Conversations with God:
Listening to God
May 22, 2016
They say silence is golden – but is it possible that too much silence is not such a good thing? You see there’s a room in the United States that’s so quiet it becomes unbearable after a short time. The longest anyone has survived in the ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is just 45 minutes.
It’s 99.99 % sound absorbent and holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s quietest place, but if you stay in there too long and you may start hallucinating.
It has 3.3 foot-thick fiberglass acoustic wedges, double walls of insulated steel and 1 foot-thick concrete.
The company’s founder and president, Steven Orfield said ~ ‘We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark for 45 minutes. When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.’
And this is a very disorientating experience. Mr. Orfield explained it’s so disconcerting that sitting down is a must. The chamber is used by a number of manufacturers, which test how loud their products are. That’s pretty interesting.
We have a very difficult time quieting ourselves down . . . and embracing silence. For awhile now we’ve been talking about prayer, what it means to talk to God, how to talk to God, and now we’re talking and hopefully you’re listening . . . about how to listen to God.
Because we’re all so different there can be many ways to listen to God. Some people need silence, others say they can hear God in the noise. But in all reality, how many of us can say we hear God speak to us? I tend to believe it happens far more seldom than we would like. Last week we started looking at how to hear God, and let’s keep learning.
I want to look at a passage in the Gospel of John. In this chapter Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. As we’re reading, Jesus refers to the Shepherd and His sheep, us. I’m going to read from John 10:4-5 ~
4 When He has brought out all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.
5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
This is an important passage! Actually, it’s a crucial passage if we want to hear God’s call in our lives. In verse 4, Jesus said, 4 the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.
So, here’s the question – – – do you know Jesus’ voice? Because if you know His voice, then you would know to follow Him. He’s not talking about believing in Him, that’s already a given. After you have faith in Jesus, He wants you to follow Him. But how can you follow Him if you don’t know His voice?
You see, that’s our dilemma. Sheep are considered one of the dumbest animals on the planet, yet we are often compared to sheep. That’s not a compliment! Yet, one great aspect about sheep is the fact that they can easily distinguish voices. Once they know their Shepherds voice and His call, they know to follow only him. If someone else calls with the same type of call, they will not move. Oftentimes Shepherds would combine their flocks for better protection during the evening. Then in the morning, when they would part ways, each Shepherd would call out to their sheep and their sheep would follow them.
What about us? When we’re in a crowd. When we’re in school, at work, at home, in a store, at a restaurant, can we hear Jesus? What about when we’re reading the Bible with the television on. We have one eye on the television and one eye on Jesus. It’s going to be difficult to hear Jesus when He calls us . . . It’s even going to be difficult to pick out those life altering scripture verses when we read them, because we have not given our undivided attention to God’s Word.
So, we need to be especially attentive to spend time with God – – – so we can learn to distinguish His voice from among all of the other voices.
But we have a problem, we hear lots of voices and we tend to follow them. Partly, because we can’t distinguish one voice from another. We don’t know the good from the bad voices. That’s what Jesus is getting at in verse 5, when He said – –
5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Remember, sheep will not follow strangers. Just as we hope our kids won’t follow strangers when they offer them something attractive, but not good. And that’s where we get into big trouble in our world.
Now, for those who are graduating . . . I want you especially to listen up! Christian, Joshua, Makayla and Nathaniel. I’ll include our college graduate – – – Diane!
Listen very carefully to what I’m going to tell you. Remember this all your days! When you come home from wherever you end up . . . I may ask you what I said on May 22, 2016. I hope I have your attention . . . actually, the same goes for everyone else.
In many respects the world looks the same! Yes, people all look different, but in so many respects we look just like everyone else. It’s hard to distinguish what is good from what is not good.
It’s like this picture of sheep. They all look alike. It would be hard for us to distinguish one from another. It becomes easy to fit in with the rest of the crowd. It’s easy to say yes, when we should say no – – – because everyone else is doing it, so the majority rules, even though we know it is wrong.
The world we live in is going to pull you in so many different directions. Things that were unthinkable in so many ways when I graduated high school – – – they’re all ok and legal today. There is so much that has changed . . . but here’s the point and we need to understand this very clearly.
There are going to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will act like sheep, sound like sheep, walk like sheep, but they will not be sheep! When that happens will you recognize them? Will you know they are different? Will you be able to discern who’s voice you are hearing. Remember, the world who is not of Christ, and even some who say they are in Christ, will pull you in directions which are not good. This happens because in our world – – –
There are civil laws – – – and
There are moral laws – – – and
There are ethical laws – – – and
There are natural laws – – – and
There are God’s laws.
So, let me give you a couple of examples. As Jesus would say, ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
In our world, there are many who would say adultery is acceptable. If you’re not satisfied in your marriage it’s OK to have your needs met with someone else.
According to civil law – it’s ok
According to moral law – some say it’s ok, some say no.
According to natural law – you have a need that needs to be met
According to ethical laws – some say yes, some say no
If we are listening to all of these voices, it becomes difficult to know what’s right and what’s not. How do you know what’s OK? Ask a friend and you may have many different opinions. If you commit adultery, you will not go to jail. You cannot be arrested.
But if you look at God’s law – – – God says adultery is wrong. There’s no question about it – it’s wrong! But if you don’t know God’s voice and you don’t know His Word, when God says NO, you don’t know!! How are you going to know what to do. Because you’re going to be all over the world . . . You are going to be pulled in so many different directions that you won’t always know what to do.
You can look at all of these different laws, but what do you do? You always look to God’s law. That must be the final question. What does God say about this? Not that God is a fuddy duddy! God wants you to have fun, He wants you to live it up! But He wants you to do it in a way which brings honor and glory to Him.
In the same way we can ask about any situation. Can I cheat on a final exam? Ask your friends and you’re going to get a lot of different answers. The bottom line is what does God say? Does God say “sure, go ahead and cheat, you deserve it! The teacher has been unreasonable anyways!” NO WAY!! God says, NO! Don’t do it! You’re not going to get arrested, you may get in trouble at school. But there will be no time in jail.
Should I take that drink?
Should I smoke that cigarette?
Should I go to church wherever I am?
Should I try to honor God and proclaim Him?
Society will give many different answers to those questions and more. The bottom line is how are we listening to God? Or are we?!
The implication of this passage in John is that we must follow the Shepherd and the Shepherd is Jesus and we must know His voice! That is so vital. Do we know the Shepherd’s voice? When Jesus calls us to talk to us, do we know His voice, do we recognize His voice. Notice John goes on to say those in Christ will not follow the voice of a stranger because they don’t recognize their voice.
Picture a little child who is being picked up at the park. They know their parents, they know their siblings, they know their grandparents, they know their aunts and uncles; but they do not know the stranger, so they will not go with the stranger when they say ‘Come on, I’ll give you a ride.’
So, again, how do we know the voice of Jesus when we have so many voices calling to us? How can we discern what is right and what is wrong?
So, when we are listening for an answer, how many times will we ask until someone finally tells us exactly what we want to hear. I read a story about a man named Fred. Fred noticed that every time he ate his favorite food, pork – – his foot would become swollen and begin to hurt. He finally went to the doctor, and the doctor told Fred, he had pork-induced gout.
When Fred came home, his wife asked him how the appointment went, Fred told his wife “The doctor said I’m going to have gout 3 times a week.”
What do we do with what we hear? You see, God wants us to hear His voice and to recognize it. He wants us to be in relationship with Him, to hear His voice and follow His plan. God wants to bless us, and it’s really difficult for us to be blessed by God if we can’t hear His voice.
As we move towards the end of this message, I want to give you a couple of ways we can use to determine if God is speaking to us.
First. What does the voice we hear tell us about Christ? Does the voice direct us to the cross of Christ, to the resurrection, to forgiveness or to God’s promises? What does the voice we hear tell us about Christ? Is that voice putting God down or rejecting God?
That gives us a better guiding point to know that what we are hearing is either from God or not from God. The same goes with advice people give us. Are they slamming Christ? Are they glorifying Christ?
Second. God will never ask us to do something He has forbidden in the scriptures. God will never tell you to go cheat on your spouse or cheat on a test or cheat on your income tax. God will never tell you to lie, even though you can’t be arrested for it, it goes against who God is. God is holy and pure and righteous. God cannot sin, so God will not tell you to commit a sinful act.
If you want to know what God is saying, you also need to know what the Word of God, the Bible says. So you must read and study the Bible.
Sometimes we need to be like all of the other sheep, but when all of the other sheep are about to run off the cliff, we need to be different, we need to stand out and hear God calling to us.
That’s when we need to be different to all of the others. We need to stand up on the Word of God, on the call of God, and proclaim God’s power and strength. We know in the end we can do all things through Christ . . . because He is the one who strengthens us!