If you could choose between Jesus beside you or the Spirit inside of you, which would you choose? Author J.D. Greear suggests most Christians would respond “Jesus beside” without hesitation. I would have to agree. Personally, I would love to have Jesus beside me, if for no other reason than to be able to ask Him a question and hear Him audibly respond. I spend so much of my life fretting over decisions, desperately wanting to do the right thing. Surely it would be easier to follow the will of God if we could audibly hear Him express it.
If like me, you have ever envied those in the Bible their ability to audibly hear the voice of God, I want to challenge you to consider Christ’s words in John 16:7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
Christ is saying we have the advantage here. We have the Helper, the Holy Spirit, within us. Never had the presence of God resided in the hearts of man (save a few of His appointed in the Old Testament) before that amazing night of Pentecost. In all of Biblical History, we have the advantage! And yet- we struggle to hear God speak. He’s closer than a heartbeat but feels infinitely more distant at times.
He is speaking, though. Through His Spirit and His written Word, He speaks to us.
I recently asked my Facebook friends if they have ever heard God speak to them, and I was overwhelmed by their quick and varied responses. Not only had those that responded heard God, but they heard Him speak to them in very personal ways. Some described situations where they were listening intently, others were caught off guard by the sweet and sudden sound of His voice.
I feel I have slowly developed an ear to hear over my life. When I “hear” God, it almost always describes an impression on my heart, or at times, something I am reading in scripture or listening to strikes a chord deep inside- it strikes in such a way that I sit up straight and take note. I’ve become very good at sensing when the Lord is telling me “no” (as He does it often…). That sensation is much more difficult to describe. It’s almost as if I sense a “nothingness” behind that door, and know if I chose to walk through it, I would be leaving His presence. I have also experienced something I call a divine echo. Have you ever read a scripture one morning, then heard it on the radio, then had it preached from the pulpit, or texted to you by a friend? I call these repeated occurrences an “echo”, and when I hear God repeating Himself, I pay attention.
As a part of this year of seeking God, I want to learn to listen. I want to learn how to walk by the Spirit. I want to be more in tune to His promptings and movements. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to be exploring some ways we might develop our ears to hear. I’ll be exploring what Scripture has to say about hearing God. I want to explore the practice of Lectio Divina, a Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer, as a tool to quiet my mind. I’m also intrigued by J.D. Greear’s book Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You. I plan to read and review this book during my journey. God may lead me towards some other resources as well, but at this point, this is all I have planned.
A mentor of mine recently challenged me to grow deep roots before I try to grow up and out. The very next morning, I came across Isaiah 37:31 which says “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root downward and bear fruit upward.” This call to ‘take root downward’ is a sacred echo I have encountered again and again this year. I am thrilled to see how God uses this time of intentional listening to deepen my roots.
Would you join me on this journey? I would love to hear your experiences in hearing God. How does He speak to you? How have you developed an ear to hear? Do you have suggestions of tools I should explore during this series? Let me know!