Several years ago, I was serving as the Lead Pastor in a church in rural Indiana. As I set at my desk praying I asked God what He wanted us to do next. I listened. I can’t say I heard an audible voice, but I am confident of His answer, “Feed the poor!” This shocked me because the church at the end of the block had a food pantry.
A few days later, I got a call from Bonnie, our missions chair. Her story, the church down the street was closing and they wanted us to take on the food pantry. We counted the cost, but it wasn’t hard to make a decision.
Fast forward a couple of years, again we were seeking what God would have us do next. Someone felt called to start a clothes closet to compliment the food pantry. This time the decision was much harder. We spent months looking into what it would take. We concluded this was what we should do.
The elders were challenged to set aside $10,000 from savings as seed money. We would take up a special Thanksgiving Offering with a faith goal of $6,000 and a miracle goal of $10,000. One of the elders asked, “Pastor how are we supposed to make this decision? By faith?” The room went silent. Then there was immediate unity.
The day of the special offering brought in just over $9,500. So the ministerial association wrote a check for $500 to put us over the miracle goal. But God wasn’t finished by the end of the week we were well over the $10 grand. And God still wasn’t finished. Within a week we received a check from Colorado for $10,000 and then another $10,000 from a local businessman and his wife.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.”
When we take the time to stop and listen to the Holy Spirit and then follow through on what He is leading us to do, God will show up and He will be glorified!
Over the years, I have had many people ask me, “How do you know it is the Holy Spirit? How do you know it is not just your own desires or worse the devil?” These are the right questions.
First, God is a God of revelation. That is what the Incarnation is all about. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). God is fully capable of making Himself known. And we are fully capable of hearing and understanding Him. God insured this when He gave us the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and reminder of what He has already communicated (see John 14:26).
Second, God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (see Hebrews 13:8). God does not give us new revelation. Don’t be looking for a new doctrine or to change an old one. But He is at work and is calling us to join Him in it (see John 14:24).
We discern God’s leading through the lens of scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:16). We are also aided in understanding what God is saying by our believing community (see Making Decisions by Faith).
Third, God shows up when we follow through on what He is saying. God is not inactive. He is only waiting for us to join Him in His mission to restore the Kingdom of God. When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we see God do amazing things through us (see John 14:23).
One night I woke up with an urgent sense to pray for a married couple. They were stationed in Germany. I sent them an email, letting them know that God had laid them on my heart and I had prayed for them. A few weeks later they replied to my email praising God for saving their marriage. After a long fight, they had decided to end their marriage. The next morning they received my email. They concluded if God cared so much about their marriage to wake me up to pray, they should not give up! This couple is currently back in the states doing inner city ministry.
Ultimately, we want to live our lives walking in step with the Holy Spirit. Let me share with you a process to help build the habit of listening to God. This is not the only process, but it is helpful. I suggest using the process as is for 6-8 weeks before adding your own creativity to it.
- Be Still – go to a quiet place all alone. This might be hard. Plan 20-30 minutes. To find the time for this fast from one episode as you binge watch your show on Netflix.
- Begin with Praise & Thanksgiving – Spend about 5 minutes praising Him. Start by praising/thanking Him for the things on your mind. Praise/thank Him for His goodness to you and your family.
- Read Some Scripture – Spend about 2 minutes reading from His Word. If you don’t know where to start, begin with Psalm 119:1-8 (read 8-10 verses each time).
- Wait on the Lord – Spend about 5-10 minutes. Start with a simple statement, “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening” (See Samuel’s story 1 Samuel 3). Then be quiet. Have a pen and paper handy. Write down impressions that come to you. Train yourself to listen for things in these three areas (don’t limit it to them):
- Character – He may convict you of a sin
- Relationships – He may want you to invest in a relationship, heal a relationship, etc.
- Service – He may want you to serve someone or somewhere in a specific way
- Meditate – Spend about 2-3 minutes chewing on what you have heard. Read back over what you have written down. Write an “I will” statement or goal stating what you will do about what you have heard.
- End with Praise – Send about 2-3 minutes praising God for who He is and how He has met you in this moment.
- Act on what You have heard.
WARNING: When operating out of our sinful nature, it is easy to be deceived (see James 1:14-15). “Love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). I am always careful to navigate how I communicate God’s leading by saying, “I think God is leading.” It seems arrogant to me to say, “God told me…” Seriously, I never want God to get blamed for my sinful nature!