Do you make time to listen to God? Do you seek Him out in silence? As you read this, I am blessed to be on day two of a one week silent spiritual retreat. This is my 4th year in a row of experiencing a week of silence during the week before Thanksgiving. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to get away for a week of silence, although if you ever can, it is an awesome experience, but I am suggesting that we all need to plan time in our lives to LISTEN TO GOD.
Beginning in June of this year, as you have read in my previous emails, Ibegan experiencing some significant medical challenges. Loss of vision, difficulties with balance and walking and neuropathy are just some of the issues I am facing. After months of tests, several days of hospitalization, and many trips to the doctors, they have narrowed my diagnosis to one of two diseases. The tests reveal that I have an autoimmune disease that is demyelinating my nerves. At first they thought it was a rare disease called NMO but now they are convinced I most likely have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The doctors assure me that time will clarify which of the two diseases I have. For now we are beginning treatment for MS.
Why do I share this? I do because I am at a point in my life where I am asking questions like: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Will I be able to continue to work? How will I provide for my family? Will I ever regain my ability to drive? Will I lose the ability to walk all together and end up in a wheelchair? How fast will this disease progress? Will this disease significantly shorten my life? Will I be able to keep writing these 4thdayletters? Will I be able to continue putting on retreats for churches around the country? And the list of questions in my mind goes on and on?
These are some of the questions that are on my mind as I sit in silence this week hoping to hear the voice of God in my heart. The more important issue today is WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS ON YOUR MIND AND HEART? Maybe you have some of the same questions as me or perhaps you have questions like: Where should I go to school? Should I pursue a new job or career? Will I have enough money to pay my bills? Who should I marry? What is God calling me to do during my retirement years? Is God calling me to be a minister, priest or deacon? The list can go on and on.
Life seems to be a never ending set of questions. How do we know when we are making the right decisions? Where do we go to for discernment? Sadly some people turn to psychic hot lines, palm readers and horoscopes. Of course as Christian we know to turn to God, but the issue is, do we make time to do it? Are you making time to listen to God? When and where do you go to listen for His voice?
I can assure you that my life has been a whirlwind of change ever since I made time in November of 2011 for an eight day silent spiritual retreat. When I stopped talking and started listening, God had a lot to say. These 4thdayletters and the Broken Door Retreats that I have been blessed to provide many churches are two tangible examples of things God put on my heart during my silence. There were other bad habits in my life that He called me to correct in that silence. The bottom line is that my relationship with God is so much better after I gave Him the chance to speak to me and I in turn decided to follow His direction in my life more carefully.
My friends, there are no doubts in my mind that God wants to speak to all of us. I also know that if we set aside the time and place to quiet ourselves we will hear His voice. God wants to communicate with us and communication is a two way process. To dialog we must speak and LISTEN. In Genesis 3:8
we read that Adam and Eve were walking in the garden when they heard God’s voice. God was aware of their transgression and called on them to change. The key point here is that THEY HEARD HIS VOICE.
In John 10:27 we read: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If we are going to be followers of Jesus we must also be listeners to Jesus. In Jeremiah 29:12-13 it says, “When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart.” Finally in Proverbs 3:5-6we see this: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Some people have told me they never hear God speaking to them. I believe God speaks to all of us. The key is we must learn to recognize his voice. To learn to hear his voice we must make time to do so, because when we listen he is prepared to guide our paths, and after all isn’t that what we are looking for. Clearly there are examples when great figures in the Bible heard God audibly speak to them. Some of the saints of the church also have heard God’s audible voice. These are extraordinary circumstances.
God, who is spirit, usually reveals himself to us in our thoughts and in our hearts. I personally believe that without exception God is prepared to speak directly to every person if only we are prepared to listen. I also firmly believe that He speaks to us in silence. Therefore it is crucial that we set aside silent times in our often too busy lives. We need to make ourselves like satellite dishes aimed, directed and ready to receive the signal. Here are some practical ways God speaks and reveals himself to us.
Jesus called us to Christian community and it is in this very community that God often reveals himself to us through our Christian friends. Do you allow the Christ who is present in your friends to speak to you? We need to develop close Christian friendships and set aside time weekly to be with these friends to allow God the opportunity to talk to us through these friends. Do you have a group of Christian friends that you meet with regularly?
Clearly we all know that God speaks to us in the scriptures. How much time have you set aside each day to spend time listening to his voice in the pages of the Bible? Do you need to adjust your schedule to give God more time to talk to you? If you have serious life questions on your heart and mind, perhaps you will find the answers by simply picking up the Bible in a quiet spot and listening to what is has to say.
God also speaks to us in our prayers. If you look at your schedule today, how much time do you have set aside for prayer with God compared to the other activities on your schedule? Could you carve out an hour a day to talk and listen to God? How about for starters just setting aside ten minutes at the start and the end of the day?
Finally a good way to cement into our very being what God is revealing to us through our friends, scriptures and prayer is to share what we are hearing with others. When we share what we have heard it helps us to clarify in our hearts what God is telling us and it helps others as well. Then in doing so the messages we have learned in silence begins to become part of our outward personality.
So assuming you can’t get away for a week like I am doing now, these four methods: friends, scriptures, prayer and sharing are ways each day to hear his voice. Make time to listen today!
Dear Heavenly Father, I know you want to speak to me and guide me on my life’s journey. Help me to be more attentive to your voice and help me to find a place of silence each day so that I might hear you more clearly. Amen.