Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Listening for God

How do we know when God is talking to us?  It’s not as clear today as it was for Moses, who first heard from God through a burning bush and them met with God repeatedly during the Exodus.

There are many other places throughout the Old Testament where God is reported as speaking with people, particularly his prophets.  The New Testament also has some accounts of God appearing and giving direction to his people.  The story of Saul on the Damascus Road being a prime example.

I believe that God still speaks to us today, but I sometimes find myself struggling to hear his voice and to discern the nature of his message.  And in that vein I share a few means of helping to listen to the voice of God today.  He may whisper.  He may yell.  But however he speaks and whatever he says, you can count on it being important to him, even if it doesn’t seem important to you.

I was discussing this topic with a friend/mentor several years ago and this was the guidance he gave me when you are trying to understand if God is calling you to something:

  1. It is something God wants done.
  2. It matches and challenges your particular gifts.
  3. It is work that you find internally meaningful.
  4. Others affirm you in doing this.

My deciding to write this blog is one example of these four points in action. 

How do we know what God wants done?  One of the best ways is that the things we are thinking of doing are consistent with what is taught in the Bible.  I am virtually certain that nowhere in the Bible does God give instructions to “write a blog!”  But God does want people to think about and understand his teaching and then communicate that to other people, which is the heart of what I try to do each time I sit to write here.

Over the past ten or so years I have acquired the ability to think and write theologically, hopefully coherently, if not always clearly.  Thinking and writing also stretch me, to think and write more.  And they connect with and develop other skills, such as developing my prayer life and my preaching.

And as I follow God’s lead here I do find it to be meaningful work.  I have no idea how many people read my blog.  But living in a world that is often resistant to God I find meaning in speaking what I believe to be truth as he nurtures it within me.

And lastly, I do occasionally hear from others that something I wrote had meaning for them, which meets the guideline for some external affirmation, not that what I write is good on its own merits, but, I believe, that through my writing God is offering something of himself to them.

Other people have written more articulately on the topic of discerning God’s voice than I have.  One is Kevin DeYoung, in his book Just Do Something.  One of the topics he addresses is a paralysis that can come over us as we seek do know and do God’s will, so that we end up letting good and Godly opportunities pass by rather than doing what God may be laying before our very eyes.

Another example is here, where Roger Barrier gives an overview of the topic, one that is biblically-grounded, as any attempt to discern God’s voice must be, and also addresses the subtle ways in which Satan can distort our hearing and lead us astray.

One way, of several, that God has spoken to me today has been in this brief bit of writing, which I hope has been pleasing to him and helpful to you. 

How is he speaking to you?  

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