Monday, January 09, 2006

Hearing God Speak

One thing I always wonder about is when do I hear God's voice, my own ambition or selfish desires, suggestions from the evil one, or bad advice from other people who have a vested interest? Am I being manipulated, led, or fooled?

I've met people who were sure God was telling them to take some job or do some action, and it didn't turn out well. They usually conclude that perhaps God wasn't speaking to them, or they misread the signs. I've even met people who even believe God had misled them because they didn't have enough faith.

I don't know many people who believe that God would lead them into a tough situation on purpose. This needs to be considered since even Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Why can't God do the same for each of us? I am not saying He delights in seeing us suffer, I just wonder if we got it all wrong. Maybe we are starting at the wrong place. Maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

A good rule of thumb I tend to follow when discerning God's voice is to first do what God clearly said to do, and believe whatever God said I should believe about reality. This step requires an intimate knowledge of His Word, putting time into prayer, making life adjustments, and constantly adjusting my mindset (Romans 12:1-3). As a result I will gain insight into what God wants, what He is doing in me (conforming to the likeness of His Son) and why we created me, and what pleases Him. His voice will not contradict His Word or His ultimate desire.

The next step is to seek the kingdom of God in every aspect of my life. (Why would I worry about money, a job, or any other worldly thing if this is my focus?) I live my life to glorify God, not to seek after glory for myself. I ask God for guidance because I care about the advancement of His kingdom rule throughout my life and this world. I know that relationships are of utmost importance to God, and learning what is best is glorifying to Him. He promised to take care of all the things in this life that I would need to survive, if only I trust Him.

Then last, I listen for His voice with the understanding that His ultimate purposes, the godly way I conduct my focus, and my desire to glorify Him will guide my listening. So when I need to make a major decision in life like moving or a job, I know it isn't about the amount of money I would make, the promotion or lack of, the location, or the enjoyment I seek that God would find most important in leading me. But, I can trust that He will lead me to what He considers best for His purposes, even if He hinders me.

But what about the case when two paths seem to offer the same good? The decision may come down to what I want to do most. God can say to me, any tree in the garden is good to eat, except the one in the middle. My job in listening is clear. Stay away from the bad choice, and go for it from among the good choices. Between good choices, He may just give me the freedom to make the godly choice on my own. And He would be pleased.

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