“Wow. I’d like a personal encourager. How do I obtain one of you?” Our younger friend was sitting in our hotel room with us listening to a description of what our administrator, Jen, does for Hope and me (Chris). “We literally pay her to pray, among other things,” we joked. But it was based in truth. This woman, hired to do things like mailings and conference planning for At His Feet Studies, had become so much more than that. She prayed for us every week, encouraged us, comforted us, exhorted us, and challenged us. It was no wonder our friend wanted her own personal Jen.

Our daily attempts to follow Jesus come up against hostility both from the world and from our own sinful hearts. We all need our own personal encourager. We need someone who knows our very specific life situations, needs, limits, stresses, temptations, weaknesses, and tendencies. Everyone needs a Jen!

In John 14, we learn that we do have someone that does these things. But even better than Jen, we have Jesus himself.

The Promised Helper

As we read Jesus’ last words to his disciples, we can find ourselves feeling almost jealous. We don’t get to be in that room. We can’t hear the cadence or tone of his voice. We don’t have memories of his facial expressions or body movements. But in John 14 we learn that we do have his presence and his teaching in almost the same way – by his Spirit.

John 14:16 reads (ESV), “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…” The word Helper is one translation of the Greek word “parakleton” along with “comforter” and “advocate.” While all of these are accurate, none of them on their own fully captures the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does all the above, and more.

Here at his last meal with friends and disciples, Jesus gave some of the best news possible, given what was about to happen. He had to leave, but someone else was coming. He had been with the disciples as the Helper/comforter/advocate for the years he lived with and taught them. Soon he would send another to do the same. The ministry of the Holy Spirit would not be a new, foreign work that would be unrecognizable to Jesus’s disciples. The Spirit would come and do the same things in and among them that Jesus did while he was physically present with them. Jesus taught, comforted, and helped his disciples as he walked around Judea with them. The Spirit would do that same work for the disciples after he was gone. And the Spirit now does that same work, has that same ministry, and teaches us things just as if Jesus himself was still here with us. Jesus told the disciples in verse 17 that they “know him.” They knew the Spirit because they knew Jesus. This same Spirit continued this ministry among the disciples, and now does so among us.

Jesus Speaks Through His Spirit

This means Jesus speaks to us in various ways just as he did to his disciples. Not with an audible voice, but by His Spirit. He talks to us about specific things in our lives, just as he talked to his disciples about theirs. Listen to Calvin’s commentary on how God speaks to us through human teachers, “In sum, let us learn to be attentive hearers of the teaching that is presented to us in the name of God and to hear it with such humility that when we know that it is God who is speaking to us…” [1]What does this mean for us? It means we don’t push away the gentle nudge we feel in our gut as we listen to a sermon. We ask the Spirit to give us ears to hear. It means we don’t shut down the conversation with a friend that makes us uncomfortable because we feel the conviction of sin. We welcome the Spirit in to do his work. It means we ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us inwardly, in any way or time he pleases.

But it gets even better.

Jesus is Present through the Spirit

The Holy Spirit not only continues the ministry of Jesus, but he also makes Jesus actually present with us. Listen to Colin Kruse’s words from his commentary on the gospel of John, “[Jesus] came to [the disciples] by the spirit which would replace his physical presence. This is a reminder that the function of the Holy Spirit is not restricted to the bestowal of spiritual gifts or the production of Christian character, but includes making Jesus present with believers as well.”[2]

Did you get that? Jesus is actually present with you. Both when you get together with other believers but also as an individual. What does this mean for your everyday life? It means that the same encouragement the disciples received in their moments of despair from Jesus is available to you. It means that you can be comforted as Martha was by Jesus when your world has fallen apart in the death of a loved one. He will show up, by his Spirit, and be present with you. It means when you feel shame and conviction over your sin like Peter did when he denied Jesus, he comforts you the way he did when he looked at Peter tenderly in that moment. It means that Jesus can see you in your years of suffering and be in that with you the way he was with the woman who had 12 years of bleeding. This isn’t just him teaching and changing you— which is so important. This is him being with you. He is present, caring, and comforting you as if the two of you are in the same room, because by his Spirit you are. This is what he promised his disciples in that upper room when he promised to send the Helper. He promised his very presence. And he promises it now.

If you are a believer, you have a personal encourager. The Holy Spirit, God himself, continues his ministry to you in real time. Did you know this about him? Welcome him. Ask him to speak to you. He will convict you of sin, exhort, teach, and bring to remembrance all of Jesus’ words, as well as Jesus’ very presence. What a promise. What a gift from your Father.

1 Parker, T.H.L., Calvin’s Preaching, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 44, quoted in Mark Beach, “The Real Presence of Christ in the Preaching of the Gospel,” Mid-America Journal of Theology, MJT 10 (1999) 77-134: 98.

[2] Kruse, Collin. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. John, An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017), p. 355.

About the Authors:

Hope Blanton and Christine Gordon

Hope Blanton (on the left) is married to Ray and mother to 3. She is co-founder of At His Feet Studies (www.athisfeetstudies.com, @athisfeetstudies) where she writes accessible Bible studies for people in every season. She currently works as a licensed therapist in a private practice called Kaleo Counseling.  She lives in San Antonio and attends Trinity Grace Church. She loves making people laugh, good food, and snuggling her dogs.

Christine Gordon (on the right) is married to Michael and mother to 3. She is co-founder of At His Feet Studies (www.athisfeetstudies.com, @athisfeetstudies) where she writes accessible Bible studies for people in every season. She is a visiting instructor at Covenant Theological Seminary where she leads Covenant Groups and teaches “Communicating the Old Testament” and “Communicating the New Testament”. She lives in St. Louis and attends Chesterfield Presbyterian Church. She loves classical music, bad puns, and her ridiculous dogs.