Hearing God When He Speaks
Last week, I spoke about how I want 2011 to be a year of progress for us – both as individuals and as a church. We looked together at three things that are needed for that to happen: 1) Determine to BE determined – have an attitude of determination that you are going to move forward and make progress; 2) Don't be in bondage to the past; 3) Establish Christian priorities AND live them out.
Related to that last suggestion of establishing Christian priorities and living them out, I'd like to speak today about what's needed in order for us to listen to God; what’s needed for us to hear God's voice in our lives. This past week, the Wednesday men's breakfast and Bible study at the Presbyterian Church looked at this subject and this passage of Scripture. And there were some good things shared on the subject of listening to God.
The first thing – and we all agreed on this – is that it is HARD to listen to God; it's hard to hear His voice. And the reason(S) for that are:
* Because there are so many things clamoring for our attention and time and energy,
* Because our lives are so full of activities and responsibilities,
* Because we are moving so fast throughout the course of a given week to get to everything that needs (we think) to be gotten to…
It is hard – VERY hard sometimes – to listen to or hear God. In fact, the idea of being still and quiet before God in order to hear His voice seems (to put it mildly) unrealistic, and possibly even un-American.
We did an interesting exercise that I want to do with you this morning. I want you to interact with me: What kinds of things (obstacles) make it hard to listen to God? Give me some examples:
(Congregation did this.)
See what happened here? You began talking about tangible things – the TV, the computer, and so on. And then, as we went on, non-tangible/intangible things began to appear – “I feel like my life is so cluttered”; “I can’t seem to find time for this” and so on. Question: Which obstacles are more difficult for us to overcome – the tangible or the non-tangible? Myself, I think it's the non-tangible.
In the Scripture reading for today, we're given several guidelines for listening to God:
#1) In order to hear God, we need a conducive environment – an environment, a time and a place that lends itself to listening. When the LORD spoke to Samuel here in the story, it was in a quiet place and a quiet time. I believe there's a lesson for us there: We can't be in an environment of noise and movement all the time, and expect to hear God's voice. We've got to – and I mean GOT TO – get away from all the noise and clutter and distractions. Because if we don’t, then we are more than likely to miss the one voice that matters most.
One author put it this way: “The quiet times we spend with God, in solitude and prayer, will strengthen and restore our souls, and help us sense His care.”
In order to hear God’s voice, we need a conducive environment.
#2) In order to hear God's voice, we need a discerning ear. In other words, we need to be able to pick God's voice out from all the other voices in our lives. Now....This is not an easy thing. God is not the only source of the thoughts and feelings that come into our heads and hearts. Thoughts and/or feelings (good or bad) can come from within ourselves, or they can also come from Satan. We have to be very, very careful here.
I want to share with you 4 guidelines for determining whether what you're “hearing” is coming from God or not. The Methodists call this the “Quadrilateral.” They didn't invent it; they just came up with an interesting name for it. These are good guidelines for hearing God's voice AND helping determine God's will in your decision-making:
a) We must always compare or test what we think God is saying to us with Scripture. I’ve given you this principle before, but it’s important to remember: The Spirit of God will never go against the word of God. God's word comes first and is supreme and authoritative for our lives. It is the measuring stick by which ideas are evaluated.
b) History – We need to compare what we think God is saying to us with the witness of the Christian church over the centuries. Is there any help/Are there any insights from Christians who have gone before me?
c) Reason – God gave us a brain and I believe He expects us to employ rational thinking processes (and sensible interpretation methodology with Scripture) as we view and evaluate our circumstances.
d) Experience – Please note this comes LAST, not first. There are two aspects to this:
* My own experience – and I mean more than just personal history. I also mean what sense of leading do I think I currently have from the Holy Spirit regarding what I think God is saying?
* What is the experience of my brothers and sisters in Christ?
Scripture, History, Reason, Experience – 4 good guidelines for determining whether what you’re “hearing” is coming from God; 4 good guidelines for determining God’s will in your decision-making.
In order to hear God’s voice, we need a conducive environment, we need a discerning ear…
#3) In order to hear God's voice, we need a servant's heart/spirit. This attitude is so important, I can't say enough about it. We can't have the attitude of “Well, I'M the one who's in charge of my life.” God will not speak to a self-centered person like that – The account of the sons of Eli here in this chapter shows that clearly.
In order to hear God’s voice, we need a conducive environment, we need a discerning ear, we need a servant's heart/spirit….
#4) In order to hear God's voice, we need to LISTEN to God and not speak. I think that, if we're honest, we'd have to admit that, most of the time, when we go to the LORD, we do the talking and He does the listening. It needs to be the other way around. Let me ask you – How often do you just sit before the LORD, waiting to hear from Him?
In order to hear God’s voice, we need a conducive environment, a discerning ear, a servant's heart/spirit, we need to LISTEN to God and not speak….
5) In order to hear God's voice, we need a tolerance for hard truth. We need to be willing to accept something difficult from God as being what's best rather than what makes us feel good. That was true for Samuel and for Eli here in this story, and sometimes it’s true for us too. Sometimes what God has to say to us is very confrontive.
I want you to believe three things today:
* Believe that God wants to speak.
* Believe that God wants to speak to you.
* Believe that God wants a response.
These things are foundational. We have to believe them FIRST. REPEAT.
Some people wonder if God really speaks. I believe that God speaks to anyone who is willing to listen. In order to hear God’s voice, we need….
* a conducive environment,
* a discerning ear,
* a servant's heart/spirit,
* we need to LISTEN to God and not speak, and
* we need a tolerance for hard truth.