For the longest time, I wanted to be a movie director—framing breathtaking shots, unfolding the story, drawing out intense emotion, and revealing deeper meaning to art and circumstances. One movie reviewer’s quote revealed a reason we can’t get enough of Hollywood: “Nowadays, I’ll pay anything just to feel something.”
Don’t we all long for genuine emotion and meaning?
The Christian life isn’t exempt. I remember many evangelistic sermons painting a charmed existence not unlike a cinematic fairy tale, an 80s action thriller, or an amusing rom-com. Faith in Jesus was communicated as a “happily ever after” of desires finally satisfied, exhilarating adventure, and always getting the spouse you’ve been saving yourself for.
Our spirits long for meaning and adventurous plot. But so often we come to Christ on a spiritual high. We burrow into the Bible and throw ourselves headlong into ministry, all the while asking in the back of our minds, “Is this all there is?”
Is this all there is?
All of us who know Jesus will consciously, or unconsciously, answer one of three ways:
1. “Yes. This is all there is.”
We walk away from Jesus because life isn’t that great. And sometimes, changing diapers in the church nursery just doesn’t feel like adventure or drama on the big screen.
2. “Yes. I probably just need to do more ministry.”
We search for fulfillment from the spiritual activity we’re accomplishing, distracting ourselves from answering honestly.
Something tells us God wants our story to go deeper: more plot, more meaning.
“Is this all there is?” is a critical question for anyone discipling professing Christians, because God Himself often inlays that craving for more (see Isaiah 55:1-9).
What differentiates answer #3? The Holy Spirit. He takes His seat as the movie’s director. Surrendering to the Holy Spirit allows us to manifest our most purposeful, most alive selves.
I’ve helped believers process whether to go to med school, get married to that girl, become a pastor, or move to that town. And I’ve found that instead of conventional wisdom, the Spirit-filled life nudges us to a deep actualization of God’s unique image in each of us, toward understanding our deepest longings for good, overcoming our greatest fears, and experiencing the Bible vibrantly. We begin to sense, “I am where I am supposed to be.” Even when, like Jesus Himself experienced, He leads us into hardship.
He’s not the holy add-on
It’s easy to treat the Holy Spirit as an add-on to God the Father and Jesus—maybe synonymous with “the Force,” or the ability to fly in “The Matrix.” I once thought of Him as an impersonal “it” rather than a person, someone with whom you’d experience a dynamic relationship.
Us Westerners love our “freedom.” We don’t answer to anyone! But the Holy Spirit is both out of our control and downright mysterious. Giving Him control makes us feel vulnerable. And He may be downright unwelcome if you’re trying to direct your own movie.
The Spirit-filled life means surrendering our lifestyle, frame-by-frame, to His authority and direction. Talk about countercultural! Ask the person you’re guiding, “What have you learned about the Holy Spirit?”
In the movie of our lives, the Holy Spirit guides us toward wisdom and truth. It’s completely possible to listen to Him, allow His wisdom to fill us (Ephesians 5:18), manifest His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and apply the Word to our lives much like a genius script to a lead actor (John 14:26). That’s how we experience the fullness and purpose the Christian life was meant to offer (Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would be our Great Counselor and live inside of us as believers (John 14:16-17).
We can guide others to surrender the director’s chair and megaphone in four key ways.
4 ways to guide someone toward a Spirit-filled life
1. Stop faking it.
I once discipled a young man who was going through the motions of leading worship every day, but you could tell he wanted to do anything but play guitar. He once told me, “Inauthentic spirituality is just as uncomfortable as a bad movie or an actor who feels disingenuous.”
Actors embrace their full potential when they allow the director to go to uncomfortable places, trading “performance” for genuine, gripping immersion into a story. And the very life of a Spirit-filled believer becomes riveting as they display the magnificent glory and beauty of Jesus. Others behold His power to change lives, mend the brokenhearted, pursue justice, show mercy, pull beauty from ashes, refine motivations.
Encourage those you’re guiding to intentionally invite and agree with the Holy Spirit as He exposes vulnerabilities and incongruences in us. Be open as He challenges us to allow God into all of our story, private thoughts, motivations, decisions, and even our relationships.
Romans 12:1 pleads with us to be “living sacrifices” to God, dedicating our whole lives to Him, down to the transformation of our hearts and thoughts.
Ask the person you’re guiding, “What parts of your story and my story does the Holy Spirit need an all-access pass? In what parts are we faking it?”
2. Embrace the retake.
The best actors and directors also know, sometimes immediately, when they’ve bungled a scene. A missed line is more than an opportunity for the blooper reel. It’s a window to build a more worthy story, to begin again.
When you came to Jesus, you confessed your sins—admitting your profound need for Him, His forgiveness, His control. A Spirit-filled life is the pursuit of a lifestyle of confession, dependence, and surrender.
These places to confess become deeper and more vulnerable as we surrender more and more to the Holy Spirit’s powerful, trustworthy directorship. Instead of settling for surface-level confession, the Holy Spirit will challenge us deeper into our stories, shaping beauty from our lifetime of brokenness. He desires to peel back our layers—to guide us toward greater purpose, more than any human director could.
Ask the person you’re guiding, “What could it look like to regularly embrace confession in your life?”
3. Trust the Spirit’s process.
If you wept along with “Schindler’s List” or shared the triumph of “The Avengers,” you felt with me the power of a story to display a genuine experience of humanity, truth, or redemption. The greatest lows or conflict in a movie serve to sweep us to greater awe in a story’s resolution, particularly for the hero after their gut-wrenching sacrifice. (Spoiler: In real life, the hero is not you.)
Confession can feel shameful or embarrassing. But its greater purpose is to restore wholeness to our relationships with others and God. In any relationship, simply saying “sorry” is never enough. As in the redemption of any fallen person, we must deliberately open our hearts, rebuild trust, commit to change, and pursue healing or reconciliation.
When God tells us He will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), it’s a familial promise to remain resolutely on our side and create beauty from our personal tragedies, small or large. His Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13), and that relationship relentlessly teaches us, encourages us, and redeems us. When we are living Spirit-led lives, we listen to Him and pour out our hearts, sometimes even wrestling with Him on the arc of our redemption story. To the person you guide: “What would you need to let go of to open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s process?”
4. Stay connected.
In John 15:1-15, Jesus casts a vision of God the gardener, Himself the vine and His followers as the branches on the vine—branches that get pruned to bear fruit. What’s amazing about bearing fruit is that all it requires is being a branch connected to nutrients. It’s this constant connection to God that allows us to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives. We immerse ourselves in God’s Word, as well as families and communities who help us follow Jesus.
Dr. John Townsend writes that relationships actively provide “nutrients” to fuel our lives, loves, and leadership. And a continuous relational attachment with the Holy Spirit fuels us, too, to live the life God shaped us to live (Ephesians 2:10).
Just like no actor can work apart from the director, Jesus warns candidly that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Consider asking the person you’re guiding, “What might you add to your daily rhythms to stay connected to Jesus as your ‘vine’?”
A Spirit-filled life: the secret of a don’t-miss story
So guide others to lean into—not away from—the question, “Is this all there is?”
Fed and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live a truly vigorous life. One where we’re constantly changed toward Jesus’ beauty, holistically connected, and soaked in a life-changing gospel. We will be people who walk in humility, naturally care for others, love justice and mercy, deepen our walks with the Lord, and cherish our families wholeheartedly. The Spirit-filled life is a promise of an existence that can only grow deeper, richer, and more meaningful.
It’s a compelling, life-altering existence to the movie that is life.
Copyright © 2023 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Tony Wee serves as the Executive Director of Field Expansion for FamilyLife. He received a Masters of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology and has been a missionary with Cru for nearly two decades. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Steph, and their three kids.
Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and frequent contributor for FamilyLife, including Art of Parenting®, Art of Marriage®, and regular articles. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International. Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House), empowers parents to creatively engage kids in vibrant spirituality. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.