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Listening to God!
- Jacob Ninan
Many Christians are used to reading the Bible daily. Some follow daily reading plans and rush through trying to finish their portion for the day. If we read like this it is not sure that what we read even gets into our head! The goal seems to be to ensure that we have finished our duty. Some take more time to read slowly, or read smaller portions, pausing to meditate on what they read. This is certainly much better than the first approach. But it is still not clear that apart from better understanding in their minds they have been able to 'hear' anything from God. A mental exercise, even if we use concordances and commentaries, can at best feed only our minds. Isn't something more necessary for our spiritual life?
The word of God is living in that it is able to set up a live communication channel between God and us, entering into the deepest parts of our being (He.4:12). The aim of reading the Bible is not just to acquire knowledge, but to hear God speaking to us by making His inspired words come alive. It is when these words come alive in our spirit that we receive nourishment and every other help that we need for our lives (2Ti.3:16,17). For this to happen we must be sitting quietly before the Lord in a seeking and expectant attitude (Lk.10:39,42). It is therefore good to begin by quietening our mind, praising and thanking God for His mercies, and asking Him to open the ears of our spirit that we might receive what He has prepared for us.
God may, of course, speak to us at other times too. Sometimes He uses His written word to communicate to us, by reminding us of specific words from the Bible which are pertinent to our situation (Jn.14:26). Remember how Jesus was able to use the right word from the Scriptures to deal with different situations?
God speaks to us many times by placing ideas in our mind which we may not even recognise as coming from Him. Sometimes we realise on looking back how it was the Lord who gave us those thoughts. Slowly we develop the ability to 'recognise His voice.'
God may also speak to us directly, as a Father to His children, about many other things that are necessary for our practical life. He may not always use Scripture to do this but may use ordinary words as in a conversation. Many Christians do not consider this possibility, limiting themselves and God only to words of the Bible. But think of how Jesus and the disciples lived. Think of the number of occasions when they heard God speaking to them about practical steps of life, quite apart from quotations of Scripture! God has opened up this possibility for the least among us, so that each of us can now have fellowship with Him (He.8:11).
Of course there is possibility for error. We may imagine that God has spoken to us when He has not. The devil and the demons are trying to counterfeit the voice of God. We have to keep checking what we seem to hear with the spirit of what is written in the Bible because God will not contradict Himself. What we need to do is to develop our ability to recognise God's voice, as we read His word and as He speaks to us using His word at other times (Jn.10:4,5). We should also be honest enough to admit it when we make a mistake.