Were you ever on a debate team? I debated some in high school, but it wasn't really a good idea for me. My conversations with other people were already too much like debates, and I didn't need any more encouragement to argue my opinions.
If you want to hear from God, you will need to trash any debating skills you might have. Trying to debate God is never a good idea, anyway. First of all, you can't possibly win. And secondly, if you could win… why would you want to?
To debate successfully you have to be thinking about what you are going to say while, at the same time, listening as the other person speaks. Hearing from God is nothing like debate. Hearing from God requires listening with no intention of making a rebuttal.
My “couple of days” away from this subject somehow turned into nine. Because children are so important to most of us, I spent more time on “Love at a Distance” than I anticipated. So if you haven't already, I encourage you to go back and read the previous five articles on hearing from God before continuing.
God also speaks to us directly, though not usually in an audible voice. God speaks to me while I'm studying His Word, but He also speaks when I'm not. Frequently, I will talk to you about something God “told me.” Whenever you hear me say that, you can assume I'm not hearing Him with my human ears.
God has never spoken to me in an audible voice, but He communicates with me internally in a voice that is unmistakably His. Some people would call this internal voice the same as having a hunch about something. If you want to think of hearing from God as having a hunch though, you have to realize that not all hunches are from God. Hunches can go either way, as the following two examples illustrate:
One of the men in our class had been wrongfully imprisoned for a few months because of intentional or unintentional negligence on the part of the arresting officer. He lost custody of his young children, he lost his car, his house… everything. He was just cleared last week of all charges because he followed what he called a “hunch” from the Holy Spirit. He went to the courthouse on a “hunch” to ask a question, and three hours later his criminal record was wiped clean. He is now very intently listening for directions from God for putting together the rest of his life.
Back when I was operating my furniture factory, I was going through a difficult financial period at just about the same time the Missouri Lottery began selling tickets. On my way home from a Springfield appointment I had the strongest “hunch” that I should buy a ticket. I was actually a very vocal opponent of the lottery, but I was absolutely certain God was going to bless me on that day. Convenience stores were few and far between on the route I was taking, so with each passing mile I could feel more faith rising up on the inside. By the time I hit the next C-store, I'd practically filled out everything on a deposit slip except the amount. Needless to say, when I pulled out of the store I was in the exact same financial condition I was when I pulled in—minus the cost of the lottery ticket.
Obviously I wasn't hearing from God, but I had certainly deceived myself into thinking I was. It's very convenient to fabricate our own perceptions of God and then believe we're hearing from Him, when all we're really hearing is our own opinions. So I don't mess around with hunches. I want to hear from God in a reliable, consistent way; I don't want any guesswork involved.
The primary way we hear from God is through His written Word. He has something to say to us on every page, but it would appear most Christians in the United States only hear from God on those pages with the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm, and John 3:16. But I need a little more detail on the “thou shalt not kill” part, when I hear somebody breaking into my house in the middle of the night. The teenage girl who's being beaten and molested on an almost daily basis needs a little more detail on the “honour thy father and thy mother” part.
From a superficial study of the Word, I can “hear” God telling me to not open a strip club, to not work as an assassin, or to not try to cheat the IRS. But I need more details to live out my life. And I need more details from Him or I will just use the ones from my own understanding. It's dangerous when we start filling in the details from our own understanding.
The type of Bible study I described in the last article is designed to help you begin to hear from God at a deeper level when you're reading His Word. But time in your Bible is probably a very small part of your day. And you need to hear from Him all day long, or you'll be off filling in the blanks on your own.
For in him we live and move and have our being…. (Acts 17:28a)
Does the text say: “In Him we live and move and have our being during our morning prayer”? Does the text say: “In Him we live and move and have our being during our Bible devotions”? Does the text say: “In Him we live and move and have our being during Sunday School”? Although we may act like it, there is no designated time during our day when we live and move and have our being in Him. He wants it all—all of us, all of the time.
In Him we live and move and have our being every minute of every day, or we're simply not living. Look at the richness of the words used in the text:
In Him we live:
- To live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)
- To enjoy real life
In Him we move:
- To cause to go, i.e. to move, set in motion
In Him we have our being:
- We are
- We have hope
Please do not be fooled into thinking there are lots of blanks in your life that you just have to fill in on your own. He did not leave us any blanks to fill in. Let me say it another way: No detail of our lives is an empty blank, waiting for us to fill in on our own. Every detail of our lives that has any life in it is in Him.
Before we continue tomorrow, please consider any areas of you life you've filled in on your own—without hearing from God.
Have a good weekend,