Also known as Wisdom, Part 2: Hearing God’s Voice.
Last time we looked at the wisdom of carrying our stuff to God and letting him deal with it. Another facet of relying on God’s wisdom is learning to recognise and heed his voice.
We cannot thrive by relying solely on our own voice. Emotions can overwhelm, deceive and distract us. Logic can blind us or give us a false sense of security in our own thinking. We always, always need to ask God before making decisions. Because even what seems like a good, logical decision is not necessarily the right decision for the situation. Do you really need to buy that item right now? Or does God want you to save your money or use it for something else? Ask him. Do you really need to add a new activity to your schedule or does God want you to do something else or do a better job of what you’re already doing? Ask him. There’s a difference between right and almost right.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? – 1 Corinthians 1:20
One day I was driving into town with The Little Fulla in the back. I had been singing and hanging with God while I drove and had prayed to God to protect us while I was driving. It was a 100k/hr main road and I was approaching a T-intersection, ruled by a stop sign for those turning onto my road. As I approached I noted a car coming towards the stop sign on the side road. I had a fleeting thought that I should slow down in case that car didn’t see me, as a big truck in front of me moved into the turning lane to go down that road. “Nah, I’m ok, I’m not speeding, I’ve got my lights on and I have right of way,” I thought.
For some reason, the car at the stop sign pulled out, just as I was about to pass at almost 100k/h, despite the fact that they would not have had a clear view past the truck. I had to swerve onto the other side of the road very quickly to avoid a high-speed collision.
By the grace of God I was alert and quick to act. By the grace of God, no cars were on the other side of the road right when I swerved. By the grace of God, the other car stopped turning. By the grace of God I kept the car under control. I could have died. My son could have died. Or we could have been seriously injured. I continued driving, albeit more slowly, feeling shaken and confused. Tears welled in my eyes, because it was scary. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” I whispered. “God, why did that happen? I wasn’t speeding, I had my lights on, I had right-of-way. I didn’t do anything wrong.” God gently reminded me of the small voice that tried to warn me as I approached the intersection. The one I chose to ignore. We were not harmed, but my pride shattered in that moment.
God taught me a poignant lesson that day that I will never forget: the difference between right and almost right. In a split second, it can be the difference between life and death. It may not always be that dire, but it can be the difference between good consequences and bad consequences. I thanked God for protecting us. But I said sorry for not listening to his wisdom when it really counted.
If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. – Psalm 94:17-18
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Proverbs 1:32-33
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 3:7
God’s wisdom isn’t usually a shout, often it is a whisper. That tests whether we are really listening or whether we’re drowning out God’s voice with our own thinking or with the distractions around us. Elijah knew how to hear God’s still, small voice.
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord .” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13
There’s a lot of noise in this world. There’s a lot of noise in our minds. Sometimes we expect God to be a big booming noise that tops everything and doesn’t fail to be heard. Usually God chooses to compete with this noise of our lives in order to be heard. Why? Because he doesn’t want to force us to do his will, he wants us to choose him from amidst all the noise and distraction, because that’s what love does.
Have you ever been in a meeting or a group of people in which one person is dominating the conversation while others have barely opened their mouths and can’t seem to get their voice heard? If you’re an extrovert or big talker you may feel a twinge of guilt about times when you’ve run over people with your noise and prevented their voices from being heard. If you’re an introvert or quiet person you may feel annoyance about times when noisy or bossy people have prevented your voice from being heard. Either way, it helps us to understand God: he is usually the quiet voice that the world tries to drown out – not because he’s weak, not because he doesn’t have anything useful to say, but because he wants us to wrench ourselves away from our sinful, fleshly ways of thinking, away from the world’s way of thinking and most certainly away from the devil’s way of thinking. He wants us to answer his soft, sweet call. If we love God, we ought to choose to listen to him.
The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. – Proverbs 10:8
The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. – Proverbs 17:24
Sometimes God will tell us what to do and sometimes he will tell us what not to do. The more time we spend hanging out with God, learning his ways, the more easily we will recognise his voice and also the voice of the enemy. It’s like gardening. The more you do it, the more you learn. A person who doesn’t know much about gardening or one who isn’t familiar with your garden will have trouble weeding it. They will fail to pull out some of the weeds because they don’t realise they are weeds or don’t consider them as weeds. They will also pull out some good plants because they don’t realise what they are or don’t see the value in them. I would never let someone weed my garden without getting some instruction from me.
God is the Master Gardener of our lives. When we accept that and allow him to do his job well, he does. He wants us to listen to his instructions so we don’t get choked with weeds or miss out on the good, fruitful plants that he has growing in us. We can never achieve Master Gardener status when it comes to our lives. We might try to, but if we think we can be more than Assistant Gardeners, our gardens will suffer. Unlike an actual garden, the gardens that are our lives are too vast, too full, too unsearchable for us to control. God may have given man dominion over the earth and the plants and animals that populate it, but he never gave us dominion over the spiritual realm; the things we cannot see and understand; and he never gave us dominion over the choices of others. We cannot stop a person from choosing to pull out from an intersection dangerously, but if God warns us about it we can choose to listen his wise directions. That is, if we’re ready to hear his voice.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9
- Do you have a tendency to get caught up in thinking that you’re in the right or do you acknowledge with your words and actions that God is in the right?
- What areas of your life ‘garden’ do you need to surrender to God to help you with?
- What noise in your life do you need to turn down or turn off to better hear God’s voice?
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.