As we floated above the treetops, the air was still and quiet around our hot-air balloon. The dozen of us standing inside the 12-by-16-foot basket gazed at the dawn on the horizon.
Damien, our pilot, said in his Irish brogue, “Look over at that pond we are approaching. When we get right over it, look underneath us and you will see our reflection in the water.”
Excitement filled the air as we bobbed along, drifting toward the pond. Dipping down, the balloon lowered toward the water.
Like magic, the balloon’s reflection appeared on the surface. Awesome, I thought as I experienced my first hot-air balloon ride. This is more breathtaking than I expected.
The rising sun, wisps of white clouds in the powder-blue sky and the green leafy trees below reminded me of God’s handiwork as Creator. Yet I would never have seen this if I didn’t trust the balloon to carry me safely through the skies.
It was so similar to living the Christian life, specifically by being filled with the Holy Spirit. That idea had popped up in a recent conversation.
“The concept of the Spirit-filled Christian life is a lot like hot-air ballooning,” said John Henderson, a Cru staff member.
I’d like to find out how, I thought.
And so I booked a flight on this balloon. The parallels surprised me.
But first, who exactly is the Holy Spirit? He is God.
As third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is co-equal with God the Father and God the Son. He came to glorify Christ and is both reliable and trustworthy.
Jesus promised His help: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
The Holy Spirit is my personal Helper, whom I desperately need in order to live the Christian life.
In our hot-air balloon, the peaceful stillness was occasionally broken by a loud SWISH whenever Damien switched on the burners. They spewed a powerful 10-foot bright orange flame inside the 100-foot belly of the balloon. This forceful flame gave power for initial lift-off and kept us afloat by heating the air inside.
As I watched, I remembered a verse describing the Holy Spirit as quenchable, like a flame. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul warns, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
Just as the balloon would cool and descend if the burners didn’t flame, I need to allow the Holy Spirit to keep my zeal for Christ alive and burning every day. If I resist Him, then I quench His work in my heart.
To keep His fires burning, I need to consistently do what Bill Bright, co-founder of Cru, described as “spiritual breathing.” In that analogy, exhaling is confessing sin.
As I examine my heart, I confess, or agree with God about any known sin, being specific. “If we confess our sins,” says 1 John 1:9, “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Then I “inhale” by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill and direct me with His Spirit. This is according to Ephesians 5:18 which says, “Be filled with the Spirit” and the promise “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14,15).
Just as Damien flipped the switch for the flames, I have to make an active choice to allow the Holy Spirit to burn in me, filling me with God’s power to do the specific “good works, which God prepared beforehand” for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).
As we caught a wind current in the balloon, Damien broadcast a radio comment to another balloon. He spoke to several competitor-company pilots whose balloons filled the sky with red, orange, and multi-colored balloons, negotiating our path. They looked like a buoyant city in the sky.
There was a certain amount of unpredictability about where we would land. Several destinations were possible, which Damien constantly considered and improvised according to our wind conditions, radioing to the workers on the ground where it seemed we were heading.
Just as I did not know exactly where our balloon would land, I don’t always know where the Holy Spirit will lead me. I make plans and set goals, yet I must improvise according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
My path may begin in one direction, but God determines the exact course. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
As we landed in the second of Damien’s designated landing locations, I thought, This ride has been exciting and yet so peaceful.
The Holy Spirit can have the same effect. Just as we rose above the treetops and soared in the peaceful quiet of the sky, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit can daily calm my agitated heart.
If the Holy Spirit fills my life with His power, I am able to rise above my circumstances. He supplies what I need to follow Him, serve Him, and to even produce His fruit described as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).
Each day I need to remember my lessons from that hot-air balloon ride. I can choose daily to allow the Holy Spirit not only to give me strength and power to live the Christian life, but to totally guide my future, no matter how unpredictable at times it is.
He is trustworthy and reliable. He is God.
We were all created with a desire to find meaning and happiness in life. But are we looking in the right places? Which journey for meaning and happiness will ultimately fulfill us?
Sometimes, finding hope means looking in a new direction.
Missions are not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
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