On Hearing From God (and He Has Already Spoken)
Many people, and not just Christians, will often exclaim, “If only God would speak to me! Why can’t I hear from God?” It is as if God is silent, and has never communicated with us. But the Judeo-Christian God is altogether the opposite.
He is not silent, he has spoken, and he communicates graciously and freely with us. And of course the primary means of communicating to us have been through the living Word, Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible. The Bible testifies to Jesus, and Jesus testifies to the Scriptures.
Yet incredibly, the Bible is the most ignored book in the world – and I am also referring to Christians. This great gift of God’s communication to us is largely overlooked, disregarded and glossed over by far too many people claiming to be Christians.
Here we have 66 books; 1189 chapters; 31,173 verses; 807,361 words; and 3,566,480 letters – or thereabouts (depending on various factors). But we do have an Old Testament with 39 books, a New Testament with 27 books, offering us all we need to live life the way God intends us to live it.
Sure, if you are looking for a clear word from Scripture as to whether you buy a Ford or a Toyota, you may not get it. But there are enough specifics about the important things in life, along with plenty of general principles to pretty much cover all our main questions and concerns.
But tragically and inconceivably, there are countless people in the West who claim to be Christian who seldom if ever actually read the Bible. Some might pick it up sporadically, or during times of crisis, but otherwise it is just another book collecting dust on the shelves.
And then these same folks wonder why they are getting nowhere in their Christian life. They wonder why they seem powerless and ineffective and constantly living in defeat and despair. Well, when you refuse to do the very thing necessary for a strong and mature Christian walk, guess what? Of course you will flounder.
There are a few certain spiritual disciplines which we must embrace or we are just playing games. The daily reading and study of God’s Word, along with prayer, fellowship and worship, are the basics of the Christian life. They are non-negotiables.
If you refuse to do these things, then you reveal that you are not a true disciple of Christ but just someone going through the motions, with no real intent to make Christ Lord and to honour him in everything you do. If this is the case, then you must repent immediately, and set about making things right.
As to getting back into the Word, there are many ways to develop a regular reading program. One I often tout is simply to read enough to get through the Bible in a year. There are plenty of variations on this theme as well. See here for a number of options: http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/
If you read three chapters a day (3.25 to be exact), you will make it through the whole Bible in one year. I prefer just beginning on January 1 and ending up on December 31. Thus you start with Genesis 1-3 and make your way through, concluding on the last day of the year with Revelation 22.
If you are currently doing this, then you will know that three quarters of the year will have you in the Old Testament, since the OT comprises three quarters of our Bible. So today you should be reading the book of Malachi, and tomorrow you are off to the New Testament.
Some people prefer having a mix from both Testaments each day. The link above allows you that option as well. But the main thing is to read from the Word of God every day. What I offer is of course just a minimum. Ten minutes a day should cover your three chapters.
But you can and should read more, and spend time with serious Bible study and meditation on Scripture as well. But you have to start somewhere, so three chapters a day is the least you can do. So as I say, if you want to get into the swing of things, tomorrow you can start with the first three chapters of Matthew.
That the regular reading and study of God’s word is essential goes without saying. But since so many believers are just not doing this, let me remind them – and all of us – as to why this is so vital. A few quotes will suffice here.
“If you do not love the Bible, you certainly do not love the God who gave it to us.” Charles Spurgeon
?”There is no royal road to a knowledge of the Bible. There must be patient, daily, systematic reading of the Book, or the Book will not be known.” J.C. Ryle
?”There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually READ it, and PRAY over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.” J.C. Ryle
“Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be. Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal does injury to my soul. Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it.” A.W. Tozer
And even more important is what the inspired writers found in Scripture have said about the Bible. Just one will do, the psalmist in Psalm 119:97-104:
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
7 Replies to “On Hearing From God (and He Has Already Spoken)”
I endorse your comments about the demise of Bible reading by many evangelicals in their personal lives and the need to get back to regular Bible reading.
That extends to some churches. I met a friend at a recent gathering whose comment was: ‘So you attend one of those churches where they actually read the Bible in the service’.
There is another dimension that is included in these publications from mainstream evangelical publishers:
1. Jack Deere 1996. Surprised by the Voice of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
2. Leanne Payne 1994. Listening Prayer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
Taking time to listen to God speak through His Spirit in us requires quietness with God in prayer and meditation.
Sadly meditation seems to be a lost discipline in the church.
If anyone likes the idea of memorising the Word together as part of a small team, check out the following website and consider joining us. The Progress tab will show what we’ve covered between us in the past few months. If the passage has a heart shape next to it, it has been memorised by someone in the team – if it has TAKEN next to it, someone is currently memorising that passage.
One thing that will keep us from reading the Bible is a reluctance to do as it says. If you keep reading about stuff you are not doing, then you feel like a hypocrite. The easiest way to stop feeling like a hypocrite is to stop reading. Then you can get on with not doing what the Bible says without feeling guilty. Simple! And besides, you wouldn’t want to be called a Pharisee because you ARE doing what the Bible says, by others who are not reading the Bible and are not doing what it says. Simple Bill, so simple.
I recall the quip that if you want to hear from God, read your bible. If you want to hear audibly from God, read your bible out loud.
It is to my shame that I read the bible far too little. Thank you for the prod.
This advice from Bill came up here a while back and I realised that he had presented an obvious, but simple plan on how to get started….start at the beginning of the Bible and work through on a daily basis.
I like to read aloud to myself; this is impossible at weekends because I usually have no privacy, but I have managed to read three a day, based on two OT and one NT.
This routine does indeed drive the detail home and actually brings it all to life, if you can see the events happening in your mind’s eye as you read.
Thanks for such an important reminder, Bill. ‘Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you can have none of me’. We are to devour The Word. Our spirit man needs food just as much, if not more, than our flesh. How can we fight spiritual battles if we are weak and underfed?
Audible Bible was my friend for a long time. OT in about 9 weeks and NT in about 3 when travelling to work or working around the house and garden. Loved the way the OT became so clear when listening the longer flow. More meditative reading now.
Thanks for the encouragement to this task. Great to read something positive and powerful for the Aussie Christian who has much to face up to (with God’s help) these days. It is from the Word of God that we will obtain our strength to withstand such as the Muslim situation and the homosexual issue (as in Anne Marie Modra’s response to your recent letter). It is through understanding the Word of God rightly too, that we will have the information and armour to help others see their need of Christ/protect ourselves from weak discipleship.
It is also instructive to see how your Psalm reference makes the point that Christianity is very much a faith that we are to be determinedly self directive with; not laid back and fed as though once we are saved, we don’t need to do anything more. There are church leaders and parishioners, who do not encourage the use of the Bible in the service. This habit only teaches those who attend, that the Bible is not important nor relevant- which is not how the Bereans saw it. Of course, this habit of not using the Bible in the Church, only compounds its lack of use at home/personally and thereby, the poor understanding of it by many Christians. This can be a cause of insipid Christianity, family life that is maladjusted and the same for church life!
An interesting book that I am presently reading is “Young, Restless, Reformed” by Collin Hansen. It is written as a journalists’ journey with the new Calvinists, or how American youth are ‘discovering anew the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Weary of churches that seek to entertain rather than teach…’ Many of them are coming to this point just from reading their Bible and then finding out what Calvin, Piper and others are saying. John Robinson’s words as the ‘Mayflower’ sailed, seem very pertinent to this article of yours Bill: “I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”. Let us prayerfully read and study it then!