09 Sep 9/9/18 “How to Hear From God”
I want to talk to you about hearing from God. This will be one of your greatest battles. I’ll just let you know that upfront. This will be one of your greatest battles, but it doesn’t have to be. This does not have to be challenging. People say, “I just wish I knew God’s will. I just wish I could hear from God.” I can sympathize with you; I’m right there with you. Sometimes it’s a challenge. But I don’t think it has to be as hard as we make it.
There’s a text I read on vacation, and I’ve been putting this together for the last few weeks. I believe God put it on my heart for a few different reasons. In case you haven’t caught this, there are too many voices speaking to us right now, aren’t there? Too much stimuli. Maybe some of you over fifty-five or sixty don’t realize that, but for some of us who are younger, there are just too many voices and there is too much stimuli, too much Facebook, too much Nike propaganda. And all that—too much, too much, too much—to whom should we listen, to whom should we invest our lives in, whom do we allow to speak into our lives? There are too many distractions as well.
A Scripture that really leaped out for me is “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Why is it so hard to be still? Have you ever tried to just be still for an hour? You think, “I can’t. I’m restless.” There’s a restlessness, and that restlessness has to be brought into submission to truly hear from God. He says, “Be still. Wait on Me. Know that I am God. Listen. I will direct you. I will guide you. Remove the competing voices.” Because as the world gets louder, God will not necessarily raise His voice to be the loudest voice. It’s often the still, small voice that directs us in the calm and in the quiet seasons of our lives, to remove ourselves from these distractions
Now I did fact check this, because when I read it, it was pretty hard to believe—but it’s true. Melinda Gates (that is, Bill Gates’s wife) said her children don’t have smartphones and only use a computer in the kitchen while they’re under fourteen. Her husband, Bill, the Microsoft co-founder, spends hours reading books while everyone else is refreshing their homepage. The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, bans technological devices for those under eleven. They teach children of eBay, Apple, Uber, and Google executives to make go-carts, knit, and cook. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wants his daughters to read Dr. Seuss books and play outside rather than use Messenger Kids. When Steve Jobs was alive, his children had strict limits on how much technology they used at home. Bill Gates said, “We often set a time after which there is no screen time. In their case this helps get them to sleep at a reasonable hour.”
It’s astonishing if you think about it. The more money you make out of the tech industry, the more you appear to shield your family from its effects. They realize this is affecting us. The culture war that is raging is fueled primarily by the media, not by the Word of God. We’re being distracted. Christians are being led astray, pulled in the wrong directions, making decisions they shouldn’t make, all outside of God’s will. But God says, “Stop, and listen.”
Now I’m going to pull this message from a peculiar text in Numbers 23. It’s the story of Balaam. To summarize it, King Balak saw the children of Israel coming, advancing, and he said, “We are going to be outnumbered and conquered, so I’m going to pay a prophet for hire, Balaam, to curse the children of Israel.” Now Balaam is a peculiar character in himself because he heard from God, and he blessed the people, but then we see he was killed later in the siege of certain cities. We also see that, in the book of Revelation, the “doctrine of Balaam” is not something that is positive. We see that Balaam led the children of Israel astray because he enticed them to follow the women of the land and their false religions. But we also see that he was God’s messenger in this case, that he spoke, “Thus saith the Lord,” and that he said, “I can’t say anything except what God puts in my heart.” So this guy is interesting. We don’t know whose side of the camp he’s on. But it appears that he’s a prophet for hire, and his motives were not clear.
But something really stood out to me when I read this a few weeks ago. The sentence that stood out was this: “So he went to a desolate height, and there God met him” (vv. 3–4 NKJV). He went to a desolate height. He went high up on the mountain, away from everybody, and there God met him. And then my memory went right back to three years ago. I looked it up online, and I found my notes on the message I gave, “The Need for a Desolate Place,” in which I talked about how Jesus would often go where to pray—to a crowd or to a desolate place? So I began to look at this passage, and there are a few things I want to share with you. They’re all biblical. I might have taken a little too much liberty on this in regard to certain things, but it’s all biblical.
I wanted to share with you what I pulled out of this, and it’s helped me tremendously to hear these points, that dilemma, not only of course the last two weeks but in life overall. I think most of you want to hear from God. I’m assuming this is relevant, right? Does anybody here say, “I don’t want to hear from God; I’ve got it all taken care of”? Most of us are not there. So let’s read Numbers 23:
Then Balaam said to Balak, “[You want to me curse the children of Israel.] Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” (v. 1)
The reason is Balaam, I believe, is going to go and seek the advice of God. He says, “Okay, we’d better make a sacrifice. We’d better prepare our hearts.” He knew the Old Testament. This King Balak didn’t know the Old Testament and the way that God would provide redemption, but Balaam, I have a feeling, knew.
And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.” So he went to a desolate height. And God met Balaam. . . . Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” (vv. 2–5)
This is interesting. Any time God speaks, He doesn’t say, “Candy coat it.” He says, “Here’s the meat. Don’t put lettuce, tomatoes, and a bun on it. Here’s what I want you to do. Don’t tone it down, and don’t bring it up. Just do what I’ve asked you to do.”
So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab. (v. 6)
So what Balaam went on doing is blessing the children of Israel and not cursing them. This king hired Balaam to curse the children of Israel: “Curse them so they die. They are coming after me,” and instead of cursing, Balaam begins to bless the children of Israel. After spending time with God, he did what God wanted him to do, because he was pronouncing blessings on the children of Israel.
Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!”
So he answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?” (vv. 11–12)
In other words, “It doesn’t matter what you want. It’s what God has told me to speak.”
So I’m going to pull four key points from this passage and then four key points from the Word of God, and they all go together. Then I want you to just get your hearts right this morning and say, “Lord, I want to hear from You. I need to hear from You on this situation. I need clear direction. I need to know what Your will is. God, I need to hear from You.” Or, if you’ve been distant from God, if you’re bored in church, or you don’t have that powerful relationship, say, “I want that to change this morning.”
1. A sacrifice is made: There is a cost involved.
So here is number one that we glean from this text: A sacrifice was made. A sacrifice must be made. To truly hear from God, it involves a cost. Most of you know that, right? We need to remind ourselves often because sometimes we forget that there is a cost. To live a holy life, a blameless life before God, there is a cost. You won’t look like the world. You might lose some friends. You might be mocked. You might be ridiculed. You might be scorned. Even those who are religious won’t understand what you’re doing. And when it comes to hearing God, there is a cost. “Like what, Shane?” Like going to bed and turning off the media so you can hear from God. Rising up early, or going to bed if you’re a late-nighter, then turning off the junk and getting alone with God. “But I can’t do that.” That should tell you something. “I’m too antsy. I’m a busybody. I just can’t focus.” Right—the flesh is prevailing. There is a cost. This has to be number one: A sacrifice has to be made. You know what it is in your own life, so I don’t need to throw things out there, but what is preventing you from making a sacrifice? “I’m just too busy,” people say. I once heard an acronym for that: Being Under Satan’s Yoke.
Now busyness we know can be good. You don’t want to be lazy; you want to be doing God’s work. But sometimes the busyness begins to pull you away from God, and many of you think, “I know I need to be in the Word more. I know I need to be praying more.” I say that. We all say that. So to do that, to hear from God, there has to be a cost. I’m going to turn this off so I can approach God. I’m going to end this relationship that is pulling me down so I can approach and listen to God. There always has to be a sacrifice. Something has to go. In order for God to be added, something has to go. That idolatry has to be removed, and God has to take center stage.
On a separate note—this just a little extra information—when I’m helping people eat better and take care of their body, I remind them that once something goes, you’d better add something. “I’m going to take away this and this and this,” but what are you adding? Because you’ll go right back to this, this, and this. “Well, I’m going to get rid of . . .” No, you have to add. You have to replace. A sacrifice has to be made. Isn’t that also true in every area of life? To truly experience the best that God has for us, other things, even good things, have to go. They have to be removed from our life if they’re distracting us from the call of God.
Now be encouraged. Don’t feel beat up. This is a continual process. I’ve not mastered it. There are things that still need to go in my life. Maybe too much time on social media and not spending enough time with God during certain days. It’s not about perfection though, it’s about getting the heart right. So once you say, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to take that challenge. I’m going to remove some things,” for most of us it begins with what we’re watching. Oh, it’s quiet. The pin dropped. See, we have to remove that, and it’s going to hurt. Here’s why. Removing an addiction always hurts. It took about five days with no phone on our vacation to get past that need to look for my phone and find out what’s going on. Why? Because it’s an addiction. It’s sensory. It’s always wanting to be entertained. So there’s a cost that has to be made.
2. A desolate place was sought: Prayer is positioning.
This is absolutely important. A desolate place was sought by Balaam. A desolate place was sought by Jesus Christ. Jesus often withdrew to a solitary place, a desolate place, a quiet place. So there must be somewhere you go where you spend time with God. I remember reading about Susanna Wesley, John and Charles Wesley’s mom, who had so many kids running around that she said, “My quiet place is to put my apron over my head, and I just sit there in the kitchen with my apron over my head and spend that time with God.”
Find that place. There’s got to be a place where you go and say, “Lord, I’m putting you on the calendar.” We’ll go to our doctor appointments and all these other places that we’ve made appointments for. You have to get to that place where you say, “God, I want to hear from you. I want to meet you. I want to listen.” And I believe God will put things in your spirit to guide you, according to his Word, as you’re looking at his Word.
One of things I’m going to talk about, one of the announcements I’m going to make, is about something I’ve been praying about for a year. God spoke to me about this in a powerful way, and I asked for confirmation, but it was in a desolate place, just taking time away, where I believe He gave me direction. We live in the desert; people mock the desert. Moses didn’t have a problem with it. John the Baptist didn’t have a problem with it. Instead of complaining, why don’t we start embracing what God has given us? People say to me, “You live in the Mojave Desert?” I tell them, “So did John the Baptist. He lived in the desert. So did Jesus.” (I haven’t mastered locusts and wild honey yet though.)
But there’s something about getting away, moving away from the distractions, and hearing from God, because then His voice will become more prominent. You’ll be able to hear more strongly the voice of God. Here’s why: To hear someone, you must draw close and focus your attention by removing the distractions. Somebody out in the lobby, when they close the door, is not going to hear me very well if there’s no speaker on out there. What do they have to do? They have to position themselves, come in the door, and remove distractions. If you’re talking to your neighbor, you won’t hear either. So why do we think that when it comes to God this doesn’t apply? It actually applies even more.
To remove the distractions, to focus on God, we need to read and meditate on His Word. That is so important. Sometimes you just chew on Scripture and meditate on it and remind yourself who God is. Working with my son in baseball and different sports, I came across these new glasses being advertised. They’re called swivel vision. They actually block the peripheral vision, so that when you’re in batting practice, all you see is the pitcher and the ball, not distractions. Same with basketball—here’s the hoop, not all these distractions. How much more for us in our walk with God?
That’s what the desolate place does. “Well, Shane, I don’t really have one.” Do this. Tell your spouse, “I’m going to just take a drive for half an hour.” Turn off the radio—that’ll be hard. “Gosh, it’s so quiet.” Yeah. I just think we’re overstimulated mentally. They didn’t have this problem a hundred years ago. We’re just overstimulated, and that’s why I think we’re seeing attention deficit disorder skyrocket. We’re seeing that kids have trouble going to sleep and getting good sleep. We’re having all kinds of health issues. We’re just over the top with stimuli. So make sure you find that desolate place. Matthew 14:22–23: “Immediately Jesus . . . went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” Praying with our spouses and children is a good thing, but you have to get away and just pray by yourself.
Maybe some of you need a little help in this area. I don’t just go all the time and have this long list with God and sit down with this checklist. I don’t know if that’s always the right approach. Sometimes I just sit there and say, “God, I need to hear from You. I’m hurt, I’m wounded, I’m discouraged. I don’t know what to do.” Every Monday my prayer is “I have no clue what I’m saying next Sunday.” Or, “Lord, what are the plans for our children?” Or, “Lord, I just need to hear from You.” And you begin to be built up and encouraged, especially as you look at the Word of God. You start to put the mind and counsel of God into your own mind. God just begins to build and strengthen you. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it does.
People will say, “I don’t know how to pray.” Well, sometimes you don’t have to have a checklist. You just talk to God like you talk to anyone else: “God, help me. I don’t even know what to pray for. Holy Spirit, would You help me?” He will come alongside and help you in this area.
3. Circumstances can get us out of the comfort zone.
Let this be an encouragement. Circumstances can get you out of the comfort zone so that you will then hear from God. In this case (and this is what I meant earlier when I said I don’t know if some of these principles you could really pull out of this text), the circumstance that got Balaam out of his comfort zone was that King Balak approached him because the children of Israel were coming to conquer, and the difficulty of the circumstance got him up and out and seeking God.
God will also use challenges in our own lives. David and his wife, Jennifer, were here at early morning worship. I’ve shared this before on Facebook and in the bulletin, but I think it was in April that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, specks on the brain, along with two inoperable brain tumors. They couldn’t get answers from the doctors, but to make a long, long story short, their home is where I cleaned out the pantry and refrigerator (and they gave me “The Pantry Pastor” title). Well, it was bad; they will tell you. Nothing good in there. So we started with that. We got their health back on track. See, we forget that. We think everything’s spiritual. Not necessarily. A lot of it is also physical. What we do with our body affects how we live.
So once that was taken care of, they started to feel so much better. They got their life back on track health-wise and were doing so much better. Then we helped them out a little bit, and there was a Go Fund Me account set up so that they were actually able to go to UCLA and get some good medical advice. One of the surgeons there said, “I don’t know where that other surgeon got his advice, but you don’t have multiple sclerosis. Those are just little specks from your sleep apnea and the lack of oxygen, and we’ve just got to get you on a better sleeping routine. And those are benign tumors. They aren’t cancerous.”
So David was so angry. He was like, “I do not want to talk to that other surgeon. What do I do with this anger?” I said, “But look at the good it got you, with putting you and your wife on the right track. You’re sleeping well now, and not drinking three Monster drinks a day. No angry outbursts with your children. Look at how God used this circumstance.”
Now that’s a positive one, but there are also sometimes negative ones. God will use circumstances because many times we don’t wake up until we’re woken up: “Uh oh, things are changing. This circumstance now has forced me to do something.” There’s water in the room (metaphorically speaking), you lose your job, or this is happening, and now God can move us because the circumstances have motivated us to move.
So in this situation and with God, allow circumstances to get you out of that comfort zone. One thing about the flesh is that it will always default to comfort. The reason many people aren’t here in the morning for worship or aren’t serving at the church (let me just throw a convicting part out right now) is because our comfort zone. Let’s just be honest. We get in a comfort zone. The flesh goes, “Let’s put that air conditioning right on 72.” Comfort. “Let’s put this body right on the sofa for three hours every day.” Comfort, comfort. There’s nothing wrong sometimes with being comfortable and relaxing and enjoying the things God has given us, but when that begins to dictate your life and rule you and control you, it’s going to be hard for God to direct and lead because you’re in a comfort zone. You’re in a car that doesn’t want to move. So He’ll put it in drive, and then now you’ve got to drive and steer the steering wheel in the correct direction.
4. Obedience leads to direction.
I love this point. I bring up often, but it bears to be repeated. Obedience leads to direction. Amen? Obedience leads to direction. Verse 5:
Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak [to him].”
And verse 12:
So he answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?”
In a nutshell, what is whispered in the ear, proclaim from the rooftops. What you hear in secret, proclaim on the mountaintops. So when God says, “Do something,” and we do it, it leads to hearing God better. We think God will change his mind: “I know He told me to do that, but I’ll get to that later. I want to hear from God.” He says, “No, you’re going to stay stuck and stupid. You’re going to stay there for forty years until you listen to Me, until you obey Me.” This is a hard lesson. The biggest thing I’ve learned about God’s will is, He says, “Do this.” I say, “Not right now. I want direction.”
He says, “No, go back.”
“Okay, all right.”
“Now do this.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
Knowing God’s will is basically the steps of obedience. As I obey His Word, prompted by the Holy Spirit, guided by godly counsel, and begin to obey His Word, His will unfolds.
So hearing God is really not that hard. We make it difficult because we fight against it. That’s why it’s hard. The most miserable spot for any Christian to be is halfway, on the fence, a double-minded man unstable in all his ways. And we get over on this side, “I know God wants me here, but I’m over on this side.” I’m miserable. I’m anxious. I’m fearful. I’m confused. I’m lashing out at people. “What’s wrong? God, I need to hear from You!” He’s saying, “Go back.” But once you’re positioned well again, now there’s joy and peace. God says, “Just stay in that area. Let Me guide you.” Obedience is key.
During a devotional lesson I did with my kids last week, I said to them, “I’ve got to tell you guys what I learned in the Bible.”
“What, Dad? What?”
“Obedience brings life—meaning joy, contentment, direction, life.” Let me talk to the Christians who have a solid relationship with God. The most joyful times of your life are when you’re right with God, are they not? Come on, we know. The joy, the peace, the contentment, the love. When I’m right with God, it brings life. So obedience brings life. Disobedience brings death. And I pulled in stories from the Old Testament. It’s God Word. He would say, “Just obey Me, and have life. Disobey Me, and there’s death.” Spiritual death often. Death of a marriage, death of a family, death of a relationship.
There are so many people my heart hurts for, that’s why this is not really a rebuke. It’s a tear-stained plea. So many people are not doing what God wants them to do because they’re in that state of disobedience. They don’t have the joy of the Lord. “I’m not in the Bible like I should be.” “I know I shouldn’t be doing this.” And there’s just no joy.
Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to walk in joy twenty-four/seven. I haven’t mastered that yet. If you have, come talk to me. It’s always a challenge. The enemy will take things, even for Charles Spurgeon. I’m finishing up one of his biographies. He suffered through depression many times, and he had gout, and it was a very challenging time for him.
But I do know that obedience brings life. Obedience brings direction. So is there an area in which God is working in your heart? Listen. That’s the next step of hearing from God. For example, there are people who have unforgiveness in their heart, and God has been dealing with them. “No, not that Lord. Not that.” So then, “Okay, let’s praise the Lord, let’s go to Bible study”—but you’re still not hearing because He wants you to go back and fix that issue, fix that unforgiveness. Anger over something, a job that let you go, bitterness, an addiction that God is dealing with, certain things that God is convicting us in. He says, “Change. Stop,” and we say, “No!”
It’s hard to get direction, clear direction, because what we’re really doing is putting earplugs in and wondering, “Where’s God’s voice?” It’s right there, through obedience. In a nutshell, what God tells you to do, just do it. Let’s write to Nike and tell them to use that one. Right? What God says to do, just do it. What He says to do, just do it. I could go on there, but I’m not going to.
By the way, pray for the unity night this Tuesday. We’re having it this time at Pastor Darrell’s church, and a lot of these hot-button issues are going to come up, so I need a lot of grace. I try to remind myself of Ephesians 4, to just be lowly and gentle. I think the enemy is just having a field day. My advice is going to be not to have so much dialogue but to have prayer meetings together. That’s where we’re going to fight this battle. We’re not going to fight going back and forth. We’re not going to win anything if we look just like the world.
But sometimes I think it’s good to hear the other side and to hear where we’re coming from, and then, “Okay, let’s take this to prayer. Let’s just seek God. Let’s worship together. Let’s pray together.” That’s where real change takes place, not in the protest line but in the prayer closet. That’s where we change the heart of our nation.
So here are some extras that I didn’t pull from the story, but many of you know. I think it will help a lot.
5. Use the Word of God to convict and confirm.
Use the Word of God to convict and confirm. So if you want to know, “Lord, I want to hear from You,” and you want to know how God thinks? “Lord, I want know what Your thoughts are about this situation.” Begin to put the thoughts of God into your mind, and that’s how you understand where God is coming from. When you’re in the Word, the Word is in you. And it begins to make sense: “Oh, I understand the heart and counsel of God.” Whether it’s a business decision, a financial decision, or a relational decision, you’ll start to understand the mind and counsel of God.
So here’s my question. How do you make wise decisions if you’re not saturating your mind with wisdom? We know most people are too busy to spend a significant or decent amount of time in the Word. Let’s just be honest. If we took a poll and we’re honest, most people are not spending a lot of time in the Word. So they want to make wise decisions, but their mind is not focused on wisdom. It’s not wisdom. “Well, if it’s not in the Word, Shane, what is it in?” Well, I’m glad you asked: Netflix and Facebook and YouTube. That’s where we’re getting our wisdom. We’re making financial decisions we shouldn’t have because we don’t have the wisdom from the Word. We’re making relational decisions we shouldn’t have because we don’t have the wisdom. We’re getting into arguments that never should have existed because we’re getting into the world’s mindset.
So use the Word of God to convict and confirm things. For the announcement I’m going to make, I had to get confirmation: “Lord, what does Your Word say? I need to have confirmation.” And I believe using the kind of fleece that Gideon did can be dangerous, but it can also be good in this sense. If you get carried away with it, it can get ridiculous: “You know, Lord, if the light turns red, then I know.” Well, it just might be set up on the city timer to be red. But I also believe if you come to God and say, “Lord, I trust You. I don’t trust me. And I don’t know if this is Shane or God. I don’t know if this is Your will or my will. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a God thing. Lord, I need confirmation. Lord, would You show me? Please, God, show me because I don’t trust myself. I trust You.” I believe God will show you. I believe He will.
This is just a side note, but as we were praying about Pastor Abraham, and we talked about him coming on board and whatever that looks like, Mike Thomas texted me while I was on vacation, and he said, “Man, Abraham did a great job. We should bring him on.” Ah, Mike, you don’t even know what you’re asking and praying about. See, the Lord will use little confirmations like that sometimes. I believe that God’s people, His church, will confirm His will. That’s why I often go to the leadership team or to the church body and confirm, “What do you guys think of this?” I went to the elders before, and they didn’t like my idea, and so we dumped it because in the multitude of counsel there is wisdom, in the multitude of seeking advice from others and looking to them.
But I also believe—the reason I’m on this portion of wisdom—I believe God will direct us through wise decisions more than we think. What we do is we don’t make wise decisions but say, “I want to hear from the Spirit of God.” Well, no, the Spirit of God will always line up with wisdom. Nearby where I went on vacation, there’s a lake, Convict Lake, where seven people drowned in 1990. They went out on the lake because the ice looked fun. There was a boy’s camp, and a couple of boys fell in. Counselors tried to help them, and they fell in. Then two firemen went on the ice to rescue them, and they fell in. The recovery efforts were sad to watch. It wasn’t wise.
There’s also another of the lakes I go to, and last October, three people died when a boat went under. Three-foot waves, it’s stormy, but “we want to fish.” See, it’s just not wise. Or these adrenaline junkies that you see on YouTube. I try to have my kids not watch too much of this because it’s stupid. It’s not wise. You don’t need to do a back flip off a church that’s forty feet high and try to land in a swimming pool that’s ten by ten. All these things—it’s just getting ridiculous. Have you heard of the Tide-Pod challenge? Do you know what Tide Pods are? It’s laundry detergent, and they do look pretty yummy. They’re little pods, and now kids are challenging one another to eat Tide Pods. Rewind. That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re probably going to die, or you’ll be going to the poison center at the hospital to have your stomach pumped.
See, wisdom cries out. The book of Proverbs says:
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you. (Prov. 4:7–8)
So God says, “I’ve laid before you the way of life and the way of death. Choose wisely.” So it comes to wisdom. I see so many marriages being ruined before they’ve even started. Before they’ve even said, “I do,” it’s destined to fail unless God intervenes. Why? Because they didn’t use wisdom. “But, Shane, they’re so attractive.” That’s called hormones. That’s called sex drive. That’s called lusting. That’s not necessarily wisdom. Use wisdom.
What does God’s Word say about finances? “How did I get in this financial pickle?” What does God’s Word say about finances? I’m a little concerned. I mean, I like to be one of those people led by the Spirit. I use that term. I’m led by the Spirit. Often God will prompt me to certain things. But it had better line up with wisdom. It had better be according to God’s Word.
6. The counsel of others helps to remove personal bias.
I don’t want to discount this one either. The counsel of others helps to remove personal bias. When you want to hear from God, do you know you have personal bias? You have your own personal defense attorney, right in here [points to himself]. He’ll go to court with you, he’ll make excuses for you, he’ll allow things God won’t allow. It’s your defense attorney—inside. It’s called the flesh, and it’ll defend itself at any cost.
So here’s what happens. When you go to other godly Christians and ask for counsel, “Hey, what do you think of this decision?” if the majority say, “I don’t think that’s a good decision according to wisdom,” and then you go against that, be careful. God will often use the counsel of others to help us see clearly because we often don’t see clearly. If you’re not open for godly counsel, you’re probably not hearing from God as clearly as you think.
I’m often leery of those people who haven’t sought godly counsel and still make decisions. I’m at the point now where I probably ask too much counsel, send too many emails. Dave, you’re probably saying, “You email me too much,” right? What do you think of this? What do you think of that? What you think of this? Because I’m trying to bounce things off people. I’m actually looking for red flags. It’s okay to look for red flags. Woe be to the person who says, “I don’t care if there are any red flags; I’m going forward.”
So when you ask godly people, “What you think of this?” be ready. Be ready for their advice. And don’t go ask people who you know what they’re going to say already. You know you’re about ready to go make a bad financial decision, you know exactly who to go ask for advice who will support you. I go to my friend who’s a car buff and say, “I’m thinking of getting a Dodge Charger for $70,000. A thousand horsepower, and I’m going to park it right out front. What do you think?”
“Oh, that’ll be so awesome. We can go take drives on the weekend.”
You say, “See, I got godly counsel.” No, that’s not godly counsel. That’s bad counsel. And you start to look to others who aren’t wise for advice.
Now, of course, you have to be careful here because if we’re always getting advice from others, and we can’t make our own decisions, and we’re lost without the advice of others, that’s not good either. I believe people should just come alongside and help support our decision or help us by challenging us in some areas that maybe we’re not seeing correctly in.
7. The Holy Spirit directs us.
The Holy Spirit does direct us. He comforts us, He convicts us, He assures us. So the Holy Spirit, I believe, will lead believers. Spirit led—that’s where that term comes from—to be Spirit led. Now people have made this weird when it shouldn’t be. You should be led by the Spirit. I believe that God’s Spirit will lead us and convict us.
And again, that’s what I’m going to talk about later, the announcement. I believe God put something on my heart. It was Spirit led, and it lined up with His Word.
The Spirit will come alongside and help. That’s one of the words for the Holy Spirit in the Greek—paracletus. It’s to come alongside and help you. I had a good example of this on our vacation. We rented bikes, and I had to pull the two little ones with the trailer. Have you ever tried that on not too flat areas? A hundred pounds in this trailer I’m pulling. Well, right before I got it hooked up to the bike, I said, “What’s that bike?” The guy said, “Oh, that’s our battery-operated bike.” I said, “I want that bike.”
“Well, it’s $25 more.”
“I don’t care. I want that bike.”
And I was just zooming past everybody. Why? Because I could go to one, two, and then three, and whatever you pedal, it matches it. So it felt like someone was pushing me, and I said, “Lord, this exactly what the Holy Spirit’s role is, to come alongside.” See, I still had to pedal. I still had to do something. But that extra power, that extra thrust, got me going, kept me going. Same thing with the Holy Spirit in your life: “Holy Spirit, lead me, direct me. I’m going to go in a certain direction, but I need You to come alongside and help and direct me in this area.”
8. Worship cleans and renews our hearts.
What we’re now going to do at the end of each service is worship. Worship cleans and renews our hearts and our minds and our ears, spiritual ears, so we can hear from God. That’s why I’m such a big proponent of worship. Worshipers hear from God. And I hear from God often throughout worship, don’t you? Those of you who like to worship, don’t you hear God’s voice, not necessarily a booming voice, but the still, soft voice of the Holy Spirit, comforting you and being there and directing you, making certain decisions. Maybe you didn’t know what you were going to do coming into church, but now you know what you’re going to do on a major decision leaving church, because that worship spoke to you.
In a nutshell, we reap what we sow. So it does beg the question, what are we sowing this morning? We will reap what we sow. Don’t say that God is silent when a sacrifice is not being made. Don’t say that God is silent when you’re not obeying. Don’t say that God is silent when your Bible is closed. Don’t say that God is silent when your prayer closet is empty. Don’t say that God is silent when you’re not listening to counsel. And don’t say that God is silent when you have no time for Him and you’re too busy. You see how simple this really is? To hear from God, it’s just minor adjustments and getting back on the right track.
So what we’re going to do during worship this morning is take Communion as well. Communion is a time to remember. I also stumbled on Jeremiah 18:15: God said this: “Because my people have forgotten Me, they follow the wrong things, and they stumble in their ways. They are double-minded, anxious, and disobedient.” I added the Idleman paraphrase on that, but the main point was “Because My people have forgotten Me.” Can you imagine forgetting God? Now, of course, they have a concept of God. They didn’t forget about God completely. What He is saying here is that they forgot how to live right. They forgot how to live according to God’s Word and be holy and set apart for Him. They forgot about the goodness of God, and they lived any old way they wanted to. They forgot who God was.
So this morning, is there any area where you have forgotten God, you’ve drifted from God, you haven’t been able to hear correctly? So before taking Communion, get your heart right. Paul reminds us, “Get your heart right.” Don’t come with the heart in a wrong spot. Come with your heart right, saying, “Lord, I need to get this area right.”
Also, Communion is for believers, those who believe. You can’t take Communion and not know who Jesus Christ is. Because that’s the whole point. We remember the blood that was shed, we remember the body that was broken, and we take Communion. We remember. To me it’s a wonderful time to get back on track. Don’t you ever need to remember? Most people who come back to God—I would say, everyone who comes back to God—remembers where they have fallen. The Bible says, “Remember where you have fallen and come back. Come back to Me.”
And when Jesus says, “I stand there knocking at the door,” that’s not a proof text necessarily for salvation. It’s a proof text for the church, for the Christian, to open the door again. “I stand at the door and I knock. Let Me come back in. Let Me have that relationship with you. Remember the goodness of God. Remember what I brought you through. Remember the times of refreshment and joy and when I sustained you. Remember when I held you through that darkest time. Come back to Me. Remember that. Remember and come back.” That’s the point of Communion and remembering God.