I am enjoying slowing down my life pace and taking time to focus on a steady conversation with with God. I was surprised how often I have to grab my focus back to this reality of being in a loving relationship with God. This material is helping me to see the areas of my understanding of God and my thought process that really needs to be adjusted so I can experience this relationship more consistently.
Three highlights for me:
1) To take a look at my motives for hearing God. Am I trying too hard to please God, striving? Or am I trying to hear God so I can enjoy better fellowship and attention from others? Do I think I will be more safe and comfortable if I am hearing God all the time?
When I stopped in prayer for these points I feel He showed me: to counteract striving, do everything with God. As far as belonging and attention, we can’t control others and that focus will lead us down a hard path. As far as wanting to hear God to stay safe and comfortable, that doesn’t really “jive” with the New Testament. Sometimes there is a bigger picture in place and I need to trust my life into a loving God and not micro inspect all the consequences of every choice.
2) To take a look at how I view God. I think at times I has assumed He just wants to get a job done and so I better be busy all the time. Another fear has been that He is more concerned with the big picture than with me.
I realize when I state both of those, it is impossible for God to be anything other than good and loving. Again, I can trust my life into the hands of a loving God. The more I know Him, the more I trust.
3) We can try too hard to hear God. We can’t force conversation, we must give time and wait. Just like I can’t force a conversation with Mark, goodness knows I have tried and it doesn’t work.
So those are my highlights, here are the video notes and notes from the book that correspond to this session.
Each session emphasizes central concepts that Dr. Willard expands in the book. I have included some quotes from the video session and then from the book at the end.
In our ongoing relationship with God we tell Him what is on our hearts and we learn to perceive what He is saying to us. Learning to hear God is more about becoming comfortable in a continuing conversation, and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God.
God communicates with us in many different ways, sometimes quite puzzling; dreams, actions in the physical world and the Bible to name a few. The very idea of hearing God sometimes is troublesome. There are many ways we can get it wrong.
The desire to control is a primary reason we fail to hear God. The desire to hear what we want Him to say. Very often we come to think of some ways of hearing God are better than others, such as hearing from a vision or the Bible, we get into huge battles about this. We need to abandon our hopes to be in control. That will deal with this issue of motive.
Do we want to hear from God when we don’t have a need? Or am I trying to use God’s guidance just to keep me safe. Many want to know God’s guidance so they do not have to be responsible for their actions. They can said, “God told me…”
Responsibility is the heart of our relationship to God. Initiative on our part and if we aren’t careful and we lose that idea – then we will misconceive the very nature of our heavenly Father and we will come to think of Him as working with robots.
If we get God’s nature right then we step into the conversation in a way that is creative, and that is another key. Creativity.
Matthew 25 – The point of the parable is very important for understanding living in a conversational relationship. There were three people that were given talents. The man who was given 10 talents did not wait to be told what to do – he took initiative. He was told to take charge and so he did.
The man who was given 1 talent had the wrong view of God. He said, “ I knew you were a hard man…” The man was trying not to do anything wrong, and ended up making the biggest wrong of all. He did not invest. We may be on the wrong side of life because we are on the wrong side of God’s nature. In so far as we have a use for God it is simply to get our way. So many people wind up in relationship to God trying to get guidance.
That is not the focus of a conversational relationship with God. Think how it would feel if you had a child who only wanted to talk to you when he wanted to know what to do.
It is helpful to realize, there are allot of things that hearing God is not. Then we can look at how to adjust ourselves to hearing God. Some people who feel that if God is not telling them everything to do they are out of the will of God. That everything they do needs to be instructed by God. This is not consistent with how God develops us. It is not consistent with God’s personality. This may sound hard in your ears – but you can try too hard to hear God. You want to come to a point in realizing that in a conversational relationship you have to leave the same initiative with the other person as you do yourself. Learn to listen – before television – conversation used to be seen as an art. You learn how to respond, to listen, to listen, to leave space.
You learn to leave space and how to not think about yourself all the time – it is an interchange between people – you can’t make people do anything in a conversation – totally opposite to what actually happens.
There are real problems when it comes to trying to force God to say something. You respect and wait and you listen.
Some people are waiting for the voice to sound like a big booming voice.
Finally, many people have a hard time hearing God because they think God is way off somewhere. Space troubles them. God’s way of being locates Him where ever you are. God is not far off. As Paul said He is not far from us because in Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
Space and distance is not a problem for God’s Word. Theology becomes so important. It enables us practically to interact with God in a conversational relationship. You do have to come to the place where you are aware that when you speak God hears you – and when God speaks you can hear.
Hearing God is not about getting a word or verse. It is about developing our character by being with God.
- Bonheoffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy By: Eric Metaxas
- Life Together – by Dietrich Bonheoffer – fabulous book allowing God to have the first word, – the believer should not begin the day with anxiety.
- The Call to Discipleship by Dietrich Bonheoffer
Dallas Willard shares, “God intends for us to have a freedom to develop and grow and choose, within which He may speak.”
John Ortberg shares, “Hearing from God is not getting a free pass from the anxiety of making difficult decisions.”
Bonheoffer would have his students meditate on one Scripture a week – so they are sinking down into a passage.
The following quotes are from Chapters 1-2 of the book, Hearing God. The page numbers are from an earlier edition and may not correspond exactly to the current edition
On one hand we have massive testimony to and widespread faith in God’s personal, guiding communication with us – far more than mere providential controlling guidance….on the other hand we also find a pervasive and often painful uncertainty about how hearing God actually works today and what its place is in the church and Christians’ life. P. 30
First Steps toward a Solution
The paradox about hearing God’s voice must, then, be resolved and removed by providing believers with a clear understanding and a confident, practical orientation toward God’s way of guiding us and communicating with us, which is the aim of the following chapters. P. 31
1) We know that God’s communications come to us in many forms. We should not expect anything else, for this variety is appropriate to the complexity of human personality and cultural history. P.32
2) We may have the wrong motives for seeking to hear from God. We all in some measure share in the general human anxiety about the future. P. 32
3) Our understanding of God’s communication with us is blocked when we misconceive the very nature of our heavenly Father and of his intent for us as his redeemed children and friends. From this comes a further misunderstanding of what the church, his redemptive community is to be like and especially of how authority works in the kingdom of the heavens. God is certainly not a jolly good fellow, nor is he our buddy, but neither are we intended by Him to be robots. P. 34
A. E. Stanley Jones: Obviously God must guide us in a way that will develop spontaneity in us. The development of character, rather than direction in this or that must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but he won’t override us. That fact should make us cautious of the method of sitting down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper to write down the instructions dictated by God for the day. Suppose a parent would dictate to the child minutely everything he is to do during the day. The child would be stunted under that regime. The parent must guide in such a manner and to the degree, that autonomous character, capable of making right decisions for itself, is produced. God does the same. P. 34
Commentary input from – http://kylemeadors.blogspot.com/2010/05/paradox-about-hearing-god-hearing-god.html
- 1. Wrong priority on the forms of God’s communication and ignoring the variety of means God can communicate with us.
- 2. Wrong motives for wanting to hear from God (e.g. seeking God’s voice solely for securing their own safety and comfort).
- 3. Misconceptions about God’s nature and intent, especially with respect to expecting hyper-level of detail and control in the “guidance”.
A Conversational Relationship
The ideal for hearing from God is finally determined by who God is, what kind of beings we are and what a personal relationship between ourselves and God should be like. Our failure to hear God has its deepest roots in a failure to understand, accept and grow into a conversational relationship with God, the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise, no matter how different they may be in other respects. P. 35
It is within such a relationship that our Lord surely intends us to have and to recognize his voice speaking in our hearts as occasion demands. He has made ample provision for this in order to fulfill his mission as the Good Shepherd: to bring us life and life more abundantly. The abundance of life comes in following Him and the sheep follow Him because they know his voice. P. 35
Chapter 2: Guidelines for Hearing from God
A guideline for hearing from God: “Only our communion with God provides the appropriate context for communications between us and Him.” P. 42 In other words – spend time, and much of it, with God.
Another guideline is: read the Bible realistically. Assume that the experiences recorded there are basically of the same kind as ours would have been if we have been there… “Unless this comes home to us, the things that happened to the people in the Bible will remain unreal to us. We will not genuinely be able to believe the Bible or find its contents to be real, because it will have no experiential substance for us.” P.44
The Bible is not just a book of doctrine and abstract truth about God… something that a person can study endlessly without actually encountering God Himself or hearing his voice. P. 44
Dallas Willard cites A.W. Tozer: “It is altogether possible to be instructed in the rudiments of the faith and still have no real understanding of the whole thing. And it is possible to go on to become expert in Bible doctrine and not have spiritual illumination, with the result that a veil remains over the mind, preventing it from apprehending the truth in its spiritual essence.” P. 45