There’s a story of an old monk named Antony who went to live in a graveyard to illustrate his death to self and life in Christ. While there, he reported being attacked by demons until he blacked out. A friend found him the next day and took him to a local church where he later regained consciousness. Antony was so beat that he couldn’t even stand up, yet he returned to the tombs nonetheless. The demons attacked again, but Antony pushed on through it in prayer. After an entire night of fighting the demons were chased away as a bright light appeared all around him, taking away all of his pain in its radiance. There, in that sacred moment, Antony questioned God. “Why did you not appear at the beginning so you could stop my sufferings?”
“Antony, I was here, but I waited to see your struggle,” God responded. “And now, since you persevered and were not defeated, I will be a helper to you always and I will make you famous everywhere.” When Antony heard these things, he stood and prayed and felt more strength than he had before.
We often think that the Holy Spirit is going to send our faith bounding forward into higher and higher heights, but sometimes he leads us towards valleys and crosses. Are we worthy of the greater baptisms? Will we do the things we don’t want to do? Will we persevere even when everything is falling apart? Can our faith survive something like a global pandemic?
Even Jesus’s great power came with a test. After being baptized by John, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” The gospel writers only give us the highlights of what a starving Jesus had to endure over the following 960 hours, but if we were to sit back and watch the whole thing, I imagine that we’d realize that if he could survive his test, we can survive ours.
So for those who want a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, I ask, “How badly?”
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Luke 4:1-12 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.