Summary: Part 5. Hearing God’s voice through circumstances and other Christians.
Does God speak to people today? Indeed God does speak to us. Perhaps speak isn’t the term we should use, perhaps communicate is a better one. God communicates to us because God wants us to know him better, he wants us to follow him where he leads so he can bless us and we can experience him working in our lives. If we aren’t hearing from God, then how will we know God personally, have a personal relationship with him? And how will we do what God wants us to do? God has a plan and we are a part of his plan. There are ways he wants us to be his hands and feet in our family, our community, our world. If we aren’t doing what God wants us to do, how will we experience the power of God working through our life? Hearing from God is vitally important to our Christian walk.
Joke: A woman decided she wanted to try ice fishing. So she went out and cut a hole in the ice. Just then she heard a loud voice say, “there are no fish under the ice.” Amazed at hearing a voice speaking to her she wondered if it was God. She finally convinced herself she probably imagined hearing the voice so she tried drilling a hole in anther spot. Again she heard the voice, “there are no fish under the ice.” “Is that you God?” She responded. To which she heard the reply, “no this is the ice rink manager.”
Last week we began looking at how God speaks to us. We first discovered that the truth about God and his ways must be revealed to us by God. We cannot discover these truths on our own. If and when we become aware of the truth about God and his ways and what he wants us to do, God has spoken to us. You have heard from God. The most common ways God speaks to us today are through the Bible and prayer. As we read the Bible God reveals truth about himself and his ways that are specific to us, not just to people 2,000 year ago. Through a specific verse, or phrase, or even a word in the Bible, if we are attentive, we can sense God speaking to our heart. God also communicates to us in prayer, when we quiet ourselves and our minds before God sometimes we sense the nudges of God’s Spirit guiding us in particular directions. Perhaps he brings a person to our mind to pray for or visit, or perhaps he nudges us to do something and that feeling won’t go away. At our Bible study this week we talked about how we can know if it is God nudging us or if it is our own feeling. Here’s one rule of thumb we discovered, if you don’t necessarily want to do it, but you know you should, it is probably God speaking to your heart.
Today we are looking at two other common ways God “speaks” to us and confirms his plans: through circumstances and the church (or other Christian believers). Let me read for you a portion of Scripture, I want you to pay particular attention to where God uses circumstances and the church to speak to people. We are going to read from Acts 11:1-18. This is the Apostle Peter’s recap of the experience he had with God which led him to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to Gentiles (non-Jews) for the first time ever. Before this event all Christians were Jews.
[Read Acts 11:1-18]
Notice how God chose to reveal his plan that all people, including Gentiles, could become God’s children. While Peter was praying he saw a vision of a blanket being lowered with animals of all kinds and he heard God saying to him ‘get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ This was a horrifying vision to Peter because God’s word told him he could only eat specific animals which were considered “clean.” Those that chew the cud, and have a split hoof (i.e. sheep, cow, goat), along with fish, and certain birds. Of course Peter refused, as any good Jew would. But God responded, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” The vision happened three times. The first way God spoke to Peter was during his prayer time through a vision. But if this were the end of the story Peter wouldn’t know what to make of it, God had to “speak” to him again.
Before Peter could even figure out what was going on there was a knock at the door, and there were three men who had travelled about 40 miles from Caesarea to Joppa at the order of a God-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius himself had an angel appear to him and tell him to send for a man named Peter in Joppa at the very house which they were now knocking. This is strange indeed, God speaking through visions and angels, but what did it all mean, what was God saying?