God spoke to me?

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I was enjoying a walk along the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town, reflecting on life and the magnificence of the ocean, when I noticed a young lady sitting on a bench nearby. She suddenly got up, walked over to me and after introducing herself, emphatically announced, ‘God has just spoken to me and wants me to let you know that your prayers will be answered.’

What a startling statement! I was intrigued and somewhat mystified by this brief encounter. It brought to mind an incident that occurred several years ago when a close friend of mine became seriously ill with a life threatening infirmity. Many prayed that God would restore him and bring him back to health. An acquaintance called me while my friend was undergoing surgery and comforted me with these words; ‘God spoke to me while I was in the shower this morning and told me that it is not time for him to die.’  Sadly, he died within a few days of this so called divine revelation.

The inside track

What a dilemma! Does God really speak to us, and if so, how? Do some people have the inside track on God and others not? Did the two people above really hear the voice of God? What about the person who was clearly wrong? Was it a figment of his imagination or was he simply convinced in his own mind that it was not my friend’s time to die and the Lord wanted him to convey this message to me?

Firstly it is important to appreciate the magnitude of God’s love for you. He cherishes your friendship and wants to enjoy a personal relationship with you. He wants you to share your concerns, hopes and dreams with Him through prayer and meditation. Jesus talks openly about His intimate love for the disciples, calling them His friends (John 15:14). Indeed, Jesus stepped into human history and demonstrated His love for you and me through His tortuous death and glorious resurrection. And in doing this, God has extended His hand of friendship to you, bringing His divine love, intimacy and closeness into your heart and soul.

However, we are still faced with the enigmatic question of how God talks to you. After all, any meaningful relationship is not a one sided affair. It involves talking and listening on the part of both parties.

One called alongside

A vital key in understanding this question lies in the absolute promise Jesus has given you and me. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him or knows Him...But  the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:16-17, 26).

The Greek word for Counsellor is parakletos which means helper, or one called alongside to help. The foundation of our two way conversation with God the Father and Jesus the Son is embodied in the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God. Christ comes to take residence in your heart through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Note this breathtaking pronouncement in John 7: 37, 38: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water shall flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believe in Him would later receive.”

The Holy Spirit interacts intimately with you as you allow God the Father and Jesus to speak to you through the Holy Scriptures, opening your mind to understand God and His purpose for your life. Just think about it. The door is wide open for you to interact with the Creator of the Universe. The unique personal bond between you and your God will grow from strength to strength as you speak with Him in prayer and He talks to you through His word.

It would be difficult for your friendship with God to blossom if you did not spend time getting to know Him in regular prayer, Bible study and meditation. Reflection and meditation is crucial to nurturing a close relationship with the Lord: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11).

If every moment of your life is tightly diarised with activity, it’s almost impossible to hear the still small voice of God and be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. Leading a fast paced frenetic life can strangle the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. One of the world’s most respected spiritual leaders, Mother Theresa, mentioned that God cannot be found in noise and restlessness.

The horse whisperer

I was fascinated by the film called Tornado, an extraordinary account of a renowned South African horse whisperer. The story revolves around the taming of a magnificent wild stallion through the talents of a horse whisperer. A wonderful bond and spirit of peace between horse and rider transpired after the horse whisperer had spent many hours, days, weeks and months of stillness in the presence of Tornado, the glistening stallion. Stillness and reflection in the presence of God will often help to crystallise the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life.

South African evangelist and author Andrew Murray states, “I have learned to place myself before God every day as a vessel to be filled with His Holy Spirit.”

I am sure you are already becoming inherently aware of the many different ways in which God speaks to you. You will find that as you develop ‘oneness’ with the triune God, your understanding of His will for your life will become more and more apparent. Author and theological lecturer, Robert Boyd Munger, summarised this very succinctly: “The closer you get to the heart of God, the closer you get to what is on God’s heart.”

When you allow God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to fill your life, you will enjoy  His presence as you continue to experience  the ebb and flow in everything you do...in blessings and trials, the people you meet, the articles you read, the spiritual messages you listen to as well as the experiences and lessons learned from others. Indeed, your friendship with God will become dynamic, filled with joy and peace.

Danger zones

However, it’s important to remain alert to certain critical danger zones when it comes to understanding God’s will. There are those who give advice claiming that God has spoken to them. It is in fact seldom that the Spirit will tell one person to give specific instructions to another. If we think the Holy Spirit is leading us to do something we need to ensure it is in alignment with the scriptures. Peruse the scriptures carefully and make certain that you understand and interpret them correctly. Talking to a seasoned counsellor will provide additional help in discerning whether any advice you receive is in line with the wisdom of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If, as you contemplate a certain course of action you feel troubled or a lack of peace, this may very well be a warning to press the pause button and reflect more deeply about the course of action you wish to take. The Holy Spirit does work with our conscience as indicated by the apostle Paul: “I speak the truth in Christ...my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 9:1-2).

A close relationship with God enables you to hear Him in various ways as you think and act in the stream of His love.

Finally, you need to appreciate your freedom to make choices without God’s direct intervention at every turn as you encounter many defining experiences. Yes, you will make good and bad choices which may have nothing to do with sin or righteousness. Recognise this as an integral part of your  ongoing personal transformation and growth  in character. But, be assured that God will be with you all the way.

Let’s bring this life changing truth to a fitting conclusion: “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your  inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And  I pray  that you, being rooted and established in  love, may have  power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:16-18).