Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
Many students drive their parents crazy by listening to music while they study. “Oh, it doesn’t distract me at all,” the kids claim. “It’s background noise. I really don’t even hear it.”
In the same way, we can tune out the Holy Spirit’s whispers and become oblivious to His communication with us. The people of Israel had grown tired of God’s repeated pleas to turn to Him, and they complained, “Don’t tell us anymore!”(Isaiah 30:10-11). But God didn’t quit. He persisted in speaking to them to show them areas that needed repentance. We may tune Him out but He never tunes us out.
The Spirit speaks “a word behind” us, gently nudging us in a direction and reminding us of a truth from God’s Word. He never shouts, and He never demands. He always lets us make our own choices, even if those choices lead to pain and heartache.
For many of us, however, the whisper of the Spirit is drowned out by the noise of our culture. A hectic pace, demands at work and home, to-do lists, and the stress of living modern life create a buzz that makes it difficult to hear the Spirit. When we realize what we’re missing, we make adjustments. We carve out time to be alone and to be quiet, to read and to reflect, and to stop everything so we can really listen. And we invite the Holy Spirit to whisper once again His directions to us. If we practice enough, listening becomes a way of life.
Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him. The only bit of God we understand is the it we have obeyed.
Today is a milestone. This is the five hundredth devotion I have shared. I hope in some small way they have served for encouragement, an uplift to your spirit, and a challenge to grow deeper in your walk with God. I think the title is appropriate for this moment, “Listen Carefully.” If there has ever been a time we need to listen carefully so that we might hear the Spirit speaking to us surely it is now. As the world around us and sometimes the church of us plunges deeper into confusion, uncertainty, and unrest; accompanied by unknowns, fears, and anxieties. We need to hear clear directions from the Spirit. That requires intentional and active listening. We are often drowned in a deluge of world noise and clamor and often that shuts out the voice of God.
A few weeks ago Sherry and I went to dinner at a local restaurant. The place was packed and the noise level was overwhelming. It seemed that everyone was trying to override everyone else. Sherry and I were sitting across the table from each other less than three feet apart and it was difficult to carry on a conversation with each other. We had to draw closer and listen more intently.
I think the intention of the world is to be so loud and attention-grabbing that we miss hearing the voice of God. We just might need to draw nearer and listen more closely. I hope these devotions in some small way speak to you, giving you help and direction.
In the passage from Isaiah, we hear that the word we need to hear is behind us. I think what we should get from that phrase is that in order to hear what God is saying we need to turn away from the siren song of the world and purposefully choose to turn toward God. The last time I checked God and the world were moving in opposite directions. We can’t continue to turn our ears to the world and to hear God at the same time. It’s important that we get the picture of Christ as He was here on earth went away from His ministry, His disciples and His work to be alone with the Father for directions. And surely if Christ had to separate Himself from the noise of the world to hear God, how much more do we need to.
In the old church the saints would speak of “waiting on God” meaning that they would specifically set aside to time to hear God. It was usually coupled with their prayer time. After a season of telling God their needs, giving Him thanks for answered prayer and seeking His direction in some matter, they would sit quietly before God for a time. Sometimes in quiet worship, sometimes with their Bibles open, and sometimes with sporadic words of praise or thanksgiving or worship. The time spent varied but was determined by the phrase, “praying through.” “Praying through” meant that they waited until God responded to their prayer in some way. Sometimes it was just a sense of peace that God had heard and was answering. For example I heard the story of a group of ladies during WWII that gathered the names of every soldier in their community who was in combat. They would meet every morning and one by one they would pray for those men. They would pray until God gave them peace about the one they were praying for and then they would move on to the next.
Others tell of bringing a matter before God and while they waited, they received the wisdom in how to respond. Many testified that the solution was one, that even after exhausting all their knowledge or ability, they wouldn’t have been able to discover such a solution.
Still others would be directed to contact some other saint and once they did received the wisdom for their situation.
However God responded, they had learned to “wait on God.” In our impatience, our busy lives and the drive to get everything done as soon as possible- yesterday to be exact- sometimes we feel that waiting on God is wasteful time. Truth is it is the best time used for if we were to take time to wait in God we might discover a more simple and less costly solution than anything we could come up with on our own.
Besides the need for help in solving life’s mysteries is also the need to receive good instructions for life. Scripture teaches us that our hearts are wicked and that left to our own devices we can come up with some pretty bad responses to life and those around us. We all need input into our thinking from a holy and righteous Source. Most of us process from our environment, culture, and upbringing. Unfortunately often those ways may not be good or beneficial and many of them continue a pattern of dysfunctional destruction.
When teaching children how to respond to being on fire we tell them to, “Stop, drop, and roll.” Perhaps for us it might be: “Stop, listen, act.” God really wants to speak to us. We don have to beg, plead or try to qualify in some way. We are His beloved children and He is our Father and we know He has something to say worthwhile. If we have been too preoccupied with life, too busy to hear, I urge us to make some time for God like we make time for all the other important things. We just might learn something.
He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says…..
Dr. John Thompson