God is speaking all the time, and as a result, we hear him far more than what we realize. However, it’s become a common teaching that if you want to hear God’s voice, than you must have a consistent prayer life. Also, on top of learning how to pray constantly, you must also learn how to be silent for some unknown period of time in order to give God his moments to speak in return. As crazy as it sounds, this practice isn’t taught anywhere in the Bible.
How To Pray
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he gave them the “Our Father” template. In it Jesus never teaches the principle of pray, and then be silent so God can have his turn to speak. Gideon prayed and then put the fleece out. Elijah prayed and then fire came down. Jesus prayed and then got up to check on his disciples. The list goes on… The fact is, God speaks all the time, to everyone of us, and in many different ways. The most important part is, are we obeying what he’s saying? We feel a tug to make a decision after he speaks, do we obey? We hear his voice of encouragement while down, do we allow ourselves to believe his words? We hear “Forgive!” do we continue to hold on to grudges?
Does CareEnoughTo Speak To Me?
One of the worst traps of believing that God isn’t speaking to us is that ultimately I am claiming that he doesn’t care enough to give me clear direction. And if he doesn’t care than he must not love me. And why doesn’t he love me like those who he is speaking to?
What about when you’re hurting and you reach out to God and say something something like, “don’t you care about me God? Can’t you see I’m hurting” and then you hear nothing in return. Does this mean that you did something wrong? Or that you didn’t follow some magic prayer recipe that if followed properly he would’ve heard you and answered? No! God is speaking to you, you just haven’t understood how to tune into his voice, and most likely, this is one of the main reasons you are struggling as deeply as you are.
His Love Is His Voice
Remember, God made everything to sing his praises. He made them to sing out to you and I. He uses this song to speak to us everyday through his creation. Think about it this way, he’s the one who gave us our five senses to enjoy all that he’s made. He set the sun in the afternoon sky to give us its glowing colors. He made the birds to sing their beautiful songs so we could hear and enjoy them. He made the snow to glisten in the sunlight. The flowers to give us wonderful smells and all their vibrant colors. The different foods with their amazing tastes to enjoy. He could have just placed us on a bare rock and then said, “love me, love each other, and obey my words”, but he didn’t. He made all that he did so that we could enjoy this life, and see him in all of it. This is God speaking to you, all of the time!
This morning, In my online morning men’s group, a friend of mine said these words; “having knowledge about something is of little value if we don’t have the wisdom of how to apply that knowledge in our lives.” I definitely agree, this truth has been playing over and over in my mind a lot lately. I also believe however they there is another great factor that plays into the equation of Gods’ will, and that factor is love.
Wisdom Needs Love
Over the past year or so I have been blown away by how many new things I have learned about God, the Bible, and history, but then I ask myself, what use is it if it doesn’t help me to love God or love others better than I already have? There are simple folk who are great soul winners. They aren’t full of deep Bible knowledge, nor can they tell you all sorts of things about the history of the church, but they can tell you how it feels to watch a sinner break free from addiction, and what it’s like to watch blind eyes open. It’s my belief that God cares very little about what we know unless what we know will help us to love him and others better than what we already have. Even when it comes to obeying him; when you love, you desire to obey.
Love Holds The Power
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” This is why we need to let our hearts love, and when we do, we will soon find ourselves directly in the will of God.
A great friend of mine, who lead pastors in Rockford, Illinois recently decided to share his testimony in our online men’s group. It moved us all. His willingness to be honest with both himself, and with us, was amazing. He showed a level of transparency that not many of us are willing to share. I can say that I’ve met too few pastors who are willing to expose their struggles to the level that John was. He didn’t show weakness, he was real in his struggles, and he didn’t complain, he confessed. By the end, he testified of how God’s amazing mercy kept him from drowning in the trials. His testimony is POWERFUL, and I believe it will bless you if you read it. So here it is…
Does being transparent mean you are teachable?
I remember a time in my life when I was praying for a teachable spirit. One of my worries as an aspiring minister was that I would become proud and arrogant. I strove to keep my nose low, and my heart open to whatever God wanted to do in my life. As I continued to pray this way, my family and I entered one of the toughest financial times of our lives. Our once very secure, double income, 2 car, mortgage, vacations, and 401k lifestyle was stripped away! All the security known to man was gone. All we had left was each other and our health. Not long after this, my wife’s health also started to deteriorate. It seemed as though all of the “blessings” in my life were falling through my fingertips and there was nothing I could do about it. The image of security that I once held was replaced with one of humility and what may have appeared to others as poor stewardship. Soon we were driving much older vehicles, and at one time I had been given a broken down vehicle to drive. Of course it needed much work before I could even use it, but none the less, it was a payment free vehicle.
After much prayer, pleading, and fasting, our situation did not improve. If I got a job, my wife would be laid off, and when she got a job, I would get laid off. We took 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Still my prayerful seeking and listening continued. I can honestly say that I complained my fair share. I started to fall into the comparison trap. You know when everyone else that spends their money foolishly gets all of the breaks while you faithfully pay your tithe and give, and yet you find yourself continuously broke? That is where I was headed. Into despair. Many people tried to encourage me. Until finally my brother had heard enough complaining.
One day while on a trip home from a very nice vacation (my loving mom paid my way), my brother Jeff looked at me and said, “What are you so angry about?” I then unloaded all of the frustration and misunderstanding in about 10 minutes. He patiently listened and answered, “You think nobody else struggles? Do you really think no one else can relate to what you are going through? Where is your faith?!” He started preaching a much needed sermon to me, and I just listened. Then I started to weep. And I listened some more, I let the word of God sink into my heart and I felt terrible. It was as if I could feel God removing thorns from my inner most being. His word was cultivating me. I was very quiet the rest of the way home as I chewed on the meat that was just fed to me.
Days past and my mindset started to change. I started to think about all of the people I knew that had suffered through things that I thought were not fair. I started to compare myself in a different way. I started to become thankful. Not for what I lost, but for all of the blessings I didn’t lose. I thanked God for my family, for my job, for my car, for my rented home, for anything and everything I could think of. From that point on, I determined in my heart to be thankful if it was sunny outside or if it was pouring down rain. Nothing was ever going to steal my thankfulness again.
So I went on in my journey with my family right by my side. Our financial situation changed. I started to have needs that were seriously too big to pay on my own. Even though my employment was steady now, some 10 years later, I never quite gained my financial independence back that I once had. It was constantly escaping my grasp. So when a big bill came up, I was forced to let people know about it. I did not like asking for help. None of us do. And it is because of the oldest sin in the Book. Pride. But if I didn’t ask, or at least become transparent by not hiding my need, there was a chance that I might never receive the blessing God intended for me. Then it happened. Someone walked up to me and put $100 in my hand. I didn’t know what they were doing and was too afraid to look at it till I got home. I couldn’t believe it, and I thought, why would you have someone do this Lord? Really, I didn’t think it was right. I always thought that I had to work for every single thing in my life. What I didn’t understand was that you can’t earn God’s blessings. They are gifts. They are meant to encourage us to remain faithful. And there is not one person on the face of the earth that deserves them. Especially not me!
Again and again, needs would arise, and people would privately and anonymously bless us. It was overwhelming at times. I could not believe God’s love and patience for us. Then it hit me. After many years of pruning and removing thorns, and cultivating in my heart, I realized that God was helping me to be humble, transparent, and teachable. He was answering my prayers! At times I thought God was mad at me or punishing me for complaining because I really didn’t understand his grace. But even through this, God was showing me what love, grace, mercy, and compassion were all about. He wasn’t mad, and he wasn’t punishing me. He was teaching me. He was allowing me to share in the fellowship of his suffering. I do know that this fellowship of suffering is mainly in the ministering of the gospel, but I also believe that God’s word reaches us in the physical, prepares us in the spiritual, and teaches us to believe in the supernatural. It fully encompasses our spiritual and physical being. Jesus often met the physical need and then the spiritual. He truly cares for us. This is why he tells us to cast all of our cares on him. He wants to take us to the places of struggle. Not so we feel punished, but rather so that we can truly know him and become more like him. What a joy this is! What a blessing it is to learn of God in such a personal way!
Are you ready to become more transparent in your life? Let God teach you how. You may lose your personal security, and you may not even look the same when you are done, but can I give you this one promise? He will be with you all the way! God loves you and it is his deep desire to show you and to bless you.
I’m sure you’ve noticed for yourself that children are young one day and then teenagers the next. This was my experience with my first three kids. Honestly, it’s because I wasn’t very checked in with them, their lives, and their personal development. My life had far too many distractions for me to notice the daily details of my children’s development. If I’m being honest here, there are times I really beat myself up over this. I will say however, it’s really made me stop and take time for my three year old. I see her as Jacob saw Joseph, “the child of my old age”. She’s my special gift, and because of that, I don’t want to miss the daily details.
The reality is, when something isn’t a special gift to us we tend to miss the details. This in turn makes time fly right by us without any real meaning. We will catch the details of our hobbies, video games, movies and TV, the gym and our body, or even our own work place, and all the while the true gifts in our lives are left unopened. This was my life for about 40 years, but not anymore. God used pain and regret to open my eyes and wake me up. Pain can be a strong teacher, and unfortunately most of the time pain is what it takes to wake us up to the reality that life is passing us by. We move through life in a daze, unaware, and even irritated by, the very best gifts we could ever be given.
Unfortunately I don’t have a soft and easy answer for this, other than it’s selfishness alive and well within us all. It’s the reason why I put ministry over my family. I tried to convince myself that God was in the midst of it all, but if you were to ask my kids, I’m sure their answer would be much different. It even cost me my marriage. I guarantee my wife at the time wasn’t thanking God that I was gone again, “doing the Lords work”. This all happened while I was pastoring by the way.
Us humans are so quick to justify our selfish behavior and then force those around us to pay the price for it. I still do it! I’m better about it, but my God, I am selfish. I see it in the small things I do and say. The call I promised to make and then didn’t because I wanted to do something else. Of course then I use the excuse, “I was really busy!” But it’s really just a selfish lie to get the person to not make me feel bad about the promise I’ve broken.
If you’re honest with yourself you’ll see the same traits within you. It could be that you too have lost something that was valuable to you because of it. The real question is, “what are you going to do about it?” The best gifts in your life are most likely still unopened. The best prayer time you’ve ever had still waits for you. The deepest secret you have to learn from the Bible is still there waiting to be discovered. The hug that warms your heart to the deepest parts is still waiting to be received. The, “I love you so much” from the one you want to hear it most is still waiting to be said to you.
You can have all of this, but it will require one thing, you have to stop being so selfish. Or, you can continue on with regret constantly nagging at your mind as life passes you by. Jealousy will be your friend as you see others around you having those prayer times, finding those secrets, receiving those hugs, and hearing the I love you’s. You’ll hate your life as you hold on to it, but you can learn to love it as you let go.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”