Do you ever wonder if there is more to the Christian life?
Maybe you know people who seem to have life-altering experiences with God—be it intense feelings, visions, voices or dreams—and you wonder if you're the one who is missing out in this experiential smorgasbord of God. Looking on, you start to think to yourself 'I want more than what I am experiencing'.
To be honest, I don't hear God's voice all that often. I spend most of my life encouraging those around me, especially young people, to pursue God and follow Jesus, and this can sometimes play on my mind. I trap myself often with the thought though, that if I prayed with more passion, or sang extra hard or tried with more fervour, then maybe I would experience God in a fuller, deeper way. Maybe, if I did that one thing different, then God would fill my life with experiences of Him.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I have never heard or felt God, but that the times I 'feel' and 'hear' him are hardly frequent enough to consider it a relationship in the normal sense. That said, those experiences are important.
Does God Speak?
The Bible is full of stories of God speaking to his people. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden as he walked and talked with them. God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. God spoke to David in a cave. In each case, God told people what he wanted for them. When we look at these experiences, it's easy to think that's how its meant to be. God speaks, we respond. God has shown he can speak in these ways, so why isn't he speaking in these ways now? I think a better question to ask than "How has God spoken in the past" is "What has God promised the Christian here and now". Matthias Media helpfully listed a number of promises that God has made to us.
- We are called from life to death
- We are justified
- We are adopted as sons and daughters
- We are sanctified
- We will be glorified
- We can know that our heavenly Father hear our prayers
- We can hear God through his word
How does God speak today?
If we turn to the first verses of Hebrews, we can shed some light on the subject: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets". This is what we have said, long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke. But the author of Hebrews continues: "In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world".
The author of Hebrews continually compares between how God used to speak and how God is speaking today. Tim Challies says it like this in his article, How Does God Speak To Me Today? The man who wrote Hebrews is very careful to distinguish .. between how God used to speak and how God speaks today. If you have studied the letter to the Hebrews, you know that it is a long discourse that continually shows how Jesus Christ is superior to anything in the Old Testament.. God used to speak in these ways, but today, even better, he speaks through his Son.
You might ask, well, how does Jesus speak to me today?
When we open up the Bible, and read the words of Jesus in Scripture, we can "hear" God's heart and His voice - and know what God is truly like. Later in Hebrews, the writer quotes Psalm 95 which says: "Therefore as the Holy Spirit says: Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'.
He says today, not yesterday or tomorrow but today. The words that were already thousands of years old when this letter was written continue to speak. When we read the Bible, we are not just reading a record of what God has said, but what God is speaking to us in the here and the now. When we read the Bible, God speaks to us.
This is why Paul reminds us to seek the scripture for all our needs: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate and equipped for every good work". (2 Timothy chapter 3:16-17) When we read the Bible, we are not just reading a record of what God has said, but what God is speaking to us in the here and the now. When we read the Bible, God speaks to us. Jesus speaks. Well, you might say, does it really make a difference when we expect God to speak to us through the scriptures instead of waiting to hear a divine voice? I think it does.
When we know that God speaks personally and powerfully though his Word, it should remove our insecurities that our relationship with Jesus is sub-par, or that we are experiencing a less-than Christian life. Often, we compare ourselves to other Christians and then feel less secure or less Christian based on their experience of God. If we know that God speaks to us through his Word though, we don't have to be fearful that we might miss Him speaking.
If God Speaks, Then Why Does He Appear Silent?
Even knowing all that, there are days and nights when I open up the Word and it seems lifeless to me and has nothing to say to me. Why all the silence? I think there is a purpose behind the silence. Four questions from Desiring God really draw it out:
- Why is water so much more refreshing when we're really thirsty?
- Why am I almost never satisfied with what I have, but always longing for more?
- Why is the pursuit of earthly achievement often more enjoyable than the achievement itself?
- Why do deprivation, adversity, scarcity, and suffering often produce the best character qualities in us while prosperity, ease, and abundance often produce the worst?
Absence is like a sponge. It draws out desire from a dry heart and heightens a need to find life-giving water. Absence makes us ask, emptiness makes us seek, silence makes us knock (Luke chapter 11 verse 9). God takes us out to those desert places where our hearts become dry and our senses become numbed so that He can show us where our hearts are inadequately satisfied in Him.
Silence still communicates something to us. It's almost like God is saying, 'You can only be satisfied in me, but to do that, I'm going to show you some things about yourself that will hurt, and it will feel like I'm not there, but I promise you that I am'.
The question that I try to ask myself now, even when God seems silent or distant is a simple one: What is God trying to say to me, even in silence? Because even when God's voice is still, yet he speaks.
Jimmy Young is a writer and youth pastor from Melbourne who loves the church and youth ministry. This article originally appeared on his personal blog, The Radical Change.
Jimmy Young's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jimmy-young.html