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24 January 2009 @ 07:30 pm
Walking with God  
I am rather a fan of the book Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge.  There's some concepts in there that I think just about every Christian should be familiar with.  One of those is what Eldredge calls "walking with God".  By this he means hearing God speaking to you.  Somewhat lost in the midst of his many wonderful personal stories about what walking with God looks like are bits and pieces of advice on how to learn to hear Him.  Drawing on his writing, and including things I have found for myself, I make here a list of advice for all Christians who want to hear God for themselves.  They are not necessarily in any particular logical order.

1.  Expect to hear God's voice.

Jesus says: "The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep... his sheep follow him because they know his voice. ... I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me". [John 10:2,4,14]

In other words, Jesus tells us that we who follow him will know his voice.  If you assume that Jesus isn't talking to you, then you won't hear him.  He says he IS talking to you; how could he expect you to recognize his voice if he never talked to you?  The first step to hearing him is to try believing that he is, in fact, talking to you.

2. Listen. 

Set aside time, preferably every day, to silence your own thoughts.  Give him a chance to speak.  If someone I know holds their hands over their ears and hums something while I'm trying to talk to them, I usually respect their choice and stop talking; if they don't want to hear, yelling isn't going to do any good.  God is the same way; he doesn't yell at us if we don't want to hear.  If we don't be quiet and listen for him, he's not going to shout over the noise that fills our minds. 

3.  Ask questions.

This goes along with God not yelling at us if we don't want to hear.  He doesn't necessarily answer questions you don't ask.  So ask what you want to know.  In my experience, he doesn't answer all the hypothetical "what if ..." questions that run through my head, nor does he answer questions about what's going on with other people.  But he almost always answers the "what should I do right this moment" questions, the ones that are based in reality instead of in my imagination. 

4.  God speaks in your heart.

Eldredge goes on (and on) about the heart, in his book.  One important distinction that he makes that I think especially worth pointing out is that the Biblical idea of the heart is not the sappy idea that our culture has of the heart being our emotions (and thus opposed to our head, with which we think).  In the Bible, we think and know with our heart; our heart absorbs wisdom (Luke 5:22, Deut 8:5, Eph 1:18, Prov 23:15 for example).  Eldredge says emotions can be a sign of what is in our hearts, (I believe he uses the phrase "the voice of our hearts") but they are not themselves our hearts.  Our heart is the center of our being.  Personally, I found it useful to stop expecting God's voice to be one of the many voices running through my head, but to be something deeper.

5.  Practice.

Don't expect yourself to just suddenly start hearing him perfectly someday.  Like most things in life, hearing God is something that needs to be practiced and learnt over time.  This insight was one of the two most helpful to me.  Without realizing it, I was expecting there to be some magic, logical key which would clearly identify thoughts from God from other thoughts; once I got that key, I would be able to know exactly what God was telling me and what he wasn't.  The idea that hearing God was something I had to learn, like you learn how to ride a bike or how to read a book, was something I needed to hear.  You can hear God clearly one day and the next day still struggle, just as one minute you can be on the bike going forward and the next minute you fall off again.  But over time, things improve if you keep working at it.

6.  God never speaks harshly.

This is the other insight that was most helpful to me.  While God does, in fact, tell me things I don't want to hear, including pointing out my sins to me and insisting I stop them, there is always a gentle sternness when he does this.  All those harsh thoughts - the ones you can identify because, if you listen, their tone is screaming "you're a lousy piece of shit", even if the words are just "you forgot to do the dishes" - none of those are from God.  And, if you haven't done it already, you cannot believe what a relief it is to really accept fully that those words are from Satan and that God really doesn't think that about you, even if he did want you to do the dishes. 

7.  God never contradicts what you know.

Of course, sometimes you need to be careful about mistaking your assumptions for what you really know.  But this is still a helpful thing to keep in mind.  There really are some things we can know, and God doesn't contradict these.  Eldredge isn't Catholic, but for those of us who are, Catholic doctrine should be included in with other things that we know as guidelines that help us discern what is or is not God's voice.

8.  Acquire wisdom and test revelations.

Eldredge breaks up God's voice into two broad categories: wisdom (which in this context, broadly speaking, means God tells us something by revealing that we already know it in our hearts) and revelation (which, again broadly speaking, means God reveals something new and specific to us).  He says the best way to acquire wisdom is through pouring over the Scriptures.  One example (I believe he calls it "eerie"; I would be less equivocating in my quotes, but I leant the book out to a friend) he gave of revelation in his own life was when he was flying to England or Ireland to give a retreat, and God told him to schedule his flight a day earlier than he had planned.  He found out why only afterwards, when the attacks on Sept 11, 2001 caused all flights to be grounded, including the one he would have taken.  There was no wisdom on Eldredge's part that could have told him to fly a day earlier - God simply revealed it to him. 

Along these lines, Eldredge says that when we receive a revelation, especially if it seems to contradict wisdom, it should be tested repeatedly.  By testing, I think he means that we ask God again and again and see if we are getting the same answer (as Gideon does with the fleece in Judges 6).  He might mean more than that; I'm not sure yet. 

9.  Obey God.

This goes along with #5, "Practice".  Actually doing what you think he is telling you to do and seeing the results - good or bad - can give you a better idea of what he sounds like (and doesn't sound like).  But also, I say this because even if you could hear God crystal clear, it would do you no good if you didn't actually do what he tells you to do.

10.  God's voice brings peace.

This was first said to me - at least so that it stuck - not by Eldredge, but by a member of my Monday night Charismatic prayer group.  Sometimes - all too often, really - what God tells me is something where my first inner response is resistance, irritation, or anger.  But if I relax that tensing up, I find a sense of peace wherever God's will lies.  If I am resolved to do something that is not God's will, then (if I pay close attention to my inner self) no matter how much I try to relax, there remains a sense of irritation or unsettled-ness.  This is one of the single most reliable marks of God's voice that I have found. 

UPDATE:  Further thoughts at Walking with God, Part II. (5-20-09)

coolcatcol on January 25th, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
Nicely put.
And very, very important if one wants to have a deeper than superficial relationship with God.
annafirtree on January 25th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
Do you have any thoughts or criteria to add, that have been helpful to you in distinguishing God's voice? I've been considering writing this post for some time now, but decided to get around to it after reading this post on a blog that I like.
(Anonymous) on January 25th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
Walking with God
Walking with God is a daily process and I'm going to take a quantum leap and say that it is also an Eternal Walk with God. Let me try to explain.

Well since the mid to late sixties I went on a quest to find god and I found him, well so I thought. I quietly challenged every spiritual forces around. I made human sacrifices and tried to be a goody goody, kind of Christian fanatic without the Bible. To make a long story short outside spiritual forces started to follow me and let's just say that I took them for a ride but if truth be known, they were taking me for a ride but they were mine for awhile.

I got off lucky because I always gave "IT" all to Jesus and they were only able to have me committed at a mental hospital on four occasions. In the year 91, I thought of taking my life and to make a long story short, in reality it was the drugs that they put me on which were affecting my physical body but in mental reality, my spiritual mind believed that it was alien gods who were trying to make me submit to them. With God's Help I managed to become myself again in just a couple of days after my heart spoke to HIM in Church.

sinner vic must have also believed that the end of the world was really coming in the year 2000 and so wanted to have a little fun before "IT" came. To make another very long story short, sinner vic found a few internet girlfriends and then things started to go wrong.
One was a married woman and the other was a younger girl who was hard on the thicker cause I was really starting to fall for her and all I had ever seen was her sexy picture. The married woman was in the process of a divorce and her husband found out about us and I reached the Low Well when he called me "a lousy piece of shit", so I again cried to our Lord and in so many words, He told me to again turn from my sinful ways. I politely told the married woman we were finished but it wasn't that easy with the young girl who was about seventeen or eighteen. She said that she was in love with me and was going to tell her mother who was a lawyer and then take her life. I gave her my telephone number so her mother could call me but instead, it was her who called me and being a gentleman I ended it. The next day which just happened to be Easter, I got a call from her mother saying that her daughter was in "ICU" and I got both barrels. After calling every hospital in her area and after considerable tears I got another call from the so called mother that she was back home and would pull through. All in all I had "IT" all coming but Jesus pulled me out and my wife even forgive me after she read that woman’s love letter who was getting divorced.

I can just hear sinner vic now saying. What! Are you trying to blame me for all this Victor? Go ahead and blame me cause it's never you so I would appreciate it, if you stop pretending to be a skitzo cause that also is not very honest. Once you do that I should let you know that I'm no longer going to take care of that moon dog for you.

Hey relax sinner vic! Jesus and His Angels are also taking care of "Mood Dog" who has his own invisible spiritual doom around this earth and whenever he sees something which makes him snarl, God simply talks to Mood Dog and “IT” calms him down.

You don't need any body do you Victor? Life’s a bitch and then you die! Right? Please let me tell you a little story before we part which is about a man who went into an hotel to meet his bitch and a little time later this guy was heard saying, “holy shit", to which a voice from another room was heard yelling, “Turn her over, turn her over!” Roomer later has it that his girlfriend was another man!

Gee! How gross sinner vic! You’ll do just about anything to keep me from posting this won’t you? Will you never let me live in normal peace? I think that you’ve been spending a little too much time on Jacks blog :)

What’s that sinner vic? Just tell your god that I'm the only god that you need victor or else!

Listen carefully sinner vic cause I won’t say it twice here, “The Only God that I need is The ONE who was made in our own image.”

As St. Paul would say, ‘Put on the mind of Christ Victor’

God Bless,

ext_123563 on January 26th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: Walking with God
I know that I did not fool you or the ones that know me but it is not my intention to fool anyone. I was just too quick and forgot to link my blog as you've probably already figured out.

Starts as follows...Walking with God is a daily process and I'm going to take a quantum leap and say that it is also an Eternal Walk with God. Let me try to explain......
annafirtree on January 28th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
Re: Walking with God
Yes, your style is quite discernible. :)