Listening to your Father’s voice:
How to meditate on the word and world of God
Dr. Jim Denison
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that talking on the phone while driving is nearly as dangerous as driving drunk. The study found that using a cell phone increases the risk of an accident fourfold, the same as driving while intoxicated. It doesn’t seem to matter if the phone is hands-free or hand-held. I guess this gives the AT&T slogan, “Reach out and touch someone,” new meaning.
The study did report one safety benefit. Nearly 40% of those surveyed used their phones to call 911 after they crashed.
Wouldn’t it be great to call an even higher power? To call God, whenever you crash, with whatever you need? To ask him anything, and hear his response? To be able to listen to God?
The fact is, there’s nothing our souls need more. The best way to feed our spiritual lives is to listen to God. But that’s something Baptists are just not very good at. The fact is, in most of our churches, it’s not in the catalog. We don’t know much about caring for our souls.
So let’s see if we can learn to feed our souls by listening to God. If you and I will make four simple decisions today, we will hear from God this week.
Believe that God still speaks
First we must decide that God will speak to us. That we can hear his voice. That it’s really true–the God of the universe actually wants to talk to us.
He spoke clearly to Simon Peter (Acts 10).
Peter’s issue was whether Gentiles could become Christians. And so Peter sees “unclean” animals, meat forbidden to his Jewish diet, and hears God say, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Just then, “unclean” Gentiles arrive, and “the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (vs. 19-20).
And so Peter obeys the Spirit’s voice. He preaches to Cornelius and the Gentiles, and they are saved. Gentiles are welcomed into God’s family. We still are.
In a very real sense, we Gentiles are in the church today because God spoke.
Over and over in the Bible, God asks his people to listen to him.
•Isaiah 55:2-3: “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”
•Jeremiah 7:2: “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.”
•All through Revelation God calls his people to listen to him. Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2.7). He says it to every church he addresses (2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22).
Well over 300 times in the Bible, God calls his people to hear his word. The Lord is a God who speaks.
Does he still speak to us today?
Have you ever prayed about a problem and had a clear sense of what you should do? Have you read the Bible and found exactly the answer you needed, as though it were written for you? Have you heard a sermon and said to yourself, “He preached that to me”? Have you taken a walk and felt especially close to God? Has a friend called at just the time you needed to hear from someone? Have you heard a song and it truly lifted your spirit?
Then God has spoken to your soul. Please believe that he still speaks. That he wants to speak to us, today.
Be silent before him
Then why don’t we hear him more often? For the simple reason that we don’t usually make the other three decisions. After I decide that God still speaks, next I must be silent before him.
Peter had to go up on the roof, away from the noise of the house. In that silence, he could hear the Spirit speak (v. 9). To hear God I, too, must be silent before him. And that’s not easy.
We don’t live quiet lives. Our work weeks are longer than ever before. I read this week that the supposedly workaholic Germans only work 37 hours a week and take five-week vacations. Not us.
And it takes precious time to be silent before God. Pour water into a bowl, and it splashes and swirls. Only when you set the bowl down and let it sit, does the water become still. So with our souls.
Our souls need a time and a place to be quiet with our Father. To do nothing except sit in his presence, as a child who crawls up into his father’s lap and just sits. Not to work, or read, or study. Just to sit with God.
Recently I read the simple story of an elderly peasant who had formed the habit of slipping into a certain church at a certain time every day. There, day by day, he would sit and, apparently, do nothing. The parish priest observed this regular, silent visitor. One day, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he asked the old man why he came to the church alone, day in, day out. Why waste his time in this way?
The old man looked at the priest and with a loving twinkle in his eye said, “I look at him. He looks at me. And we tell each other that we love each other.”
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I’d say it this way: “Be still and you will know that I am God.”
How long has it been since you were still before God?
Choose to surrender
So I believe that God wants to speak to me, and I make time to listen to him. Now the third simple decision: I must move from silence to surrender.