Lessons in Growth Meditations: 31. Openness to ‘Hear’
1 Sam 3:10 Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
I ventured yesterday into an area that many might consider very subjective, the reality of ‘hearing’ the voice of God, an area that I think is vital in respect of Christian growth, and as a part of the experience of being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, as he brings in the kingdom of God on earth.
Watch & Listen for God: I believe the Lord has a sense of humour (after all, where do we get a sense of humour from, except made in the image of God!) and it is particularly obvious in the way He deals with us sometimes. Our starter verse above comes from that delightful story about young Samuel. I don’t know if you have ever thought about this, but it would have been so much easier for the Lord to have simply sent an angel to Samuel and explained to him about listening to God, but instead we have this little learning exercise which, I suggest, was given largely for our benefit!
My American friend: I have watched this with a particular friend of mine, someone I respect and esteem very highly and have had the privilege of knowing for nearly 20 years, an American pastor, now retired. I will spare his blushes by not using his name. My friend is very knowledgeable, a great teacher and about as cerebral as you can get, except from the earliest moments of our friendship he exhibited a hidden (and he would deny it) desire to know more of the things of the Spirit. Everything from my life (well some of it) he would have said was subjective and so our ‘discussions’ have always been about which of us is the most ‘Bible based’ (fun times with much laughter). A number of years ago I received a phone call from him from across the Pond in which he said he wanted my opinion on something and went on to share that he felt the Lord had been speaking to him about a potentially life-threatening semi-evangelistic project abroad which, at first hearing, sounded absolutely crazy.
Certainty: Now bear in mind my friend does not do ‘emotional’. He is a hardened ex-Vietnam vet. After I questioned him on the details and the ‘why’, I pushed him, almost to get him to back away from it, with, “Come on, the crucial thing, what is it that makes you so sure this is the Lord?” He almost whispered back, “Because it won’t go away,” and I realized he was in tears. To cut a long story short, he did this crazy thing and the Lord blessed him abundantly. The same thing happened a few years later, almost identically. He is a man who was called to two absolutely crazy, potentially life-threatening projects, both of which meant we might never see him again. I was there on the first one, when he left, and we were all saying a final farewell and believed it was probable we would never see him again or it we did it might be at least ten years later. It was terrible!
Now I share this precious story which has had some amazing outworkings because my absolutely Bible-based, evangelical friend who is all brain, ‘heard’ God and it defied all of what he knew, but he could not escape it. It doesn’t happen to many of us like that – but God DOES speak to His people TODAY in ways that we struggle with.
The ‘Wise Men’? Every Christmas I struggle with the fact of the ‘wise men’ these men from the east, who came at the leading of a star and goodness knows what else (they might have been astrologers!) but in the midst of it was God leading them to glorify His Son and become the ‘bankers’ for his early life (serious gifts of great value to be sold).
A story of my own: I could tell you of some extensive ‘training’ the Lord has put me through in respect of ‘listening’ to Him but it would take too long. I will tell you of one very simple experience we had that challenges our cerebral approach. I had only known the Lord a short time and the Lord had given me a beautiful Christian fiancé whose spiritual pedigree was much greater than mine. She suggested we volunteer in the summer to work on a mission or camp with a well-known Christian organisation in the UK. To cut a long story short we volunteered, and they sent us to be part of a team on a ‘beach mission’ to children and young people for two weeks on the coast in the west of the UK. Somehow or other they asked me to lead the teenagers’ team. All went well and it was fun. The next year we were getting married and were not available. The following year we received a letter early in the year saying the present leader of the mission was retiring from it and would I take over. We prayed, and I eventually said yes.
An ‘Impossible’ Problem: We would probably have a team of between fifteen and eighteen, probably late teens, early twenties, but the only problem was that the accommodation the teams had used previously was now not available. We visited the place at Easter and checked everywhere, but there was no accommodation to be found for these two peak weeks of the summer holidays. We came home and prayed. Now this is no exaggeration, but this is how it happened. I worked in the city of London and was one morning walking from the station to my office when suddenly ‘that voice’ came into my head. “In my father’s house are many mansions. I have prepared a place for you.” Put aside the AV version, that’s all I knew then. I was a sufficiently young, naïve and brash young Christian that I dared to challenge the Lord and immediately ‘thought back’, “Excuse me Lord, but your word says, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’” (Jn 14:2) Back came, “I have said what I have said.” I went home later and shared it with my wife who, bless her, trusted my ‘hearing’. We decided we would go.
We’re doing it! We checked with the local tourist information people at the mission town and they confirmed the place was sold out for those two weeks. We wrote to each of the team volunteers and we told them the situation and said, “We are going down the day before the start of the Mission and as far as we are concerned God will provide and the Mission will go ahead, but we realize that not all of you might feel comfortable with this so we would like you to share this with your parents and if you feel unable to come, we understand completely. (They all came!)
Provision! My wife and I packed all our stuff into our car and arrived after a long journey, camped in a small tent and first thing on the Saturday morning we started praying and looking. At one small caravan campsite the owner said, “Well we don’t have any caravans, but we have two old bungalows we are renovating, which are virtually finished, you could have them. They are for letting later in the season.” They became our home for the two weeks for the following years while we continued to do it every summer. Oh, yes, we had found a caravan booking on another site that had been cancelled that week and so when the team arrived at midday we had exactly the right amount of accommodation for them all and had a great two-week mission, the first of a number to follow that we led.
And so? Now I have taken time to use testimonies rather than the usual exposition, because at the end of all this, you will believe and hear God and go on to do exploits (which I’ll talk about tomorrow) or you will deny what you hear and miss some wonderful opportunities to be blessed by God and be a blessing to others. Stay with me if you can.