I often talk about having a two-way conversation with God. I call, he answers. I seek, he responds. It’s a personal, individual relationship with God. He uses words that are familiar to me. He speaks in images I relate to. He talks in ways that I understand.
But I’ve also discovered that it’s not just about him and I. More often than not, God gets others involved in the conversation.
Like the time God first called me into full-time pastoral ministry. I had just started at a new church when God said I would be raised up in leadership and be mentored by the Senior pastor. Soon after he spoke to Melinda and the following week I found myself in a position of leadership. For the next six years God often spoke through my pastor. Her voice became part of the God-conversation in my life. Not just a prophetic voice, but with wisdom and counsel that shaped who I grew to be.
Or like the time God spoke to my friend. Connect with this lady. So she did, and Anita and I became fast friends and then flatmates. It was a God-appointed friendship and frequently God would speak to us together. Anita would have a prophetic dream that raised a question and the same morning my dream would answer it. God would speak to both of us about a character issue and we would explore it together. It became a three-way conversation.
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;