The High Tide of the Spirit

Boat beached on sandbar in river estuary; Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall, UK (GBR)In my early years of evangelistic preaching, I often heard the old timers -veteran evangelists – speak of the ‘high tide of the spirit’. I only had a vague idea of that to which they were referring. Now, after more than a half century of preaching, I have a much clearer understanding of that phrase. Preaching experience has certainly been a great teacher, but I also wish to highlight two additional things that have illuminated my understanding of this crucial phenomenon of spiritual life.

First, let me share a lesson from nature. Across the years, Miss Sue and I have spent many wonderful days looking out across the waters of Mobile Bay. Close friends, the Eldridges, have a lovely beach house at water’s edge on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can and rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island. When there, I read the reports of tidal phases with as much interest as I read the weather forecast. There is a small sandbar island across from the back deck. At high tide, it is completely under water. At low tide it is clearly visible. It is a resting place for shore birds, but also a hazard to boaters who do not know the tides in these waters. At high tide, fishermen can easily move through the passage into open water. At low tide, you can get stuck on the sand bar. If you drive through the bayou country surrounding Dauphin Island, you can witness oyster boats and many other types of vessels stranded high and dry at low tide. You must be aware of the tides, or you will be marooned.

The second thing that has heightened my understanding of the phrase ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes from Shakespeare’s writing. In Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218-224, Brutus and Cassius are at a point of disagreement about how to conduct the final phase of their civil war with Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Cassius believes they should secure their position and rest for a final push. Brutus, however, is convinced they have an advantage and should press the issue.  Brutus speaks, There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyages of their life 
is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Brutus insists that there is a force that ebbs and flows in time, and one must “go with the flow.” Waiting around only allows your opportunity to pass its crest and begin to ebb. If the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), you’ll find yourself stranded in miserable shallows. Since all ‘truth’ is God’s truth, it shows up in a myriad of places. It may be in nature, it may in secular writing, and always in scripture. When God’s spirit stirs in our hearts, it must be ‘taken at the flood’.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (KJV) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Hebrews 2:3 (KJV) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation;”

Psalm 95:7b (NIV) “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

I cannot number the times I’ve witnessed the ‘high tide of the spirit’ in a service. Some have heeded the Lord’s invitation, stepped out in response to His voice, and found victory. Others have resisted the spirit and have been left floundering in the shallows. Opportunities were missed, and the grieved Holy Spirit moved on.

PRAYER: Lord, when the ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes, may we follow the advice of the Psalmist (Psalm 95:6, NIV)“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  May we respond like the young Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:10b, NIV): “Then Samuel said, Speak, for your servant is listening.”

~ Brother Roy

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