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Coming alongside

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever..." John 14.16

I have been in enough scrapes to appreciate the benefit of a reliable guide, where possible, and a rescuer, where necessary. But nothing quite like the experience of the lad I heard about yesterday, who was the sole passenger in a light aircraft when the pilot collapsed with a heart-attack and died at the controls. A Mayday message was quickly despatched. Fortuitously it was picked up by a flying instructor who happened to be close by. He flew his own aircraft close to the stricken one and calmly talked the terrified passenger literally down to earth!

One aspect of the Holy Spirit's ministry is to come alongside us - to guide and fortify. Jesus tried to assuage the disciples' grief at his departure by reassuring them that he would never abandon them but that he would come again in the person of the Holy Spirit, to whom he refers as "advocate" or "one who speaks for". Another translation of the original Greek term "parakletos" is "comforter", literally "one who brings strength".

Such imagery and the reality to which it points is entirely consistent with another cherished "picture" of God, as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 and John 10. Because of the hands-on commitment of shepherding as practiced in the Middle East, the irony is that those who practice it are considered "unclean" and so unfit for admission into the Temple. How typical of God that he should choose a career that would exclude him from his own dwelling, in order that we should enjoy the privilege ourselves!

As the example above suggests, we are not promised an easy passage, nor that our paths will always be in tranquil places and by still waters. But what we can rely on is God's enduring companionship - even and especially in the most dire and dangerous circumstances. I trust that reassures you?



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