In one of the comments on my recent post Is Self Discipline Overrated?, the author objected to my contention that as believers in the church age we can “hear” God’s voice in our heads. His position was that God does not speak to us personally and directly, but communicates solely through our recall of His word as we have learned it from our pastor.
This may be a matter of semantics in describing the same function, because I do think that the Holy Spirit uses the doctrine we have learned to guide us. But I also think that He can communicate with us specifically about matters unique to our day-to-day lives. This is not to say you can ignore the word of God and fly off based on voices in your head, (I’m not even sure I’d call it a voice; more like a timely thought.) but when you have been consistent with Bible class and are faced with a situation where there are two opposing doctrines that can be applied, you have to go to Him for guidance. Which one do I apply? And He brings the appropriate, already learned doctrines and scriptures to mind.
With me, after that has occurred, God often sends someone into my life who unknowingly repeats what God’s just told me. Or he’ll use my timely discovery of some old notes tucked amidst manuscript pages, or a Thieme book falling off the shelf while I’m searching for something else which just “happens” to open to the page I need, where I’d previously highlighted the appropriate passage. Then, to make sure I get the message, that night in Bible class He’ll often have the pastor repeat it.
Other times we may be faced with making a decision about details of life that we don’t have enough information to make. For example awhile back when Quigley was a wild and crazy puppy who couldn’t be left alone for long, I had to go to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. It’s illegal to leave your dog in the car in Arizona, so I’d have to leave him at home. We had him crate trained, but he wasn’t old enough to be left longer than an hour. I’d already stopped by the DMV the afternoon before where I’d learned that the average wait time was three hours and so had come home before I could do anything. I was advised to come in the morning when it might be a little faster, so that night and the next morning I tried to sort through all the options, wondering when the best time to go would be.
It was not good to try to leave Quigley during his active times in those days. What if he took too long to settle down and I missed my window at the DMV? And should I leave him in the crate or the back yard where he might bay as if he’s dying for the entire time I would be gone, dig his way out or chew through the fence? All my attempts to see into the future so as to make a decision met with failure and only produced increasing anxiety. Finally I gave it up, rebounded the anxiety and handed it over to God. “I have no idea when would be the best time to go for the shortest wait,” I told Him, “or whether I should leave Quigley in the yard or in the crate. You told us to cast all our burdens on You, so that’s what I’m doing. You’re just going to have to handle it.”
With that, I let it go. About half an hour later I got the very strong “instruction” (conviction?) to leave Quigley in the yard and “Go now.” So I did. I arrived at the DMV to find no line whatsoever and was back home within about forty-five minutes. Quigley did not bay or dig or chew his way out of the yard, and all was well. It was a turning point for me in seeing how God could handle things.
In tonight’s class Pastor Bob just “happened” to start a new subject on the indwelling of God the Father, and why He would indwell us. The first reason he gave is that God “wants us to be totally confident and convinced that He’s the creator of our portfolio of invisible assets.” These assets include all that we will ever need to live the Christian life and fulfill His plan for us; they include phenomenal escrow blessings and a specific, unique plan for each one of us — our personal sense of destiny. Part of that plan is that we get to know, personally and intimately, the One who dwells inside us.
When the Bible talks about God abiding in us and dwelling in us, the word refers to being at rest in, making oneself at home in. It’s an intimate relaxed relationship and I believe such relationships require communication. Prayer is communication. We talk to God through prayer, and sometimes He answers, personally. It can be by means of a thought, or a doctrine or some external “coincidence.”
Obviously there is great room for people to think that God has told them something when He hasn’t, especially if they have a zeal for Him but not a lot of knowledge. If what they say He’s told them doesn’t line up with His word, then it’s probably not from Him. Even if it does line up with the word, it still might not be.
But that’s between them and God. My concern is what He says to me, and whether I can believe that it’s really God and not some wishful thinking of my own manufacture. It takes time to gain confidence in this. It’s certainly taken me a long time to trust that this might actually be taking place. Even now, if I think He’s told me to do something but am not absolutely sure it’s from Him, I ask Him to make it clear or shut me down if it’s not what He wants me to do.
And mostly, He hasn’t shut me down. But even if I do blow it in this regard, it’s not going to ruin His day. And usually not even mine. We’re not here to be perfect. Which is a good thing since we aren’t going to be till we reach heaven. I’m thinking more and more that far too much is made of our performance. Did we make the wrong choice? The right one? How much does it really matter?
It’s Christ’s work that matters, that’s won the victory, not ours. We’re perfectly righteous already and can’t be made one bit more so, so why the angst about whether we might do something wrong? If we do, God makes it clear, we rebound, we adjust our thinking and move on. It’s “He must increase, I must decrease.” It’s all about His plan to bring glory to Himself through us, and one of the most brilliant and amazing ways He does that is through His grace toward us. If we were always good, and successful and perfect, where would be the room for grace? It’s a given that we’re going to seek to obey His commands and do what He wishes because we love Him. But we can bring glory to Him even in failure, if we just use the system He’s provided, pick ourselves up, rebound, face forward and move on.