Last post we hit the controversial subject of God speaking. Some of the questions that surfaced were: Is it really His voice? Am I imagining His voice because I want it so bad? How do you know the difference? Do people just say God spoke to them so we won’t question their motives?
I asked that you accept both of these statements if you were going to dive deeper into the issue:
- God still speaks.
- God loves variety, being unpredictable, and is not formulaic.
In reflection, I believe that God has spoken in the past and continues to speak to me (my thoughts, mind, and heart) through people, sermons, speeches, books, movies, music, art, dreams, situations, nature, and animals (to name a few). Author Dallas Willard has written a book called Hearing God. He comes up with what he calls “The Three Lights” to test whether a message is from God, yourself, or someone/something else. He believes that all three of these need to be in somewhat of alignment with one another if we are going to claim that it is the voice of God. The Three Lights are:
- The Bible – God has given His word as a guide, to hear from Him, to attain wisdom, to correct us, and give us direction. He is not going to tell us to do something that contradicts His word. That is why the Bible makes such a great filter for our actions. We should be more like The Bereans (I used to think they were a rock group from the sixties). The book of Acts says that ” . . . the Bereans were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (Acts 17:11)
- Circumstances – Somebody is on your mind and by chance, you run into them. You pray for something and it happens – or it doesn’t happen. Or it happens in a way that you didn’t envision. You ask God whether you should accept a job, move to a new location, pursue a relationship – and the circumstances start to unfold in which way you are being led one way or the other. “You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,”. (Isaiah 30:21)
- Impressions of the Spirit – This is the tricky one because it is something that happens on the inside. This is why we need the first two “lights” to help guide us. Frequent phrases used are: “God’s Spirit spoke to my heart.” “I had an inner prompting.” “The Lord impressed upon me.” “I believe God is telling me to _________.” We need God’s discernment the most on this one because it can easily be confused with emotions, feelings, or desires that come from us or another source. It is extremely convenient to say “God told me” – that takes us off the hook, and makes it difficult for anyone to challenge what God told us. King David put it this way in the Psalms:
*Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8)
*I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. (Psalm 40: 8)
*Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. (Psalm 143: 10)
How do you know that you know? Keep praying about it. Plead with God to show you that it is His voice and you not making it up. That He would direct situations to make His answers obvious. Take some type of action toward what you are seeking God about. Do your part – and also let God do His.
An example that comes to mind for me happened over a decade ago. A new job opportunity became available in my current district – and I was contemplating whether to apply – inner prompting of the Spirit perhaps? There’s nothing in the Bible that talks against applying for a promotion – the Word in agreement perhaps? Three different people approached me at three different times encouraging me to apply for the job – circumstances perhaps? Within a few days of applying – I received an invitation to come in for a panel interview. Wow, The Three Lights were shining brightly!!!
About 1/4 of the way into the interview – a sinking feeling inside me proclaimed, “This is job is not the right fit for me!” How in the world do I exit this gracefully? I was overjoyed when I received a phone call a few days later that I did not receive the job.
Wait a minute – what happened with that whole hearing God and Three Lights thing??? Did I misinterpret His voice? Was it all my imagination? Why didn’t He say, “Don’t do this?” Why didn’t He block the circumstances from me even getting an interview in the first place???
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “I don’t know!!!”
Maybe I was hearing his voice all of the way – and his final answer was “This isn’t the right position for you.” Maybe He’s all about the process and teaching me a step by step walk and dependence on Him. I’m like most of us in wanting quick, instant, and a one time answer about what to do. I believe He is all about slowing and calming us down.
It is almost a contradiction. God speaks to us – but He doesn’t tell us every single thing. Otherwise, we would be God and not need Him. The prophet Isaiah wrote a great summary:
“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.” (Isaiah 55:9).
Won’t it be great when we get to heaven and that gap is finally closed???