Friday, December 2 2022 - 3:18 AM
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Hearing God

God continually speaks to people with words of comfort, guidance, wisdom, and sometimes, warning. And, from time to time calls people and hands out special assignments for certain individuals to execute.

“By faith Abraham heard God’s call…” (Hebrews 11:8, The Voice).

As the Creator and Sustainer of all creation, God manages it all, even when it seems like everything is falling apart. As the old negro spiritual says, He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

Few can say they have heard God’s audible voice, but occasionally He addresses people that way. My grandmother DuBose claimed to have heard God audibly speak during a season of prayer when she was greatly distressed. He pointed her to a specific passage of scripture for assurance.

There are stories in scripture of Moses, Elijah, Samuel, and others who reportedly heard God speak, and they are inspiring!

We don’t know if Abraham heard an audible voice, but he knew God was calling him to do something dramatic. When God calls, it can be both frightening and humbling!

“By faith Abraham heard God’s call to travel to a place he would one day receive as an inheritance; and he obeyed, not knowing where God’s call would take him. By faith he journeyed to the land of the promise as a foreigner; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, his fellow heirs to the promise because Abraham looked ahead to a city with foundations, a city laid out and built by God” (Hebrews 11:8-10, The Voice).

It was no small feat for Abraham to move his family (servants, women, children, and livestock) to a faraway place. Abraham wasn’t given a detailed itinerary but was asked to leave without knowing his destination.

Don’t let anyone fool you; following God can be messy and uncertain. Those who follow Him usually have more questions than answers, which often include waiting periods. But His answers are always just in time.

When God calls, you want to make sure you hear Him and not your imagination. Abraham probably spent some restless nights trying to validate the source of his call. “God, are You asking me to do this crazy thing?”

Stepping On Our Toes

When God asks us to do something we think is “biblical,” we are eager to respond because it is God! If He asks us to condemn evil, we’re there! Who doesn’t want to speak against injustice and evil? We think, “The world is full of crazy people, and God wants me to step on their toes! Yes!”

But what if God steps on our toes by asking us to love what we naturally hate? Or to hate what we naturally love? Do we still believe it is God? What if He asks us to love our enemies—liberals, conservatives, Republicans, or Democrats? What if He asks us to back away from trying to control other people, from coercing them to be religious by legislating morality and passing laws that mandate religious compliance? What if God says, “Don’t do that?” Do we get upset? Or are we suddenly ready to accuse Him of not being “godly” enough?

Jesus clarified that we shouldn’t try to control evil by rooting it out. This isn’t what He wants His followers to do. The church’s mission is not to fight sin and evil, as tempting as that may be.

How do we know this?

Jesus shared a parable with His disciples that should forever settle the question of the church’s mission.

Leave the Weeds Alone

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. The weeds also grew when the crop began to grow and produce grain.

The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

“‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn'” (Matthew 13:24-29, NLT).

Notice the field was full of wheat AND weeds. The field is both the church and the world. Sometimes people come along who believe God has called them to “sanitize” the church by rooting out evil. But Jesus said, “No, that’s my job. Wait for the harvest.”

There are religious people in the world who believe God has called them to “sanitize” culture by forcing religious beliefs and practices upon society. By compulsion, they want to make America holy, so they work to pass laws that require public schools to recite Christian prayers, and pass laws that require people to only marry persons of the opposite sex, and force women to carry fetuses to full term, even if they were raped, or find themselves in situations where they cannot psychologically or physically give birth without doing great harm. They want to be the consciences of those people and make their decisions for them. But Jesus made it clear that His followers are not filled with such a role.

Christians are not called to root out evil as much as they are called to bring good to the world and hope and healing to hurting hearts. Instead of trying to pre-empt the devil, we are to prepare a feast in the presence of our enemies—a feast of grace and forgiveness for a culture steeped in violence and hate.

It’s Complicated

This issue is more nuanced than many are willing to acknowledge. I’m not saying thieves should be ignored or murderers should be allowed to randomly kill those they don’t like without restraint. There is a collection of deviant behaviors that require an immediate response if we are to have a free and open society, but trying to extend this into religious belief is disruptive and subjective. For example, the Taliban believe that a woman should not be allowed in public without a veil on her head and face. Why? They don’t want other men to see her face and possibly think a sexual thought. So, they pass laws that put extreme hardship upon women to “root out evil.” This is the slippery slope that Christians embark upon when they pass laws that supposedly uproot “evil.”

Some cry, “But it’s evil. What they are doing is wrong. We’ve got to pull up the ‘weeds’ and stop it.” Jesus said, “No, you’ll pull up the wheat if you do! Don’t try to be the arbitrator of good and evil. That’s my job!”

Hearing God Speak

How do we know we’re hearing Him instead of our thoughts when we listen to God’s voice?

Back when the Klu Klux Klan first formed, it identified itself as a Christian organization, yet it engaged in activities that were not Christian. Supposedly God inspired them to shun blacks and promote white supremacy, but according to what scripture teaches, they were dead wrong. And any self-proclaimed Christian today who follows this course is just as deceived as they were (John 3:16).

How do we know we’re hearing God instead of our thoughts?

A. We can only hear God if we listen—Psalm 46:10 encourages us to be still and hear God speak. That’s because He is not revealed in busyness as much as in silence. God often speaks in a still, small voice, as He did with Elijah in a remote mountain cave (1 King 19:9-18). Meditation and prayer played a large role in Jesus’ ministry and life. He modeled what it meant to listen to God. In John 16:5-16, Jesus promised His hearers that the Spirit of truth [God’s Spirit] would come to those seeking to do His will. This offer is still available to anyone who wants to know God’s will.

B. God speaks to us through scripture—In Amos 3:7, we read, “the Sovereign LORD never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.” If our thoughts are out of sync with what God has already said through the prophets and writers of scripture, we just hear ourselves. The biblical record provides an over-arching framework of knowledge that can be used to measure our thoughts.

Keep in mind the devil hears God, but that doesn’t make him worthy of our attention. It is not enough to hear God; we must embrace what He says and follow His lead.

C. God speaks to us through circumstances and other people—Sometimes, God reveals Himself through a stranger or someone we know. But we can be sure when He does, they will not be telling us something that contradicts what God has already said in scripture.

D. Sometimes, when God speaks, we don’t like what He’s saying—This is not always true, but it should at least give us pause. When God approached Jonah about going to Nineveh to proclaim a message of warning, Jonah ran the other way! He knew it was God, but he didn’t want to do it. Why not? He hated the Assyrians—the nation the Ninevites belonged to. To him, they were pagan idol worshippers and scum! And it offended Him that God loved them! If are offended that God loves someone we hate, we are the problem, not God!

“The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’ But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:1-3, NLT).

If we sense we are being called to do something we don’t want to do, we should examine it carefully and make it a matter of prayer. It may be precisely why God brought us into the world.

Is God speaking to you now? Today? What an awesome thing that He wants to use you to bring goodness to those who are hurting; He wants to speak through your lips words of assurance and hope; through your hands and feet, He wants to do justice and show others how to love mercy.

If you like this, you might enjoy, Addicted to the Empire.

Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.

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