HOW DOES GOD SPEAK?
I went to a Life in the Spirit Seminar the other night and the speaker was telling about a time when she had sold her house and had certain plans for the money but her ex-husband’s parents wanted her to do something else with it. She said when she brought the matter to prayer the Lord told her “Honor your father and your mother.” She told the Lord she didn’t think he understood — these were not her parents, these were in-laws. She had children and she had to provide for them and they needed a home, etc., etc. And the Lord said, “I love your children more than you do.” She heeded the voice and things have worked out well.
Time and time again when someone gives witness to a remarkable turnaround or rescue or healing they will say, “God said…” and I wish I could collar them and ask “exactly how” did God speak. “Did you hear an actual voice or was it just a feeling in your gut? Exactly how did Godtell you? ”
Long ago, in my early days in a prayer group, I was freed from my agoraphobia. I was ever so grateful and felt I had to witness to that wonderful healing but I hated, hated, hated speaking in public. I “just happened” to read in Sirach 4:31: “Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive and closed when it is time to give.” This really spoke to my heart and impelled me to speak up in the group and tell what God had done for me. So God ‘kinda’ spoke to me but that’s not what I understand when someone says “God told me…..”
Here was my opportunity. I had available a Godly woman, teaching about the workings of the Holy Spirit, saying that ‘God told her…’. I expected truth from her. So, of course, I asked, “Just how did God tell you? Did you hear a voice?” She explained that she had heard no voice, the words had just sort of come into her mind. This I completely understand as I have written previously about a similar experience of my own. But I would believe that God sometimes actually speaks in words to some people if I had never had a similar experience myself. There is just too much testimony to this from many trustworthy people, both in the bible and over the years of Christian history.
God called Samuel three times and Samuel thought it was Eli calling. On the third try, he said “Speak Lord I’m listening.”
In the New Testament God spoke to Peter while he was on the roof waiting for lunch. God said, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15)
In my copy of the “Notebooks” of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska the words of Jesus are in bold type. The text of her “Notebooks” is over 600 pages long and almost every page contains words in bold type. Jesus had a lot to explain to her about his mercy, and the portrait he wanted tohave painted depicting his mercy.
Consider Christ Otto who writes: “Three weeks ago I was doing my usual routine of prayer, Bible study, and quietly listening to God. Usually I begin the day with ‘Lord, what’s on your agenda today?’” he explained. “That day, my mind wandered a little, and I imagined hundreds of red envelopes in the mail room of the White House. On the back, a simple message stating that each envelope represented an innocent life lost. I took that idea, and sent it in an email to my 120 ministry supporters. They in turn, sent it to their friends.” The rest, as they say, is history. President Obama received thousands of red envelopes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in February of this year.
How does one discern God’s will if there are no words and no visions? Wayne Jacobsen of Windblown Media which brought us the best seller, The Shack writes:
I have a running conversation with him about everything in my life and express my desire to follow his will at every turn. I immerse myself in the story of Scripture, learning how he thinks and acts. I have a steady diet of what God is showing others by what I read and listen to, and the conversations I have with others on this journey.
So how do I sort out his nudges from my own thoughts? Most nudges I get from his Spirit are simple ways of loving and serving people around me. I am not too worried about getting those wrong. There aren’t many downsides to serving others. But to have some measure of confidence to step out in a larger action he may be asking of me, I look for four things to to come into agreement:
1. An intuitive, growing conviction of his leading over time.
2. Affirmation in the truth and example of Scripture that this is how God works.
3. Confirmation from other brothers and sisters as I discuss it with them.
4. And the reality of unfolding circumstances.
When those voices are in synch, I have greater confidence that I am following him. But you know what? Sometimes all of these line up and I still get it wrong. That’s why people born of the Spirit rarely use language like, “God told me to…”, and will instead talk in terms of what they sense…..And while I’m willing to pay the consequences for being wrong, I also know he can weave my mistakes into his purposes.
How does God speak to us? He has spoken throughout the ages through his prophets. God spoke by sending his Word, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He inspired the words of scripture and established a church to protect and interpret these words. He speaks through prophecy, dreams and visions. (Acts 2:17) He leads us through signs and coincidences. He speaks through the saints. He speaks through the testimony or ordinary people. He can speak through an actual voice, or an interior voice, or an inner feeling. The heavens themselves proclaim the glory of God. He even spoke to Balaam through an ass! (Numbers 22:28-30)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. — Psalm 95.