Lessons in Growth Meditations: 32. Listening and Speaking
Jer 1:12,14 The LORD said to me….
Present Goal: In the past two studies I have made a variety of comments and given several testimonies about ‘hearing’ God. Moving on into yet a third one about the same subject you might, quite understandably, be asking yourself, why is he keeping on about this, especially if you feel unsure about it yourself. I have two reasons. The first is exactly that: in the modern church there is almost a fear about daring to say, “The Lord said to me,” and when it comes to church services the communication is all one-way. The second reason is that the matter of ‘hearing’ God is vital to all other activities in our position of being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, as he works in and through us to bring the kingdom of God to the earth. I will go on to ‘listening evangelism’ in a later study as well as ‘listening to His written word’ as well as listening for healing or deliverance and listening for changing the community, but for the moment I really want to confront us with this matter of hearing God.
Look out for ‘said’: There is a word in the Bible that my concordance says occurs over 3000 times, a word I am absolutely certain most of us read without any thought to the wonder of it, and it is the word ‘said’. Yes Satan speaks, and men and women speak but the wonder is the fact of the Lord speaking. From now on, every time you read your Bible, when you come to the words, “and God said….” or “and the Lord said”, pause up there and consider the wonder of that. It’s not only that God spoke but SOMEBODY HEARD Him! For it to be recorded, somebody actually HEARD God and there are hundreds and hundreds of times when it happens. It is the norm for the Bible.
Excuses: “Ah, but with the completion of the canon…” Hold on before someone rolls out that unbelieving old Chestnut, do you realise that if you hold that view you are worse than the unbelieving Jews of Jesus day, because they had the entire set of scrolls that we call the Old Testament and yet were open to the fact that a new prophet could be in their midst, e.g. John the Baptist, and then Jesus. God’s communication did not stop once the last of the minor prophets had been written down.
There is nothing in the New Testament, seen in context, that says God has ceased to be a communicating God. It doesn’t diminish the value or worth of the New Testament, in fact it says believe every word of it and don’t put time stops on any of it, so when Paul says, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy,” (1 Cor 14:5) it is only our unbelief that says all that stopped when the canon was agreed. A study of history shows it continued somewhere in the church throughout the Church age. What is the point of you and me seeing ourselves as being seated with Christ in the heavenly places if it means he cannot communicate with us and we can’t communicate with him?
Ah but he can communicate through his written word, comes the reply. Er how? Well it is all truth, so we obey it all. Agreed. And he can highlight specific verses and make them stand out to speak specifically to us. Right! Hold on, isn’t that just as subjective as ‘hearing God in your mind’, you could be making it up, that ‘specific application’ couldn’t you? The moment you start talking about God speaking specifically through His written word, you’ve inadvertently climbed into the boat of faith with me. Why is this important? Let me tell you a simple little story I heard from a preacher-teacher who I respect and trust. I will repeat it as accurately as I can, but it was a long time ago – but the main point was exactly as below.
A Christian steps out: There was a lowly Christian at a Bible conference and he understood the idea of hearing God but wouldn’t say that he fitted into that understanding. However, in the middle of the worship and prayer he had this almost overwhelming desire to speak out a word from God, as he felt it must be. He wrestled with it and eventually when there was a pause in the prayers, he stepped out in ‘faith’ and started, “The Lord says, ‘Do it…” and to his horror his mind went blank and he dried up. He nearly died with embarrassment. A few minutes later after the worship and prayer continued, he felt the same feeling and prayed, “Lord if this is you please give me the whole word,” and at an opportune moment he launched out again, but exactly the same thing happened. More embarrassment. To his horror it continued and was exactly repeated a third time. He nearly died. At the end of the meeting he slunk away as quickly as he could but was stopped by a man who came rapidly up behind him and took his arm.
Understanding: “Please stop,” the man asked. “I want to say thank you to you. For the last few weeks I have been catching a sense that the Lord is calling me to (and he named a ministry in eastern Europe, I believe it was) and I came here looking for confirmation. When you first spoke out it went straight to my heart, and I felt sure it was for me, but I am not strong in these things and so I prayed, “Lord, if that is you, please will you say it again,” and you did! And that was wonderful, but I still doubted and so prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for my doubting but if that was you – and I know it was wonderful the same man said it twice – but if it is you sending me, then please get him to say it just once more and I will go without question – and you did, and I am going. Thank you so much.”
Facing the Problems: As we said in a previous study, we can have a multitude of immediate needs and although we know the truth of His written word, we need something personal and God loves being personal. I was in another church recently where I was just visiting with family, and the young pastor at the end of the meeting said, “If anyone has a word to share, while we sing the last song, come and share it with me.” Nobody came. I know him quite well, having visited there a number of times on holiday staying with family abroad, and I spoke with him afterwards.
Where I was located, with the layout they had, it was almost impossible for me to get out and get to him but I am certain there were at least five people in his congregation who ‘heard’ words of strengthening, encouragement or comfort, either for the congregation at large or for individuals, but they just needed encouraging to come out, to be reassured that they had ‘heard’ but a) they weren’t laid out for movement (they didn’t expect it and so hadn’t made access and movement easy) and b) he didn’t follow through and bring a further encouragement. My ‘five people’ was a word and the Lord didn’t want me to be the main message bringer, just the encourager, but it wasn’t possible. So why did He speak to me like that? To teach, to face the inadequacy of the situation (sharing it with the young pastor) so we can learn and get it right next time, and there will be a next time, and next time will still require us to be people of faith and ‘risk it’. You may not be in a place where this is acceptable, and change won’t come (but talk with your leaders to make sure it won’t come) so go somewhere where it will. Will we confront the truth of His word and seek for a church where Jesus speaks, lives change, and the world is changed?