This article will also be published in the Megamorphosis “Power” Issue #11 in early October, 2020
It is hard to block out the noise. Every day it seems to get louder. The voices of seeming friend and foe are confused and confusing, whether it be on social media, the public airwaves, or in the office, warehouse, neighborhood, or even in a conversation between followers of Christ. The political spirit of our age seemingly requires demonization and polarization of all viewpoints, almost regardless of which side of the continuum and which party label (D, R, I, None) is affixed to your voter registration (and if you are not registered, PLEASE do so now!).
It has been my great joy and honor to participate in, serve, lead, pastor, equip, and call forth the people of God for more than 40 years. I’ve made hundreds (thousands?) of mistakes and have led wrong and been wrong more times than I could count. But in the midst of the journey, I have always known that God, His Word, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have been and are faithful and true. How do we hear the voice of God in the midst of multiple pandemics of our present hour? Can we actually discern the voice of God in the midst of the cacophony of noises and can we ever again be united in the Body of Christ in the midst of the fracturing of the present political age? I say YES.
A number of years ago there was a Time magazine that came out with a headline that said, “God is dead”. The next day the reporters lined up at Billy Graham’s home and said, “Is God dead, Dr. Graham?” Billy said “Are you kidding? I just talked to Him.”
One of the most basic claims of Christianity is that God is a God who reveals Himself to people. All throughout the Bible is the claim, “God said…”. God really does speak to people. God wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. There is no relationship without communication. God has chosen to speak to us and to live in us through the Holy Spirit.
Brother Lawrence, who wrote the classic devotional “Practicing the Presence of God” said this: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us”
In John 12, there is a glorious passage that includes these words: [Jesus prayed,] “Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.”
Why did Jesus go out of His way to point out that the voice was not for His benefit? Because He heard God all the time. He was in constant communion with the Father. But the disciples needed to hear it, so they could have faith to believe. Remember, Jesus was about to be rejected by the religious establishment, taunted and humiliated, and executed; So God spoke audibly. God knows when we need a sure word, and works around our lack of maturity in times of great need.
Scripture repeatedly affirms that the God who made the heavens and earth, and the One who made us, is a God who speaks:
“For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds (Job 33:14-15)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28) ?
One of the many challenges we are facing in the Body of Christ is that we have individually and corporately often heard the voice of God through His word, through teaching, through the Holy Spirit, and we have disobeyed Him. I can personally testify to that in my life, and I suspect you can in yours. Scripture tells us that obedience to the voice of God is necessary and not optional for those who seek to follow Him. Disobedience brings discipline to us as sons and daughters (Hebrews 11, John 15)
I believe we are experiencing a moment of divine shifting and divine sifting. The shifting is happening in that the Father is shifting us from a preoccupation with “us” (our churches, our ministries, our programs, our numbers, our achievements) to “intimacy with Him”. That shifting has come hard over the past several years here in the US and may be reaching its peak in the Covid-19 experience. On a parallel track, I think the Lord is sifting us (or pruning-John 15, or refining-Isaiah 48:2, James 1:2-4) for His glory. The Lord is coming (whether in this generation or a future one) for a church that is spotless and Holy (Ephesians 5:27; I think none of us would argue that we have been that church).
So, how do we navigate these turbulent shifting and sifting hours? May I humbly suggest the following 5 things we do:
- We continue to humble ourselves before the hand of the Lord and submit ourselves in worship, prayer, and study of the Word (Acts 2:42-47)
- We place ourselves in covenant community with others who love Jesus and long to follow Him so that we can together discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from the spirit of the age (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- We recognize a Unity from Heaven (John 17) and are diligent to preserve that Unity (Ephesians 4:3), but we reject a unity that is based on something less than God-glorifying standards, recognizing that judgment begins with the household of faith (1 Peter 4:17).
- We affirm and seek to discern the hand of God in our local, state, and national elections and pray for all those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:2), but we simultaneously recognize that God is sovereign and no human election in a democracy ever overrides the hand of God at work in human affairs (Daniel 2:21)
- We recognize our role as intercessors in every sphere of our life and relationships and we seek to shift the atmosphere by our prayer and by His presence to see the will of God on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 1:10-13, Matthew 6:10)
Across the planet we are facing tests and trials and tribulations. The author of James tells us in the 1st chapter BOTH that testing and tribulations are actually a time of joy and proving perseverance. In that SAME chapter, the Holy Spirit tells us that taming the tongue is so critical as to be core to faith. The Bible is certainly inconvenient on many levels!
I’m personally praying that I submit to the Lord, hear His voice, obey His will, walk in the power of His spirit, love everyone He puts in my path, and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:28-32) in such a way as to be redemptive to the world around me. Let’s join together in those efforts and we will find Unity in Him, through Him, and for Him, to His glory.