Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be another person? I wondered that recently while reading a biography of Brother Lawrence. He wasn’t rich, famous, or glamorous. He was just a simple cook. But he had something incredibly rare. This is how he described his day-to-day life:
“This is what being in His holy presence is like. My day-to-day life consists of giving God my simple, loving attention. If I’m distracted, he calls me back in tones that are supernaturally beautiful…My prayers consist of a simple continuation of this same exercise. Sometimes I imagine that I’m a piece of stone, waiting for the sculptor. When I give myself to God this way, He begins sculpting my soul into the perfect image of His beloved Son. At other times, I feel my whole mind and heart being raised up into God’s presence, as if, without effort, they had always belonged there.”1
Brother Lawrence understood the practice of the presence of God. His biographer said this of him: “His soul was resting in God, having lost its awareness of everything but love of Him…Because of this, his life was full of continual joy.”2
This week we have one goal: to better learn the practice of abiding in God’s presence. We will focus less on the how’s and why’s and more on the do’s. There is no better way to learn than to practice. Of course, we won’t master the skill of listening to God in just five lessons. Some things just take time. However, for us to have a life “full of continual joy,” it’s definitely worth all the effort and patience!
The question I want to help you answer today is “Do I have what it takes to hear from God?” But you may first wonder, “Is he still speaking today?” Yes, he most certainly is. He loves us just as much as he loved the saints described in the Bible, and he wants us to know him as they did.
Ways God Speaks Today
There are four primary ways God speaks to his people today. First and foremost, he speaks through his Word, the Bible. Paul urged Timothy to listen to God by studying his Word when he wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives” (2 Timothy 3:16a, NLT). Of all ways God might choose to communicate, the Bible is the final authority.
A second way God speaks to us today is through other Christians. Proverbs 11:14 tells us, “There is safety in having many advisers” (NLT). The Lord often uses God-focused men and women to encourage us and counsel us, and some- times even chasten us. (See 2 Samuel 12:12.)
A third way God communicates with us is through circumstances. As some- one wisely said, “Circumstances drive us to our knees so the only way we can look is up!” The three armies headed for Jerusalem were enough to drive the
children of Judah to their knees. The circumstances don’t have to be bad— sometimes he brings great blessings to get our attention. Paul did say, “The goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4b, NKJV).
One other channel through which our Lord speaks today is his Holy Spirit. Paul certainly knew this: “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13). “OK,” you might say, “I know God spoke though his Spirit back then, while the Bible was being written. But
what about now? Is the Spirit still speaking to us now?”
See for yourself—read John 14:16 and 16:13. Although the Spirit doesn’t actually speak out loud, it’s pretty obvious Jesus wanted us to know that the Holy Spirit will most assuredly keep on speaking as long as we’re in this world.
All right, now that we know that God does still speak today, let’s tackle the big question: Can I hear God speak? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes! No matter where you are in life—even if you don’t have a relationship with Christ—you can hear him as he draws you to him. As he did with Saul on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), God can break through even the hardest hearts and reveal himself to individuals. However, for God to lead us and guide us with his still small voice, there are certain conditions we must meet.
Conditions to Hear the Shepherd
Please turn to John 10. Let’s examine that passage to discover how to be sure we can hear from the Shepherd.
First, we must accept Christ. We must be saved. We have to be in his sheep fold. Please read John 10:11. When we place our faith in the one who laid down his life for us, he becomes our Shepherd and we become his sheep.
Now read verse 3. In order for sheep to listen, they must have ears, right? The glorious fact is that all sheep have ears. The day you and I trusted Jesus as our Savior and became his sheep, we grew some spiritual ears that could clearly recognize his voice.
You might be thinking, “Yes, but I just don’t feel worthy enough for God to speak to me so directly.” Remember, worthiness has nothing to do with it. None of us are “worthy” of anything but death; yet, by his grace, God has given you a good and perfect gift: You have ears.
To consistently hear from God, however, it’s not enough just to have ears; those ears must be sensitive to his voice.
Now notice verse 4 of John 10. The last part of that verse says, “His sheep follow him…” But how do the sheep know to follow him? The sheep “know his voice” because they’ve heard it before. They’ve learned to recognize it.
We all know that the Pharisees were “dull of hearing.” (See Matthew 13:15, KJV.) But did you know that the disciples also had a “hearing problem”? In Mark 8:14-21, the disciples’ eyes failed to see and their ears failed to hear that they had all the bread they needed. They had missed the point their Lord was making because they were insensitive to spiritual matters. As ministers and leaders in his kingdom we cannot afford to miss such things. We must learn to look below the surface of what we can see and hear with our physical senses. We must discern what God is up to. That kind of spiritual sensitivity takes time to develop.
Just a day or so after they failed their first hearing exam, Jesus gave his disciples another opportunity. This time they passed. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus blessed Peter and said man had not revealed that to him. Only the Father in heaven could have shown him such a deep spiritual truth. (See Matthew 16:15-17.) Likewise, only the Spirit of God can open up God’s Word to us and help us understand what the Lord wants to say to and through us. Therefore, we must constantly stay sensitive to the Spirit’s instructing.
Even with ears open to listen, it’s possible we could still miss God’s voice. There is one final condition that we must meet in order to be certain we can hear from God: We must surrender. The idea here is that we have not only open, sensitive ears, but bended ears wanting to receive whatever words of instruction God has for us. Our attitude must be “Lord, counsel me, correct me, teach me, direct me, rebuke me, just please talk to me!”
Look at John 10 one more time. Verse 3b says, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Today’s topic is “Our Most Necessary Ability.” Being able to hear from God is at the top of our priorities as worshippers and praise leaders for this simple reason: If we don’t hear from God, we don’t know what to do. He is our leader, our Shepherd. We are dumb sheep that need him to lead us. (In fact, we’d best not take one step unless he is leading us!) This means laying down our pride and self-will and allowing him to direct us.
Jehoshaphat and the children of Judah met all three conditions that assured them they could hear from their God. They were saved, in that they were his people. Thus, they had “ears to hear,” and they opened those ears to listen. They also showed they were sensitive to his voice when they said, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Finally, they were obviously surrendered because they ignored all human logic. (What’s logical about sending out the choir in front of the army?) They didn’t question God’s wisdom.
They willingly did exactly what God told them to do. Considering the victorious outcome, I’d say surrendering to his voice was a wise choice for them. It always pays to obey. Just ask Judah!