Knowledge is a Gift of the Holy Spirit by Julie Paavola

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Have you ever noticed how small children talk constantly? No? Well, just wait! Soon after the thrill of hearing their first adorable words, you will be begging and pleading for a moment of silence! My six year old is the worst offender. He asks questions, talking non-stop until my brain feels ready to explode. I call it “blathering” (I know, not very nice. I try not to say it to his face). Our children’s need to think out loud and figure things out tells us something fundamental about ourselves: humans are thinking, self reflecting beings—Homo sapiens or “knowing man.” This brings us to the last three of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, all having to do with the mind: knowledge, understanding and counsel. This article will be on knowledge.

To know or not to know, that is the question today. The cultural norm is to doubt the existence of truth unless it is proven by the scientific method. If there is objective reality, there is a stoic assumption that we cannot know what it is. Like Pilate when he answered Jesus claim, “I came to give witness to the truth,” many today might retort, “Truth? What is that?” People have reason to be confused. Information overload is hard to deal with: we may become skeptics, trusting nothing (like Pilate); or we could equally become ideologues, willing only to listen to and believe certain sources and points of view and shut out all the rest.

We need the gift of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. More than merely possessing and sorting information, the knowledge given by God’s Spirit goes beyond words. A good metaphor for this is becoming a mother. No matter how much you read about motherhood or observe other mothers, until you become pregnant, wait and hope for nine months, give birth and nurse that tiny baby, you don’t really know what being a mother is. Motherhood is experiential. You feel it and know it in the very cells of your body! It grows with you and becomes part of your identity. In the same way, the Spirit’s gift of knowledge is an experiential taste of the truth of God’s existence and love. Luke’s gospel alludes to this saying God gives us “knowledge of salvation” (Luke 1:77). This is not an intellectual, argument-convincing knowledge, but a gut-wrenching, life-changing, exultant knowledge that compels us to sing God’s praise. It is the spark of the spiritual life. It allows us to walk the path of faith and persevere, because, as Peter said to Jesus with such conviction, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life!”

If God did not reach out to us with the gift of knowledge, we would remain in a darkness and ignorance that lead to despair. The gift of knowledge feeds hope. It makes us rejoice in what God has done in creating us and promising us a share in the love and life of God offered to all. Sometimes people of faith think it is our job to “convince” others about the truth of God. But we must be careful to remember that this kind of knowledge is a gift. That is why, after we respectfully offer the reason for our faith we must preach primarily by our actions and our own walk of faith. This will dispose the hearts of others to receive the gift of knowledge far more than fancy arguments, and once they are disposed, the Spirit will rush in.

The Spirit’s gift of knowledge gives our whole life a character of dedicated perseverance to what we know to be true. We may falter, sin, fall or get side-tracked, but the Spirit guides us back, saying softly: here is the knowledge of truth; embrace it and thus embrace yourself and all creation.

It is a great consolation to know that we and our children are called to live in the light: “by the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

Copyright 2010 Julie Paavola

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