It was an incredible moment that I thought I would never forget. God’s words lit up my spirit and filled me with possibility: I have a new field for you. A new opportunity. It is time to be released into a new level of ministry!
Then it began. No, not the manifestation of the prophetic words. Not the realisation of supernatural promises. Not that at all. Instead, all hell broke loose. Plans fell apart. Criticism began to flow like an angry torrent. Resources that were counted on suddenly evaporated.
Instead of walking joyfully into my new season, I found myself in tears questioning everything. My decisions. My calling. And yes my faith. I found myself crying out to God; struggling to recall that moment back in the prayer meeting the year before… Did you really mean what you said?
Because this is not what you said.
You didn’t tell me that promise and vision is followed by attack. That partnering with supernatural plans would attract spiritual opposition.
At least that’s not what I thought he said. Those ecstatic spiritual experiences never hint at the fear and confusion when circumstances inevitably backfire. When the powers of darkness line up like a army of assassins threatening to take you out.
After sharing a God-conversation with a friend of mine, she asked a little exasperated: Is everyone around you prophetic?!!
Ah no… Not really… The people I mentioned, well they don’t usually get prophetic dreams. At least not before this.
I shrugged. It’s just that God had something to say. I guess he just wanted to get the message to me somehow.
When we call out to God, he promises to answer. Having faith means we have confidence in his ability and desire to respond. A seeking heart is like an alert that is sent up to heaven; a magnet that draws his message to us.
Sometimes I imagine it’s like God looks down from heaven and ponders; Ok, so how will I get this message to her? Who is available? What can I use? And then he sends it.
Hearing from God is not about being around the ‘right’ people; of somehow positioning ourselves so that the visiting prophet notices us or even being in the right place at the right time! It’s not about straining and struggling to hear. His mercy extends beyond the limitations of our human circumstances. He is well able to get the message across if we are listening.
A while back God spoke to me about ‘going to the next level’. The word was exciting and full of promise so I waited to see it manifest. But when time dragged on and nothing was happening, I went back to ask him about it.
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.