It
Are you sure you want the Holy Spirit in the driver's seat? God will not compromise your free will -- but He will respond to your righteous desires.
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6).
Examine your heart, and ask the Lord to reveal anything you desire more than His Lordship in your life.
Don't expect His power to flow unhindered if you're simply "going through the motions." God looks at the heart.
2. Will It
If you truly want His control in your life, then ask for it. This involves 3 actions: confessing, repenting and receiving it by faith.
Confessing. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteou ness" (1 John 1:9).
When you confess your sins, you are simply agreeing with God that what you did was wrong. You might say something like,
"Father, please forgive me for the lies I've been telling. I know they displease You, and I know I've hurt myself and others by telling them. I'm sorry."
Repenting. "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret..." (2 Corinthians 7:9,10).
It's nice to be sorry for your sin, but the big question is, what difference will your sorrow make? It's useless to say, "I'm sorry I sinned. Forgive me. Now I'll go do it again."
To repent means to turn around and go the other way -- it pertains to your actions.
Tell God that you truly want His help to stop this sin, and to replace it with righteous attitudes and actions.
Receiving it by Faith. Now that your sin has been forgiven and you're heading the right direction, ask God to once again fill you with His Holy Spirit.
It's as simple as saying just that: "Lord, please fill me once again with Your Holy Spirit."
How will you know it's occurred? By faith.
We know this based on 2 key facts:
(1) God has commanded it in Ephesians 5:18, so it's obvious that our being filled with His Spirit is in accordance with His will; and
(2) 1 John 5:14,15 promises that "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."
You want it, He wants it, done deal!
3. Work It
You've made a choice to climb out of that dusty hole onto God's backhoe. But now you need to choose to stay there!
The Bible says, "Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God" (Romans 6:13).
The world, the flesh and the devil will try to hand you another shovel and say, "Dig!"
You need to say, "No way. I prefer this backhoe, thank you. Get lost."
I spotted my Backhoe Angel occasionally during the rest of my summer in Wyoming, perched up on his machine digging flow lines and pushing dirt around.
I can't recall his name, but I'll always be grateful for the kindness he showed a greenhorn college kid that hot afternoon.
It's the same type of kindness God is extending to you -- maybe even right now. Go on, grab a seat next to the Driver!