We are all broken, therefore, it is hard to hear God’s voice sometimes. There are two kinds of broken. If we can determine which type of broken we are, we can better diagnose our situation.
My family follows college football (Roll Tide!). While living in Sacramento, we returned home from a Christmas vacation spent with family in Alabama. The Crimson Tide was playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game and we intentionally came home on New Year’s Eve Day so we could watch the game the next day. I vividly remember getting home, bringing in luggage and finally settling down in front of the TV. I pressed the power button and an Error page popped up on my screen. It said something like “Error ####: No signal.” At the time we were using a satellite dish provider.
Try to imagine the angst this moment created. We had just flown over 2000 miles on a holiday so we could be home TO WATCH THE GAME! On top of that, what were the chances a repairman would be available ON NEW YEAR’S EVE DAY? All I wanted to do for the next 48 hours was binge on college football and end it by watching my favorite team, but all I was receiving was an error message.
Hearing God’s voice can be like this. All we want is a little guidance…a little hope…some encouragement…some reassurance that we are not monumentally messing up our lives. At times it would be nice to hear from Him and know He is there.
Like coming home and grabbing the remote, we do what we know to do to receive a signal from far away. We might fold our hands, bow our head or close our eyes before we start talking. We might recall a prayer we learned as a child or got off a bumper sticker. Those who call themselves Christians might recite the Lord’s Prayer or open their Bible searching for words that will satisfy as God’s voice. They may even pull out the big guns and close their prayer by saying, “In Jesus’ name I pray.” But for many, both the novice and the expert, what they feel in that moment is what I saw on my TV screen: “Error ####: No signal.”
To my surprise, I did get a satellite repairman to my house that day. When he arrived, I hustled him into my living room so he could see the error message. As he began his diagnoses I learned something; satellite dishes have two kinds of broken.
The first kind of broken is an equipment issue. The satellite dish receives an encrypted signal from an orbiting satellite. The signal moves through a cable to the box near the TV called a receiver. The receiver decodes the signal and sends it through another cable that is connected to the back of the TV. The TV then displays the signal allowing us to see images and hear sounds that are being transmitted from space. If the satellite dish, the receiver, or any of the cables and their connection points has failed, then the TV receives an error message. Finding and replacing the failed equipment is the only way to repair this kind of broken.
The second kind of broken creates the same error message, but it has nothing to do with faulty equipment. It has to do with the environment. The error message could be the result of a misaligned satellite dish, bad weather or an object blocking the reception of the signal. The repairman explained there might be nothing wrong with my equipment. A tree limb could be blocking the field of reception. Kids throwing a Frisbee could have hit my satellite dish and misaligned it. The weather was fine that day, but if it had been storming I would have gotten the same error message.
When all we feel is an error message from God, it is usually either an equipment issue or an environment issue. The most important piece of equipment to hear God’s voice is the heart. It both receives and decodes God’s voice. I’m not talking about the muscle that pumps blood. I’m talking about your mind, soul, and spirit, your inner-self that is uniquely you. If our heart is broken, it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice. The heart cannot be repaired. It can only be replaced. God speaking on this matter said it this way:
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.1
We will discover how to get a new heart in some other blogs, but when our heart is broken the only message we can receive is an error message…but THAT is God’s voice.
If your heart is working and you still can’t hear God’s voice, it is an environment problem. Multiple things can block your reception or misalign your heart (not forgiving someone, willful disobedience to God, disappointment, failure, temptation…just to name a few). Only one thing removes obstacles and realigns the heart: trust. When our trust fails, we will get an error message. Trust is a heart issue. The wisest man who ever lived said this of trusting the Lord:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.2
When we are committed to trusting the Lord then our heart is in the right place and we will hear from God (however, we can’t make God speak to us nor do we know when He will speak…more on that later).
The satellite repairman ran his tests and determined my receiver was broken. He replaced it with a new one and the error message went away.
If you are not hearing God’s voice, which type of broken are you?
Does God still speak to people? If so, how does He do it? And if He is speaking, how do we know it is His voice we are hearing? After all, we all hear multiple voices. Some voices are audible. Others are just in our heads. But…I’m getting ahead of myself. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume one of the voices we hear, whether audible or just in our head, is actually coming from God.
I heard and recognized God’s voice for the first time when I was twelve. It was humbling, scary and exciting all at the same time. It was also addictive. Because of his voice, I became a follower of Jesus and I began a journey that has been both frustrating and delightful. Because of his voice, I became a pastor and entered into Biblical studies. I earned a Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Pastoral Studies. I then earned a Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in Spiritual Disciplines. I have been a pastor for over 25 years. For all of my adult life I have been dedicated to hearing God’s voice, trying to obey it and attempting to share with others what I’ve heard from Him. I know a little bit about this topic, but at the same time I feel as though I really know nothing. That’s what makes this journey frustrating sometimes.
Due to my training and years of experience, I can give a solid theological answer to the question: “Does God speak?” I can also provide a Biblically grounded answer to the question: “How does God speak?” In fact, let me just go ahead and answer those two questions right now. But I warn you, even though they are correct and fully accurate, they will leave you unsatisfied, especially if you are currently struggling with hearing God’s voice.
Does God speak? Yes. See, I told you the answer would leave you feeling empty. Right now I could share with you a dozen Bible verses that all point to God’s ability to speak to people. One of my favorites is Isaiah 30:21.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isn’t that a cool verse? But this is not the experience of many people. More than a few people who believe in God have told me they just can’t hear his voice. They pray earnestly. They go to church. They strive to be moral, good, kind people; but God seems silent. If the people who love God get frustrated with this phenomenon, imagine what the skeptical person who doubts God speaks must be thinking?
How does God speak? The answer to this question is a little more complicated, but my years of training and experience have prepared me for the task. Here we go. God primarily speaks to people through four different venues or some combination of them:
Wow! Don’t you feel better? Now you know how God speaks. I’m guessing angel’s voices are ringing in your ears since the great secrets of hearing God’s voice have been revealed to you. But again, I’ve sat with hundreds of people who already knew this information. I’ve listened to them share their struggles with hearing God’s voice even though they know how He speaks. The knowledge of how God speaks does not guarantee we will actually hear Him when He speaks. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Imagine how disillusioned or disheartened the person is who doesn’t read the Bible or listen to people who teach what it says. What about the person who has a hard time swallowing the idea of a Holy Spirit on earth or the individual who might believe Jesus was a real person, but can’t accept he was raised from the dead? Think of that individual who is awed by nature, but can’t yet accept there is a Creator. Is God trying to speak to them? And if so, how? They have internally disqualified all or some of the venues He uses.
Does God only speak to us if we are willing to meet Him on His terms? Or, is God speaking all the time and we just aren’t recognizing it as Him? Does God only speak to people who think favorably of Him? Or, is God speaking to everyone, even those who don’t think He exists?
For the next several weeks I’m going to be blogging about God speaking to us. I hope you will join me. The blogs are for those who want to hear God’s voice and for those who are skeptical of God speaking at all. Please follow my blog and let’s hear God’s voice together. And, if you think it is worth someone’s time, share my blog with someone and encourage him or her to follow along.
Have you ever seen a fainting goat? Here is a video.
Where did these little guys come from? History tells us there was a traveling farmer named John Tinsley who brought 4 goats with him to central Tennessee from Nova Scotia in the mid 1880’s. He called them “stiff” goats.
The goats popularity sky rocketed and new names began to emerge: Tennessee Fainting, Tennessee Meat, Texas Wooden Leg, Stiff Goat, Nervous Goat and Scare Goat. Goat farmers loved these animals for two reasons. First, due to their small stature they were less likely to climb fences or escape from pastures. Second, they tasted good (not that I know that first hand).
The truth is these goats do not actually faint. They have Myotonia Congenita, a condition in which the muscle cells experience a prolonged contraction when the goat is startled. In other words, when they get excited, stressed, or scared their muscles stiffen and freeze. They fall over completely awake. This unfortunate phenomenon can take place when they are playing in the field; eating their favorite grain, when thunder claps or a barn door slams shut. It can even happen when they are mating (so many things I could say right now…but I won’t).
All the articles I’ve read say there is no evidence of this condition actually causing them pain. I guess that makes me feel better when I watch videos and laugh at their uncontrollable fainting. Even though their condition makes us smile, what happens to them is a good example of what happens to many believers when they are spiritually startled.
Paul talks about this spiritual condition in the book of Philippians. The people at the church of Philippi were facing persecution from their neighbors and arguments from within their own gathering. Knowing these challenges were rubbing up against their faith in Christ Paul wrote…
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then,…I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.
Paul speaks of standing firm and striving together without being frightened. This is the only time in the New Testament this word is used. It is the image of a horse that is frozen stiff on the battlefield due to the noises and images of war. When a military horse was too frightened to act in battle, it was liability to the rider and an opportunity for the opponent. We may smile at fainting goats, but a soldier on a frozen horse in the midst of battle was no laughing matter.
The Philippians were in a spiritual war. They had enemies trying to harm them…silence them…shut them down. They had conflicts within their group that threatened friendships and stability. It was a startling time. It was a stressful situation. Life was difficult. It was frightening, but they could not freeze up. They could not faint.
Followers of Christ in today’s world find themselves in awkward situations. Here in the States we will probably not face physical harm for our beliefs, but emotional harm and contentious relationships are very possible. For many the uneasy, tense emotions that come from doing the right thing or saying the right thing is all that is needed for them to “freeze.” Some “faint” at just the thought of talking about their faith in Christ because they fear being misunderstood or judgmental or politically incorrect or out of touch with modern thinking.
Fainting followers of Christ are not cute like the Fainting Goat. No, unfortunately they are a liability to themselves and other believers; and they give an opportunity for the enemy to advance. I know that is harsh, but it is exactly the image Paul was painting in the letter to the Philippians. In the face of hardship, strained relationships, and uncomfortable conversations, we are to stand firm and strive together without being frightened.
The courage to not be frightened comes from the other two things Paul penned: stand firm and strive together. To understand how these three things work together let me share a legend from World War II.
In April of 1940, German tanks rumbled across the borders of peaceful European countries. One country they rolled into was Denmark. As part of their systematic method of intimidation and oppression, the Germans would require every Jew to wear a yellow Star of David. Any Jew who failed to comply would be put to death. The Star of David, a proud symbol of Jewish faith and culture, was being used to mark Jews as deplorable members of society—to rob them of their possessions, their dignity and even their lives.
The Danish government and its people were in no position to do battle against the powerful German army. But their leader, King Christian the Tenth, made a bold move to protect Danish Jews—a move that put his own life at risk. The Danish king called for all Danish citizens to wear the Star of David. He called for every Danish household to stand firm in their conviction that all human life was important and to strive together to protect their Jewish neighbors.
What would you have done? Would you have pinned a Star of David on your child and sent them to school? Would you pin one to your own chest as you walked out the door to go to work? Would you be the only family to do this? What would others be doing? If you did it, would you and your family suffer with the Jews?
The legend goes that what the Germans saw after King Christian made his plea was nothing short of a miracle. Stars of David were everywhere on every person. Jews were weeping tears of joy in the streets as they saw their neighbors willing to suffer with them and not be frightened.
The story is a legend. It never happened.
The legend grew from remarks that King Christian made to German officials, on the radio to his countrymen and in his personal journal. In all three places he stated that if the Germans called on Danish Jews to wear the star, he would wear it and ask all Danes to join him. Because of his opposition to the Nazi regime and their tactics, and because of his willingness to stand and suffer with the Jews, the Nazi’s full plan of persecution against the Jews was never carried out in Denmark. Danish Jews were never asked to wear the Star of David.
Stand firm, strive together and do not be frightened. These are the keys to pushing back against the evils that can frighten us. They are the actions required to non-violently resist injustice, cruelty, hatred and ignorance. God uses these actions in us and through us to show love to people who have lost their moral compass or have hearts hardened by the disappointments and tragedies of life.
Don’t be frightened.
I would not call myself a prayer warrior. I do pray…often…daily…regularly. I even have a prayer list. I pull it out at least once a week, read over it, add to it and highlight prayers that have been answered. But, I’m no prayer warrior. You know the person who exercises regularly but will never be a professional athlete or body builder? That’s the kind of prayer person I am. I strive to keep my praying in shape, but I don’t think I’ll ever be elite.
I’m okay with this. I don’t feel guilty about it all. However, in my efforts to keep my prayers in shape I am always looking for ways to pray more effectively. I don’t mean that I am trying to be more eloquent or even spend more time. I just want to do it better…fine-tune my prayers. Especially when it comes to praying for my boys. I call them boys, but three of them are closer to manhood than they are to boyhood. I guess that is why I feel the urgency to pray more effectively for them.
The pull in my mind is to pray for their situational challenges. Things like success in school, activities with friends, protection when they are driving or good attitudes. My tendency is to gravitate toward the hardships they are encountering that are making their relative comfortable lives uncomfortable. The normal teenage, young adult challenges that in 10 years will mean nothing. Although these things are not insignificant, I’m not sure these requests are the most effective prayers. Here’s why: even if all of my prayers for their current challenges were answered today, they would wake up tomorrow with a new set of problems. I can’t pray their troubles away because life on this planet will always be laced with trouble. Jesus said that. He wasn’t kidding.
So really, how effective is it for me to spend my time praying for their normal challenges to end when there is another round of problems just waiting to take their place. Am I really helping them by asking for their adolescent discomforts to go away? Maybe there is a better way to pray. Prayers that will help them learn from their troubles, grow through their obstacles, and even be used of God while they persevere.
Fine-tuning my prayers happens best when I use Scripture. I recently came across this prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for his friends in the city of Philippi:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Paul does not pray for their challenges to change or cease to exist. He prays for their love to grow implying that love is needed more than easier circumstances. Notice these key words in his prayer and their meanings:
Love – their love for God and others
Abound more and more – their love for God and others would be a growing and controlling influence in their lives
Knowledge – they would learn to love God and others the best way
Discern – they would learn to love what is best…choosing best over what is good
Pure – a sincere love with selfish motives filtered out
Blameless – a love that will not cause others to stumble
As I came across this prayer I thought, What if I prayed this way for my boys? What if, instead of praying for their troubles to cease, I began to pray for their love to grow? What if I prayed for them to have a knowledgeable love, a discerning love, a pure and blameless love? I can’t pray all their challenges away, but I can pray their love for God and others will increase. In the long run this prayer may help them more than praying for their immediate discomforts to go away.
It is possible that God is using pain, disappointment and struggles to make them better people. If that is the case, when I pray for their discomfort to go away I am actually praying against what God is trying to accomplish. However, I can’t go wrong by asking God to give them a better, stronger, more intense love for Him and the people He wants to reach through them. This is a fine-tuned prayer.
Let me give you an example of how I might do this. Without specifically naming one of my sons, I might use Paul’s prayer as a model to pray for my son:
Father, please teach my son to love You more in the challenges he is facing at school and in sports. I ask his love for You would be so strong that it would influence the way he acts around his girlfriend, his teachers and our family. Let his love for You not be boring or routine. Instead let it grow. Let this love give him discernment in his choices. Let it root out selfishness in his heart. Let it help others find you as walks the halls of his school. Father, let him love, follow and share Jesus so that on the day of our Lord’s return he will be found faithfully living for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name.
We can pray this way for anyone. It doesn’t just have to be our kids, but I think I will start with them. I think they need me praying fine-tuned prayers.
“Don’t interrupt me!” That is what I wanted to say. I was busy. I was in my zone. I was finishing a sermon outline. Others needed me to get it done. I needed to get it done. Yet, here was this person standing in my office pleading for my attention.
We all have to deal with interruptions. They bring information forcing us into a decision. The first decision is the most important one: Is the information contained in the interruption worthy of my attention? If not, we blow off the interruption and get back to what we were doing. However, if the information grabs us our life is set on a new course.
Interruptions are one of God’s favorite tools. He uses them to give us a choice. Will we listen to Him or ignore Him? Will we shrug off the interruption or will it set us on a new course? Interruptions are a door to faith.
Christmas is an interruption. It just ended. Right now we are all getting back to what we normally do because the interruption of Christmas is over. But ever since the birth of Jesus, we have an annual interruption from God. He interrupts our lives to give us an opportunity to respond in faith to Him. This is not a new tactic. He did it first with the shepherds.
I am reminded of God’s ability to interrupt each time I see a Nativity scene. Joseph and Mary, the shepherds and a small cluster of farm animals all gazing at the infant Savior lying in a manger. Joseph and Mary knew the Savior was coming. They had insider information. The shepherds had no idea that Jesus was being born that night. Someone had to tell them. If you want to know how God uses interruptions, pay attention to what happened to the shepherds.
The shepherds were minding their own business that night. They had no idea something special was happening within walking distance of their routine lives. All of sudden God interrupted their comfortable existence. He sent them a messenger.
We don’t get to choose when or how God gets our attention. The shepherds’ calendars failed to point out their divine appointment. They had no idea God would rattle their cage and they certainly did not know the messenger would be an angel followed by a heavenly parade of angelic beings.
The angel announced the birth of Jesus. The announcement reminds us we don’t get to choose what God brings to our attention. We all have questions we would like God to answer, but God interrupts and speaks to us about what we need to know not what we would like to know.
God still interrupts our lives. We don’t get to choose when He does it. We don’t get to choose how He does it, and we don’t get to choose the content of the message. He interrupts our lives and tells us what we need to hear. Without these interruptions, we would never know faith is an option.
We are told they felt “frightened.” It is an interesting word. It means fear, alarmed, uncertain. In others words, God’s interruption scared them. We would like to think God uses pleasant tactics when getting our attention, but that is not always the case. God doesn’t always give us a warm fuzzy. In fact, I would say God’s interruptions are going to make us feel unpleasant before we feel safe and for many of us that is the problem.
The shepherds felt fear not comfort. What would they do with that? Would it motivate them to listen and respond? Or would they be offended?
Because God interrupts us with what we need to know instead of what we want to know and since His interruption will create an unpleasant feeling instead of tingly goose bumps, it becomes easy for us to ignore the interruption or worse be offended by it. This is critical. If we ignore the interruption, we will miss out on what God wants to pull us into. If we are offended by it, we begin to think God is rude, inconsiderate and out of touch.
The shepherds had a choice: Would they obey their feelings or would they push against what they felt and listen to what they heard? We are presented with the same choice every time God interrupts our cozy existence.
After the angels left, we are told the shepherds decided to go see what the Lord had told them about. They pushed against their fears and responded to what they had been told. This is faith. Faith is not just believing information. Faith is believing and acting on information. The information from the angel gave them the option to move in faith. Before the interruption and before they felt unpleasant, faith was not an option.
Humans don’t get to choose when faith is an option. God creates that option when He interrupts our lives. That’s why the interruptions are so important. It is at His discretion when He calls to us. His interruption may feel rude or inconsiderate or simply not what we want to hear, but it is God. Give Him some space. He probably knows something we don’t know. If we can get past how it makes us feel, we will be swept off our feet into the wonder of God’s power and love. That is what happened to the shepherds and it can happen to us too. (Fact-check what I’m sharing. Please read Luke 2:1-20.)
Christmas is over. The nativity scenes will be put away this week. We won’t see the shepherd figurines for another 365 days. This year’s interruption has ended. How did you respond?
If you don’t think you did to well, don’t be discouraged. As long as you are breathing, God will be interrupting. He’s not being rude or inconsiderate. He just wants you to see what He is doing.
The only reason I am sharing this is because I’ve had so many people ask. They did not start asking until about 6 weeks ago. Before then, no one seemed to notice; but over the last 6 weeks I think I’ve been frequently asked this question: “Have you lost some weight?” The observation is correct. I have lost 25 pounds.
The next question is “How did you do it?” Before I share the answer let me cover my legal obligations by stating that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’ve had no training in the proper or healthy techniques of weight loss. By all means, if I share something that you think will help you, then please try it. However, if you have an existing medical condition or are taking medications, please contact your physician before trying these weight loss methods (see…I do pay attention to legal disclaimers).
It was last March. I went for my annual physical. The doctor weighed me, examined me, poked, prodded and then questioned me about my overall health. He then looked at me and said, “You are a healthy 40 something.” If his comments had stopped there I would have walked away with a smile, but he didn’t stop. He looked at me with no emotion and said, “You need to lose 30 lbs. I’ll see you next year.” He turned and walked out of the room. I think he said, “Call me if you need me” as he walked away. That was it. No explanation. No motivational speech.
My inner voice yelled, “If I’m healthy then why do I need to lose 30 lbs.?” I might have actually said something with my real voice, but he was gone as if he knew I would object. The next day I shared this encounter with a trusted partner at the church. This person is a friend. An advisor. A confidant. I thought he would tell me the doctor had lost his mind, but instead he looked at me said, “Yeah, you probably need to lose some weight.” I couldn’t believe it. I was looking for sympathy and found validation. It was on! I decided I was going to lose some weight.
Being a product of the 21st Century, I did what any reasonable person would do. I searched “weight loss” in the App Store. If you like options this is the way to go. I found a weight loss app for every day of the month. Apparently my desire to lose weight was not an isolated situation. I did not let the options overwhelm me. I began to read through the descriptions and finally landed on MyFitnessPal.
MyFinessPal is a calorie counting app with a huge food calorie database, but it goes one step further. It also counts how many calories I burn each day by counting my steps each day. The app notifies me when I’m not reaching my goal. It is free app.
After I plugged in my information, stated my weight loss goal and the rate at which I wanted to reach that goal, I simply started following the personal notifications (you do have to type in what you eat each day). After about 3 days of using the app I realized something needed to change. I could not burn enough calories just walking around the church and to the frig.
I have always exercised, but this app was notifying me every day with bright red letters that I was not exercising enough. I could eat less, but when I tried lowering my calorie intake enough to make the red letters go away, it would notify me that I was starving. I realized I had to start exercising and lower my calorie intake at the same time.
I started jogging. I have jogged on and off for years, but I’ve never really done it consistently. Here is the shocker: I don’t really like jogging. I do it because it is free. I jog 3 times a week…Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I have a love hate relationship with it. Listening to music and audio books is what keeps me sane.
One upside to this commitment of burning more calories is that I also started walking with Cherry. When the weather is nice, we walk. It is one my favorite things to do. Before the cold of winter showed up, it was not uncommon for me to walk and jog over 25 miles a week. During winter this will be hard to maintain. I will jog at the YMCA and walking will resume in the spring.
Even though I became more active, I still needed to reduce my calorie intake. I cut out snacks, getting seconds and closely watched my portions, but it was still not enough. One morning while eating cardboard that I called cereal, I discovered how many calories I was consuming. It dawned on me the “healthy” cereal I was shoveling into my mouth was secretly thwarting my calorie goals. I decided I did not need breakfast.
I know everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but honestly I haven’t missed it. Instead of eating breakfast, I drink water; and to change it up, some days I go crazy and drink a diet green tea. By the time lunch rolls around, I am hungry, but I’m not famished. I realize this might not work for you, but it seems to work for me. On the days I have a breakfast appointment, I skip lunch and drink water.
I told you at the beginning. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. And I was serious; if you’re thinking about trying what I’ve been doing and you take medications or have an ongoing medical condition, please speak to your doctor first.
I’ve been following this routine for 9 months and I’ve lost 25 pounds. Winter will be a challenge and the holidays will require some extra discipline. I’m going to keep going until I reach my goal of 30 pounds. Here are three things I learned:
1) It takes time to lose weight. I’ve been doing this for 9 months. With the app, I chose a moderately aggressive weight loss goal and it has still taken almost 40 weeks to lose 25 pounds.
2) No one actually said anything to me about my weight loss for 7 months. That means there were no outside voices of encouragement. Be prepared for that.
3) The first 3 months are the hardest. I practiced my new habits 3 months before I actually started feeling better and having more energy. Don’t give up too quickly when starting new habits.
I don’t remember when it happened. I don’t recall any out of the ordinary events. I do remember I was a teenager. I remember I was in my bedroom. Apart from that I don’t really recall anything else. I was reading my Bible. Again, I don’t really know why. I had spurts through my teenage years when I would read it. I guess this was one of those spurts.
I was reading about Solomon. His father, King David had died, and the throne of Israel was being passed to him. Soon after his coronation God came to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want for me to give you.” Wow! I remember thinking: Really? God does that kind of thing? God was giving Solomon a blank check. He could ask for anything: a long life, personal wealth, military victories, or political success. Needless to say I was impressed and puzzled when he asked for the ability to make good choices. Yep…he took his blank check from God and cashed it in for wisdom. Check out 1 Kings 3:5-12 to fact check me.
God goes on to share with Solomon that He will give him everything he needs to be the greatest political leader in all of history. He does this because Solomon asked for wisdom instead of success. I was so intrigued by the story (and maybe hoping God would make me awesome too) that I decided at that moment to start asking God for wisdom.
It is not as easy to define as one might think. Just Google the question and you’ll see there are over 59 million Internet answers. The most generally agreed upon definition includes one’s ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, insight and good judgment. Neither a college degree nor an AARP membership is required.
To complicate things there are two kinds of wisdom. The first and most common kind is what the Bible calls human wisdom. Human wisdom has one glaring weakness. It is human. We can’t see the future, the whole picture or even our own motivations when making decisions. We try to understand as much as we can, but we are just limited. Therefore, human wisdom can only be as wise as humans. It’s tricky because human wisdom cannot separate itself from human selfishness. That’s why the Bible describes human wisdom as earthly, unspiritual and in some cases even demonic.
The second kind of wisdom is called God’s wisdom or heavenly wisdom. It comes from God and is bound to His character. It is not of this world and it comes from One who can see the future, all the pieces of the past and even the desires of our hearts. We cannot generate this wisdom. We must receive it. It is not common, but it is easily accessible; that is, if you believe the Bible.
God’s wisdom is available to any person who asks for it. You would think something this precious would be hard to get, but it is not. The Bible is emphatically clear: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” All we have to do to receive God’s wisdom is to ask for it. But asking Him requires two things from us. First, we must believe that God exists and that He cares about our personal decisions. Second, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we need His wisdom for the decisions we have to make. If we can get over these two hurdles we are in a good position to ask.
Once we’ve got the asking part down, the Bible then informs us of what we must NOT do for the wisdom to be effective in our lives.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
The greatest tragedy that occurs when asking God for wisdom is when we doubt His answer. Imagine a patient asking a doctor for medical advice. The doctor prescribes a medicine and a plan to bring about health. The patient listens but immediately begins to doubt the advice and the intentions of the doctor. The prescription is expensive and comes with side effects. The plan requires a diet change, routine exercise and regular check-ups. The patient begins to think: Does this doctor really have my best interests in mind? What he is asking me to do is costly, time-consuming, uncomfortable and intrusive? THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!!!! The doctor assures the patient the advice will work and bring health, but the patient has heard enough. He is committed to getting a second opinion.
Many times we are the above patient and God is the doctor. We ask Him for wisdom and He gives us an action plan, but it is not what we wanted to hear. Why?
God’s wisdom is not like human wisdom. It is higher and purer. It loves peace and is way more considerate than human wisdom. God’s wisdom encourages humble choices, keeps the greater good in mind and will promote mercy over justice. It will cling to what is good and hate what is evil…every time. It has no hint of prejudice toward others. In essence, the thoughts and ideas we receive as a result of God’s wisdom will not be conventional. They will not be thoughts and ideas we would think on our own.
God’s wisdom will encourage you to forgive when human wisdom will push you to hold a grudge. God’s wisdom may nudge you to slow down and respond to someone else’s pain when human wisdom is screaming you don’t have time. God’s wisdom will direct you to do the good thing when human wisdom tells you it’s reasonable to be selfish. God’s wisdom will admonish you to shut up and listen when every fiber in you wants to lash out. Don’t doubt God’s wisdom because it is unconventional. Don’t doubt God’s wisdom because it feels out-of-place. It is it’s unusual quality of being abnormal that makes it not of this world.
The danger of doubting God’s wisdom is that we are left with nothing. We have no rudder for the storms of life. No GPS for the turns ahead. No compass pointing true. We end up just getting tossed around by the latest fads, morning talk shows or pop psychology. All generated by human wisdom.
It is simple. Ask God for wisdom and He will give it. But hang on, the ideas you will have as a result of His wisdom will not look like your normal way of reasoning. I try to remember this when I pray for wisdom so I can resist the temptation to doubt His answer.
Start with the biggest question in your life right now. Does God care? Will He help if you ask? If you don’t believe He will then your search for God’s wisdom is over. Your only option is human wisdom. However, if you believe He cares and will answer your request for wisdom, ask Him for it…right now.
Now…wait. Listen. Relax. His wisdom will come. Help is on the way.