Two balloons were given to volunteers.

The instructions were simple. Keep the balloon in the air; don’t let them touch the floor. One volunteer began carefully tapping the balloon with focused attention. Tap, tap, tap and on he went with a valiant effort bouncing the balloon up, down, up down. The other volunteer stepped away for a moment, returning with her balloon floating high, filled with helium!

My first thought was, “That’s not fair!” But wait the instructions were “Keep the balloon in the air. Don’t let it touch the floor.” Somehow the effort by the first volunteer seemed nobler. Yet, the second volunteer’s strategy would far out last the effort of the first and would win the day.

This simple task has parallels in our spiritual lives. The instructions God gives sometimes referred to as the “Great Commandment” is stated in Mark’s gospel:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Our response can be self-effort or being filled, not with helium, but filled with the directing and empowering presences of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God takes residence in the life of every believer. The power to live the Christian life can never come from self-effort, no matter how noble the effort. Self-effort will always lead to frustration and failure.

The Christian life and specifically this foundational commandment are impossible to fulfill in our own strength. Christ is the only one that has ever filled them perfectly. As followers of Christ are directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they are given the power to live a new kind of life, a life where Christ lives in and through them in the power of his Spirit.

Which “balloon” volunteer do you identify with? Does this prayer express the desire of you heart?

Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have been directing my own life and that, as a result, I have sinned against You. My self-effort has failed.  I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I now thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit.”

By Mike Woodard

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