All of us are called to a deep communion with God. But if you’re like me, the pace of life and constant distractions can turn your focus from Him onto things that only weigh you down. I struggled for years with inconsistency in my relationship with God that kept it superficial and easily derailed. But I have learned about and want to share with you three movements of the Holy Spirit that can help you deepen your prayer, become more disciplined, and become stronger on your faith journey: being convinced, being convicted, and being converted.
1. Are You Convinced?
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, it is an invitation to die to ourselves. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He asks for everything. Where do we find the courage to answer this call, especially in light of our fears and weaknesses? I found it when I became convinced of one simple truth – God’s love is better.
St. John knew this. He says in 1 John 4:19, “We love, because he first loved us.” Our decision to become disciples that love Jesus from the heart is a response to love we have received from Him. For years, I only believed in God’s love in theory. It wasn’t until God’s love was poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) that my desire to love God in return was kicked into high gear. Once I had this experience and was convinced that God’s love is better, I did not want anything else.
Maybe you have experienced the love of God in the past, but loss or struggle has shaken your belief and trust in Him. Maybe you have never experienced God’s unconditional love. Either way, God wants to love you more than you want His love. Ask the Holy Spirit to pour the love of God into your heart today, tomorrow, and every day. God’s love is not a puzzle we need to figure out or a reward we need to earn. It is a gift freely given through the Holy Spirit. Ask, receive, and become convinced.
2. Have You Been Convicted?
Sometimes I wish my faith life could be programmed into my soul like a computer. Computers execute the commands given to them without needing to grapple with tough choices. But real life is messy. Many of us deal with constant temptations and distractions that lead us away from God. But in the midst of chaos, we are called to order all our desires and love towards Him. How can we overcome the world and live for Jesus?
We need to ask for and respond to the conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit. Conviction is a strongly held belief or living in the state of being convinced. It is not enough to be convinced of God’s love for us. From there we need to seek the conviction that will allow us to love God in return and pursue holiness. St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:5: “For our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” In essence, he is saying, “You did not just hear the gospel, but God’s Holy Spirit came to you in power and convicted you of the need to live for Jesus.”
Conviction activates our beliefs. It turns a hunger for God into spending time with God in prayer. It turns a desire to know God into the habit of reading the Bible or another spiritual book for a few minutes every day. Conviction from the Holy Spirit takes even our desire for God to the next level because our human desires are weak. Every corpse on the side of Mt. Everest was once a very focused and highly motivated person. If we attempt to climb the mountain of God without conviction – a movement of the Spirit beyond ourselves – we will not make it.
I needed to find freedom from selfishness and pride so I prayed the Litany of Humility and asked the Holy Spirit to convict me of the truth that my life was not my own. I needed to do my part but I knew my effort was never going to be enough. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I began making progress. I have a long way to go but I now have the discipline of prayer to keep me going forward.
If you feel stuck, pray for conviction. Ask the Holy Spirit to move your heart, and then make a move to get closer to God. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit and your holy desires will become actions, your holy actions will become habits, and your holy habits will form virtues.
3. Are You Pursuing Ongoing Conversion?
Have you ever tried to ride a unicycle? The basic principle to staying upright is to keep moving. You can go forward or you can go backward, but you can’t remain still. This principle is also true in our spiritual lives. We are either moving toward or away from God. We need to make our lives a constant and consistent movement in the right direction, and we call that ongoing conversion.
One of the greatest enemies to conversion is comfort. Our culture is constantly trying to convince us that pleasure and comfort is the great goal of life. The gospel stands in stark contrast to this lie. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” I love this quote because it reminds me that God’s will is not found in my comfort zone. It pushes me to have courage and not play it safe, and gives me a deeper hunger for God’s purpose and to do His will. It moves me to deeper conversion.
Conversion is a lifelong process because God isn’t simply asking us to be better – He is asking us to be like Him. The heart of this is being in communion with Him, and conversion springs forth from communion. Often we fail because, in our pride, we think we can grow through our own human effort. God will let us fail until we place our trust in Him and receive the grace we need. A practical way in which you can cooperate with the Spirit’s movement to conversion is to fast. Empty yourself that you can be more filled with the life and love of God by, for example, denying yourself an extra 30 minutes of sleep or Netflix so that you can pray and read. Small sacrifices reap great rewards in our spiritual journey.
The Promise of the Father
Jesus instructed the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit, whom He referred to as “the promise of the Father.” Jesus knew that nothing could happen until they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We received the promise at baptism that the Holy Spirit is with us and on our side. If we seek convincing, conviction, and conversion from the Holy Spirit, we will become the people God created us to be and the fruits of peace, joy, and love will blossom in our souls.