When God Speaks Personally
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b NIV)
My mother and I were sitting on the couch when a fierce storm came up. As the storm raged, with wind howling, thunder banging, and lightning flashing, I became panic-stricken. My mother was terribly frightened of storms, and as a small child, I caught her overwhelming fear.
Suddenly, in the midst of the horrendous thunder and fierce lightning, I heard a voice say, “Don’t be afraid.” That voice filled me with joy, and I squealed with delight. I turned to Mother. “Did you hear that?”
When she said, “No,” I realized it was a voice within me, and I believed it was God’s voice.
I often think back to that time whenever I am afraid—a memory so powerful and real that I can never forget it. That was the beginning of tuning in to God’s voice to know His will for my life.
Jesus confirmed this when He said,
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 NIV)
When in high school I attended a youth camp, where I heard an international missionary speak and show slides of her work as a teacher in Pakistan. I heard God speak, “Pat, this is how I want to use your life.”
When I went home, I shared this with Daddy. His reaction was, “God wouldn’t do that.” I struggled to hold back the tears, but I was convinced that God had called me to be an international missionary. With time Daddy grew to accept this as God’s calling for my life.
After 35 years as a missionary teacher in the Middle East, I settled in a retirement community. The first day in exercise class, as I saw a man walk in, the thought popped into my mind, This is the man you are going to marry. I had no intention or desire at this stage of my life to marry. I pushed that thought away and forgot it. Not until much later, after spending time with him and accepting his marriage proposal, did I remember that thought.
That fits the pattern of my life—the way God lets me know His will and plan and confirms it through His Word and other people.
Can God speak to you? How can you know it is God who’s speaking? There are many ways He leads us: through His Word, circumstances, and other people. God assures us in Psalm 32:8:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go …”
by Stephen Sanders, crosswalk.com
Have you ever had someone tell you to, “Just be yourself and everything will work out”? It sounds so simple doesn’t it? “Be Yourself.” What does that even mean? After all, if we could simply “be ourselves,” then wouldn’t the world that surrounds us be a lot different?
I often wonder what friendships would be like if we could simply be who we are inside; to not feel so much pressure to be less or more of an individual than we think we are supposed to be. One thing I’ve begun to focus on in recent months is being the same person everywhere I am no matter who I’m around; but that’s a lot easier said that done.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally realize that none of us are exempt to sin. 1 John 1:8-10 says this: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Can you see how not dealing with sin appropriately keeps us from being ourselves? Behavior like this causes us to trick ourselves into thinking we are someone who we really aren’t. When we ignore or hide sin, it breeds all kinds of issues, not only in us, but also in the body of Christ.
So how should sin be handled? How can you “be yourself?” Well, here are 3 things that will certainly get us going in the right direction: Confession, confrontation and forgiveness.
We all know that we are supposed to confess our sins to God, but what about confessing our sins to one another? Where does that fit into the picture? The answer lies within James 5:16, which instructs us to, “…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Why isn’t the confession of sins more of a focus in the church today? Shouldn’t we be doing this every chance we get if it results in “healing and righteousness?”
Secondly, there is confrontation. Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…” Notice that this scenario starts with someone taking the initiative to point out the sin. Also notice that this person risks not only putting his friend in an uncomfortable situation, but also being humiliated in front of others if he is wrong about his assessment. It’s easy to see why the church struggles with this; it’s not a simple solution.
Lastly, we have forgiveness. After discussing confrontation and confession, doesn’t forgiveness make a lot more sense now? There is a very good reason why Jesus instructed us to forgive, “seventy times seven times ” in Matthew 18:22. Jesus knew we were going to be surrounded by sinful people because we live in a sinful world. Rather than avoiding it, we need to be brave enough to be the one who chooses to forgive sin unconditionally and infinitely. Our reaction to sin determines the impact it is able to have on us. Who knows? Our reaction may even be so powerful that it may stop that sin in its tracks before it affects others too!
John 5:24-26Believers in Christ often wrestle with discouragement and shame over past sins. This could then prompt doubt about God’s love, because they feel unworthy to be His child. As a result, their guilty feelings weigh them down, sap their energy, dampen their hope, and draw them away from the Lord.
Both the conscience and the Holy Spirit produce feelings of guilt within us when we sin, thereby prompting us to confess and repent. However, if we’ve trusted Jesus as Savior, there is no reason to hang on to remorse after repentance because Jesus bore the guilt for all our sins when He died on the cross.
Now we are forgiven, reconciled to the Father, and credited with Christ’s righteousness. Although we will still sin, God has given us a path to restoration and cleansing through confession (1 John 1:9). Although it’s natural to feel regret for sin, we don’t have to wallow in it. In fact, to do so is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s death as payment for all sin.
If you are dealing with feelings of shame, confess your sins, and meditate on the redemption Christ purchased for you with His blood. Then believe God and let His truth set you free.
“I waited patiently for the Lord … He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth.” – Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
David felt like he was in a “slimy pit,” as if he was bogged down in “mud and mire.” He cried out for stability and a “firm place to stand.”
All of us can relate to conditions like these. Our world is filled with slimy pits, mud, and mire! We think of disreputable salespeople, corrupt politicians, shifty lawyers, and crooks who prey on innocent people. At times, it can seem that no one can be trusted. Many people make promises they do not keep – even Christians and friends can be like this.
If we find ourselves in this midst of the slime, mud, and mire of life, we need to remember that God is our solid rock. If we turn to Him, He promises to hear our cry and lift us out of the slimy pit. He will give us stability. As David discovered, “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” He will give our feet a firm foundation as well.
God also can put a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise. And when He does this, “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (v. 3).
We may have to wait patiently, but God is faithful. He is ready to give us firm ground when we place our trust in Him.