I always love being slapped with spiritual conviction, but I was not expecting the power of God to “whack” me in this particular way.
As we stood worshipping together in the sanctuary at the LoveSingapore Summit, I felt the urge to suddenly begin speaking out in a language I didn’t know.
I don’t even know how it happened. The words I spoke were unknown to me.
But because I recognised them as the same syllables other Christians used when they spoke in tongues, it suddenly dawned upon me that I had received the spiritual gift of tongues.
Prior to this, despite having grown up in a charismatic church my entire life, I did not have the gift of tongues and had not been baptised in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I only found out about this practice later through conversations with Christian friends from other churches.
That said, my church is still charismatic, and hearing people speaking in tongues is not unfamiliar to me, so I had accepted the existence of tongues as a child.
As a younger Christian back then, I didn’t really understand the concept or purpose of spiritual gifts, and so I never had a specific desire for this gift of tongues or saw why it mattered.
But as I grew in spiritual maturity, I began to pay attention to the sadly often overlooked member of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit.
Understanding the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit? What is His role in the Trinity?
Previously, while I knew God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, I did not understand much of the Holy Spirit.
Later, I began to learn more about the Holy Spirit – that He is a person, our Helper, and the one who clothes us with power from on high that empowers us to do God’s work.
As I began to serve more actively in ministry and take on more responsibilities, it made me realise that I absolutely could not do anything in my own strength because I would eventually end up being burned out and overwhelmed.
Furthermore, I felt convicted that God was calling me into full-time ministry after graduation.
As I seriously contemplated taking this leap of faith, I realised more and more just how unequipped I was by myself, and how much I really needed the Holy Spirit to empower me to do His work.
That further fuelled my desire to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and I hence began to ask in earnest for His power to come upon me.
That probably goes some way in explaining how I suddenly received the gift of tongues during the LoveSingapore Summit.
Indeed, as I look back, all throughout Summit, Pastor Lawrence Khong had been preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit!
So it was really more of a divine appointment than a coincidence that I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit then.
Why and how did it happen?
But I still had several questions: Why did I suddenly receive the gift of tongues? How did it just happen?
I didn’t receive it through going up to the altar and having people lay hands on me, although I do remember a sweet lady sitting next to me at Summit who laid hands on me while she prayed for me during a discussion segment.
I don’t know if it was after she prayed for me or if it just happened.
However, I do believe that the baptism of the Spirit can also “just happen” without the laying on of hands if the person is open and receptive.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
On the day of Pentecost, nobody came to lay hands on the disciples.
They were just waiting in the upper room when the Holy Spirit filled the house like a rushing wind.
His power suddenly came upon them – as was promised by Jesus and prophesied since the times of the Old Testament.
Though tongues really was an unexpected gift from the Holy Spirit, I believe that the catalyst was being open and inviting the Holy Spirit into my life.
It began with desire: Prior to Summit, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was something that I had already been actively asking God for (though not specifically for tongues).
I was eagerly anticipating that He would one day show up. And hallelujah, He really did!
Is it really from God?
Suffice to say, opinions on tongues can be divisive depending on who you ask.
Some I spoke to even warned me about tongues, making me question whether this gift really was from God or not.
However, upon searching the Bible more closely for myself, I was convicted that the gift I had received was indeed from the Holy Spirit.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
God gives good gifts to His children, so if we have specifically asked Him to be anointed with the Holy Spirit, I believe He would gladly do so.
Furthermore, I had been careful to keep my life spiritually clean by not dabbling in the occult or whatever that might ensnare me in unclean spiritual entanglements.
I believed there were no spiritual strongholds in my life.
So, it was further conviction for me that tongues had to be a gift from God and not anything else.
That said, even after accepting the gift of tongues, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it, so I didn’t really exercise this gift other than praying by myself at home.
That was until two weeks later, when my grandmother was suddenly brought to hospital in critical condition after a heart attack.
Speaking in tongues to intercede for my grandmother
When my parents texted me the news and told me to brace for the worst, I was shocked.
Immediately, I got down to praying and interceding for my unbelieving grandmother who had yet to receive Jesus into her heart.
I prayed on my knees for a long time to the point of having exhausted all my vocabulary.
And yet, my heart was still greatly disturbed and anxious. I really didn’t know what or how to pray anymore.
At that moment, a still small voice spoke to me.
“You still have one way to pray to Me – through the gift of tongues you have received.”
In desperation, I began to pray in tongues.
I am not someone who cries easily anymore — with age, my tears are becoming increasingly few and far between.
But the moment I started praying for my grandmother in tongues, there was this sudden rush of heat and something in me just broke, and the tears started flowing uncontrollably.
Although I did not understand a word I was speaking, I just cried and cried to God.
Later, even after the doctors had failed to resuscitate my grandmother and she was pronounced dead, there was strangely still so much peace in my heart.
It was as if I had been relieved of a huge burden that had been weighing on me.
Later on, God gave us confirmation that she had indeed received Christ in her last moments – but that’s a story for another time.
When I didn’t know how to intercede for my grandmother anymore, the Holy Spirit was interceding on my behalf.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
Although I am still in the early days of discovering this gift and how I can use it for God, I have learnt that tongues are a powerful intercessory tool for the spiritual edification of both oneself and of the Body of Christ.
If the Holy Spirit has given you this gift, praise the Lord! Steward it well for God’s Kingdom purposes.
But if you are “tongue-tied”, please don’t be discouraged!
With regard to spiritual gifts, the Spirit apportions to each as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Just because a believer does not have the gift of tongues, that is no reason to think he or she does not have the Holy Spirit.
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), and so I believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in every professing believer’s life.
We should be careful not to see tongues as a badge or indicator of “spirituality”.
Spiritual gifts are not meant to be a sort of benchmark of how “spiritually up there” we are – they are meant for the edification of the body of Christ.
It is a reminder for us to check the posture of our heart: What is our motive behind wanting and using these gifts?
Spiritual gifts should not be used from a position of pride. They are not for flexing or self-glory, but exist ultimately for God’s glory.
Whether it’s tongues or another gift, we can all still be used to serve God in different capacities.
With my gift of tongues, may He use me as a mouthpiece for His glory!
- What are some spiritual gifts found in the Bible?
- Which of these do you have? What are some ways you can find out your spiritual gifts?
- If you have the gift of tongues, how has it made a difference in your life or those around you?
- What does stewarding this gift – or other gifts – look like in your life?