Though I grew up going to church multiple times each week, there was a very important truth that I somehow failed to learn. I don’t know if this wasn’t regularly taught or if I simply failed to catch it. Probably the latter.
The reality that I missed was that God is a God who truly desires to speak to His people. He is still speaking. He didn’t just speak in biblical times. The Bible itself testifies that God still speaks. While the Bible is our authoritative revelation and rule of faith, it is NOT a substitute for the voice of God in our lives and in our generation. Actually, God loves to speak to us in very real and personal ways, especially by breathing upon the Scriptures in timely ways.
God will never speak to us in ways that contradict the clear teachings of the Bible.
But God will often speak in ways that confound our human wisdom and even upset our traditional beliefs, practices, and pet doctrines. He is not too concerned about human protocol or reputation.
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” (Jeremiah 18:1-2 NASB, emph. mine)
While it is true that God still speaks, it is equally true that God still speaks on His own terms.
He told Jeremiah to get up and go to the potter’s house and that He would speak to him there. Suppose that Jeremiah had already made plans for the day? Or that the potter’s neighborhood was not geographically strategic? Or what if the potter was not part of Jeremiah’s target audience? Jeremiah could have tried to get God to speak to him on his own terms. But it would have been futile.
Most Christians have trouble hearing from God because we expect God to speak on our terms. It is in dealing with this issue that we find one of the most important keys to hearing from God.
We must fully yield ourselves to God in humility and trust from the outset. This must happen before we expect God to speak to us further! I think most of us subtly reserve the “right” to consider what God says before we actually commit to obey it! This looks something like this:
“God, I really need to hear from You. Please give me an idea of what you have planned so I can decide if this is something I think I can deal with.”
Have you seen this attitude in your approach to God? I know that I have. Or it might be even worse than this. Some of us actually have made certain things “off-limits” when it comes to hearing from God:
“God, please speak to me about anything…except ________________ . Let’s not go there at this point. I am simply not ready to deal with that.”
It is really scary how humans actually try to define the terms upon which God is given permission to speak! “God, I’ll do anything. Just don’t ask me to confess my sin to my spouse.” Or, “God, I’ll do anything but just don’t ask me to speak in front of people.” Or, “God I am willing to do anything for You. Just don’t ask me to forgive my father.” Or, “God I want to go forward with You, but just don’t bring up the issue of my sexuality.” Or again, “God, I want to know Your will, but I am just not ready to take my hands off of my money.” And on and on it goes.
Do you see the self-centeredness in all these limitations we place on God’s voice?
Jesus reveals the single most important key to hearing from God in John 8:47,
“He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (emphasis mine)