Hearing the Voice of God

The Thrilling Mystery of Hearing from God

Divine Guidance Made Easier

By Grantley Morris

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HEARING GOD

Your need to make a critical decision looms like a fast-approaching freight train. Yet despite desperately wanting to hear from God, he is frustratingly silent. That’s no surprise. God loves drama. Often he waits until almost the last split second before snatching us out of harm’s way. That builds faith. It puts steel in our backbone, spiritually.

But there is another reason for God having his own timetable. You are loved with an intensity beyond human comprehension. Relentlessly, the One who gave his all for you seeks to draw you closer to him, because that is our deepest need and our most exciting destiny. We, however, tend to be aware of our chronic need for his whispers only when our need for guidance is screamingly obvious. We get annoyed with God because we rarely recognize the extent to which our real need is not for occasional guidance, but constant companionship.

We long to know what to do; God longs for us to know him. Guidance can come in a flash, but getting to know someone – especially when that Someone is infinite – is an adventure that never ends. Whereas we want a five-minute consultation, the Lover of our souls wants for us a lifetime of ever-increasing intimacy, culminating in an eternity of incomprehensibly greater intimacy.

When our agenda is shallower than God’s agenda, we will misunderstand what God is doing. We’ll think him frustratingly slow, maybe even cold and aloof, when he is actually molding within us things beyond our dreams.

Likewise, this web series might move a little slower than you had wished, because it is responding not just to your heart cry for answers from God, but to his heart cry that you might better know him. And the two are inter-related.

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Life’s Most Exciting Adventure

God is warm. He is fascinating, exciting, and full of surprises. He brings peace, contentment, security, love, and meaningful answers. To keep distant from him is to condemn ourselves to remaining a pathetic shadow of the vibrant, complete, fulfilled, confident, knowledgeable people we were born to be. And yet there are dark forces that want us to miss out.

Astoundingly, some people have so closed their eyes to reality that they imagine that even if there really are spiritual powers, none of them could be evil. Surely, a few minutes of world news should tell us otherwise. And anything evil is likely to be deceptive.

The God of love and truth has spiritual enemies – non-human intelligences whose sinister purposes are furthered if they can discourage us from discovering how breathtakingly wonderful God really is, and from reveling in his goodness. They long to coax us down the slide towards supposing that God is a cold, harsh, angry, boring, killjoy – someone we would shrink from. The aim of their deception is to paint in our imagination such a false picture of our magnificent Lord that instead of instinctively snuggling into him, we apprehensively keep him at arm’s length. Should this deception succeed, God’s spiritual enemies would rob our loving Lord of his greatest joy, which is to lavish his blessings upon us. Hideous alien powers want to keep us weak and ineffective so that they can dominate us, rather than us rising up in the might of the Lord and thwarting their evil plans.

So our minds are a spiritual battlefield, regularly bombarded with demonically-manipulated thoughts, fears, doubts and anything else that might weaken our longing to run into the warmth of God’s welcoming arms and enjoy him. This is why guilt feelings – the fear that God frowns on us – keep hounding Christians. (To counteract these lies, please bookmark this page and see Handling Guilt.) And it is why we fear that God is going to tell us to do something unpleasant. (To see through that lie, read Enjoying God’s Will for You.)

Once we cut through all this satanically-inspired misinformation we can begin life’s most exciting adventure – discovering God, the most spine-chilling, most mind-boggling, most extravagant, most powerful, most loveable Person in all the universe. Locked within the Creator’s personality are wonders so beyond our knowing as to make the complexities and mysteries of the entire universe seem like a speck of dust. Trillions of words could never describe his magnificence. It even messes with my writing style. I dislike running so many adjectives together, but what can you do when fumbling around, trying to describe the indescribable? To hear from this terrifyingly perfect, spine-tinglingly majestic, heart-stoppingly beautiful Person, is to tap into infinite intelligence, infinite goodness, and infinite power. Hearing from God is the highest privilege any life form could ever hope to experience. And this incomparably desirable, stupendously intelligent, infinitely superior Person speaks to you. Often.

In the words of Scripture:

For God does speak
– now one way, now another –
though man may not perceive it.

Job 33:14 (Emphasis Mine)

The Lord of the universe communicates with you far more frequently and intimately than you dare imagine. The heart-warming news is that you respond positively to his leading more often than you realize. Nevertheless, each of us would be stunned as to how much divine comfort and protection and loving wisdom we have missed because we did not realize the Lord was speaking.




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God Speaks


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The God Who Hides Himself

Running through Scripture are two themes that almost seem contradictory. One is that God hides himself (Scriptures). The other is that God is evident everywhere (Scriptures). The apostle Paul proclaimed to the Athenians the One who was both the Unknown God, and the God in whom they lived and moved and had their being (Acts 17:23-28). What initially look like contradictory statements end up being almost the same truth. God hides himself by being everywhere; not by withdrawing from us but by being so intensely involved in our lives that the very frequency and intimacy of his dealings with us makes it seem too common and normal to be the supernatural God. We must explore this thrilling truth because until we grasp it we will end up dismissing a high proportion of the times that God speaks to us.

The unseen Lord is ceaselessly sustaining us and working in our lives and circumstances. ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ is a truth that Scripture applies even to non-Christians (Acts 17:23-28). The omnipresent, omnipotent Lord is so much involved even in the lives of God-haters, that our problem in perceiving him is like a deep-sea fish that can never see the ocean for the water. The fish is so much in the ocean and gaining its whole life – its food, its oxygen, its ability to move – from the ocean that there is a real sense in which it has never seen the ocean. The water is transparent. The fish has never known what it is like not to be in water. It has never seen the surface, the horizon, or the shore. Likewise, God is so vast and we are so dependent on him, we are each so immersed in him and have never known anything different, that he is almost imperceptible. He is so close that we cannot step back far enough to see him properly.

The Almighty is so pervasive – so intimately and actively and continually involved with us and in everything that touches us – that we have become blinded to much of what he does. We often find ourselves not seeing God’s provision, for the paycheck; not seeing God’s love for us, for all the good things that happen to us; not seeing God’s leading for the astounding opportunity that suddenly opens to us; not perceiving God’s intimate word to us, for the Bible.

Over and over, Scripture attributes to God, what we attribute to natural or human causes. When it says that God sends wind, rain, sunshine, locust plagues, and so on, it is not because people in the Bible era had not discovered the laws of nature. Do you think Jesus, who said God feeds the birds of the air, did not know all the effort a sparrow goes to in order to find food (Matthew 6:26)? Do you suppose the psalmist, who believed God gives lions their food, was unaware that they feed themselves by preying (Psalms 104:21; Job 38:39-41)? Isaiah said that even a farmer’s most rudimentary agricultural knowledge is the result of God instructing him. Do you think Isaiah was unaware that farmers teach their sons and learn off each other, and experiment and gain experience for themselves? Do you imagine he thought those who deny God are unable to farm? (Isaiah 28:24-29 is so contrary to our secular mindset that you might find it worth investing thirty seconds to read it.)

Biblical thinking is so different to current thinking as to seem bizarre. This difference is not because Scripture was written by primitive people who did not know any better than to attribute natural events to God. It is because today’s society is plagued by spiritually primitive people who do not know any better than to attribute natural events to chance.

No one imagines that an all-powerful God would be incapable of using processes or unable to control vast numbers of intricate, seemingly insignificant events. And yet somehow most of us begin to act as if the discovery of some of those processes removes God from the equation.

The apostle Paul faced enough natural dangers to seize anyone’s attention – wild seas, infected wounds, bandits – yet he focused on spiritual causes. His gospel threatened the livelihood, pride and traditions of thousands. Wherever he looked, human reasons for his problems glared at him. Yet he saw the human component of his conflict as inconsequential (Ephesians 6:12). Either the apostle was a fruitloop or we clash with the spirit world more than most of us suppose.

In any act of God there are at least two levels of explanation, one of which science can contribute to. Consider, for instance, when Jesus told a man to stretch out his withered hand and it immediately healed (Luke 6:6,10). Scientists might describe what took place within that man’s hand in terms of multiplication of cells, suddenly improved blood flow, and so on. Such an explanation, though accurate, would miss an entire dimension to this event: the hand was restored at Jesus’ word.

Imagine someone thinking himself clever by deciding never to see an oil painting except through an electron microscope, expecting that such a restricted, but technologically advanced, view would enable him to appreciate the painting’s beauty and to understand what the artist wished to convey though his art. It is as if science lets us examine a masterpiece with a microscope (and such a view can be of value), whereas the Bible empowers us to see the big picture, enabling us to grasp the divine meaning and purpose of that masterpiece we call life.

God in his genius separates those who love truth from those who are in love with themselves. He has devised a way that keeps bigheads ignorant and enlightens the sincere. We have little control over our natural intelligence but we have much control over our attitude. Jesus exulted in God being so ingenious as to make understanding of the most critical and profound truths in the universe dependent upon not I.Q., but attitude.

    Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’

Blinded by appalling arrogance, humanists imagine they have suddenly become incredibly smart, being able to discern physical and psychological reasons for phenomena. They have actually become incredibly thick, being able to see nothing but the blatantly obvious. The apostle’s words stick with appalling accuracy: ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools’ (Romans 1:22). Don’t catch their blindness.

Suppose you are listening in awe at the talent of a concert pianist. Noting your reaction, a know-all exclaims, ‘Oh, how ignorant can you get! That’s nothing to admire! Look, I’ll just press this piano key. See? The noise you were hearing was simply because keys were being pressed. That’s nothing special! Even a cat could walk on the keys and make a noise.’ Imagine him supposing he had undermined your reason for awe, simply because he knew how a piano operates! His observation was true, but pathetically shallow. The fact that he could prove his explanation was true just increases his arrogance and seals his ignorance. His understanding of physics and mechanics and sound waves might be astounding and yet the beauty and message of the music and the skill of the pianist went completely over his head.

Before you think that no one would be so ignorant, let me break the terrifying news. We are each highly capable of such clever stupidity. In the words of Jesus, God has ‘hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’ If we think ourselves smart, rather than utterly dependent upon God’s grace for understanding, we are in grave danger of knowing much and yet knowing nothing. Any of us can so easily miss the beauty, goodness, wisdom and message of God, even though it is right under our nose.

Our claim not to hear God is like someone complaining he has never heard music, and even while he complains music is playing in the background. ‘Then what am I hearing right now?’ you ask incredulously. ‘Oh,’ he replies, ‘that’s just sound coming from instruments.’

God speaks, and we hear him, but often we recognize it only as words, thoughts, desires and circumstances. We fail to see beyond God’s chosen instruments to the divine conductor. The Almighty gets his message through to us and we usually respond, ‘That’s a good idea! I’ll do that.’ Or, if it’s a warning, we think, ‘That’s right! It would be foolish to proceed.’ We rarely stop to realize that it is actually God who is guiding us. As long as we end up doing the right thing, it is seldom essential that we recognize the divine origin of what we conclude is a good idea. Not recognizing the Source of our guidance, however, can result in us wrongly supposing that God is a little remote, when in reality he is passionately involved in our lives and repeatedly speaking to us. A still more disturbing consequence of not realizing that it is actually God who is speaking, is that we could ignore the message, not realizing that we are exposing ourselves to the pain of rejecting divine wisdom.

For us to recognize God when he speaks or intervenes in our lives, we must never imagine that our apparent ability to fully explain something means we are seeing the full picture. Like a know-all brilliantly explaining the molecular structure of a work of art and yet completely missing the beauty and purpose of the masterpiece, so we might explain acts of God scientifically or rationally with complete accuracy and yet completely miss even God’s involvement, much less grasp his purpose and message in those events. Consider Joseph’s famous statement to his brothers who had sold him into slavery. The one-time prisoner who was now Pharaoh’s right-hand man, declared, ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good’ (Genesis 50:20). Filling the foreground, are the brothers, driven by hate, jealousy and deceit, doing their utmost to ensure Joseph suffered. It seemed obvious what was going on. We could explain every event in terms of human depravity. Completely out of sight, however, something astoundingly different was happening in those same events. God, brimming with love, kindness and wisdom, was using the brother’s hate-crazed actions to execute his plan to bless Joseph and his brothers beyond anything they could imagine. God did not plant evil intentions in the brothers’ hearts. On the contrary, he was continually restraining them. For instance, most of them were planning not Joseph’s slavery but his murder (Genesis 37:18-20). Their hearts were evil and anti-God, and they fully deserved the wrath and judgment of God. Nevertheless, God was still there in the background, guiding events towards a goal so contrary to their intentions that they could never foresee it.

It is so easy to miss what is happening on a spiritual level, not only because the spiritual is invisible but because, as we have just seen, God can be engineering the exact opposite to what seems to be happening.

Our Lord loves creating lavish and beautiful surprises. When virtually no one would ever guess, the Lord was acting in Joseph’s life, bringing about good. (When all is revealed it will become apparent that God always and only does good.) When the Almighty surprises us by bringing good out of circumstances that we least suspect could have a happy ending, it highlights God’s genius in concealing his stunning, meticulously planned surprises. In the words of Proverbs 25:2, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter . . .’ Only through the eyes of faith could anyone see God’s ingeniously concealed goodness in the midst of what seems a hideous tangle of disasters and setbacks. God declares that anyone displaying such praiseworthy faith deserves to rule with him as royalty for all eternity. As the rest of that verse in Proverbs says, it is glory of kings to uncover what God has cleverly concealed.

What the Lord did in Joseph’s life is typical of what he does in the life of each of us. And just as the Almighty often conceals his hand, so he often conceals his voice. I would have liked to entitle this webpage Divine Guidance Made Easy, but the closest I could get was . . . Made Easier. Although we can make great progress in recognizing God’s voice, it is actually not intended to be particularly easy.

God does indeed hide himself, even from his loved ones. If you are like me, you have felt hurt by this. I long to be on intimate terms with God and I have often felt offended that God makes it so hard to hear him and to sense him at work in my life. After much seeking of God about this puzzle I have at last made the heart-warming discovery that God hiding himself in no way suggests that he wants to remain aloof. On the contrary, he longs for us to find him. Nothing thrills him more than us by faith seeing through his disguises and discovering him speaking and loving us through people, thoughts, circumstances, desires, books, songs, dreams, billboards, nature, movies, Scriptures . . . does the list ever end? It is only if God lovingly hides himself that we can win the eternal glory of those who by the eyes of faith pierce the apparent darkness and silence and evil to see our holy, triumphant Lord loving us and speaking to us and weaving all things together for good.

Perhaps you have heard of the man who in utter frustration asked his pastor why God had not been giving him answers. Unable to hear the pastor’s mumbled reply, the man moved closer, asking the pastor to repeat what he had said. Still unable to hear the reply, he moved closer and closer until finally his ear was almost touching the pastor. Then he heard in the faintest voice, ‘Sometimes God whispers so that we will move closer to him.’

It is precisely because God is passionate about us that he sometimes acts slightly disinterested in us. Consider a woman faced with the heart-wrenching dilemma of having much stronger feelings for a man than he has for her. In her desperate desire for him she might decide to restrain herself and play hard to get. Despite it seeming that she is growing cold, it is actually a passionate attempt to win him. Since men differ, one would have to be God to know in what circumstances this tactic is wise. But the One who is God and is wise, yearns for our affections and attention more than we can imagine, and in the hope of gaining them he often seems to play hard to get or seems to give us the silent treatment.

Even though the fact slips past our physical senses, we know by faith that God is present everywhere. Similarly, we can take it by faith that God is communicating and actively at work in us and all around us in countless ways, even though much of what he does for us slips past our senses. What matters is not whether we feel or can see God moving in our situation. The fact is that he is giving us comfort, support, wisdom and all manner of things, regardless of how conscious we are of it. Our challenge is to believe it and become increasingly skilled at detecting his hand and voice in the normal humdrum of life.

Let’s see some biblical examples of how easy it is to miss God.

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Jacob went to sleep unaware that he was literally lying over the very gateway of heaven (Genesis 28:11-17).

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Young Samuel could not distinguish the Lord’s voice from that of the man he served every day (1 Samuel 3:4-5).

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Multiplied thousands of people rubbed shoulders with the Son of God. They heard teaching like no one had ever given. They saw miracles that took their breath away. And almost none of them had a clue as to who he was.

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For miles, the resurrected Jesus walked and talked with two of his disciples, and they never realized who was speaking to them. ‘ . . . they were kept from recognizing him.’ The moment they discovered who it was, he vanished (Luke 24:13-31).

There were times in the life of Joseph, Job, Jesus – in fact everyone who has ever lived – when only through the miracle of faith could anyone see God’s loving hand in what was happening to them. Finally, at the time of his choosing – often not until after death – God lets people see without the eyes of faith what he has been doing behind the scenes. Then all those who have let doubt blind them will be ashamed of their foolish questioning of God’s love and goodness. But there are those who trust God’s loving goodness despite it seeming that God had abandoned them. These heroes will shine like the sun.














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How Do You Know it is God?


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Listening to God

Husbands are renowned for letting their wives’ chatter fade into the background. Sometimes this is because husbands have difficulty coping with the sheer volume of words coming from their wives. Usually, they suppose nothing significant is being communicated. Every now and then, however, they get caught out and discover they have missed something that even they regard as important. To our surprise, it turns out that this is often our problem with God. It is not, as we imagine, that God seldom speaks, but that he speaks so often that we take it for granted, and assume that if it is not fanfared by angelic trumpets it cannot be important.

Often a husband misses out simply because he wants to focus on other matters, instead of what his wife is saying. He risks the health of his relationship, hoping he can grasp enough of what he needs to know from sampling the occasional snippet of what his wife says. Likewise, we take risks with God, paying only partial attention to what he is saying. Rather than giving listening for God top priority, we are too content to muddle through life with only a vague idea of the vital things God is wishing to convey to us.

Nowhere is this more evident than in our attitude to the Bible. We acknowledge it to be the very word of God and without rival, and yet who of us could not devote more time to studying it than we do?

As Elijah discovered, God may send a frightening earthquake or a ferocious wind or a wildfire, but to communicate he usually favors the subtle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). Of course the Almighty could split our eardrums anytime he wants. In an instant he could have us quaking in fear, pledging to do whatever he asks, but he prefers to be gentle. God longs for our love, not our forced or terror-motivated obedience.

He prefers that we hear him because we want to hear him, rather than because it is impossible not to hear him. He longs to foster within us an alert, expectant, eager attitude towards hearing from him as we go about our everyday lives.

The prophet Habakkuk asked a question of God and then said, ‘I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me . . .’ (Habakkuk 2:1). In other words, as a sentry posted to protect an ancient city from a surprise attack must be ever watchful for the slightest movement, Habakkuk resolved to be alert to the slightest sign that God was about to speak. A watchman must be continually looking for the unexpected. An attack could come at any time and from any direction. It could come in the form of a vast army or a small raiding party. They might be camouflaged or disguised. Likewise, we dare not presume to guess when or how God will speak.

What would a commander think of a sentry who decided to take it easy and rest his eyes, expecting to be alerted by the commotion should he be needed? I confess to having had that mistaken attitude. I had assumed that whenever God wanted to communicate to me he would, as if were, shake me awake and get my attention, making it immediately obvious to me that he is speaking and cause me to easily understand what he wishes to communicate. What if we had this laid-back attitude to conversion; expecting God to give us a spectacular experience like Saul on the way to Damascus, if ever he wanted to convert us? Just as we know from Scripture that God wants our salvation, we know from the same Bible that he wants to guide us and commune with us. We have grasped the fact that God has already taken the initiative in our salvation and all we need do is respond by praying and in faith accepting salvation. Similarly, he has taken the initiative in wanting to communicate with us and it is now up to us to respond by actively looking and listening for him. At any moment he could be trying to get his message through to us in a manner that we will recognize only if we are alert and expectant.

Just as getting answers to prayer can take much praying, so hearing from God can take much listening.

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Obviously, the Bible is the most important way to hear from God. We acknowledge that understanding the Bible takes much effort. Even after a lifetime of prayer and study, every man and woman of God is still discovering new spiritual truths in the Bible. The more effort we invest in Bible study and in fervently seeking God’s illumination of what we read and in putting into practice what God reveals, the more life-changing wonders we will discover in his Word. Conversely, the lazier we are in these areas, the more we will miss. This same principle applies with equal force to recognizing God’s voice when he chooses to speak to us by means other than the Bible. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.’ You have heard this principle applied to finances and to judging others but it is significant that in Mark 4:24 Jesus applied it to the way we hear what God says. In other words, the more time we devote to seeking God as to what he is wanting to tell us and the more attention we give to understanding what he says to us, the more we will receive revelation from God. On the other hand, the more casually and lazily we treat things divinely spoken into our lives – whether through people or circumstances or the Bible itself – the more we will miss things God is longing to tell us. Yes, God could speak to us in a way that we could not possibly miss it, but that is not God’s usual practice, just as he could give us everything without us ever praying, but that is not his usual way.

Without us realizing it, God works in our lives and circumstances, doing all he can to coax us to seek him. If it were not for all God’s behind-the-scenes efforts, none of us would bother to seek him. Nevertheless, having done all this to make us want him, he usually makes it a requirement that it is only those who truly look for him, who find him; only those who truly listen for him, who hear him. In the words of Scripture:

    Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

    2 Chronicles 15:15  . . . They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. . . .

    Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

    Psalms 119:145 I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees.

    (Emphasis mine.)

This applies not just to salvation, but to our on-going relationship with God.

Most often the judgment of God is not that he has ceased to speak to us but that we cease to hear and understand. So significant is the following that the New Testament cites it many times (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-40; Acts 28:26-27 – Romans 11:8 is similar)

    Isaiah 6:9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ (10) Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

The Bible is perfect. It is our infallible basis for knowing what God is like. Our interpretation of the Bible, however, is not infallible. Our understanding of the Bible will get better and better throughout our lives – unless we stubbornly refuse to accept that our first guess might have been less than perfect. Yes, we need to fear straying from truth, but we need also fear remaining in less than the full truth. The longer we are Christian, the more accountable God will hold us for stagnating around partial truths rather than moving towards full biblical truth. Not our interpretation, but God’s interpretation of the Bible is our final authority. Whether it be through the Bible or through any other means, hearing from God hinges on how content we are to settle for a mediocre relationship with God. The more care we pay to seeking God and keeping alert for his answers, the more revelation we will receive.

Despite being godly and devoted to the Word of God, the inspired psalmist found himself having to pray, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law’ (Psalm 119:18). He recognized that regardless of his own intelligence and commitment, if he were left solely to his own efforts, he would never see revelations of God that were staring him in the face as he studied the Bible. He knew what is true for every one of us: that unless he sought God for spiritual understanding, he would never detect many of the exciting, life-changing truths of God that were right there in front of him.

It is staggering to realize that this profound truth applies not only to the Bible, but to everything we see and hear. ‘The whole earth is full of his glory,’ chanted the seraphim (Isaiah 6:3). But instead, the average person observing this planet manages to detect little but suffering, accidents, cruelty and decay. This being so, we cannot expect to hear God unless we follow the psalmist’s lead and crave the spiritual perception that comes only through seeking God for it.

‘Call to me, pleads God in Jeremiah 33:3, ‘and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

The apostle Paul was very conscious of the role of prayer in us becoming spiritually perceptive.

    Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (18) I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints

And both praying and listening necessitate waiting for an answer. So much does faith in God, and a relationship with God go hand in hand with waiting, that the Bible often refers to it as such. A well known example is, ‘they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength . . .’ To try to counteract the tendency for our eyes to slip over the many biblical references to waiting, let’s concentrate the power by packing together several significant examples.

    Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

    Psalms 38:15 I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.

    Psalms 130:5-6 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

    Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

    Isaiah 8:17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.

    Isaiah 30:18 . . . Blessed are all who wait for him!

    Isaiah 64:4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

    Lamentations 3:26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

    Hosea 12:6 But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

And that is just a tiny sample (more). Clearly, this implies that much of our relationship with God involves waiting – and that’s something none of us like.

Because he refused to wait for the few minutes it would take him to get some food, Esau sold his birthright and even though he desperately sought to undo the consequences of his impatience, he could never get it back (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16-17).

They were about to hear from God, receiving what generations of their descendants would cherish as the most significant revelation their nation had ever received – the Ten Commandments and detailed instructions about the tabernacle and the divinely authorized way to minister to God. They agreed that Moses should climb the mountain to hear from God on their behalf, but it was taking several days longer than they had expected. Growing restless, they decided to worship God without waiting any longer for God to reveal his word to them. They had barely started worshipping an idol when Moses returned with God’s Commandments, one of the first of which forbade worshipping idols. God was not amused.

Saul’s army was terrified. Samuel, the priest said he would come in seven days, but time was slipping by and Saul’s troops were beginning to desert. Feeling that he could wait no longer, Saul did something only a priest should do: he offered a sacrifice. He had barely finished when Samuel arrived. Our Lord was so displeased with Saul over this matter Saul’s dynasty was taken from him (1 Samuel 13:7-14).

Have you heard of anyone praying desperately for needed finances or material provision and God holding back almost to the very last moment before meeting the need? I would not be surprised if the Lord has deliberately done this literally millions of times in human history. God acts the same way when it comes to supplying needed information or guidance. Faith grows by stretching.














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The Story So Far

Usually, the terrifyingly powerful Lord is ever so gentle. He longs not to have to startle us, or even raise his voice, to get our attention. As is becoming obvious in our exploration of these issues, it’s not that God isn’t communicating, it’s that we keep tending to dismiss the divine origin of what he is saying because it is gentler and more subtle than we expect.

Military commander, Naaman, almost missed his healing because he had expected something more spectacular than being asked to dip into a dirty stream (2 Kings 5:1-14). Similarly, we are in constant danger of missing divine guidance because it seems too ordinary. Or, like Saul in a mad rush, we can miss out because we are too busy to wait or pay close attention.

It’s not that God speaks louder to those who are forever saying, ‘God told me this, God told me that,’ but these people are more willing to see God in the things we take for granted – in circumstances, feelings, thoughts, Bible readings and so on. If we look only for the dramatic, we’ll miss the plot. For instance, if we pray for God’s guidance on a matter, it doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily hear or see anything we can call guidance. To answer our prayer for guidance all that God need do is to ensure that what we end up doing is exactly what he wants for us. The Almighty has numberless options in getting us to that point, and many of those options would to us seem like chance or our own doing. We miss so much because of our preconceptions as to how God should act. Too often, when the Sovereign Lord chooses to act in ways beyond our narrow expectations we mistakenly assume he has not responded.

A closely related reason for missing God’s voice is that we do not pay enough attention. We must seek to be continually alert for anything he might say.

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Part 2 of this series: When Guidance is Confusing













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