When I was 10 years old, I remember feeling like the only person who hadn’t been “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Growing up in a Pentecostal context, our church was trying to recreate the infamous Acts 2 Upper Room moment—the one where the disciples finally received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7), manifested in “speaking in tongues”, or the power to praise and witness about Jesus in other languages.
This felt like the ultimate test of my childhood faith. We’d sit in home tarrying meetings and church services, praying desperately to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As a young girl, I remember lying to my church friends about being filled with the Holy Spirit at a Benny Hinn crusade.
I was so embarrassed to be the only one who couldn’t get this gift. It made me question my standing with God— was I truly a Christian? Did God really love me?
The “filling of the Holy Spirit” freaked me the hell out. It was pretty scarring to attend those crusade-like tarry meetings. Watching your aunties and uncles fall to the floor because a pastor touched their head with the “power of the Holy Spirit” was confusing and terrifying. Their heads would bang on metal chairs as they came crashing to the ground.
I didn’t want my head to hit the rim of a metal chair as I fell to the ground. It sounded like it hurt.
I had an overwhelming fear of the Holy Spirit—one that followed me deep into my adulthood. I wrestle with it constantly and have to check my inner child to know my standing in Jesus is secure.
When Jesus was on the earth, he promised his presence to the disciples an everlasting advocate.
6 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.[c]
Now fast forward, past Jesus’ death and resurrection, and Jesus names the gift he promised in John 15.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I want to call out one word that struck me in reading this verse—”witnesses”. The original Greek word is “martys” — which literally means witness in a legal, historical, and ethical sense.
This word carries two specific roles for the disciples. One, to be a “spectator” of the work of the Holy Spirit—and two, to literally witness, or share, its work. The Holy Spirit would provide them the strength and boldness to witness despite persecution.
The Holy Spirit finally descends on the disciples in the Upper Room in the metropolitan city of Jerusalem, one filled with many languages, identities, and ethnicities. The manifestation of the gift of tongues foreshadows God’s plan through Jesus’ death and resurrection— salvation’s access to everyone.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, disciple Peter is empowered to witness—to literally speak the languages of the people in the surrounding areas.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are actually meant for others. Though we are welcome to use our giftings in our own personal prayer, their power, and ultimate purpose are to empower us to share the Good News with others.
For so many of us, this meant being this holy, tongues-speaking, overly righteous, white-robe wearing person who almost appeared ethereal.
I believe the entire message of the Gospel is this— find ways to connect with the God in others and be present with them. Witnessing is tending to needs, moments of authentic connection, and just getting real.
The Holy Spirit is meant to embolden and empower us to be able to witness to others— our family, our friends, our partners— it allows us to listen to the heart of God and live in his likeness for the people around us.
It allows us to not be afraid to wear all parts of who we are boldly—especially for those who need to see Jesus in us.
God brings people into our lives who need this character of Jesus, the image of his likeness, to witness the holiness of God.
That power lives in you.
That power is meant to be tapped into, chiseled, and made whole— not just so you can prove you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, but so you actually bring people closer to the heart of Jesus.
That’s your job as a witness.