Listening to God
When I say that “God speaks,” I am making a specific statement predicated upon certain scriptural truths.
First, God speaks to everyone. Yes, He does—to every human being. He does it by means of both general and specific revelation. For example:
The starry heavens bear testimony to His eternal power and Godhead (Psalm 19; Romans 1:20). Creation itself testifies to its Creator, which is the reason an internalized awe and “sense of God” moves us when we gaze at the night sky, ponder the relentless tides of the sea or look into a baby’s eyes.
Our conscience is an inner voice of God (Romans 2:14-15). This secret point of inescapable awareness and accountability is present in one way or another with virtually ever person. Conscience may be smothered and silenced—even seared or burned over. But it cannot be escaped.
God speaks in the Bible, the written Word of God (Romans 10:17). Here is the source of His clear and analyzable revelation, where propositional truth is synthesized and practical understanding made fully and accessibly available.
God has spoken in His only begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth. The character, actions, miracles, teaching, life and death of Jesus are all expressions of God’s living Word. He has spoken in Christ—and continues to speak through the testimony of Jesus, which you and I bear to others.
God speaks to people in the church assembly, as the Holy Spirit prompts someone with a word from the Lord (1 Kings 19:12-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-5). Such subjective words must always remain in alignment with established principles of His timeless Word. The Spirit of prophecy speaks not by adding anything to the Scriptures, but by making the eternal Word of the Scriptures practical, powerful and alive to us at given points of needed understanding.
He also speaks by the example of godly relatives whose influence marks so many, through their character and by prayer - 2 Timothy 1:5
By all these means, then, no human being is exempt from experiencing direct messages from almighty God, to whom we will all have to give account. So I am not hesitant to say, “God spoke to me.” Since He has communicated so fully and freely with us prior to our new birth, it should not be surprising to find that He continues to do so in even more personal ways once we become His children.
And yet when I say that the Lord has spoken to me, I mean something even more specific than general revelations or private inner impressions. I reserve these words intentionally for the rare, special occasions when, in my spirit, I have had the Lord speak directly to me. I do not mean, “I felt impressed,” or, “I sensed somehow.” Instead, I mean that at a given moment, almost always when I have least expected it, the Lord spoke words to me. Those words have been so distinct that I feel virtually able to say, “And I quote.” Had anyone else been present, I doubt that they would have heard an audible sound, for such words—however specifically spoken—are still heard internally, in our “spiritual ears,” so to speak. Nevertheless, we may say, “I heard the Lord speak.”
I believe it is important to learn to hear and respond to such dealings of the Holy Spirit. This is precisely the meaning of the promise reaffirmed the day the Church was born:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” - Acts 2:17-18
“To prophesy” includes hearing clearly from God, aligning clearly with God, understanding God clearly and acting or speaking clearly according to God’s Word. In other words, the Lord has revealed His desire that all His sons and daughters—all who are faithful servants, committed to living according to His Word, His will and in the power of His Spirit—should have both the internal direction of His Spirit as well as the external guidance of His Word, the Bible. But always remember, the latter—the Holy Scriptures, His eternal Word—is final. Every word of the Holy Spirit’s prompting must be measured, controlled and consistent with the conclusive authority of the Word.
I hasten to add that I do not believe that God’s word to anyone elevates him or her above others. I also want to say that, while God’s direct involvement in our lives is exciting and fulfilling, there must be a stronger foundation for us than that. Some people try to build their lives on an exciting word that God spoke. But I recommend that the one point to build on solidly is the word of Scripture and the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ found therein. God wants to commune and communicate with all who will seek Him in pure worship and holiness of heart (John 4:24; Jeremiah 29:11-13). He wants to lead us all, to direct and bless us, to show us the way we are to go. If we respond to the truth of the eternal Word, the Bible, any present word or work of the Holy Spirit He wishes to accomplish will best be actuated in us and advanced through us.
To do this, God does not need to address us verbally each day, but there will be pivotal times in our lives when He will do exactly that. This is not the sole privilege of a select few, but neither is it a random action on God’s part. He seeks those who seek Him, and he speaks when He has something distinct to say pertaining to that person’s life and circumstance, just as He did to me that morning when we dealt with the spiritual covering of my home.
As it pertains to our homes, many of us are slow to respond, brushing aside that “still, small voice” that is ever ready to speak to us and meet us at any point of vulnerability and need. But the Lord calls us to be ever vigilant in regard to our homes. We face a relentless enemy. That is the reason the Bible shows us, and the reason by which I urge you (and testify that I do), to keep open in prayer to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
From Glory on Your House – Welcoming God’s Radiant Presence in Your Home and Church © 1982, 1991 by Jack Hayford. Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Used by permission; all rights reserved.
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