rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgHave you ever seen the Holy Spirit? Can you read the signs of His presence?  Can you tell when the Holy Spirit’s power is moving in your life? Many are confused about the Holy Spirit. Let us be clear we are talking about the Holy Ghost of Jesus Christ, the Helper He promised to send us.

In Acts 5:1-11, we learn about the power of the Holy Spirit. After the death of Ananias, his wife Sapphira comes in three hours later unaware he’s dead but aware of their agreement to give a predetermined amount of money to the Apostles. The Apostle Peter asks her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” She says yes. Then, according to Acts 5:9, “Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?’”


At that moment, Peter tells Sapphira her husband is dead because he lied about the amount. He tells her the same will happen to her and immediately she drops dead.

This story strikes fear in my heart, as it should in all hearts, about lying to God or to his Apostles. The main point we are to learn is where there is doubt and unbelief in the Holy Spirit, true discipleship cannot do its work.

Ananias and Sapphira’s holding back money from the property sale had nothing to do with holding back tithes. Earlier, in Acts 2:44; 4:32, we learn, “All the Believer were to be of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they shared everything they had.”

In the newly created church, all believers were to share everything in common. Ananais and Sapphira were both anxious to be a part of it and to be seen in the church as true disciples of the new doctrine of caring for the poor.

But instead they deliberately broke the giving principle and lied to Peter, who, with the Holy Spirit’s help, discerns their true motives. The crime wasn’t in holding back the property, which was theirs in the first place and they did not have to sell it. The crime was they tested the Holy Spirit. The punishment was in reality an act of mercy, because it caused many to re-examine their motives and to turn to prayer.

This story should cause us to make a strict self-examination of our motives, before God, and not just before men.


It is sad to see relationships that should urge us to do good are instead hardening hearts and causing evil. Whatever tends to purify us and enhance us and our Christian reputation promotes growth and our examples can help rescue sinners from the power and the grip of Satan. It is this purification in us that adds healthy new believers to the body of Christ.

The Apostles, like Christ, had been sent to help the poor and set the captives free but dealing with the poor was not the concern of the High Priest or the business of the Temple, because, poverty back then, as it is often viewed now, was seen as evidence of one’s sin, which is not true. The rich and the poor both sin and all of us need God’s grace and mercy.

Last Saturday, April 6, some 200 volunteers at The Church of the Open Door saw the Holy Spirit at work. We came together to build a “Kaboom Playground” funded by the Knight Foundation. It was an exercise in giving back and we could all see the Holy Spirit at work.

Even the preceding Thursday we saw the Holy Spirit, as it rained throughout Friday. It challenged our faith but the rainy weather broke and on Saturday it was clear and sunny.

At 5:30 a.m., the first person showed up and they kept coming all day. They came from different races, shapes, ages, health conditions, religions (Christians, Muslims and Jews) and even the nonreligious. They worked together to help us build a playground for the kids of Liberty City.


We saw The Holy Spirit’s movements as the DJ played all types of music. We worked, we ate, we played and we danced together in a wonderful Spirit-filled harmony. You could see The Holy Spirit working, as we built the playground in eight hours, whereas it would have otherwise taken weeks. We all saw the Holy Spirit that day.

*The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or