Seeing God in All Things

Over twenty years ago I had the privilege of spending a couple of weeks in China. While there I was taken by one of the Chinese church leaders to visit several underground house churches. When I began to teach these dear brothers and sisters I felt an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. Just the act of meeting together for a Bible study was risky. For me the risk was minimal. I would merely be taken to the airport and deported if caught by the officials. For them it meant years of jail time and multiple beatings and torture.

While I was visiting various house churches, another group had the privilege of visiting the famous Chinese Pastor Samuel Lamb. Pastor Lamb had been imprisoned for over 20 years and suffered physical and mental abuse. When someone in the group mentioned to him that they were praying for the persecution of the church to stop in China, Pastor Lamb quickly rebuked them and gave his famous quote, “ More persecution more growth of the church.” In other words, the seed of the church is the blood of the saints.

This event, coupled with many other visits to persecuted church countries, has deeply impacted my view of the normal Christian life. Could it be that the Western Church has had it wrong all along? Our view of safety, comfort, persecution free life has produced a powerless church that has little impact on our culture. Over the past 200 years the church has served as the moral conscience of our great country. Now because of lack of spiritual power and influence in the church, the moral decline in our country is moving at warp speed.

A closer look at Scripture

My experience with the persecuted church and observation of the the early church in Scripture has led me to have a very different view of the the Christian life. A trouble free life is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessings. We can all agree that God has blessed us in many ways and one of those elements is our generally trouble free life. However being trouble free could also be because we are not doing much to disturb the kingdom of darkness.

I am not suggesting that we become someone who intentionally stirs up trouble by in-your-face confrontation, but I am merely suggesting that we evaluate our view of trouble and suffering, and how we deal with difficult circumstances.

God has taught me some valuable lessons that I want to pass on to you. Maybe it will change how you view trouble in your life.

God is fully aware of every element of our life. If it’s true that the living Christ indwells every believer, then God is fully aware of every element of our life. He is even aware of those times when our dumb decisions bring us unwelcome consequences. This knowledge of the indwelling Christ reminds me of the truths of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

There are two key elements to this passage of Scripture. One, “God causes all things to work together”. Rather than changing our present circumstances, more often than not, God uses the things that are presently happening in our life to accomplish His plan. Secondly, these things will work together for those “who love God”. Notice that is active tense. Those who are presently, actively loving/serving God and pursuing His purpose will experience things all working out.

See God in everything. Since God is ever present in our life then we should examine every event, disappointment and present challenge as a God moment. We must keep in mind that God is fully aware of our predicament. Instead of trying to escape our circumstances, stop and ask God “what He is up to and what is He saying to us?” Ask, “What do you want me to learn through this situation?” That’s because God is more concerned about your response to the situation than He is about how He’s going to deliver or rescue you from the situation.

Change the way you pray in difficult situations. “ And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Sprit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. The Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers.” (Romans 8:26-27 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to pray. That’s the reason the Holy Sprit was given to us to guide and teach us all things. Instead of first praying “Lord deliver me”, pray “Lord show me the greater purpose, help me not to seek deliverance if the greater lesson and glory is for me to endure the course.”

Bottom Line

We must keep in mind that God’s glory and His best for you is the end game, not necessarily deliverance. Remember that suffering and endurance is a spiritual virtue. It may be that God wants to demonstrate His power in deliverance. But it also may be that He wants to show you what He can do in the midst of the storm.

Hearing God’s Voice

During my many years as a Pastor and a Counselor, I have had a number of people tell me about conversations they had with God. Some of the stories were as bizarre as a Twilight Zone movie. Others were less dramatic but included some sort of verbal conversation with God.

Early on in my Christian life I would have thought “what’s wrong with me, why don’t I hear those voices”? But as I matured in my walk with God,and my knowledge of Scripture, I came to realize that probably most of those stories were not really an encounter with God, but were more than likely some desperate, and failed attempt to hear from God.

Could God verbally speak to us, absolutely? But more often than not, God uses our natural senses and our daily lifestyle to speak to us. He normally communicates to us quietly in our spirit. Throughout scripture we see a pattern of the “still small voice” as His primary means of speaking to His children.

This principle is illustrated in the story of Elijah when he was running from Jezebel. He had fled to the mountains of Mount Horeb and was hiding in a cave. God wanted to get Elijah’s attention so He sent a great wind that caused the rocks to fall and bust. He then sent an earthquake and fire. But the scripture tells us that none of those elements were instruments of His revelation. In contrast to all that noise, God then sent a still small voice to speak to Elijah. (2 Kings 19)

God was making a point to Elijah. the lesson is that he shouldn’t depend on miraculous signs for revelation, but he should be still and listen for God’s still, small voice.

Learning to hear God’s voice is key to a successful walk with God. He wants to continually speak to and through us, but we must learn to take time to stop, be quiet and listen. He wants us to learn to recognize His voice and to distinguish His voice from the many other voices around us.

After all these years, I am still learning how to hear God’s voice. I must confess, sometimes, I would like to see a little wind, fire and earthquake when I am waiting on an answer to prayer. However, every time I get anxious about waiting on God, I miss what He is saying in that “still small voice”. Often, what He says while I am waiting is more profound than the eventual answer to my prayer. Could it be that our journey of waiting has as much value as the destination?

Bottom Line
Hearing God speak is not something reserved just for the super spiritual, but it’s for every child of God who is willing to learn how God speaks. He wants us to become intentional in our listening, and learn to watch and wait for His voice. Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be to spend as much time quietly waiting and listening as we spend praying?

In the next post I will expand on this subject and write about the practical aspects of hearing God’s voice.