How to be a better person? # 34 – DO WE HEAR GOD’S VOICE?

Elijah, the Prophet, sought refuge in the desert and waited on the Lord for orders.  “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (I Ki. 19:11-12). 
 Elijah’s experience does not differ much from our own, at least not from mine.  We like to hear God blow, thunder and set things on fire.  Some believe that the frequent natural disasters indicate that God is angry with us.  According to the way He made Himself known to Elijah, violence and chaos are not characteristic of God’s style.  He is gentle and can best be heard when He whispers.  The Lord asked Elijah what he was doing in a place where he was not needed.  He was sent to a widow to heal her child.  I, too, found myself, not in a desert but among a crowd of people and I was looking for an even larger congregation.  I had a larger inquiry and a petition from a smaller church.  While I debated with myself a small voice within me asked, “What do they need me for, they have everything?” I went to the smaller church and after that to a 35 members congregation.  And because of this move, I was able to render other services like teaching and writing.  I too was trying to climb the stairs of promotion and shut out the inner voice that was crying out within me to get out of the competition.  Service, for me, had become a competition.  And while I was racing, I did not hear the voices that required my help. 
 I have come to a different understanding of the voice of God.  I used to cite Hebrews 1: 1-3 and took it to mean that the Lord had said all He needed to say in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels and in Revelation.  During my preaching, I would become fully absorbed in my sermons and expected the people to respond accordingly.  It may have been correct, but not productive because I did not hear the voice of God in my flock.  I knew some of their aches and pains and threw them a few crumbs.  But, I did not say to them, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).  We are all shepherds that need to feed and tend sheep and lambs alike (Jn. 21:15-17).  And we are called upon to bear our own crosses here on earth (Mt. 10:38; 16:24).  Christians, not just pastors, are ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation (Jn. 20:23: II Cor. 5:18-19).   
 We are God’s voices in this world and the world depends on us for some good news.  It is not only a message for the soul, but also for our daily tasks.  Far too many speak with our voices only and not with our hands.  I was born into a family where faith in God and Christ were taken for granted. We read the Bible or had preachers and teachers explain what its intentions were.  There is no doubt that the Biblical Commandments kept me from making a fool out of myself.  However, I never heard a voice that spoke to me.  One Sunday in the afternoon at the age of twelve, I went swimming with friends in violation of the Sabbath.  I fell into a hole and was drowning and voice in me reminded me of not having done what I should have done; namely, profess Christ as my Savior.  The voice said clearly that I was lost.  The second time at twenty-one, I was engulfed in a kerosene fire and a voice cried out in me again, “I am lost!” It was my conscience reminding me of my procrastination of not having identified with Jesus’ followers (Ro. 2:15).  It was accusing and condemning me for not standing up for my faith in Christ (I Jn. 3:20-21).  It acts like a receiver from God.  For eighteen months I heard many voices from Physicians, surgeons, nurses, ministers and individuals with mixed messages.  One clergy only saw an answer to my uncertainties and remarked, “Danny, you belong in the ministry.” I objected that I had only seven years of schooling and I could not even speak English.  He replied, “Let the Lord do it.” This man of God clearly was God’s voice to me and it has been to this day.  There were other voices, some critical but most of them were for my benefit to be a better person and servant. 
 We are surrounded by voices and we are endowed with the spiritual ability to test the spirits (voices) whether they are from God (I Jn. 4:1).  I learned that God does not limit His voice to Christians or religious people.  In my own experience, I was far too dogmatic to allow myself to hear God’s voice.  It took two liberals to shake me up and open my mind to be more practical and conscious about priorities.  At this time, I had two serious problems.  My sermons were putting God first and people second.  I was no better than the priest and the Levi in The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37).  My dogmatic put the listeners to sleep.  I was listening to God and not to the people.  I too suffered from the idea that God called me and not the people.  The sobering truth is that all God’s children are called and if His children had not called me to serve them, then I could never have preached a single sermon.  These two liberals encouraged me to stop defending theology with the help of experts and address the needs that plagued the people.  It was religion that did not allow the Jews to help the wounded man on the road to Jericho.  Please note: the Goat-shepherds did not see Jesus’ brethren; the sheep-shepherds did what Jesus expected them to do (Mt. 25:31-46).
Charity is being encouraged.  Every penny counts in assisting the needy and that is what most of us do.  Unfortunately, gifts do not carry burdens nor do they solve long – term needs.  A deacon was sent to assist a widow. He prayed with her and she too prayed, “Lord, give me potatoes.”  A week later, he encountered the same experience.  The third time, he brought a bag of potatoes and the widow’s prayer changed to “Thank you Lord for potatoes.” The deacon could continue to supply the widow with potatoes or he could secure a piece of land and teach her to grow her own.  What do you think God was telling this deacon?  James had a similar problem, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him/her, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his/her physical needs, what good is it” (Ja. 2:15-16).  What did James hear the Lord was saying?  Paul heard the Lord say, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (II Thes. 2:10).  We too were refugees and we had to create and earn our own bread.  We will not become better persons by living on charity but on earning our own living.  Why did the Lord say, “The poor you will always have with you?” (Mt. 26:11).  Could it be that it has become a profession and they have convinced us that the Lord is on their side?  I have been on both sides and I am greatly troubled as to whom we are listening?