Measuring My Days

May 2009
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Blow, winds of God, awake and blow

   The mists of earth away:

Shine out, O Light Divine, and show

   How wide and far we stray.  J. G. Whittier


“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth;  so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” 

                John 3:8  KJV


James S. Stewart, erstwhile professor emeritus of the University of Edinburgh, was a well- known preacher throughout Scotland and England in the mid twentieth century.  Recently, he has become a favorite “mentor” as I have been searching for his out of print books of sermon-essays.  His keen insight into the Bible has enriched my understanding of all things spiritual.

            Just now I am surfeiting my thoughts with his book The Wind of the Spirit, his text having been taken from John 3:8.  How well he has articulated the title of this book.  My earliest memories of the wind having a spiritual dimension was as a teen age boy on summer afternoons where I worked in a cemetery watering flower beds.   Sudden afternoon rain showers would be preceded by the wind blowing through towering pine trees.  From whence came the winds, I would ask myself….and John’s text would come to mind.

Stewart explained that the winds could in fact stand for three things:  it meant the breath we breathe, the violent desert wind with its primal energy and elemental force, and the Spirit of God, “the supernatural power that sweeps across the ages, bursts into history, and takes possession of the lives of men.  I give thanks that my life has been so possessed!

            The Spirit moved upon the waters, there on the first page of Genesis as the Lord was brooding over the chaos that was to become a world.  And it was there on the last page of Revelation, “I am the bright and morning star.  And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.”  “So from the beginning of days to the last syllable of recorded time, the wind blows – the Spirit of God is at work.

            “God never lets go”, Stewart writes.  “If God did let go of this universe for an instant, if God withdrew the action of His Spirit, the whole complicated structure would disintegrate and fly apart like a shattered mirror into a million fragments.  It is the Spirit who holds human life together.  Never does He cease working.  The wind blows.”

            Stewart jumps to the New Testament:  “…a sudden eruption of the Spirit into human life, Jesus, in whom the whole power of the divine Spirit has been focused, had died and risen from the dead in the mightiest of all the Spirit’s mighty acts…and now… there burst the mighty rushing wind of Pentecost.”

            The wind is sovereign in where it blows.

“Try shutting the door against it...barricading it – and it will break the door down: as on the day when they rolled a great massive stone against the mouth of the tomb in a garden, and sealed it fast, and said, “That’s Christ finished!  This dead and defeated man will trouble us no more.  Let Him sleep behind the stone forever!”  Suddenly came the wind of heaven and burst the tomb, and Christ went conquering through the world… And blessed be His name, there is no winter death of the soul that He cannot quicken into a blossoming springtime of life, no dry bones He cannot vitalize into a marching army….”

            “When the Spirit of God stirs,” writes Stewart, “there are palpable evidences of His working.  Even the unbeliever becomes aware that something is going on. He sees the effects.  He hears its sound.”   Such it was that brought Nicodemus to Jesus.  He was a Pharisee naturally antipathetic to Jesus and biased against the gospel. “That is written here into the story.  “Rabbi, no man could do these mighty works you do unless God is with him”.  And so an interview with Jesus became the first step to his salvation.

            “The hard supercilious pagan world of Greece and Rome professed itself indifferent to the gospel; but it could not deny that wherever Christ’s men went strange things kept happening.  The true life of those Christians was indeed, as Paul declared, a hidden life….But it was not all hidden.  No!  Unconcealed and open were the Christians’ impact on society, their revolutionary ethic, their amazing courage amid the vicissitudes of life, their absolute serenity face to face with death.  The world, says the Book of Acts, saw the evidences:  it “took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.”

            What is contemporary about this old message of the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing ceaselessly since before time itself began?  Stewart:  “But it is thrilling too.  For you see, it means you just cannot tell what God may yet make of your life and character…. For Christ at Pentecost and every day is holding out marvelous prospects for everyone  - all the drabness and tedium vanquished, all the suffocating poisonous atmosphere of disillusionment gone with the wind of His refreshing grace.  And this is not all.  For beyond the hopes of earth gleams the incalculable destiny of the hereafter.  “Now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”…Listen to the wind, Nicodemus.  Listen to the wind!”