Last week, I decided to read through my journals from four years ago. For those who know me, the past four years have been transformational in my faith and family life. As I read through my entries, I saw great value in journalling often – something I need to work on. However, with hindsight, I could see how certain decisions I made then impacted the course of my life. Some events I thought were destiny-defining were the proverbial flash in the pan. It’s incredible how certain occasions can seem like breakthrough moments because of their timing or significance to you in a given season. Looking back today, I realise that in many scenarios, I believed it was God because of the pyrotechnics [1 Kings 19:11-12]. I wasn’t operating on divine instruction obtained in prayer or the leading of the Spirit [Galatians 5:18].
I heard a story recently about a well-known minister starting in the healing ministry that illustrates the value of hearing divine instruction before proceeding. The minister had been praying with a group in his church for a gentleman with one good eye. After a while, nothing happened, and the faith of some in the group began to wane. The minister firmly believed God wanted to heal the gentleman’s blind eye. So, he told those who doubted his conviction that they could go if they chose and some left. He kept praying with those who stayed, and after a while, he sensed that God was telling him that the partially blind man needed a miracle, not healing. Baffled, the minister ignored the prompting until someone else in the company echoed the same revelation. With that confirmation, the minister asked the partially blind man how he became blind in one eye, and he explained that he lost his cornea in an accident. So, the group changed tact and started praying for a miracle, and incredibly, the man’s cornea grew back!
Praying amiss is a frustrating experience we should all avoid [James 4:3]. However, the minister’s story is an excellent example of the importance of hearing from God before we act. We can easily weary ourselves if we ignore this first step at the beginning of any endeavour. Sadly, we often equate acceleration to progress, but speed is only profitable if you’re heading in the right direction. Human folly often cons us into believing we know what we’re doing. As a result, we think we don’t need God’s input [Proverbs 12:15]. Sometimes, we aren’t patient enough to wait for God [Lamentations 3:26], so we make the mistake of Saul and take matters into our hands [1 Samuel 13:8-14]. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit leads the sons of God – men and women voluntarily submitted to Jesus in all things [Romans 8:14]. Think about it, unless you know the future and every possible outcome of your actions, how can you be sure you’re making the right decision? Why would God place His Spirit in us to lead, guide and direct us if it wasn’t of utmost importance?
I find the opening verses of Genesis 22, the great chapter on God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, jarring. There’s no grand appearance akin to Moses’s burning bush, no angelic visit, no vision or even a notable dream like Jacob’s or Joseph’s encounters. It just says: “…God tested Abraham and said to him…” [Genesis 22:1-2]. This passage raises many questions, but as I reflected on the importance of hearing God, I realised that Abraham would have failed his test if he hadn’t honed his ability to hear God over decades [Romans 10:17, Hebrews 11:17-19]. If that had happened, he certainly wouldn’t have become our exemplar of faith [Galatians 3:6-9], and he would have missed out on the blessings God intended for him [Genesis 22:15-18]. Additionally, if he hadn’t heard correctly and gone to the wrong mountain, he would have possibly killed Isaac because there may not have been a substitutionary sacrifice [Genesis 22:13].
As I reviewed my journal, I was in awe of God’s mercy. You see, God is only obligated to back His word and sponsor endeavours in alignment with His will [Jeremiah 1:12]. The biblical formula to guarantee success in any undertaking is to ensure it’s initiated and led by the Holy Spirit. As we obediently follow His leading, we immune ourselves to defeat, and the devil can’t do anything about it [2 Corinthians 2:14]. So, when we set off on our own, we become vulnerable to Satan’s snares [John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8], and only God’s mercy prevents catastrophic outcomes [2 Timothy 2:13]. I pondered certain decisions I made without seeking God’s counsel, even when I was uncertain. I saw entries of past pursuits I thought were the Spirit’s leading which came to nought. Yet, God preserved me. Even though today I can trace many of my challenges to those erroneous decisions, I can confidently say God’s hand guiding me to safe waters is more prominent.
For many of us, it will require significant effort to unlearn the behaviour commencing any endeavour until we know it has heaven’s backing. Yet the reward of doing so far outweighs the alternative, especially in this evil world with no guarantees of success. I’m more convinced today than ever that God loves me and He is for me [Romans 8:31-32, 35]. Consequently, no one wants my success more than God, including me. But it must happen His way. So, I’m taking Scripture’s advice and placing myself under His mighty hand as I learn patiently to decipher His voice from all others [1 Peter 5: 6, James 4:7-8].
I haven’t mastered the art of hearing from God yet, but I will if I earnestly seek it [Hebrews 11:6]. So, I look forward to the day I can confidently say: “God told me…” with irrefutable results.