Robert D. Pace
It’s estimated that people spend more time communicating than with any other complex engagement. Communication is how we exchange feelings, thoughts, and ideas. It’s what distinguishes men from animals. All communication takes form in one of three ways: listening, talking, and reading. Whether it’s phoning someone, reading a book, watching television, surfing the Internet, or consulting a GPS all forms of communication are comprised of listening, talking, or reading. And we’re told the percentages break down into 45% listening, 30% speaking, and 25% reading.
It’s really important to develop proficient communication skills because they’re needed in every aspect of life. I have to admit that as a school kid I didn’t understand the need for that yearly repetition of English and literature but they were the most important lessons to learn. Mastering the art of expression and being able to interpret the expression of others help us resolve conflict, influence others, gain social advancement, and increase our knowledge. Our wellbeing and personality development depend on good communication skills.
We need social interaction because it instills a sense of worth and dignity. If no one ever communicates with you, you feel insignificant and unloved.
Educative communication is important because it instills knowledge and helps social advancement.
Societal interaction is necessary because it instills a sense of belonging.
As our Creator, God knew how important communication was and that’s why He communes with us—He loves us, values us, and owns us. Page after page pictures Him communing with people:
He conversed with Adam during the “cool of the day.”
He spoke face to face with Moses.
Elijah heard God’s “still, small voice.”
When Ezekiel heard God’s articulation He compared it to the “roar of rushing waters” (EZE 1:24).
God’s voice thundered at Christ’s baptism.
And Acts records the Holy Spirit continually speaking to first century Believers. He’s the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”
It would violate the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to say, ‘God didn’t speak.’ The Father repeatedly spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets. The Son of God clearly spoke to the apostle’s and first century Believers. And the Holy Spirit, described as our Teacher, Counselor, and Guide, speaks to this generation. Like C.S Lewis wrote: “He Is There And He Is Not Silent.”
(Transition) What we have to do is learn how to ascertain His speaking. And the first step in discerning God’s voice involves walking humbly before Him.
The Humble Hear God
Before I discuss humility I want to emphasize one fact about God’s voice. He always speaks perfectly! One proof that Jesus was divine was His infallible usage of language. He never lied, misspoke, misrepresented the truth, wasted a word, or spoke inappropriately. He spoke perfectly, purely, righteously, and always timely. Do you know how our communication breakdowns occur? Three ways: Firstly, when we don’t speak clearly and we’re misunderstood; secondly, when we don’t speak at the correct measure and we talk too much or not enough; and thirdly, when we speak inappropriately and say things we shouldn’t. (Has anyone here struggled with any of that?)
But God speaks perfectly. He’s given us the Bible with sixty-six books, over forty writers, and constructed it with unerring accuracy. Then He sent the Holy Spirit to speak to our heart, mind, and spirit. But the problem involves deciphering what God is saying. We don’t always immediately understand what God is saying through His Word, through circumstances, through a dream, vision, or spiritual utterance.
Understanding life is difficult. It would be much easier decoding the IRS tax manual. I hear people say hindsight is 20-20, but I disagree. There are some things about the past and present that have me completely mystified! And there are plenty of people in Scripture that can relate to misunderstanding God’s dealings with them.
(Example) Take, for example, Christ washing the Apostles’ feet. On the night of His betrayal He ate the Passover meal with them, wrapped a towel around His waist, and began washing their dirty feet. Peter was completely baffled. He watched Jesus wash John’s feet, move over to Matthew’s feet, and then to Andrew’s. As Jesus inched closer to Peter he became more resistant, constructing an argument against Christ washing his feet. But let’s put ourselves in Simon’s place to understand why he thought this way. Do you know what I believe was coursing through his mind? As Jesus washed feet, Simon was replaying the multiple miracles Christ had worked:
He remembered the storm ripped that through the ravines to capsize their boat. And with a composure that transcended the angels Jesus raised His hand and the onslaught of the tempest fell disarmed before Him.
He recalled how the madman from Gadara was delivered of 6000 demons. 6000 demons! Samson hadn’t taken those odds, but this was a miracle Jesus performed without flexing a muscle. With one word, “Go,” the demons leaped into the swine and the swine leaped into the sea.
Peter relived the anxious moments at Lazarus’s grave where Mary and Martha thought Jesus was late. But with one sentence He rattled the regions of death, the grave chains fell limp, and Lazarus leaped forth!
Peter remembered Christ’s dazzling radiance on the Mount of transfiguration when He conversed with Moses and Elijah.
He remembered Christ before the multitudes when the Father’s voice thundered from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him!”
These memories flooded Peter’s mind, but now the divine Son of God was scrubbing the feet of mortals and it didn’t make sense! So when Jesus approached Peter he blurted out, ‘You won’t wash my feet.’ Who could blame Peter for that response? But with a serenity that always characterizes our Savior Jesus said, “[Peter] You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). And that’s exactly what happened. The night that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet Peter didn’t understand the significance of Christ’s actions. He thought he did, but he didn’t. In his infinite wisdom and typical reactionary style Peter said, “Then, Lord if sanitizing the flesh is what it’s all about, then wash not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!” [Pace’s paraphrazation.]
Peter just didn’t get it. It wasn’t that the apostles were so dirty only God could cleanse their flesh; Jesus wanted to teach them a lesson in humility. Although Peter didn’t understand it that night, years later he said “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1PE 5:5). Peter finally got it! Jesus had perfectly communicated the message to the apostles that night of the Passover although He hadn’t instantly spelled out everything. He didn’t say, “Hey, Peter I’m washing feet because I’m so humble.” That would have negated everything. Jesus illustrated humility rather than mentioning it. Do you know what really prevented Peter from hearing Christ’s message that night? It’s what hinders us from hearing God’s voice. Pride. Pride prevents unhindered communion with God.
We can walk around like a spiritual know-it-all with our world-view packed between our ears, but discerning God will be the last thing we’ll know anything about! That’s why James 4:6 says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If you want to comprehend God’s voice you’ll have to humble yourself. Please hear this. God associates with humble people. He even actively searches for them. Why do you think Jesus ignored the Scribes and Pharisees and sought out lowly fishermen to become apostles? Very few occupations are more sloppy and stinking than fishing and yet God exalted these men to write Scripture and establish His Church.
(Bible Example) Other than Christ, Moses heard God’s voice clearer than anyone else in Scripture. Turn to Numbers 12. Numbers 12:6 says: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. (7) But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. (8) With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.”
The reason Moses so clearly understood God’s voice is because of what Numbers 12:3 says: “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Humility and understanding God’s voice are mutually dependent. Everyone in the Bible that clearly heard from God was humble.
(Definition) Maybe you’re wondering what humility is. Humility is a profound distrust in our humanity. It distrusts our ability but overwhelmingly trusts in God’s ability. We realize our strength, skill, intelligence, or even luck aren’t enough to secure success. Our successes come though God’s grace, mercy, and power, and that should humble us.
Humility depends on the Holy Spirit’s power to intervene not our ability to maneuver.
It depends on the Spirit’s ability to speak not our aptitude to hear.
It depends on the Spirit’s proficiency to lead not our skill to follow.
Let’s consider another passage of Scripture in Matthew 5. This is where Christ delivers the Sermon on the Mount. In essence, He discourses on men securing a right relationship with God and positioning themselves to hear from Him.
Matthew 5:1-10 (Read)
Everything about the Beatitudes speaks of humility. Jesus wanted us to know that humility brings blessing. When men humble themselves before God, the hearing of His voice becomes clearer. Psalm 138:6 says: “Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.”
(Transition) Ascertaining God’s voice involves humility but, secondly, it involves being surrendered to God’s will.
The Surrendered Hear God
People that are most productive in life are distinguished by their availability. That’s true in the world and the church. In the church we often have ministry positions that are occupied by someone that isn’t always the most qualified person for the job. They were simply the person that stepped forward and made their self available.
(Illustration) I remember playing peewee football. We had a decent team but on two occasions we were trounced by super teams. The Buckhead Red-devils was one team and the other was an all black team from metro Atlanta. This was my first visit to an African-American community and I remember we played in front of more people than any other game of the season. We also got creamed that game. By the fourth quarter we were desperate to make a touchdown! So we devised a plan. Since we big-boys couldn’t get the pigskin across the goal-line we devised a play to let the shrimpiest kid on the team return the kick-off. We figured they wouldn’t maul the little guy and they’d let us score. And it worked! This little fifty-pound flea ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown and everybody in the stands went crazy! After the game the opposing team grabbed the little guy, hoisted him on their shoulders, and carried him off the field!
Do you know why we scored? Primarily, because of the mercy of the opposing team, but secondarily because somebody made their self available! It wasn’t the best player or the fastest player or the strongest player, it was simply an available player. If you’re tired of not hearing from God make yourself available! Become totally available to Him!
(Explanation) I want to explain what I’m not saying here. I’m not saying “work God into your schedule.” There’s a difference between “working God into your schedule” and being available to God twenty-four hours a day. It’s possible to find time to block out thirty minutes for prayer and devotions but crowd-out God from the rest of our schedule. God wants access to our lives all the time.
In Christ’s day there were religious zealots that blocked out three hours of prayer, three times a day. Nine hours of prayer daily qualifies anybody for being thoroughly religious! But no volume of prayer qualifies anybody for being committed to God’s plan. Commitment toward God begins with a surrendered heart. God doesn’t want us thoroughly religious; He wants us thoroughly surrendered!
Paul’s greatest testimony is found in Galatians 2:20 when he said: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Bible Example) Philip was in a great revival in Samaria with signs, wonders, and miracles taking place. But the Holy Spirit spoke to him and said: “Philip go to the desert road leading to Gaza.” Philip didn’t object. He obeyed and led the treasurer of Ethiopia to Christ. And when his ministry was finished there God supernaturally whisked him away seventy miles to Azotus. All because Philip was surrendered and available! Do you see to whom God speaks? The surrendered and available! He wants you to hear Him when He whispers and when He thunders.
(Bible Example) There’s an interesting account of God audibly speaking before a crowd at the Passover in Jerusalem. John 12 records this. Here were Jews, Greeks, apostles, religious leaders, and common-folks listening to Christ’s teaching. Suddenly Jesus stopped teaching and began praying before the multitude in verse twenty-eight: “Father glorify your name” [Immediately the Father answered with words loud enough for everyone to hear:] “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” But noticed how the crowd interpreted God’s audible voice. “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him” (29).
Can you believe that? Some people in the crowd thought they heard the sky crack with a peel of thunder, while others interpreted God’s affirmation of Christ with unmistakable clarity. Some people just found time to show up; while others were sensitive, surrendered, and available.
That scenario is repeated thousands of times each Sunday in church. People just show up and hear thunder but we need to make the conscious effort to make ourselves available and hear Rhema—God’s living Word! If you want the assurance that God is speaking to you, and directing you, then surrender totally to Him and make yourself available to Him!
We have many sources of information by which to draw knowledge in life—television, radio, newspapers, schools, the Internet, and the social community, just to mention several. With many sources of information to influence our living what’s needed is the proper application of knowledge—someone to help us discern truth from error; good from evil; mediocrity from excellence. We need a counselor. And only the Holy Spirit is uniquely qualified to counsel us, reveal truth, and direct us in the path of righteousness (John 16:13). Jesus said the counseling of the Holy Spirit would impact us in five ways:
He would teach us all things (John 14:26).
He would remind us of God’s Word (14:26).
He would testify of Christ (15:26).
He would direct men toward truth (16:13).
He would disclose the future (16:13).
According to that the Holy Spirit’s counseling is capable of teaching, reminding, testifying, directing, and disclosing—just what we need to master life. That means the secret to unlocking the Scriptures and life’s mysteries is a Person.
It’s important to know that guidance, revelation, and power for living doesn’t come through a mechanical, impersonal process, it comes through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. God, the Holy Spirit, is the infallible Counselor. Open yourself fully to His presence.
Romans 12:1-2 says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
That’s why 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “You are not your own; (20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (Make yourself totally available to God!)