Obeying the Promptings of the Spirit


13"If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalm 81:13-14).


If we want to be full and controlled by the Holy Spirit, we must be obedient to the Holy Spirit's promptings. What do I mean by promptings? Let me give you an example: Several years ago when we were living in England, my American born wife, Sandy, left our home to visit the United States to see her parents for two weeks. The night before her return, she called me from the airport in Chicago to let me know that she would be boarding her flight in an hour and it would be an eight-hour flight. The flight was due to arrive at Heathrow airport at 6 am, and I needed to drive two hours to pick her up. I got up at 3:30 am, and while I was getting my things together to drive to the airport, the thought popped into my head, “take your passport!” When the idea came to me, I immediately rejected the notion, thinking that I would not need a passport, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I carried on getting ready. I had my keys in hand, and just as I put my jacket on to go out the door, the thought came to me again, "take your passport!" Again, I thought it was weird but decided to obey the impulse because I had a little bit of experience listening to those promptings, so I dashed upstairs, found my passport and ran out of the door to the car.

I got to Heathrow airport on time, and as I went into the arrivals hall, I looked upon the screens and saw that Sandy’s flight had arrived on time. However, after two hours of waiting, I began to get worried. The time to wait is usually only half an hour after landing before getting through customs and immigration. Then over the public address system, I heard a message, "Would Mr. Keith Thomas come to the Information Booth?" I was even more worried when I did not see Sandy there. A uniformed Immigration officer was waiting for me. "Mr. Thomas?" he said, "All this mess can be resolved if you just happen to have your passport on you!" With a big smile from ear to ear, I pulled my passport out of my pocket, while he told me that British Immigration just needed to know that Sandy's husband was a British citizen. Only the passport would prove it! I got to take my wife home, and she was quite relieved after having waited for at least a couple of hours while being detained in a small room at the airport. When she had left the U.K., she had overstayed her visiting visa, and her residency status had not yet been approved. Without proof I was British, and she was my wife, she would have been sent home on the next plane.

God was gracious to me in prompting me the second time to take my passport. I wonder how many other times the Lord has inspired me like that, and I haven't listened. If we would only listen to Him, how many victories and how many little miracles of provision could we be receiving? God longs to be gracious and speak specific things to our hearts if only we would quiet our spirit enough to listen:

If there is a secret to being filled and controlled by the Spirit, it is learning to obey those inner promptings of the Spirit. One way that I have found helpful in distinguishing the Holy Spirit's prompting from my mind is to process the thought that comes, to see if there was a chain of successive thoughts or if the idea or thought popped out of nowhere. It is a good chance that if there is no link of thoughts, and it was like a light bulb suddenly was turned on, it could be the Holy Spirit's prompting. The next thing to do is to ask yourself is; what would be the likely outcome of being obedient to that thought? Is there a chance that God would get glory out of my step of obedience? Would it be following the Scriptures? Is there a possible blessing that would come out of it? What is the worst-case scenario if all you hear is your thoughts or a result of indigestion, and it's not the Spirit's prompting? If the only thing to risk is a possible embarrassment, then go for it! “If my people would but listen to me…how quickly would I subdue their enemies” (Psalm 81:13-14). Keith Thomas