Sunday, April 1, 2012
Post # 28 - HOW EXPECTATIONS IMPACT LISTENING TO JESUS
One concern that sometimes creates doubt as to whether we’re truly hearing from God has to do with the hidden inner expectations we have as to what hearing from God will be like. In his book Can You Hear Me? Brad Jersak speaks of an expectation that many have that if we’re correctly hearing from God, the thoughts that come will be unlike any thoughts we’ve ever had before. Or if a person senses His voice, the voice will be completely different than any voice we’ve ever heard. The common thread here is that we secretly expect that hearing from God must be unusual, unique, deeply emotional, and unlike anything that’s ever occurred up to this point in our lives.
If you’ve been in relationship with Jesus for very long, truth is that He’s probably already been speaking to you … but perhaps you haven’t recognized it. For instance, when you read a verse and it pops off the page striking a chord in your heart, isn’t that the work of the Holy Spirit? Or when you hear a message about a biblical theme and a truth impacts you deeply so that it changes your heart … isn’t that the voice of God?
In 1 Samuel 3 we read the story of the first time Samuel heard from God. He was still a boy and God sought to awaken and speak to him during the night. In Samuel's case, he heard an audible voice. The interesting thing about this is that Samuel mistook the voice he heard for Eli (the person who was sleeping in the same room with him). A principle emerges from the example of Samuel. God’s voice is not unlike any other voice we have ever heard. We can extend this principle also to when God communicates with us in our thoughts. A thought God gives me is not unlike any other thought we have ever had.
Others struggle with the question: Am I really hearing from God or just making this up? It takes faith to believe God can speak to us in a personal way. Once He has communicated with us, it takes as much or more faith to keep from eliminating what God has said through the rationalization of leaning on our own understanding.
Again, Jersak points out that the inward second-guessing that leads to asking, did I just make this up? isn’t the vital question. The more biblical question is, as I listen to God, is what I am sensing consistent with the flesh – or with the Spirit? Scripture exhorts us to yield the capacities of our personhood to the Spirit of God. The alternative is to be yielded to the flesh. When we yield to the flesh we’ll reap the flesh and when we yield to the Spirit, we experience the fruit of the Spirit. These are the two biblical categories regarding where our thoughts originate.
The works of the flesh are outlined in Galatians 5:19-21 as:
… adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like …
The contrast of being under the influence of the Spirit is unmistakable:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control. Galatians 5:22-23
When considering the origin inner thoughts and voices, your principle question should be, as I listen, is what I sense consistent with the flesh or with the Spirit? If you’re yielding to the Spirit then your inner thoughts will emanate from His Spirit. After all, Jesus promised that His sheep would hear His voice, and that He’s living deep within us (John 10:27 & John 7:38)!
Where are you at in your life of listening to God? I’d love to hear your comments, questions, and thoughts.
Note: I’ll be away for the first 17 days of April on a ministry trip to Santiago de Chile. I’m excited … it’s my first visit. I’ll be taking part in an Easter weekend conference on Listening & Inner-Healing Prayer for laborers from Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. I’ll be speaking in Spanish. I’ll also be doing quite a bit of one-to-one ministry with individuals. I’m not sure how my Internet access will be. I’d appreciate your prayers for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to reach into hearts in “exceedingly abundant” ways (Ephesians 3:20).