More Than a Whisper in the Wind
Well, that video has absolutely nothing to do with our sermon today, but it’s just too funny to pass up. I hope it puts a warm spot in your heart. It definitely communicates a message about Christmas. I am not completely sure what that message is, other than don’t say x-mas because it takes Christ out of Christmas, but it is funny all the same. At any rate, would you mind bowing your heads and praying with me as we move into our talk today. Let’s pray.
Well, God was talking to me the other day and He said to me: “Rex….”
Does it shock you when you hear someone say God talked to them? I don’t know about you, but when people start saying God has been talking to them, I tend to get a bit cautious and that person kind of becomes suspect until I better understand what they mean by that. In our culture especially, we are skeptical about people who hear from God. My guess is that many of us feel like a conversation with God is closer to fable than to fact.
So let me just say right up front, I believe God speaks to me. I don’t mean I hear God speak audibly, but He does speak to me. And, I do not doubt that God speaks audibly, but if you track that through history you will find it is always an exception and not the norm.
And I think it would be nice for God to spell everything out for me. I bet more than a few of us would love it, if every Monday morning God woke us up and told us what to do that week?
I believe that we long to be in the will of the Father, and we long to hear Him speak to us. I am convinced that we would do almost anything to have God clearly communicate His will to us and to answer our deepest questions in a way that we could easily understand.
Honestly, isn’t that why most of us follow God or at least why many of us started to follow God? We wanted to hear from something, someone, greater than ourselves. We wanted to hear from our Creator and our Sustainer and we wanted answers to our questions and we wanted comfort for our pains and we wanted direction for our journey. We want to hear from God. It is at our core. We long to hear from God and we attend Church and we pray and we listen to the wisdom of others and we listen to the quietness of our souls just longing to hear from God.
Although we may never express it to others, our deepest desire is to hear God speak to us. Many of us lay in our beds at night, re-hash the day or the week or the year, we cry out to God, we plead with God, we beg God to just give us a word, give us a message, give us a sign. We have so many questions. We have so much we don’t understand. If only God would talk to us. “Give me a word Lord, just a sentence, and everything will be all right. I’ll understand then. Just a word!”
Just glance down at the prayer list and think about the people in our lives we know that are going through some of the toughest times of their lives. Death and dying and sickness and unemployment and addiction and financial crisis and relationship disasters and brokenness!
Wouldn’t it be nice if God would just say to us as plainly as I speak to you today: “it is going to be ok; I have your back; I have a better job for you; I have a better relationship for you; I have comfort for you; I have a perfect plan for you that you haven’t even considered yet and here it is in black and white; I love you; I am going to restore you; I am going to fix the broken.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to just get a big hug from God and He just sit down beside us and tell us that it’s going to be ok? Don’t we long for that? Don’t we want that for ourselves and for those people we love? And we think, if God would just clearly speak to this world, who wouldn’t believe? If God would just show Himself and prove Himself, how could there be any doubt?
And so, isn’t it interesting that we get a bit uneasy when someone says to us they heard from God?
Perhaps understanding how God has spoken in the past will help us feel more secure about the way He speaks to us today. God spoke by direct revelation. In Genesis 12:1-2 we find God telling Abraham to leave the land in which he was living and go into a land that God would show him. Saul of Tarsus was on his way to persecute some Christians and then it says He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul why are you persecuting me?” God spoke through direct revelation…i.e., audibly.
God also spoke through dreams and visions. In the book of Revelation, God revealed how the end of the world was going to come about and what heaven would be like. Also, it was a vision that sent Peter to Cornelius that led to the Gentiles being grafted into the church.
God spoke through His written words, such as when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. God gave Israel the written law to communicate to His people.
God spoke through His prophets. When they would preach to the nations they would begin by exclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord.” And the people would take heed because they knew it came directly from God.
God spoke through circumstances. God wanted Gideon to lead the nation into battle. Gideon was scared so he laid out a fleece. One morning he asked that it be soaking wet in the midst of dry grass and the next time he asked that it be dry in the midst of wet grass. God used that circumstance to give Gideon confidence.
God spoke through angels. Mary and Joseph both were told by angels about the impending birth of the baby Jesus. We come this morning during this season to celebrate the fact that God spoke into history in the sending of the Christ child. The world heard God speak and all of time has been changed because of the message.
God spoke through the Holy Spirit. As you glance through the Book of Acts you can see several occasions in which Paul was going to go to a certain city and the Bible says the Holy Spirit came to him and would not allow him to go there. God spoke through direct revelation, He spoke through dreams and vision, He spoke through people and circumstances, and He spoke through the Holy Spirit; but what about our time?
God spoke in all sorts of ways in the past. Knowing He spoke then, doesn’t compensate our desire and our longing to engage in direct and meaningful communication with God now, today.
Let me ask you: have you heard from God? Do you hear from God? Does God speak? Does God speak to you? Is God still speaking today, or has the voice of heaven been hushed? In the midst of our hectic lives there is nothing more urgent and more rewarding than hearing what God has to say. The Bible seems clear that God speaks to His people. But does He speak to us, here in Earlham, in the corn fields of Iowa; does He speak to us today, now?
One of our hurdles to climb though is the idea that God does not speak today the same way He has spoken in the past. Some say, “Well God had to speak to the people of the Old and New Testaments. He was trying to establish His nation and His church. He has told us all we need to know and He even put it in a book. He doesn’t speak anymore.” I say that might be a bit of misguided thinking. Let me briefly give you some reasons why.
God loves us just as much as He loved the people we read about in the Bible. They are no more special to God than we are. He desires to fellowship with us just as much as He did with them. We need God’s definite and deliberate direction in our lives today, just as much as Joshua and Moses or Peter and Paul.
We need His counsel in order to make good decisions in our lives. We need God’s comfort and assurance just as much as the believers of old. The most important reason God is still talking today is that He wants us to know Him. He wants us to know Him, not know about Him, know Him. If God stopped talking then we might not discover what He is really like. God desires that we know Him.
Our relationship with God is just that, a relationship. There is no relationship without dialogue. God wants us to know Him and He accomplishes that by speaking to His people and by His people speaking to Him. God still speaks to us today.
And just like God has done historically in the way He relates to His people, He continues to do so today. Let me quickly give you four areas that you can listen for God today. This isn’t earth shattering new information. Its more of a reminder for you and the days ahead and an opportunity for you to do some fine-tuning in your relationship with God.
God speaks through His word; through His Holy Spirit; through people; and through circumstances. Although I may give you four neat little packages, let me just say that they aren’t all that neat. And, these four are only four and God isn’t limited by my counting or by my experience. He communicates to people in all sorts of ways, but I know that these four ways are part of His arsenal for each one of us.
As the next to last week of the year stands in front of us, let us use this time to think about God’s work in our lives the last 50 weeks and maybe, God willing, His work in our lives the next year to come.
If you have a Bible, please open it to II Timothy 3. Reading starting in v.10.
10You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Lord’s primary way of speaking to us today is through His Word. The Bible contains the words of God. We may not know or understand how the Bible came to us and how it came to be what it is today, and we may not understand what inspiration is, but for many of us we have this deep seated notion embedded in our hearts that when we read the words of the Bible, we are reading the words of God. If you aren’t there yet in your belief, then I simply ask you to be patient and keep reading. God will prove Himself to you.
If you want to hear from God, the most assured way you can is through His Word. When you face difficulties and heartaches and questions, the first place you need to search is the word of God. Those letters were written for you. That is your instruction book. You cannot understand the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. You cannot understand God’s voice through others, apart from the Bible. You cannot interpret circumstances apart from the Bible. If you do not take the time to read the words that have historically been attributed to the mouth of God, you will never have assurance of God’s voice in your life when He speaks to you through other means.
Joshua 1:7-8 tells us that we must be strong and courageous; we must observe all that God has commanded of us. It says to meditate on His Word day and night and never let His Word depart from our mouths. If we observe what is written in the
Bible, it says God makes our ways prosperous and we have success in what we do.
The way we work that out in our lives is really sort of simple. When we pray and seek guidance about a decision, a question, or a problem, we should ask God to speak to us through His written Word the Bible and give us some advice to clarify our direction.
As we meditate upon the Word with our request or decision or problem in mind, God will speak to us. Sometimes the text we read will relate to what concerns us. It may deal with our specific experience or it may contain principles relevant to our situation. Sometimes God will lead you to the same passage of scripture over and over again.
Through His Word He directs us, He challenges us, warns us, comforts us, and He assures us. To meditate (EXPLAIN THIS) on God’s Word until we get and answer is one of the most rewarding experiences we will ever have. It is a promise of God to each one of us.
A second way God speaks to us today is through the Holy Spirit. God speaks to our spirit through His spirit who dwells in us. The Holy Spirit has been gifted to everyone who has become a Christian. Every Christian gets that helper. And by that alone we can expect to hear from God as He meets our every need. The Holy Spirit living within us and speaking to us is the natural, normal life-style of every Christian.
God’s spirit speaks to me clearly and distinctly, giving me the proper direction that I need. I don’t mean His Spirit speaks to me audibly, rather He impresses His will in my spirit or mind, and I hear Him in my inner being. I suspect you know what I am talking about and you have had similar bulletins. You ask me how I know, all I can tell you is that I know. Call it your conscience, call it your morals, call it what you will, you know.
A third way God speaks to us today is through other people. I cannot tell you how many times the words of another person really were the words of God. Some simple words people have said to me in passing conversation have made the greatest difference in my life. We should be alert, sensitive, and available to God’s voice. When we have questions or are in need of comfort, we should listen for God.
One word from a stranger can be as much a sermon or a word from God as anything you will ever hear. When God speaks through another person, it is like those few words are the last pieces of a puzzle. God says to us: bingo, there is your answer, there is what you need.
A fourth way God speaks to us is through circumstances. Those circumstances can take on any number of forms. Sometimes it is a failure; success; disappointment; even tragedy. God uses all sorts of circumstances to get our attention so that we will listen to Him as He speaks to us.
I am always leery about telling people God uses circumstances. Some people want to blame everything on God. So and so died, what is God trying to tell me. I got a credit card with a $5000 credit line, what is God trying to tell me. I get fired from my job, what is God trying to tell me. I saw this girl four times last week, what is God trying to tell me.
Sometimes God isn’t trying to tell you anything. Sometimes He is. However, God is never going to manipulate people and events to tell you something you don’t find in His word.
Someone may die, but that doesn’t mean God caused it. He may use it to His advantage, but it may be the fact that people have to die. You may need money, and this brand new credit card comes in the mail. I don’t think God’s answer is for you to go further in debt. In order to know how God is using circumstances in your life, you must know God and His word.
God uses circumstances, people, His Holy Spirit and His Word so that He can tell us what we need to know. God never says anything unless it is important and worth remembering. He doesn’t engage in chitchat. He doesn’t preface His remarks with small talk. God is always to the point. He has something to say, and He says it precisely and concisely.
I want to challenge you about the coming days and months of your life. You need to read God’s word. Whether it is 5 minutes a day or 5 hours a week, you need to read God’s word. You cannot rely on circumstances, people, nature, other sources Hear from God if you do not take the time to listen to what He has already said.
If you have a Bible and you look at it and it looks difficult to understand, get a different bible. Buy it on CD. Buy it on DVD. Get a version you can understand. God wants to transform your life as He transforms your mind. Your mind gets transformed by you taking the initiative to fill it up with God, to fill it up with His Word, to fill it up with positive, wholesome, spiritual experiences. And as you know more about what God has already spoken, you find your ability to hear God “speaking” in the “now” will be much easier and much more rewarding.
God still speaks. He is talking. If you seek God He will reveal himself to you. He promises us that.