God speaks to us
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WHY GOD SPEAKS TODAY
We might ask, “Why would God still want to talk to us today? Hasn’t He said enough from Genesis to Revelation?” There are several compelling reasons why God still has His lines of communication open with His people.
First and foremost, He loves us just as much as He loved the people of Old and New Testament days. He desires to fellowship with us just as much as He fellowshipped with them. If our relationship with Him is a one–way trip and there is no communication or dialogue between us and the Lord Jesus Christ, then there isn’t much fellowship. Fellowship is nil when one person does all the talking and the other does all the listening. God still speaks to us today because He wants to develop a love relationship that involves a two–party conversation.
The second reason God still speaks today is that we need His definite and deliberate direction for our lives, as did Joshua, Moses, Jacob, or Noah. As His children, we need His counsel for effective decision making. Since He wants us to make the right choices, He is still responsible for providing accurate data, and that comes through His speaking to us.
A third reason God speaks today is that He knows we need the comfort and assurance just as much as did the believers of old. We have Red Sea experiences, when our backs are to the wall and we do not know which way to turn. We undergo failures just as Joshua and the people of Israel did at Ai. When we undergo such defeats, God knows our need for His assurance and confidence.
I believe the most important reason God is still talking today is that He wants us to know Him. If God has stopped talking, then I doubt we will ever discover what He is really like. If the priority of all of our goals is to know God, then there must be more than just a one–way trip. Rather, there must be a communication link in which He talks to us and we listen or we talk to Him and He listens.
HOW GOD SPOKE IN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT DAYS
If God is still talking, how does He speak? We can discover His methods by reviewing the different ways He revealed Himself in Old and New Testament days. First, He spoke by direct revelation. By His Spirit He spoke to the spirit of men like Abraham, who one day heard God directly tell him to leave the land in which he was living and go into a land that God would show him:
Now the Lord said to Abram:
“Get our of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1,2).
Second, the Bible says God spoke through dreams. A good example is evident in the experiences of Daniel, to whom God revealed His world destiny in a series of dreams. Through visions Daniel saw the empires that were to come. In this way, God gave Daniel tremendous insight into future world events that are still in the process of unfolding today.
This is a point, however, in which we must be extremely careful. The Bible does not ever say to seek the mind of God in dreams. For instance, I remember one Saturday night when I dreamed that nobody was in church the next morning, except me. If I had adhered to that dream, I probably would have just stayed home and slept!
Neither are we ever encouraged in the Word of God to seek the mind of God through visions. I had a friend who was flying home from a business trip one day, when he saw the sun reflecting through the clouds making the form of a cross. He interpreted that vision to mean that he was saved. Unfortunately, that does not have anything to do with confession, repentance, or belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bible explains salvation.
The only time God has used a vision or a dream speaking in my life was after I spent several weeks fasting and seeking to know the mind of the Lord. I had been rather restless in my spirit and knew God was up to something, but I didn’t know exactly what. Then one night, out of desperation I cried out to God, asking Him to reveal His purpose. God replied quickly and bluntly, “I am going to move you.” I said, “When?” In a split second the word September flashed across my mind, and immediately my burden was lifted. The stirring in my spirit was gone. I had nothing more to pray about. That September I moved from Florida to Atlanta. God revealed Himself, not because I was seeking a vision or a dream, but because I was seeking His mind. It was a vision, nevertheless, and something God used to convince me He was involved in the business at hand.
Third, God spoke through His written words, such as when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then used the Law to communicate to His people. God also spoke audibly in biblical days. Saul of Tarsus was on his way to persecute believers in Damascus. The Bible says that he “fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ ” (Acts 9:4).
Fourth, God spoke through His prophets. The prophets exclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord,” and the people obeyed because they knew it came directly from God.
Fifth, God spoke through circumstances. We’ve all heard the story of how God revealed Himself to Gideon. God wanted Gideon to lead the nation of Israel in battle against the enemy. Being a little fearful, Gideon decided to lay out a fleece. In fact, he laid it out twice. One morning he asked that it be soaking wet in the midst of dry grass, and the next morning he asked that it be as dry as gunpowder in the midst of wet grass. God graciously reached down to Gideon and gave him the assurance and confidence he needed.
Sixth, He spoke through angels, introducing to Mary and Joseph the birth of Jesus Christ through angelic proclamation. Seventh, God often spoke through the Holy Spirit. You remember that in the life of Paul, who was on his way to Asia, God spoke to him through the Holy Spirit, forbidding him to go there: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6–7).
HOW GOD SPEAKS TODAY
While we marvel at the methods God used to speak to His chosen ones of old, our spirits long to engage in direct and meaningful communication in this present age. We want to proclaim along with the Samaritans’ response to the woman at the well in John 4:42, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
We can be thankful that God is still in the communication business. He employs four principal methods of revealing Himself to the contemporary believer.
The Word of God
The Lord’s primary way of speaking to us today is through His Word. We already have the complete revelation of God. He doesn’t need to add anything else to this Book. The revelation of God is the unfolding truth of God by God about Himself. It is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, controlling the minds of men who penned the pages that make up the Bible. The Bible is the breath of God breathed upon those men that they might know the truth.
Yes, the most assured way we can know we hear from God is through His Word. When we face difficulties and heartaches, rather than seek this counsel or that counsel, we should first go to the Scriptures.
God’s Word was written to the people addressed in Scripture. Isaiah wrote to Judah, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, but the Scriptures were also written for us. The Bible is God’s instruction book for His people.
The Lord spoke to Joshua and said:
“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:7–8).
The book of the Law was Joshua’s guide, his instruction book in godly living. So the Bible is for us today.
How does this work out in a practical way for twentieth–century believers? When we pray and seek guidance about a decision, we should ask God to speak to us through His Word and give us some advice to clarify our direction. As we meditate upon the Word with our request or decision in mind, God will often lead us to an incident in Scripture, a passage, or even a single verse that will relate to what concerns us. It may deal with our specific experience, or the principle governing our decision may be prominent in the text.
Sometimes God will lead us to the source, to the same passage over and over again. It is not that we choose to reread the same passage, but somehow we just seem to continue to open the book to that text. On an occasion when I was seeking the Lord’s will about a decision I faced, every morning for about three weeks I found myself reading Isaiah 6. I was into the third week before I realized that I was being rebellious toward the Lord with regard to what He required of me. Somehow, He would not let me escape those words in verse 8: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ ” When I finally said yes to the Lord, Isaiah 6 was no longer prominent in my morning meditation.
Through His Word He directs us, challenges us, warns us, comforts us, assures us. I have found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my Christian life: to face a challenge and meditate upon the Word until I know He has spoken.
The Holy Spirit
A second method God uses to speak to us today is through the Holy Spirit. In fact the primary way Jesus spoke in the New Testament was through the Holy Spirit. Today, God still speaks to our spirits through His Spirit who now lives, dwells, and abides in us.
If we walk in the Spirit daily, surrendered to His power, we have the right to expect anything we need to hear from God. The Holy Spirit living within us and speaking to us ought to be the natural, normal lifestyle of believers. We can claim His presence, direction, and guidance.
Some years ago our church was in the process of purchasing a piece of property. I was really seeking the Lord. We were going to see the owner of the property, and the morning we were to meet, I was reading the Scriptures, and I came upon this particular verse:
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples (Ps. 77:13–14).
Well, that was all I needed to hear. In the course of conversation with the owner, he asked, “How much are you willing to pay for the property?” The Spirit of God immediately spoke to me and said, “Don’t answer that.”
So I didn’t answer. I kept quiet. He kept on talking. I never said a word. Finally, he said, “How about this price?” and named a figure. It was a fair one, and I accepted. God’s Spirit spoke to me very clearly and distinctly, giving me the proper direction I needed. I feel that the outcome was one that pleased God and made His work effective. I believe that the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are God’s two primary modes for speaking to believers today. When I say the Holy Spirit “speaks,” I do not mean audibly. Rather, He impresses His will in my spirit or mind, and I hear Him in my inner being. Though not audible, the communication is precise nevertheless.
A third way God speaks to us is through other people. This became clear to me during a prolonged illness.
One Sunday I became very ill and had to go to the hospital. All I could do was sleep the first two days. On the third day, my wife came to visit, and we began talking, because God had impressed upon my heart the need to go back to the very beginning of my life and review it up to the present point. I felt He had something to show me, and I needed my wife to help me see it.
Every afternoon we talked. We talked the rest of that week, and all of the next week, and all of the next week. For three weeks she wrote and she listened. Toward the end of the third week, my wife looked over a mountain of paper where she had recorded the conversations and said, “I believe God has shown me what the problem is.” When she told me, the problem in my life became clear to me for the first time. God absolutely spoke through my wife and showed me something that brought about one of the most dramatic changes in my ministry. Had I not listened, I would have missed a magnificent blessing.
Actually, the people we ought to listen to the most are those we live with every day. Those people who love us the most, those who pray for us the most, are often the instruments God uses to reveal Himself to us. I can name several people who, in a passing conversation, have said something that has altered the course of my life to some degree. Just a simple word in passing, just a word here or there from someone close to us (or on rare occasions from a casual acquaintance), can have dramatic consequences.
That is why we need to be very careful about what we say. Recognizing that we can be used as God’s spokespersons should cause us to soberly examine our dialogue. Perhaps God has a message for the listener that he has chosen us to deliver, and our talking about the weather or a football game would detract from that message. Thus, we should seek to be alert, sensitive, and available to God’s Voice.
A fourth way God speaks to us is through circumstances. I believe those weeks in the hospital were engineered by God so that I could hear what He was saying. Such circumstances take on many forms. Sometimes it is a failure. Sometimes it is a success. Sometimes it is a disappointment. Sometimes it is a tragedy, but God uses all circumstances in life to speak to us.
When I was a pastor in the Midwest, I witnessed to a particular man for a number of months, but he seemed uninterested. One afternoon, a policeman I knew called and asked me to ride with him to a home where there had been some sort of trouble. When we arrived, I recognized the house as the residence of the individual with whom I had been sharing Christ. As we approached the house, the policeman prepared me for what we would soon see saying, “You are not going to like what you see, but I need you to help me.” Inside was a twelve–year–old boy lying in a pool of blood. He had taken a twelve gauge shotgun, used a clothes hanger to trigger it, held it up against his heart, and killed himself. He left a note to his parents, which read, “Dear Mom and Dad, I love you. I do not know whether I will go to heaven or hell. I am going to kill myself and find out.” I was present when the father walked into the home. When we told him what had happened, his first reply was “Oh, my God.” In a couple of weeks, he came to our church and trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior—but it cost him the life of his son.
So, today, God speaks to us in four primary ways. First, through His Word; second, through the Holy Spirit; third, through other godly people; and fourth, through circumstances. Now that we recognize that God still actively participates in communicating His message to believers today, we must endeavor to hear intently. When God speaks (and He does), everyone should listen. As David declared in Psalm 85:8, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak.”
Stanley, C. F. (1985). How to listen to God (9). Nashville, Tenn.: Oliver-Nelson Books.