Summary: Discussion of how we can know the will of God for our lives and follow God’s leading.
Hearing God: Three Dynamics
Series: Hearing God #1
About ten years ago Jeanie and I were at an International Foursquare Conference where we met an absolutely delightful couple named Howard and Vaneda Courtney. At that time I did not know the strategic role they had played in the Foursquare movement. But I was struck with two things: their love for one another and their genuine interest in others. They are an outstanding example of how to grow old gracefully. I want to introduce you to them by sharing a small portion of their testimony in this clip. We are going to talk about hearing God. So let’s begin with their experience.
“Clip-Interview with Drs. Howard & Vaneda Courtney (0:33:21 to 0:38:01)”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God would speak to us that clearly every time? In reality those kinds of testimonies are the exception rather than the rule. The reason that story is included in the interview is that it was a highlight in their experience. Why did God speak so profoundly and clearly to them in that instance? Well it was a pivotal decision in their life’s work. It was an interruption in what the circumstances seemed to be indicating. Perhaps in the days ahead when it got real rough they would need to know without a doubt that God had put them in that place of service. My experience has been that if God gives awesome dreams and visions it’s because you’re going to need them. Saul of Tarsus was knocked off his horse and heard the voice of the risen Christ. God was speaking to him loud and clear. But later the Lord told Ananias this concerning Paul, Acts 9:16 “ I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Experiences with God are not entertainment. They are not badges of spirituality. They are according to God’s divine purposes. God was turning Paul around and equipping him for the ministry ahead.
For those rare occasions when the leading of God is that strong you will probably not need this sermon. But for the hundreds of times when you’re not sure what God is saying—those times when the leading of the Lord is not all that clear—you may find this helpful.
I first heard these principles about 30 years ago during the Charismatic Movement of the early 70’s. Multitudes of people were being filled with the Holy Spirit. Most of them had come out of dry, dead ritual and tradition. For the first time in their lives they were discovering that God is speaking in the now! How wonderful it was—how refreshing it was to hear the living God speaking in their hearts. But at the same time all kinds of flakey things began to happen as well. It’s one thing to have some experiences where you hear God. It’s another to learn how to hear Him with some reliable consistency.
That idea that popped into my mind—was it God or was it just me? That open door of opportunity—did God open it or did the Devil? How can I know in a given situation whether the voice I hear is the voice of God or the voice of the Devil or just my own thoughts? The assurance comes when we learn to examine three essentials in the process.
There is a harbor in Italy which can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between rocks and shoals. Over the years many ships have been wrecked in the channel it was so hazardous. To guide the ships safely to port, three lights were mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights separately, he knows he is off course and in danger.
In that same way, God has given us three beacons to help us navigate life. When the three are lined up we can proceed with assurance. Together they provide direction. If we rely upon only one or even two of them without the other we will eventually get off course.
I. The Subjective Leading of the Holy Spirit.
Aren’t you glad that God is speaking today? Jesus is risen from the dead. He is alive and well. He has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts crying “Abba, Father.” His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
There are a number of ways the Holy Spirit can communicate with us and the way He speaks to you may be a little different from the way He speaks to me. In fact, the way He speaks to you today may be a little different than the way He spoke to you yesterday. Do not put God in a box because He has lots of ways to speak to our hearts. But as Pentecostal Christians we believe strongly that God still speaks to His children in supernatural ways. We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We believe and encourage the operation of tongues and interpretation of tongues. We believe in prophecy. We believe in dreams and visions. God may use any one of these ways to speak to His people today.