Twenty eight years ago I was between churches and seeking where God would have me minister. A church in western Pennsylvania invited us to come speak and apply so we did. We weren’t sure if God wanted us to go there or not, but they went ahead with their procedure and voted on us. The vote was 100% – unanimous. I remember agonizing over the decision, awaiting their final call to see if we were coming or not. When the phone rang I still wasn’t sure, but as I talked I knew God was telling me to turn it down. I really wanted to get back to pasturing. I hadn’t ever heard of Main Street Baptist Church in Doylestown. Six months later God led us here, and the church vote was 51% in our favor. Denominational leaders urged us to turn down what was then a hot-bed of conflict and strife, but I knew God was leading us to come here so we did.
That’s why it’s so important to be listening to God and letting Him guide and direct. God speaks conviction to our spirit. A second type of content God speaks to us is information and guidance.
Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).
The Bible abounds with examples of this. Paul said the Holy Spirit warned him of what was to come when he went to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23). He reminded the church in Corinth that they had the “mind of Christ” (2:16). Joseph heard of Pharaoh’s dream and God told Him the contents and their meaning. Daniel heard Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and God gave him the interpretation. Jacob (Genesis 46:2) and Samuel (2 Samuel 23:2) both said God spoke His guidance to them. Simeon was moved by the Spirit to find Jesus with His parents in the temple (Luke 2:25-28). Several times the Bible tells us that God guided Him by directing His spirit (Mark 2:8; John 13:21). God spoke to Ananias and told him to go to blind Paul (Acts 9:11-15).
An analogy I like which explains this is the shepherd-sheep illustration. He said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:4, 16, 27). Jesus’ definition of a disciple is one who follows Him, who hears His voice and responds.
St. Augustine tells of a time God’s voice guided him. “I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of a boy or girl, I know not, changing, and oft repeating, ‘Take up and read. Take up and read.’ I could remember no child’s game with these words. So, checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find.” Thus he came upon Romans 13:13-14 which led to his salvation and transformation.
A very remarkable illustration of this concerns Peter Marshall, the Scot who in the middle of the twentieth century became one of America’s most widely acclaimed ministers. Through his outstanding qualities as a man and a minister, he brought the office of the chaplain of the United States Senate to a new level of prominence.
Back in Britain, on one foggy, pitch-black Northumerland night, he was taking a shortcut across the moors in an area where there was a deep, deserted limestone quarry. As he plodded blindly forward, an urgent voice called out, “Peter!” He stopped and answered: “Yes, who is it? What do you want?” But there was no response.
Thinking he was mistaken, he took a few more steps. The voice came again, even more urgently, “Peter!” At this he stopped again and, trying to peer into the darkness, stumbled forward and fell to his knees. Putting down his hand to brace himself, he found nothing there. As he felt around in a semicircle he discovered that he was right on the brink of the abandoned quarry, where one step more would certainly have killed him.
It’s not just the big things, but little things He leads us with as well. Many times I’ve not been able to find my keys or something I’ve misplaced. After frantically looking everywhere I finally stop and pray, and then soon after that their location pops right into my mind!
Charles Stanley adds excellent counsel to this. “In the Old Testament when men such as King David inquired of the Lord, the question was nearly always put to the Lord in such a way that the answer was yes or no. I believe this is the foremost way that the Holy Spirit speaks to us hour by hour as we walk through our particular set of circumstances. We can never ask too many times of the Holy Spirit, ‘Should I do this – yes or no?’ We will sense in our spirits His word of reply to us. Generally, it will be a sense of enthusiasm and eager desire marked with great joy and freedom, or it will be a sense of foreboding, danger, caution, or need for silence. I find that it is much easier to receive the direction of the Holy Spirit by asking for yes-or-no counsel than to say to Him in general terms, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
Take a few moments now to ask God for information or guidance you need for something you are currently involved in. Listen to His Spirit as He speaks. Keep listening all day, for God often speaks slowly and little by little.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)