Listening to the Voice of the Holy Spirit
Elijah had just come off a great high. Living in a land that dismissed the God of creation, the people had turned to idols. The most popular one being Baal. Elijah, totally trusting God, had set up a bit of a circus display and he called on God to do his thing. And God did – with a bang. While Baal refused to set the sacrifice on fire no matter how loud the people called, God’s voice thundered in the mountains. And he honoured Elijah’s faith by consuming the sacrifice in a fire so hot that even the bricks burned.
Then Elijah had a bit of a downturn. He had just heard AND seen God. Then he ran. As he waited, he felt an earthquake. But it wasn’t God. A fire came down. But that wasn’t God either. Then, softly, a whisper of wind held the voice of God (1 Kings 19:11-13).
In order for Elijah to hear God’s voice, he had to shut out the noise around him and listen. He was away from the everyday, normal activities of his life. He was away from people. He was away from the things he knew. And he was a little scared.
While this story is only one way God speaks (after all, Balaam was stopped in the middle of a road and God spoke through his donkey – Numbers 22:28), I think we can learn a lot from it.
First of all, Elijah was able to discern God’s voice. He was able to tell when God spoke. He didn’t recognize the timbre or the format – that surprised him. But he knew God well enough to be able to discern when it was God who spoke. He was also discerning enough to listen.
Secondly, God is not predictable. Elijah expected God to speak in the earthquake and the fire. Those were ways in which he had spoken before. It was hard to understand God speaking in a still, small voice. God was always equated with loud, big, powerful. We need to be prepared for God to speak in ways that are unexpected. We need to know his voice so well, that whether he speaks in the fire or the earthquake or in a still, small voice, we are able to hear him.
Recently I was out in mid-western Canada working with a Discipleship School. God did some awesome things one evening with the students and leaders during a worship time.
We had an awesome worship and ministry time with a good number of the students experiencing a touch of God in a deeper way – praying for each other, confessing their sins and fears, etc.
One girl was looking completely lost and discouraged. I went and asked her how she was doing. She said, “I’m okay.” I shook my head and said, “No, you’re not!” and she welled up with tears.
The Lord gave me a bit of insight and three words that described her condition – fear, confusion and guilt. She broke down crying, saying that she didn’t know how to hear God or feel him and that he just never seemed real to her at all. She also said that she was dealing with some personal issues that she just wasn’t yet ready to talk to anyone about, but she really wanted to hear from God on it. I prayed with her and told her that sometimes we limit God’s communication with us because we expect God to speak to us the same way he speaks to others. But sometimes God speaks to us through events and occurrences that might seem coincidental at first, when often it is God wanting to communicate with us and encourage us with his presence.
The following morning she went out for a run at 6:30 a.m. A deer fawn had run out onto the road, stopped, looked at her and then bounded off into the woods. She didn’t think much about it initially but as she ran past the spot where the deer had stopped, she remembered our conversation the evening before. She stopped running and looked back to where the deer had entered the woods – hoping to perhaps get another look at it – perhaps to understand something of what God might be wanting to communicate to her through this incident. What she saw, at the side of the road where the deer had crossed, was a large sign made up of stones forming the word FREEDOM in bold letters. She broke down weeping, knowing that God had spoken to her through the deer and the sign – indicating that there was freedom that God wanted to bring to her. Later on, in Guatemala, I had the privilege of baptising her as she gave testimony to the reality of the Living Christ who speaks and leads today.
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