Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King

B. Childress
Apr 07 2013

    The one who is from God listens to God’s words.  This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.  
    (John 8:47)


If anything is clear from reading Scripture, this fact is apparent: God speaks to His people.  At the beginning of the Bible,
we find Him speaking to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  He conversed with Abraham and the other patriarchs.  He
spoke to the judges, kings, and prophets.  God was in Christ Jesus speaking to the disciples.  God communicated with
the early church, and as the biblical record comes to a close, God spoke to John on the Isle of Patmos.  God speaks to
His people, and you can anticipate that He will communicate with you, too.

Years ago as I addressed a group of ministers, one pastor took me aside and said, “I vowed I would never, ever again
listen to a man like you.  You talk as though God is personal and talks to you.  I just despise that.”  I asked him, “Are you
having difficulty hearing God’s voice?”  He and I took time to talk, and before long, we were on our knees.  He was
weeping and grateful God had spoken to him.

Oh, there are people who argue that God no longer speaks to people, but don’t let anyone intimidate you about hearing
from God.  Deep within the heart of every believer is a desire and a need to commune with their God.

The crux of understanding and experiencing God is to know clearly when He is speaking.  If a Christian doesn’t know
when God is speaking, that person is in trouble at the core of his or her Christian life!  Read some of what the Bible says
about God speaking to His people:

  • Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways.  In these last days, He
    has spoken to us by His Son.  (Hebrews 1:1-2)

  • “The one who is from God listens to God’s words.  This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.”
    (John 8:47)


The Bibles reveals that God spoke at many times and in a variety of ways.  Some of the ways people heard God speak
in the Old Testament were through:

  • angels (see Genesis 16)

  • visions (see Genesis 15)

  • dreams (see Genesis 28:10-19)

  • Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30)

  • symbolic actions (see Jeremiah 18:1-10)

  • a gentle whisper (see I Kings 19:12)

  • miraculous signs (see Exodus 8:20-25)

  • prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:18-22)

  • burning bush (see Exodus 3:1-4)

  • symbolic actions (see Isaiah 20)

The fact
that God spoke to people is far more important than how He spoke.  When He spoke, a people knew it was
God, and they knew what God was saying.  In studying the Old Testament Scriptures, I see four important factors
present every time God spoke.  The experience of Moses and the burning bush recorded in Exodus 3 provides a good

    1.  When God spoke, the way He communicated was often unique to the individual.  For instance, Moses had no
    precedent for a burning bush experience.  When he encountered one while herding sheep in the desert, he could
    not say, “At last!  This is my burning bush experience.  My fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had their
    encounters with burning bushes, and I guess this is mine.”  There are no other occurrences of God speaking that
    way.  It was a singular event.  There is no reference in Scripture that God ever again encountered someone in this
    way.  And yet, that event with the shepherd Moses was perfectly suited to the moment as God revealed the
    amazing work He was about to accomplish.

    God makes our experience with Him and His voice personal to us.  He wants us to focus on our relationship with
    Him and not on the method by which He speaks.  For example, if God chose always to communicate His will by
    having us roll a pair of dice, then every time we faced a confusing situation, we would immediately turn to the dice
    rather than to Him.

    At times, I hear people say God speaks to them through certain preachers or conferences or activities, so they
    continually turn to those when they need to receive God’s guidance.  However, it is possible to trust more in a
    Christian conference or a preacher than in God.  God will not tolerate any substitute for a relationship with Him.  
    As with people in Scripture, the key in your life is not how God speaks but that He speaks.

    2.  When God spoke, the person was sure it was God.  Moses did not have any reference point for hearing God
    speak from a burning bush.  Yet the Scripture testifies that Moses had no question that his encounter was with
    God – the “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  He trusted God, obeyed what He told him to do, and experienced God
    acting just as He promised He would.  Could Moses logically prove to someone else that he had heard from God
    through a burning bush?  No, all Moses could do was testify to his encounter with God.  Only God could cause His
    people to know that the word He gave Moses was a message from the God of their fathers, and the same truth
    applies today.  Only God can verify a word He speaks to you.

    When someone like Gideon lacked confidence, God graciously provided additional assurance.  When Gideon first
    looked for a sign, he prepared a sacrifice.  “The Angel of the LORD extended the tip of the staff that was in His
    hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread.  Fire came up from the rock and consumed the meat and
    the unleavened bread.  Then the Angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.  When Gideon realized that He was
    the Angel of the LORD, he said, ‘Oh no, Lord God! I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face!’”         
    (Judges 6:21-22).  Gideon was sure God had spoken.  Nevertheless, Gideon asked for an additional sign
    because he was frightened by what God had told him!

    3.  When God spoke, the person knew what God said.  Moses knew what God was telling him to do.  He knew how
    God wanted to work through him.  That is why Moses raised so many objections.  He knew God had high
    expectations.  This was true for Moses, and it was true for Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, David, Daniel, and
    others.  God didn’t use riddles.  He made His message clear.

    4.  When God spoke, that was the encounter with God.  Moses would have been foolish to say, “This has been a
    wonderful experience with this burning bush.  I hope it leads me to an encounter with God!”  The bush was the
    encounter with God!  When God reveals truth to you – by whatever means – that is an encounter with Him, an
    experience of His presence and work in your life.  God is the only One who can cause you to experience His
    presence or hear His voice.

At times I’ll hear someone tell me of a deeply moving worship service.  Or talk about an awesome experience while
mountain climbing or when reading the Bible.  Often, it will become clear that this person has missed the most important
aspect of what has happened.  He or she did not merely experience a moving worship service or breathtaking scenery or
a profound Scripture passage.  This person just encountered God!  It is all too easy for us to be distracted from God if
we focus on the means through which God speaks.

This reality of God speaking is evident throughout the Old Testament.  The methods He used to communicate differed
from person to person.  What’s important is:

  • God spoke uniquely to His people.

  • Each person knew it was God.

  • Each knew what He said.


The Gospels record God speaking through His Son, Jesus.  The Gospel of John opens this way: “In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and took up residence among
us” (John 1:1, 14).  God became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ.  (See also I John 1:1-4.)

Even though the twelve disciples knew Jesus personally, they did not immediately understand who Jesus was.  On one
occasion, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and that’s enough for us” (John 14:8).  Jesus said to him, “Have I been
among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip?  The one who has seen Me has seen the Father.  How can you
say, ‘Show us the Father?’  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?  The words I speak to you I
do not speak on My own.  The Father who lives in Me does His works” (John 14:9-10).

When Jesus spoke, the Father was communicating through Him.  When Jesus did a miracle, the Father was doing His
work through Jesus.

The Gospels testify that God spoke through Christ Jesus.  When the disciples heard Jesus, they heard God.  Just as
surely as Moses was face-to-face with God at the burning bush, the disciples were face-to-face with God in a personal
relationship with Jesus.  When Mary Magdalene or the rich young ruler or Zacchaeus spoke with Jesus, they were
encountering God.


When we move from the gospels to the book of Acts, which records that God sent His Holy Spirit, and then to the
present, we often change our whole mind-set.  We live as if God quit speaking personally to His people.  As a result, we
fail to realize that an encounter with the Holy Spirit is an encounter with God.  God has spoken to His people throughout
church history, and He speaks to us today.  From the time of Pentecost to the present, God has been speaking to His
people by the Holy Spirit.

At conversion, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of every believer.  “Don’t you know that you are God’s
sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).  “Your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who
is in you, whom you have from God” (I Corinthians 6:19).  Because He is always present in every Christian, He can
speak to you clearly at any time and in any way He chooses.

Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit would help them in the same way Jesus had (see John 14:16).  He said the
Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (see John 16:13); would convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment (see
John 16:7); prepare them for things to come (see John 16:13); glorify Christ; take what He heard from the heavenly
Father and share it with them (see John 16:14-15); and bring to their remembrance what Jesus had said (see John 14:
26).  The Holy Spirit will also help believers to pray (see Romans 8:26).  God intended for the Holy Spirit to be extremely
active in believers’ lives, communicating His will and purposes to them.


My wife, Marilynn, and I attend a large church.  Near the beginning of each worship service, the church has a prayer time
where the pastor prays and people are invited to the front of the auditorium to meet with God.  One Sunday as everyone
bowed their heads, I looked around instead.  Several people were kneeling at the front of the auditorium, and my
attention was drawn to one young man who seemed to be praying fervently.  I quickly sensed the Holy Spirit moving me
to join the young man.  I knelt beside him and, after a few moments, I prayed out loud that the young man would
surrender himself to everything God was saying to him.  Suddenly, he exclaimed, “It’s you!  It’s you!”  The man told me
he had just completed law school, but God had been working powerfully in his life, leading him to go to seminary and
become a minister.  He feared telling his parents, knowing they’d be disappointed since they had put him through law
school.  So that morning he had come to pray.  He asked God to send someone to help him know for certain whether he
should pursue the ministry.  He said, “Dr. Blackaby, you’ve written a book about doing the will of God.  God sent you to
help me.”

How did I know at that moment a young life was at a pivotal moment?  I didn’t.  But the Holy Spirit did.  How could I have
known that, of all those who were praying at the front that morning, this young man would be the most significantly
impacted by my joining him?  I didn’t.  But the Holy Spirit did.  The Holy Spirit, on that Sunday morning at my church,
knew the truth of that situation, and he guided me into action.


Sin has affected us so deeply (see Romans 3:10-11) that you and I cannot understand the truth of God unless the Holy
Spirit reveals it to us.  He is our teacher.  As you read your Bible, be open to the Spirit as He teaches you the Word of
God.  As you pray, watch how the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to confirm in your heart what God is saying.  Observe what
He is doing around you in the circumstances of life.  The God who is speaking to you as you pray and the God who is
speaking to you in the Scriptures is the same God who is at work around you daily.

The evidence of the Scriptures can encourage you at this point.  The Bible illustrates that when God chose to speak to
an individual, that person had no doubt it was God, and it was clear what God was saying.  When God speaks to you,
you can know He is the One speaking, and you, too, can understand clearly what He is saying.  Jesus explained, “The
one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep…and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by
name and leads them out…I am the good shepherd.  I know My own sheep, and they know Me” (John 10:2-4, 14).

Knowing God’s voice is not a matter of honing a method or discovering a formula.  Recognizing God’s voice comes from
an intimate love relationship with Him.  Those who do not have the relationship do not hear what God is saying (see John
8:47).  Since God will uniquely communicate with you in the intimacy of your walk with Him, your relationship with Him is of
utmost importance.


You become familiar with God’s voice as you experience Him.  As God speaks and you respond, you will recognize His
voice more and more readily.  Some people try to bypass the love relationship.  They look for a miraculous sign, or set
out a “fleece” (see Judges 6), or try a formula to discover God’s will.  But there is no substitute for an intimate
relationship with God.

I’ve outlined below some of the ways well-meaning people try to discern God’s voice.  Yet, while these approaches may
cite particular Scriptures, they misunderstand what the Bible is teaching.

    1.  Asking for a miraculous sign.  When the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a miraculous sign, He
    condemned them as “an evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:38-39).  They were so self-centered and
    sinful they could not recognize that God was present in their midst (see Luke 19:41-44).  Don’t be like them,
    seeking for miraculous signs to validate a word from God.  Learn to know God’s voice so you don’t have to subject
    everything God says to a series of tests and proofs.

    2.  Seeking a method.  A formula is not the way to hear God’s voice, either.  Moses heard from God through a
    burning bush.  Balaam heard God speak through a donkey even though he had never heard God talk through a
    donkey before.  If Balaam lived in our formula-driven day, perhaps he would have written a book, Donkeys for
    Dummies, so people could discern when God was speaking to them through a donkey, too!

    How many other burning bush experiences were there?  None, as I’ve said before.  God does not want us to
    become experts at using a formula to hear Him speak.  He wants an intimate love relationship with us, so we’ll
    depend on Him alone.

    3.  “Name it and claim it” method.  Some people like to open their Bibles, pick out a verse they want to use, and
    claim it as a word from God for their situation.  This is a misguided and self-centered approach to determining God’
    s will.  You may ask, “Can’t I get a word from God from the Bible?”  Of course you can!  But only the Holy Spirit can
    reveal to you which truth of Scripture is God’s Word for your particular circumstance.  You cannot force God to
    speak to you or to reveal truth by choosing a verse and declaring it to be God’s word for you.  God always takes
    the initiative in speaking to us and in revealing His will.  He does it in His way and in His time.

    You also need to be careful about publicly claiming you have received a word from God.  Announcing that God
    spoke to you concerning a matter is serious business.  If God did speak to you, you must continue in the direction
    He led you until what He promised comes to pass (even for twenty-five years, like Abram).  If you have not been
    given a word from God, yet you say you have, you are perilously in danger of being a false prophet.  Scripture
    warns: “You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a message the LORD has not spoken?’  When a prophet
    speaks in the LORD’s name, and the message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message the LORD
    has not spoken.    The prophet has spoken it presumptuously.  Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).  
    The lesson is straightforward.  If God has spoken, what He said will occur.  God always vindicates His Word.

    In Old Testament law, the penalty for a false prophet was death (Deuteronomy 18:20).  Do not take a word from
    God lightly.  Likewise, people in the church ought to be held accountable if what they claim God told them doesn’t
    come to pass.

    4.  Open and closed doors.  Some folks try to hear God’s voice and know His will only through circumstances.  I
    hear people say things like: “Lord, I need to know if I should take this particular job.  I’m going to tell them I will
    accept, but please stop the process if you don’t want me to take that job.”  In each situation they pray: “Stop me if I
    am wrong, and bless me if I am right.”  Another version of this is: “Lord, I will proceed in this direction.  Close the
    door if it is not Your will.”  The only problem is, this is not the pattern in Scripture for knowing God’s will.

God does use circumstances to speak to us.  But we will often be led astray if that is our only means of determining God’
s directions.  Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to stop us from making mistakes!  He does not assure us He will
intervene if we proceed to take a job that will bring us heartache and frustration.  He calls on us to seek Him and His will
at the front end.  It is foolish to walk carelessly through doors of opportunity without seeking God’s guidance, blithely
hoping God will work all things together for good.


The pattern I see in Scripture is that God always gives a direction on the front end of His assignments.  He may not tell
you all you want to know at the start, but He will reveal what you
need to know to make the necessary adjustments and to
take the first step of obedience.  As long as you are doing all that God has already instructed, you don’t have to fret
about how every detail will work out.

You can’t allow yourself to be guided by experience alone, and neither should you depend solely on tradition, a method,
or a formula.  Often people trust these ways because they seem easier than cultivating an intimate walk with God.  
People do as they please and put the burden of responsibility on God to rescue them from undesirable consequences of
their actions.  If they make a mistake in their haste to move forward, they assume God will intervene and stop them.  If
they end up in the wrong place, they blame Him for letting them go that way.  If you want to know the will and voice of
God, you must invest the time and effort to develop a love relationship with Him.

He wants you to recognize His voice and know His will.  Your relationship to Him is the key to hearing when God
speaks to you.  If you do not already have that kind of relationship with God, start right now by praying.  Ask God to
guide you into such a relationship, and commit yourself to invest the time and effort to know Him better.


“What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared
for those who love Him.  Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the
deep things of God…No one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have not received the spirit of
the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God” (I Corinthians 2:9-
12).  The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts and counsel of the heavenly Father.  The Spirit understands the Father’s
purposes for your life, and the Spirit’s exciting role is to help you understand and receive everything God wants to give

When God spoke to Abraham, Moses, Mary, and others, those events were encounters with God.  An encounter with
Jesus for the disciples was an encounter with God.   In the same way, when you encounter the Holy Spirit, that is an
encounter with God for you.

Now that the Holy Spirit has been given to believers, He is the One who guides you into all truth and teaches you all
things.  You understand spiritual truth because the Holy Spirit is working in your life.  You could study the Bible at a great
university and earn a doctor’s degree in biblical studies, but unless the Holy Spirit opens your spiritual eyes to
understand even the simplest spiritual truths contained in its pages, you will not recognize or understand them.  When
you come to the Word of God, the Author Himself is present to instruct you.  You never
discover truth; truth is revealed.  
When the Holy Spirit reveals truth to you, He is not leading you to an encounter with God.  That
is an encounter with


I was speaking at a conference one day when a retired couple approached me during a break.  They told me that
several years earlier, God had convicted them that they should take early retirement from their jobs and spend the next
years of their lives doing international missions.  They told God they would do that, but they were about to build a new
home, and they had one child they were still helping through college.  They assured God that, once all their children
were out of school and they had built their home, they would go.

Their son eventually completed his studies, and their dream home was finished, but they didn’t go.  They enjoyed their
comfortable home and the free time they now had to visit family and to golf at their club.  Then recently, a violent tornado
swept right over their house, tearing it to splinters and leaving only rubble.

“What do you think we should do?” they asked.  “Obey immediately!” was my response.  Receiving a word from God is
always a serious matter.  Never treat it casually or lightly.  The Holy Spirit has any number of ways to speak to us.  Some
are louder than others.


When God spoke to Moses, Moses’ next move was crucial.  After Jesus spoke to the disciples, what they did next was
pivotal.  What you do after the Holy Spirit speaks will have enormous consequences for you and those around you.  Too
often when the Spirit of God speaks to us, we launch into a protracted discussion with Him, questioning the correctness
of His directions.  Moses tried it at the burning bush (see Exodus 3:11-4:13), and it limited him for the rest of his life.  
Because of Moses’s objections, God assigned Aaron to be a spokesman for Moses.  He had to speak to the people
through his brother Aaron (see Exodus 4:14-16).  Eventually, Aaron caused Moses considerable grief when he made a
golden calf for the rebellious Hebrews (see Exodus 32:1-6).  Aaron, together with Miriam, led a challenge to Moses’
leadership.  Moses paid a high price for arguing with God (see Numbers 12:1-8).

I encourage you to review on a regular basis what you sense God has been saying to you.  If God speaks and you hear
but do not respond, a time could come when you will not hear His voice.  Disobedience can lead to a “famine…of hearing
the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).

When Samuel was a young boy, God began to speak to him.  The Scriptures say, “Samuel grew, and the LORD was with
him and let nothing he said prove false” (I Samuel 3:19).  Be like Samuel.  Don’t let a single word from the Lord fail to
bear fruit in your life.  Then God will do in you and through you everything He promises.

Luke 8:5-15 records Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds.  The seed that fell on the good soil represents those
who hear the Word of God, respond positively, and produce fruit.  Jesus said, “Therefore, take care how you listen.  For
whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from
him” (Luke 8:18).  If you hear the Word of God and do not apply it to produce fruit in your life, your disobedience will cost
you.  Make up your mind now that when the Spirit of God speaks, you are going to do what He says.


While I was a pastor, there was a man in my church who seemed to constantly struggle in every area of his life.  He lost
his job every few years.  His marriage was in trouble.  His children rebelled, and he was often at odds with other church
members.  It seemed that something was terribly wrong at the core of his walk with God.  One day, I asked him to share
with me about his life and spiritual pilgrimage.  He told me that when he was a young man, God had profoundly
encountered him and called him to prepare to serve in Christian ministry.  The man applied to a Bible college and
intended to attend that coming fall.  But at that same time, he also met a young woman, and it appeared their
relationship would lead to marriage.  So he delayed going to Bible college.

They were married and sought to purchase a home.  Children were soon on the way, and debts began mounting.  At
first, this man continued to plan how he could afford to go to Bible college and become a minister.  But as the years
rolled by, he eventually shelved those thoughts.  The one thing the man had been vainly pursuing – financial security –
was something God never granted him.  Every time it seemed he was beginning to advance in his career and earn a
comfortable salary, his company would go bankrupt, or it would be purchased by a competitor, and he would be let go.  
Now he was middle-aged, unhappy, and unfulfilled.  It became obvious he had disobeyed a clear word from God, and his
life had suffered spiritual barrenness ever since.  How we respond to God’s word to us contains profound, long-lasting
consequences for us and for our families.


People often want God to give them some kind of nice devotional thought to help them feel good during the day, but if
you want the God of the universe to communicate with you, you need to be ready for Him to reveal what He is doing
where you are.  In Scripture, God is not often seen speaking to people just for conversation’s sake.  He’s always
preparing to do something.  When God speaks to you, He has a purpose in mind for your life.

When God spoke to Abram (see Genesis 12), what was He planning to do?  He was about to begin building a nation
through which He would bless all the nations of earth.  Notice the timing.  Why did God speak to Abram when He did?  
Because it was at that point God wanted to begin building a nation.  The moment Abram learned what God was about to
do, he had to adjust his life.  He immediately had to begin living his life in accord with what God had said so he could be
of service to God.


Some of us assume we have the next few months to think about what God said and to consider whether this is the best
timing, to see when we can best fit His instructions into our crowded schedules.  But God speaks in
His timing.  He
communicates with His servant when He is ready to move.  As God enters into the mainstream of your life, the
promptness of your response is crucial.  The moment God speaks to you, that is the time to respond.

God speaks when He has a purpose in mind for your life.  Two things are crucial as you respond: First, you must
immediately begin to adjust your life to what He says.  Second, you must be prepared to remain obedient as long as it
takes for God to fulfill His purposes.  It took twenty-five years for Abraham to develop into a man suitable to raise Isaac,
the child God had promised.  God was concerned not just about Abram but about a nation.  Abraham’s quality as a
father would affect his son and the generations that followed.  Abram had to begin adjusting his life to God’s ways
immediately.  He could not wait until Isaac was born and then try to become the man God wanted Isaac’s father to be.


When God speaks with the purpose of revealing an assignment to you, you need to trust what He says.  He knows
exactly what He is doing in and through your life.  Don’t rule out what God may be saying just because it doesn’t match
what you want to hear or what you think is possible.

When God called Abram, He said, “I will bless you, I will make your name great” (Genesis 12:2).  That means: “I will
develop your character to match your assignment.”  Nothing is more pathetic than a small character in a big
assignment.  Many of us don’t want to give attention to our character.  We just want the big assignment from God.


Suppose a seminary graduate is waiting for a big church to call him to be their pastor.  Then a small congregation
contacts him and says, “Will you be bivocational and help us out here in western Wyoming?”

“Well, no,” the prospective pastor responds.  He thinks, “I am waiting for God to give me a position that matches all my
gifts and training.  I have gained extensive education, and I can’t waste my life serving in a small setting that doesn’t
utilize my experience and skills.  It doesn’t make sense.”

Or suppose you want to serve in your church as an adult Bible teacher.  However, the church’s director of religious
education tells you the only opening is with teaching youth.  The director tells you of the difficulty she’s had finding
people who will invest their lives in the teenagers.  But this is not what you were looking for.  You taught married adults in
your last church, and you enjoyed it so much you want to do the same in your new church.  So you tell the director you
will just bide your time until the right job comes along.

Do you see how self-centered that attitude is?  Human reasoning will not give you God’s perspective.  If you can’t be
faithful in a little, God will not give you the larger assignment.  He may want to adjust your character through small
assignments in order to prepare you for larger ones.  He may want to lead you into an entirely new experience so He can
develop a particular dimension of your character.  Moreover, God knows the needs of a smaller congregation or the
youth at your church, and those needs are more important than you remaining in your comfort zone or relying on your
expertise and perceived skills.  God starts to work when you respond in obedience to what
He wants, even if it isn’t what
you were seeking or anticipating.  When you make the adjustments and obey, you come to know Him by experience.  
This is the goal of God’s activity in your life – that you come to know Him.

Do you want to experience God working mightily in and through you?  Then adjust your life to God in the kind of
relationship where you follow Him wherever He leads you – even if the assignment seems small or insignificant.  Wouldn’t
you love to hear: “Well done, good and faithful slave!  You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of
many things.  Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:21)?

Do not misunderstand the point here.  Don’t assume an assignment must be from God just because it is small or
unexpected.  Whether the assignment is large or small in your eyes, you will still have to determine whether it is from
God.  God is the One who can tell you that.  The important thing is not to rule out an assignment on the basis of your
preconceived ideas.  God may well give you an assignment that takes you outside your experience or comfort level.  
Remember – you will know what His will is through your relationship with God.  
Don’t bypass the relationship.

I have known people who wouldn’t interrupt a fishing trip or a football game for anything.  They say they want to serve
God, but they keep eliminating from their lives anything that might interfere with their own plans.  They are so self-
centered, they don’t recognize when God comes to them.  There are Christians who spend great time and energy to
make their lives as comfortable as possible.  They immediately reject any initiative God brings into their lives that could
create discomfort.

God has a right to interrupt your life.  He is Lord.  When you surrendered to Him, you acknowledged His right to help
Himself to your life at His prerogative.  If you are God-centered, you will adjust your plans to what God wants to do.


Suppose that five times out of ten, when the master had something for his servant to do, the servant said, “I’m sorry.  
That’s not on my agenda.”  What do you suppose the master would do?  He would discipline the servant, of course.  If
the servant did not respond to the discipline, sooner or later the master would no longer come with assignments, and the
servant would remain outside the activity and purpose of the master.  This might suit a secular servant just fine, but it
ought to break the heart of Christians to discover God is not working in or through their lives anymore.

You may be saying, “Oh, I wish I could experience God working through me the way John (or Beth) does.”  But every
time God comes to John, John adjusts his life to God and is obedient regardless of the cost.  When Beth has been
faithful in little assignments, God has given her more important ones.  Over the years, Beth has developed the character
necessary so God can entrust her with major assignments.


I’ve often wondered sort of what turn my life and Marilynn’s would have taken if we had been unwilling to accept God’s
invitation to move to Saskatoon, Canada, to serve Him in that cold and distant place.  That assignment called on us to
start new churches, to build a college student ministry, and to establish a theological college – all by faith.  These were
things I had no experience doing and did not necessarily feel gifted to do.  Yet now, almost forty years later, I realize that
when God asked us to leave our familiar setting to go with Him to Saskatoon, He had far more in mind than we could
have ever imagined!  I am so glad I did not base the decisions for my life on what I considered to be my strengths and
interests.  There is no more rewarding or exciting way to live than in obedience to what the Lord asks you to do!

Once God has given you a sense of the direction He is leading and you have said “yes,” give Him all the time He wants
to develop you into the kind of person He can trust with the assignment.  Don’t assume that the moment God calls, you
are ready for the role.  Two important biblical characters demonstrate the need for a time to grow:

    1.  David.  How long was it after God anointed David as king that David attained the throne?  Perhaps ten or
    twelve years.  What was God doing during that time?  He was building David’s relationship with Him so David could
    lead the nation according to God’s purposes.

    2.  Paul.  How long was it after the Lord called Paul on the Damascus Road that he went on his first missionary
    journey?  Maybe ten or eleven years.  God wanted to redeem a lost world, and He wanted to reach the Gentiles
    through Paul.  God took time to prepare Paul for that critical assignment.

Is it for your sake alone that God takes time to prepare you?  No, it is also for the good of those He wants to reach
through your life.  For their benefit, pursue the kind of relationship with God I am describing.  Then, when He chooses to
work mightily through your life, He will achieve what He wants in the lives of those you touch.


Several years ago, I attended a conference where the speaker challenged participants to obey whatever God was
asking us to do.  Then he told us to take a moment in prayer and think of anything God had asked us to do that we had
not yet completed.  The only thing I sensed I had not responded to was to write.  I had not seen myself as a writer and
had been far too busy, I thought, to have time to be an author.  I sensed God was asking me to be open to writing, but I
really had not been.  So during the conference, I surrendered that area of my life to the Lord and told Him that if He
wanted me to write anything, I would do so.

To be honest, this did not seem like a major decision.  No one had ever asked me to write a book before, so I felt pretty
safe with that new commitment.  But soon afterward, a man approached to ask if I would write a small book about how
God had led our church to be on mission with Him!  Immediately, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the commitment I had
just made, and I knew I had to agree to this request.  I could not have known then that God would provide opportunities
for me to write dozens of books.  What seemed a task beyond my ability was something God intended to make into a
major part of my life and ministry.


A popular teaching says God does not give people specific directives.  It claims He gave us brains and the Bible, and
these two are sufficient to guide us in all decision making.  This position implies that a Christian always thinks correctly,
according to God’s will.  It doesn’t take into account that the old nature is constantly at odds with the spiritual nature (see
Romans 7), and it neglects the important fact that our ways are not God’s ways (see Isaiah 55:8).

After God spoke to Noah about building an ark, Noah knew the size, the type of materials, and how to put it together.  
When God spoke to Moses about constructing the tabernacle, He was extremely specific about the details.  When God
became flesh, He gave specific directions to His disciples – where to go, what to do, how to respond to people who
accepted or rejected their message, and what to preach.

God called Abraham and said, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show
you” (Genesis 12:1).  Since He was not very specific at first, God’s instructions required faith on Abraham’s part.  But
God did promise to reveal His plans as Abraham obeyed.  God always provides enough specific directions so you can
do what He wants you to do at the moment.  When you need to know more, He will guide you.  As time went on, God
revealed to Abraham that a son would be born to him.  He also spoke to Abraham about the number of his descendants,
the territory his people would inhabit, and He revealed that Abraham’s descendants would go into bondage, eventually
to be delivered.

The Holy Spirit continues to give clear directives today.  He will give you unmistakable guidance for your life.  You may
say, “That has not been my experience.”  But be careful not to let your personal experience become the measure of
what the Christian life is supposed to be like.  Rather than dismissing anything you read in the Bible that does not match
what you have experienced, ask the Lord to raise the level of your experience to the standard present in Scripture.

If you have not received instructions from God on a matter, pray and wait.  Learn patience.  Depend on God’s timing, for
His agenda is always best.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t try to skip over the relationship to get on with the activity.


Frequently, I’m asked, “How can I know whether the word I receive is from God, or if it is actually my own selfish desires,
or even Satan?”  At times, people are immobilized when they have a sense they should do something because they’re
afraid Satan may be trying to mislead them.  Some Christians go to great trouble studying Satan’s ways so they can
identify his deceptions, but I don’t do that.  I’m determined not to focus on Satan – he is defeated.  Christ, who guides me
and implements His will through me, is the victor.  The only way Satan can affect God’s work through me is when I
believe Satan and doubt God.  Satan will try to deceive you, but he cannot ultimately thwart God’s purposes.


When The Royal Canadian Mounted Police train their people in anti-counterfeiting work, the trainees don’t focus on
counterfeit bills.  It is impossible to know all the ways to make fake money.  However, only one genuine type of ten-dollar
bill exists.  So, they thoroughly study the legitimate bill.  That way, anything which doesn’t measure up can be readily
identified as counterfeit.  The more intimately aware you are of a genuine article, the easier it is to recognize a fake.

When you sense a leading in your spirit, you may ask, “Is this impulse coming from God, from my own desires, or from
Satan?”  How can you prepare to know if God is the One guiding you?  You need to understand the ways of God
thoroughly, and if something doesn’t measure up to God’s ways, turn away from it immediately.  That’s what Jesus did
when He was tempted in the wilderness (see Matthew 4; Luke 4).

Satan tempted Jesus to take shortcuts: “You want people to follow you?  Well, turn these stones into bread, and people
will follow you in droves.  Or jump from the highest point in the city.  When the crowds below witness angels miraculously
save you, they’ll certainly follow you.  Or bow down and worship me.  Do that, and you won’t have to endure the pain of
crucifixion.  I’ll give you all the nations to serve you.”  Each time, Satan sounded like he was trying to help Jesus
accomplish His work.

Satan was too subtle to try convincing Jesus to abandon His mission.  He simply attempted to get Jesus to do God’s work
in the world’s way.  But Jesus refused (see Matthew 4:1-11).  He never discussed the options with Satan.  He never
argued.  He measured everything against the Scriptures and discarded anything that did not line up with what God had
said and done.

Like Jesus’ encounter with Satan, your spiritual warfare may involve being tempted to do something that sounds good
but is not God’s way.  Jesus clearly knew His mission and how the Father wanted Him to accomplish it.  When Satan tried
to get Jesus to go a different route – for “instant success” – Jesus recalled the assignment His Father had given and
rejected the false counsel.


EXPERIENCING GOD, by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Copyright 2008, B&H Publishing Group.