Summary: How do we hear God speak?
Learning to Listen
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
July 4, 2010
Series: Through the Bible in a Year
One of the things that seems to disturb us most about believing – about being disciples and trusting in God’s promise of redemption is the apparent silence from heaven. I often hear frustration voiced by believers who just want God to say what’s on his mind. When I was in the service if the captain wanted to address the crew, he just got on the p/a system and spoke to us. I have often wondered why God doesn’t have a p/a system.
But when I look back over my life – and I have heard this from other believers as well – I can see plenty of moments where God spoke very clearly. Like the time I was driving the road from Dad’s house into town – I’d done it millions of times. I knew every pothole and bump. I knew exactly how fast I could take each turn without skidding out of control. I even knew how each house, tree and meadow alongside the road should look. I am fairly certain that I have actually driven that road in my sleep.
Then one evening – a very beautiful evening; temperate, the sun painting exquisite pastels across the azure sky – I saw something that took my breath away. Three crosses – a gold one flanked by two blue ones. I had just been this way a day before and there was no sign of them then. Now, on this hill just off the road they stood – a silent witness of to the wage of sin and the grace of God.
I was dumbstruck – my mind began racing. I actually began thinking about whether this was a sign that Jesus Christ would soon return. The sudden appearance of these crosses seemed like a miracle – an omen, really – that both thrilled me and unnerved me. The vision of those crosses burned into my memory banks and became the fodder for much reflection over the next few days. God had spoken a simple and one word message to me through those three roadside crosses – a message that continues to be essential to my faith and preaching even today – remember.
There are other instances when I look back where I can point to divine discourse – times when God spoke to me – but I missed the message, like we had a bad cell connection or something. And invariably, our connection problems were a result of me not listening.
If God were to speak to you, how would you expect him to speak? What exactly would you listen for or maybe look for? And that’s really the rub isn’t it? Maybe the problem isn’t divine silence. Maybe the problem is that we don’t know how to recognize when God speaks. Maybe the real trick is learning how to listen.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Elijah. Elijah is a study in the ups and downs of the life of faith. A chaplain I knew described Elijah as a wild-eyed mountain man coming out of an obscure village called Tishbe in Gilead. He answered the call of God to go before King Ahab and jab the finger of judgment in the royal chest and cry “Repent!” The kind of guy, this chaplain said, who would charge hell swinging from a wet noodle and using a squirt gun.