How do we know we have the Spirit?

What I find frustrating as a Christian is that I know what Paul says about the Spirit in Romans 8 but it doesn’t seem to be happening to me. 

I read in Romans 8:13, for instance, that the Spirit enables us to “put to death the misdeeds of the body,” so how come I still mercilessly condemn other people’s driving habits? And in Romans 8:15 the Spirit ends my slavery to fear, so how come I still worry that I’m not doing enough as a Christian? And I read in Romans 8:39 that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God, so how come I still wonder if God loves me when bad things happen?

Paul talks of the Spirit being “life and peace,” but I’m still riddled with bad habits, fear, worry and confusion – which shouldn’t be happening to a Christian, right? So why are they still happening to me? I feel like Paul when he cried out, “What a wretched man I am!” because I can read what the Spirit does for us, but circumstances crop up that overwhelm me and down the tubes I go, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s frustrating. I know what the Spirit does, so why doesn’t he do it for me?  

Is it because of verse 26, that says “We do not know what we ought to pray” – or what to pray for, or how to pray properly? Is that my problem, that I don’t know how to pray, and in not knowing how to pray, that’s why the Spirit isn’t helping me in my weakness? Is that how it works, that once I know how to pray and what I should pray about, and I start praying properly, then the Spirit kicks in?   

That isn’t, however, how Paul finishes off verse 26. He doesn’t say we need to learn to pray properly for the Spirit to work, he says “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” The Spirit isn’t waiting for us to pray the right way to get things rolling for us; he’s working on our behalf all the time regardless of how we pray. And if we can’t see that, God certainly can, verse 27, “for he who searches the hearts knows the mind of the Spirit.” He can see the Spirit at work.

Jesus promised in John 14:17, that we can “know the Spirit,” because “he lives with you and will be in you.” In time, therefore, the evidence that something remarkable is living with us and in us will be clear to us. If it isn’t clear now, it will be. It’s a promise.


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