By Jan Johnson
READ THE MAIN STORY: “Turn Up the Quiet”
While the first step in hearing God is to clear out the voices that are NOT God, the next step is to have in mind the kinds of things God is likely to say—because God has said these things to people before! What God says to us today will agree with what God said to folks in the Bible. Here are some of God’s themes.
Love. The most common theme in both Testaments is the great commandments to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39; Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 19:18). Specifically, we’re told to love enemies, strangers, the needy—all the while speaking truth as well (Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 5:44; 25:35, 43; 1 Thessalonians 5:12). When I complain to God about someone, God is likely to challenge me with, “What would it look like to love this person?”
Comfort. “I, even I, am he who comforts you” (Isaiah 51:12); “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Even when, like Hagar, we have contributed to our misfortune, God comforts us and meets our needs (Genesis 21:17).
Surrender. Not everything God said was warm and fuzzy. Jesus told one man to stop sinning (John 5:14). God confronted David through Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-14). God often challenges us the way Jesus challenged the rich, young ruler to sell his riches and follow him (Mark 10:17-22). Yet these challenges are always steeped in love as Jesus “looked at him and loved him.”
“What do you think, dear one?” God says to us. “Will you take the next step?”
God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). It was as if God asked him, “Am I enough?” For two years all I seemed to hear God say was, “Am I enough?” A few months into it, I became honest and said, “No. I want You, O God, and other things.” God’s gentle probing continued until I was able to answer (at first, grumbling; later, with some joy), “Yes, O God, You are enough today.”
God’s purposes. God nudges us forward in ministry, imitating God’s activities such as creatively bringing forth light (Genesis 1:3) into dark situations (2 Corinthians 4:6). If we’ve gotten stuck, God is likely to tell us to move forward from our place of inactivity. Recall that God told the Israelites they had stayed long enough at the mountain and needed to go and take possession of the promised land (Deuteronomy 1:6-8).
These concepts are taken from Jan Johnson’s book When the Soul Listens (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1999), Chapters 13-15.
Jan Johnson is the author of When the Soul Listens, Enjoying the Presence of God, and the new Spiritual Disciplines Bible Studies (www.janjohnson.org). Also a speaker and spiritual director, Jan lives in Simi Valley, California, with her family.