Spiritual power does not vanish overnight. It is a gradual process that worsens over time as we establish patterns of behavior that grieve or quench the Holy Spirit. This can happen in a variety of ways, but today we will examine four common leaks:
1. The drain of negative influence. Our relationships will lead us closer to or further from God. It is critical to avoid friendships that draw us away from God’s will.
2. The drain of busyness. In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” One of the surest ways to lose spiritual power is to neglect our relationship with God.
3. The drain of materialism. If money becomes our motive, it will replace God as the center of our life.
4. The drain of envy or jealousy. Envy reveals a lack of trust in God’s provision. It is impossible to serve Him in the power of His Spirit when we are shackled by resentment.
Think of all the places in our world where large quantities of water are stored: huge water reservoirs created by giant dams, massive above-ground water tanks in our communities, the water heater in your garage or basement that gives you a hot shower, the water stored in radiators that heat many older homes and buildings, and the water stored in millions of vehicle radiators. Right now, as you read these words, some of those reservoirs of water are leaking or draining. A percentage of them will result in damage of some sort—be it a flooded valley community when an earthen dam holding back a lake gives way or a flooded basement when the water drains out of a water heater.
Water belongs in the system, not outside the system. The challenge is to plug the leaks and seal the drains before damage can occur. Water transfer and storage systems losing water through leaks and drains is such a problem that a large industry has grown up around it: automatic leak detectors. Municipalities across the country are installing electronic leak sensors on aging, underground water pipes where leaks can go undetected for years. Leaking water is lost water. And lost water can lead to serious problems.
Living Water Fuels Our Spiritual Life
If you stop and think about it, there is a perfect analogy in the spiritual life. In one of the most dramatic moments recorded in the life of Christ, He stood up in the midst of the crowds at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
The apostle John adds this explanation in the next verse: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (verse 39).
We know that Jesus has now been “glorified” through His resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of the Father (John 13:31-32). And shortly after those events, at Pentecost, Peter declared, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33)—“this” being the poured-out Spirit of God. Peter went on to tell the crowds that all who believe in Jesus “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Jesus called the Holy Spirit “living water,” and all who believe in Jesus become reservoirs of this “living water”—the Holy Spirit. Just as literal water belongs in the system, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to be fully present in the life of the believer.
I don’t want to push the metaphor too far—but I think it is safe to say that a Christian can experience the power of the Spirit draining out of his life. And like the vast majority of leaks in literal water systems, leaks in our spiritual reservoirs happen beneath the surface, out of sight, one drip-drip-drip at a time—until we realize we have lost all power or spiritual health.
4 Choices That Will Drain the Holy Spirit’s Power
The New Testament speaks clearly of at least two ways Christians can lose spiritual power and resources: grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Here are four ways we can see spiritual power drain out of our lives as our choices negate the work of the Spirit in us:
The Drain of Negative Influence
Inappropriate friendships and relationships can lead us away from God (Deuteronomy 13:6-9), impact our character and behavior (Proverbs 22:24-25), and cause us to become an enemy of God (James 4:4).
The Drain of Busyness
Spiritual growth and power take time and effort. Yes, the Holy Spirit does the changing in us. But we make ourselves available to Him through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, service, fellowship, solitude, meditating on Scripture, and others. The psalmist wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). But the Word doesn’t get into our life by osmosis. It gets there when we take time to study it, listen to it preached and taught, and discuss it with others.
The Drain of Materialism
Jesus said it best: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). In modern language, “mammon” is money. We cannot serve God wholeheartedly if our pursuit of material wealth has depleted our spiritual power.
The Drain of Envy or Jealousy
There is a temptation to envy those who do wrong (Psalm 73; Proverbs 3:31) and to compare ourselves with them (2 Corinthians 10:2). But Proverbs 14:30 says that “envy is rottenness to the bones.” Does that sound like the kind of life where spiritual power is being stored up or being drained away? Obviously, the latter.
Plugging the Spiritual Drains
There are other spiritual drains, of course—but these four represent the tiny leaks that, over time, can allow our spiritual power to dissipate and vanish. And when that happens, we eventually end up like a car pulled to the side of the road with a cloud of steam billowing from beneath the raised hood.
The insidious thing about these leaks is that they seem negligible and insignificant. And in the early stages of a drain’s activity, they are. A single envious thought or materialistic impulse is not going to sideline a Christian. But if those go unconfessed, they will accumulate drip-by-drip-by-drip, and we will reach a tipping point.
First, we must be aware of the reality of spiritual drains. Then we must do whatever is necessary to plug them! Only then will our living water remain within where it belongs.