Let's pick up right where we left off...
So how do we ever consistently stay in contact with God, when we have so many distractions that it seems like it's next to impossible? When we think of God communicating, or talking to us, I believe many times we think we have to hear His voice, or have some significant sign or it has to be an almost surreal experience. That is why we often miss Him talking to us. I have learned this the hard way and continue to keep having to remind myself that God doesn't have to come to me in some spectacular manner. And this is where I'd like to focus the rest of this post.
1) Talk less and listen more, because God often will speak to us through others. This is probably the number one area where I miss Him speaking directly to me. I'm so busy telling my story, or sharing my thoughts, or caught up in what I have to say, that I don't shut up long enough to listen.
Over the past few years I have found my self more and more often in conversations regarding faith with people. And it's not just friends and family, but also a casual contact, a virtual stranger or people I thought I would never be having a faith based conversation with.
Many times I am so excited to be having these conversations, that I don't stop talking long enough to let the other person get a word in edgewise.
As I became more aware of this personal flaw, I now do my best to talk less, sometimes not at all and just sit back and let the other person talk. Sometimes God has something to say to us, but He says it through one of His messengers and if we're too busy talking, or not listening, we might never get the message.
2) I pray and pray and pray and yet it seems like He's not there!!! Before I say anything else, please listen to this, DON'T EVER STOP PRAYING!!! Now that we're clear on that subject, why does that seem to happen? The number 1 reason I don't hear God while I am praying is because I don't listen. Do you see a pattern here? If not, read #1 again. Yes, I have listening issues!!
I get so caught up in my requests, my prayers of intercession and prayers of thanks that by the time I'm done, I've either fallen asleep, if I'm in bed, lost focus and moved on to something else or start thinking about other things I should pray for.
Sometimes prayer time can be very active, because we have a lot we need to take to God, believe me, I completely understand that; however, sometimes we just have to stop. Stop praying, stop talking, stop asking and just be quiet. When I started doing this on a regular basis, I definitely felt God's presence more often. Trust me, it's not a cure all and at first it may seem odd, but it works. Give God some time to reach back to you during your prayers. Let Him look into your heart, stir something inside of you and make you realize that yes, He is there.
3) God will speak to you through his word. This I can attest to on many, many occasions, but first a story I want to share. I have a friend named Joe, whose faith has blossomed over the past year or so to a point where it has been a true inspiration to me. We often talk about the bible, share inspirational bible texts, or during conversation, share something we read that really inspired us. In fact, he is probably the person I recently have instituted #1 (talk less, listen more) with the most. If you don't believe me when I tell you that God will talk to you through His word, let me introduce you to Joe. You think I can talk a lot when it comes to bible reading. Get Joe going and he will blow you away. And it's not always with what he says, but with his energy and spirit.
In the past three or four years, I would say this is the area where I have heard God the most. Trust me, it may not happen for days or even weeks, but when it does, it is amazing and truly faith altering.
Many of you have heard the story of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement and how he felt his heart strangely warmed in Aldersgate. The first time that happened to me in God's word was when I read my first entire book in the bible a few years ago. And though it was only 4 chapters of Philippians, it stirred something inside of me that I wanted to feel as often as possible.
I don't always "get it" when I read something, but that will never stop me, nor should it ever stop you. And here's why, because I've gone back and read that same thing later and "got it" and God has totally blown me away.
Don't ever, ever give up on reading His word. He will speak to you through His word, if you allow Him to. It doesn't happen every time, or as often as we might want, but when it does, it can lift your faith to a whole new level.
So there you have it, a full proof way to hear God to speak to you. Just joking. However, I truly believe that if you put these things into practice more often, you will hear God. It might not be in voice, or some spectacular sign, but when you feel something stirring inside of you, recognize it as the spirit, as God's presence and thank Him for it.
Once you start feeling that on a regular basis, I believe you will want it more and more. So is God there? Yes, He is always there! We just have to leave our eyes, ears, heart and spirit open and be ready for that time when He reaches out to us and when He does, hold on, because it's a ride you'll never want to get off of, but just stay on forever.
As I began to write this post, my brain was a jumbled bunch of thoughts. I was lost. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say, but couldn't get started. Then I realized that I wasn't just listening to my own thoughts, I was also listening to the news on the TV in the background. I got up, shut off the news and almost immediately, I was tapping out words on the computer. Amazing how much clearer we can think, or deal with the task at hand, when we shut out all the 'worldly distractions" and focus. The same can most definitely be said when it comes to talking to God, or even more so, when it comes to Him communicating with us.
We've all heard stories about how God talked directly to someone. There are many in the bible, but I'm sure you know of many others which are much more recent, including in our own time. You probably even know someone who has said that they've heard the voice of God. Then why is it that so many of us feel like God doesn't talk to us? There are many reasons we can all think of, but I'd like to explore 3 that I came up with.
1) We want an answer right now! Yes, we've become, for the most part, the generation of instant gratification. Fast food, instant news, same day delivery, 30 minute oil changes, 1 hour dry cleaning and on demand movies, just to name a few. So why not fast faith? Take our concerns to God, or ask to hear from Him and whammo, prayer answered, voice of God heard. C'mon Lord, you have to adjust to the times like everyone else, right. WRONG!!! Think of all the times in our lives when we've made a snap judgment, or a decision while our emotions we're running high. Could you imagine if God answered some of those prayers right away? I know my life would be entirely different right now and it wouldn't be for the better. In fact, it's possible I might not even be here right now. I wish I could answer the questions so many of us have as to why some prayers are answered quickly, while others take what seems like an eternity. This isn't always comforting to me, but it usually helps. The Lord does His work in His time, not our time.
2) Worldly distractions. Think about our every day lives and all distractions that are in place to keep the communication lines with God clogged up or even blocked. It virtually starts the minute most of us wake up, with an alarm clock and before we fall asleep, as our cell phone goes off one more time. And in between those two occurrences, think about what else keeps us away from communicating with God. If you have kids, just taking care of them will definitely keep you busy, then throw in all their events, like band, sports, dance, after schools events, friends and most days are already jam packed. Now add in work, home and yard care, bills, social media, TV, cell phones and computers (and I'm sure you can think of more) and I would say the communication line between you and God is over loaded and possibly out of service.
3) We rarely take the time to just listen. Yes praying is important, as is just talking to God. And when we're fortunate to actually find some time to communicate with Him, we're so busy praying, talking, asking for things and making our requests known, that we rarely, if ever, just stop and listen. We rarely let our brains just shut down for awhile, clear our thoughts (see the first line of this post) and let God come to us. We have so much stuff going out that it blocks what the Lord is trying to send our way.
So how do we ever consistently stay in contact with God, when we have so many distractions that it seems like it's next to impossible? In my next post, I'm going to give you some suggestions that have worked for me. In doing my best to insert those things into my daily life, it has allowed the lines of communication to open up, the wall of distractions to crumble and me to more often hear the Lord.
Dave is the Discipleship Czar at Girard 1st. His unofficial title was given because of his love for Christ, and his consistent encouragement for people in their spiritual walk.