Listening to the Holy Spirit
“Lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NKNV
Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about that. God makes it clear in His word that we’re not left all on our own to deal with all the struggles that come our way here in this life.
Believers have the Holy Spirit alive and living inside us to guide us and help us make decisions. I’ve found the more I listen and ask for help, the more I see the clear direction from God. The key of course, as with any relationship, is invested quality time. You can’t expect to communicate well and be on the same page regarding decision-making with a spouse, child, close friend, or co-worker without investing regularly in time spent together. The same is true with our Heavenly Father. We want clear God-inspired direction when it comes time to make a major decision, but unless we’ve made a decision to regularly spend time with Him in reading His word, prayer, and meditation, we cannot expect to hear clearly from God. When I was a teenager and started making money, my Dad told me to walk into the bank to make deposits instead of going through the drive-through window. I thought it was a waste of time and that using the drive-through would be quicker and easier. He explained that what I wanted to do was to have the management at the bank get used to seeing me so that when it came time to ask for a loan, I would already be recognized as a regular customer. I would have established a relationship at least on an introductory level.
With Christ’s finished work on the cross, resurrection, and ascension, we have the benefit of The Holy Spirit residing inside us. He tells us this in John chapter 14.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26 NKJV
Sometimes I think about the challenge of discerning whether that voice I hear inside is really the Holy Spirit, just good ole common sense logic, or something planted by Satan to distract me. I go back to my default as previously noted – having a healthy, close, and frequented relationship with the Father will fine-tune my hearing and help me accurately interpret the source. I’ve also heard really good counsel on this topic which strongly recommends we filter everything we hear through God’s word. He’s never the source of any suggestion that is contrary to the Bible.
I’ve also considered that it would be so much easier if God would speak to me directly, or through a human intermediary as He did in the Old Testament. Well, not so fast. In the Old Testament, God used prophets to provide His direction to the kings over Israel. Let’s look at one of the dozens of examples of this model and see if it worked. In 2 Chronicles, we find recorded the rule of King Asa over Judah. Chapter 14 describes a strong start to his rule. Here’s an excerpt:
“Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him. And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest.” 2 Chronicles 14:2-6 NKJV
Go, King Asa! Early in his reign (noted later in Chapter 14) it is recounted that Asa’s army of less than 600,000 faced off against a threatening army from Ethiopia of over twice his size. Asa cried out to the Lord and saw Him intervene and deliver to Asa complete victory. Later in the story, we find that Asa was so fervent for God that he removed his own mother from the position of Queen Mother because she had built and worshiped a foreign idol. I bet Sunday dinners at Mom’s were not pleasant after that! For 36 years we see that Asa listened to God-inspired direction and he and the Jewish nation of Judah benefited greatly. This guy truly had it going on. Then things take a wrong turn in Chapter 16. King Asa decided to make an alliance with the King of Syria to help deter a threat from his neighboring sister nation of Israel. The prophet Hanani confronts Asa with these words.
“’ Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.’ Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.” 2 Chronicles 16:8-10 NKJV
Verse 10 describes Asa’s response. We’ll save that all-too-common response to God’s correction for another blog. The point is that Asa had clear real-time guidance straight from God and he still managed to make a terrible choice that caused major problems for him and for the nation he was responsible for. It likely shortened his life. I assume we wouldn’t do better.
I find myself trying to tune in to the Holy Spirit, more and more in my life. And the Holy Spirit, I believe, cares about more than just major battles; I believe the Holy Spirit cares about everything in the life of a believer. I’m washing out the filter for my dishwasher and find stubborn deposits around the edges. I want to put down the soft bristle brush that I am using and pick up something more aggressive, and the Holy Spirit stops me and reminds me to just put it back in hot, soapy water and let it soak. Traffic congestion on the highway delays me on the way to an important appointment. Is that the Holy Spirit protecting me? I honestly don’t know, but more and more I want to err on the side of yes – that delay has just protected me from a serious accident that would have caused an injury that I will not encounter. I will never know. But I choose, I am trying to believe in every case, to default to that voice inside my head as being the Holy Spirit. Then I test it - is this something God would say? Is the guidance I am hearing lining up with the word of God? Does it feel like correction and conviction rather than provoking guilt and condemnation? A quality circle of Godly brothers and sisters is a great resource at times when an important decision is looming. Proverbs tells us:
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 NKJV
Lastly, pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. God’s word not only tells us to ask, it actually encourages us to be persistent. Here’s what Jesus said in Luke:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 NKJV