While Jesus’ Ascension was the culmination of the redemptive narrative he initiated on Good Friday, our spiritual journeys with God were just beginning. As we celebrate Pentecost, one of the most ancient feasts of the Church and the beginning of the New Covenant between God and His people, we celebrate not only the birth and foundation of the Church, but more importantly, we recognize the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send us the Holy Spirit as our Great Counselor, Guide, and Presence of God within us.
When we accept God’s generous grace, the Holy Spirit descends and begins to dwell within us. When this divine interaction takes place, we receive what have become known as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These beautiful and powerful gifts, which are described in Isaiah 11:2-3, are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. On this Pentecost Sunday, let us reflect on these precious gifts and how we can further apply them in our lives and walks with Christ.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2-3)
In short, wisdom is the perfection of faith. Wisdom is the gift of seeing from God’s top-down, eternal perspective. The world around us, and all of its temporary pleasures begin to lose their appeal and we value that which God values more than what our flesh would argue is of the upmost importance. Wisdom does not reject or renounce the world, but instead guides us in how to shine Christ’s light into the dark world. Wisdom gives us the vision to see how to effectively love the world around us for the purpose of His kingdom come.
Understanding is the gift from the Holy Spirit which gives us further insight into revealed truth. Similar to wisdom, it moves us past the faith that trusts in God’s revelations, but gives us a divine certainty of them. As we gain understanding, we are also provided insight as to how to apply these new truths to our lives and to shift our lives toward a deeper focus on God and our relationship to Him.
Counsel gives us the ability to judge how we should respond to particular situations or circumstances. Counsel is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence that is only reached through the sanctifying grace of God. Counsel stands on the shoulders of wisdom and understanding in that it takes wisdom’s perspective and understandings ability to see to the heart of an issue and enlightens us as to how to respond to situations on a deep, core level of our being.
Fortitude, one of cardinal virtues, is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. Fortitude is often related to courage, but many of us today misunderstand the true meaning of what being courageous entails. While it may be considered courageous in today’s society to rush heedless into battle, fortitude is always thoughtful and well-reasoned. The person who exemplifies fortitude is willing to face danger, but does not seek it out for the thrill or for the sake of being brave. Instead, fortitude is the God-led balance between fight and flight.
Knowledge is the fifth gift of the Holy Spirit, and provides us insight into God’s purpose for our lives. Knowledge allows us to see through our difficult and trying seasons of life to see God working through our lives.Knowledge gives us a sense of God’s presence so that we can recognize Him, and also allows us to recognize where the enemy may be trying to lead us astray. Through knowledge, we can avoid the pitfalls the devil places in our lives and move towards God’s will for us.
Piety is the desire to do that which is pleasing to God. Before the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in us, our flesh would lead us to fulfill its own purposes for our own pleasures. The Holy Spirit’s gift of piety takes those desires and rewires them for bringing joy to God. Often piety is the most visceral and intrinsic of the seven gifts, as it impacts us at a subconscious level. Through the Holy Spirit, we begin to inherently desire to do the will of God and to please Him through our service and love of others.
Fear of the Lord is the final of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. In today’s culture, fear is seen as a negative emotion, while really it refers to a healthy respect. The Holy Spirit gifts us with the respect for God as the omnipotent, holy, sovereign God that He is, and grants us the hope of grace necessary to live a life that pleases Him. While it is the last of the seven gifts, this sense of respect for God is often the foundation for our relationship with Him and our lifelong spiritual journey with Him, as it leads us to desire to honor and please Him with our entire lives.
As we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit and the foundation of the Church, let us also reflect on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and how we can further incorporate them into our daily lives and our walks with Christ.