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.
You don’t need to be a Christian to have good life. Plenty of my friends live a great life without God. They are well educated, hold successful jobs and live in beautiful homes. For the most part they enjoy happy and contented lives even with a few bumps along the way.
In our Western world, it’s not difficult to have a good life. There are common-sense decisions we can make, self-help books to read and plenty of resources to make use of. We are blessed in this country with prosperity and opportunity. Even with a bad start, you can turn things around if you work hard and make some good choices.
But God has a very different life for those who choose to follow him. It’s a good life but it’s far from an ordinary life.
Listen for God’s Voice
Abraham was living what you might call the good life nearly four millennia ago. His life was prosperous and successful, and in his time could be described as ‘normal’. That is until God spoke to him… Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that God saw a different future for Abraham. He promised Abraham would be blessed, have a new home in a land of great significance and become the father of a great nation.