It takes longer than you expect. God’s timing is agonisingly slow. There are times when you will find yourself yelling at him in sheer frustration and resentment. The main reason for your angst is that you think God’s timing is only about you.
But you are far too small-minded. God is always planning, strategizing and orchestrating to involve others – some of whom you don’t even know yet. He is thinking years down the track. He is planning for variables that you cannot begin to conceive right now.
One day you will understand the reasons for his apparent slowness. But for now, it’s best not to try to manipulate his promises. Let the timing go, grow in patience and trust him.
It is harder than you think. You don’t realise that when you pray those radical ‘surrender-prayers’ that God will take them very, very seriously. That he will literally ask you for everything. Your home, your friends, your money; your deepest desires. The steps of obedience will be more painful than you can imagine, but they will become your deepest sources of joy. They will open wide doors of opportunity and of profound self-discovery that will transform you forever. You will see that they are necessary to form you into the person you were created to be. You will never regret them.
It is one of the most common questions people line up to ask me after a service – (that is… straight after the cheeky; ‘How old are you?’ question…) What is the secret to hearing from God? How to I get God to talk to me more? More often? more clearly? and with greater revelation?
We love those kind of questions. What we want is a nice simple answer: do this one thing and voila – there it is! You’re hearing God’s voice. All you have to do is; follow these three steps, plug in this easy formula, take this advice… And there you have it: A life that is punctuated by the supernatural transforming dynamic voice of the Holy Spirit!
It’s a good question, but perhaps it’s not the best question. Answering it is a bit like summing up in a sentence the key to a successful marriage, or the ‘secret’ to a great friendship; or the way to a functional family life. What we need to understand is that hearing from God happens in the context of a relationship. He is a personal God and love is at the core of his personhood. So the same principles apply in relating to him. In the same way I develop my relationships on earth, I develop my relationship with God.
Is it ever going to happen? Is God powerful enough? Will he do what he said?
Ugly torturous doubts. Intruding our thoughts. Rattling our carefully constructed plans. We all have them. And mostly we feel bad about having them. If I had more faith, I wouldn’t doubt… right?
Well maybe not.
Think again. We live in a physical body in a natural world. Our senses are keenly tuned to the tangible; our minds to the rational. When God speaks, he invites us to connect with the spiritual world. An invisible world. A realm we cannot see or understand with our natural eyes… A world that usually contradicts the future reality God has promised.
In fact experience has taught me that whenever God speaks something significant, a reversal in circumstances will almost immediately follow… If it was unlikely before, now it’s going to take a miracle for it to happen. Which of course is exactly the point.
God is trying to teach us something.
He wants to show us that his words are powerful. That they carry supernatural ability to empower, transform and create.
As carriers of his words, we now have to learn to live in his reality – not ours. We have to understand that what has been declared in the heavenlies is more real than what we see with our physical eyes. We have to believe that in the right time and with our co-operation, we will see his words manifested on earth.
The God life is a supernatural life. When God speaks oceans part, impossible battles are won and life rises out of death. Walking with God means that we will live differently. We will see miracles in the midst of everyday situations. But what happens when God doesn’t speak? When we are faced with decisions or projects and we don’t have any overt leading from God?
When God doesn’t speak into the specifics of our situation, we do the natural commonsense thing. We do what we are gifted to do. We do what we want to do within the parameters of what is wise and good. We consult people. We listen to the opinions of experts. We get busy and we get smart. We don’t just sit on our hands and say; “if it is God, it will happen.”
David was an ancient king who knew how to live the God life. He saw the supernatural hand of God catapulting him from a lonely shepherd’s field to the most powerful position in Israel. He saw the miraculous as he defeated a foreign giant with a mere slingshot. But when he settled in Jerusalem, he sought to do what every ancient king did when establishing their kingdom – build his palace and then build a temple for his God. At the time he shares his intent with his godly royal advisor, Nathan;
It was late in the afternoon when they arrived at the outskirts of the crowded city. Their sandaled feet were dusty and swollen from long days walking through a thankless wilderness. The young couple glanced about searching for a place to enquire for lodging. Unfamiliar sounds and foreign tongues added to their disorientation. A restless baby cried hungry for milk while his mother rummaged through their hastily packed belongings. The anxious expression on their weary faces hinted at their concerns: How long would they be here for? When would they return to their homeland?
I imagine the small talk as the weary travelers were introduced:
“Greetings! You’ve come a long way. Where are you from?”
“From our home in the land of Israel.”
“Whose family are you of?”
“The tribe of Judah.”
“And what brings you here to Egypt?”
Have you ever wondered about the locals’ reaction to Mary and Joseph’s story? One mysterious dream led them to completely relocate to a foreign country. If this young couple had never given attention to a divinely-inspired dream, we would not be celebrating Christmas the way we do today. But in the Greco-Roman world of the first century, it wasn’t unusual for gods to speak in dreams. This was nothing particularly out of the ordinary.