We're currently going through a series on Experiencing God - knowing and doing God's will. This is based on Experiencing God, a course and book written by Henry Blackaby. I learned these as basic truths about how God works in the world several years ago. They have been one of the primary paradigms of how I see God and his activity, and try to adjust my life to follow his will. -Pastor Wayne
Reality #6: You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
Once you understand what God is saying to you, you have to make adjustments in your life to follow him. You cannot stay where you are and go with God.
What kinds of adjustments might you have to make?
- In your circumstances – job, home, finances, where you live
- In your relationships – family, friends, boy/girlfriend, children, how you relate to people
- In your thinking – prejudices, methods, values, potential
- In your commitments – to family, job, church, traditions
- In your actions – how you play, talk, routine, hobbies
- In your beliefs – about God, what God can do, dependence on God
- Noah - When God was going to send a flood, Noah had to stop whatever he was doing and start building a boat.
- Jonah had to move to the city of Nineveh to preach the gospel – and give up his prejudice and hatred for the Ninevites.
- The disciples had to make adjustments in their careers, financial security, home, and belief when Jesus called them to follow him.
- Paul had to give up being right. Everything he thought was right was wrong – an adjustment in mindset and ego.
- Moses had to make several adjustments when God called him to go to Egypt and lead the people to freedom:
- Adjustment in confidence in himself, and in confidence in God
- Face his fears back in Egypt – where everyone had rejected him
- Adjustment in identity –Was he an Egyptian prince? Jewish slave? Leader of the Jewish people? Or a simple shepherd?
- Change in where he lived, and changes for his family
- Adjustment to a new challenge – Confronting Pharaoh was more demanding than guiding sheep
1. You cannot stay where you are and go to where God is leading you.
2. Changing your actions or circumstances is difficult enough – but adjusting your thinking, prejudices, identity, and relationships can be even more difficult!
3. Adjustments are good for you! God may ask for major changes of you. However, every adjustment will change you to be more like God, and more trustful of God.
4. God is interested in your surrender to him - So that nothing in your life is greater than God, or what he wants to do in your life.
5. If God speaks to you about something and you don’t do it you miss out on what God wants to do through you, and you miss what God wants to do in you. Not following God is disobedience and a lack of surrender – and it costs you more than anyone else in the end.
Read some stories of people who were called to make adjustments to their lives:
- One who couldn't give up what he loved
- One who changed everything after meeting Jesus
- What happens when a hurricane destroys a country a week before you visit it on a mission trip
Reality #5: God's invitation leads to a Crisis of Belief that requires faith and action.
When God speaks to you about something he is going to do – and something that you need to do – it will usually be difficult, or impossible. Often you can’t see 90% of what God is doing – which means you can only see 10% with your eyes – and you have to cover the other 90% by faith.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11.1,6
This leads to an “OMG” moment – where you re-consider what you really believe about God.
That’s what a “Crisis of Belief” means.
Crisis = Difficult Decision Point. Do you really believe that God can do what looks impossible? Or do you only believe the 10% that you can see?
- If you can trust the 90% you believe by faith, then you will move ahead with action.
- If you only trust the 10% you can see, then you will probably do nothing.
- What you do ultimately demonstrates what you believe about God.
When God told Moses that he was going to free the nation of Israel, Moses had a list of doubts.
Moses said ... God said ...
- Who am I to go before Pharaoh? (I’m not good enough.) I will be with you. (It’s not about you, Moses.)
- What is your name? (Are you big enough, God?) I AM who I AM. (Trust me – I’m big enough.)
- What if they won’t believe me? (Did I hear you correctly?) I will give you signs to show them. (I’ll give you enough to confirm that I’m with you.)
- I’m not very good at words. (I’m not talented enough.) Who made your mouth? (I know who you are, Moses.)
- Lord, send someone else! (I’m scared. Can you ask someone else?) All right! Aaron is on his way! (I’m sending someone to hold your hand.)
Yes, it’s hard. God does hard things so people will see him. If God only asked you to do easy things, then you would always say, “Look at what I did” instead of “Look at what God did!!!” God’s purpose is that people would know him. The more impossible the task, the more potential for you to see God.
God speaks. It seems impossible. You have to decide, “Is that what God said? Can God really do that?”
There will always be a problem, always something to give you doubt. That’s where faith comes in.
Reality #4: God speaks by the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Bible, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes, and his ways.
There’s a lot in that statement! Let’s break it down, one bit at a time.
1. First, God speaks. Again and again God has spoken to me.
Once a friend questioned, “God spoke to you? Are you sure it wasn’t your uncle Frankie hiding behind the pew talking?”
Yes, God does speak. He reveals his word to us. There are many ways that God speaks, and he does it on his own timing. He is creative in what he says. Sometimes it’s loud and clear, sometimes it’s a whisper I strain to hear. But he speaks.
Here’s the amazing & mysterious part: When God speaks, you know it’s God, and you know what he is saying.
2. God speaking is the encounter with God. Don’t ever say, “Now that God has spoken, I hope he does something exciting so I can encounter him.” God speaking is an encounter with God.
3. Here is the key to knowing God’s voice and hearing what he says: Spend time in your relationship with God, so when he speaks you can recognize him.
When you’re best friend calls you on the phone you never have to ask, “Who is this?” You recognize their voice.
If you meet someone at a party, and two weeks later they phone you … the might sound familiar, but it would test you to know who it was.
The better you know someone the more easily you recognize their voice, the more you know what they’re like, and the more you know what to expect when they speak. If you want to hear God when he speaks to you, there is no substitute for spending time with him in a relationship.
4. What does God say to you when he speaks?
- First, he reveals who he is. Do you want to know who God is? God will tell you.
- Second, he reveals his purposes. What he plans to do.
- Third, he reveals his ways. God does not always do things the way we do things. His purposes are different, and he ways are different. He will tell these things to you.
The teacher, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14.26
5. How does God speak?
There is no formula. God speaks the way he wants, not like a dog barking for treats. He speaks in his way, his timing, and for his purposes.
- Bible. God wrote it thousands of years ago, as his word. It’s still true. Now, when we read it, the Holy Spirit of God animates it and illuminates it for us, and can use it to speak directly to us.
- Prayer. It sounds silly, but prayer is talking to God. If you want to hear God speak, try talking to him. Try listening as you talk to God. What comes to your mind?
- Circumstances. Yes, God can manipulate circumstances to speak to you. Things happen that stand out. Things don’t happen. Watch what God is doing.
- The Church. God speaks through other people too, especially other people in the church. God can use someone else to speak to you. God often speaks to several people in a church at once, so they can each confirm what God is saying to the body.
- Seek confirmation! Seek confirmation through more than one means. If you think God is saying something to you through your prayer life, talk to other believers to see if they agree. Or use the Bible to test what you think God is saying through circumstances. It’s often difficult to discern what God is saying. Look for confirmation in other ways before jumping to any crazy conclusions.
Reality #3 God invites you to join him in what he is doing.
Several years ago a friend named Tabitha went to see the Indian musical legend Ali Akbar Khan, who plays the sarod, a stringed instrument. He normally toured with someone who plays a hand drum, but his accomplice was sick that night. Rather than cancel the concert he began to play by himself. After a couple of songs he told the story about his sick partner, and asked if there was anyone in the audience who played the particular drum. Tabitha just happened to know how to play it! She timidly raised her hand. When Ali Akbar Khan saw her hand, he asked, "Would you like to come up and play the drum tonight?" Tabitha never expected that! This was one of her dreams, just to see him in concert. And now he was inviting her to come up and join him on stage? A musical genius and ... her? At first she rebuffed his offer, but he persisted. Soon Tabitha found herself on stage beside him, following his lead, as he played his way through the concert.
When God has a plan to do something, he asks people to be a part of it. You have opportunities to be a part of God's divine work. Every day.
How did Jesus know when God was inviting him to do something? Learn from John 5.17-20.
- "My Father is always working." God is always at work.
- "And so am I." You can work with God.
- "The Son can do nothing by himself." You can't do anything of eternal significance by yourself either.
- "He does only what he sees the Father doing." Watch to see what God does; then get ready.
- "Whatever the Father does, the Son also does." When you see God's activity, join in and do something.
- "For the Father loves the Son." God loves you. Remember that.
- "And shows him everything he is doing." Yes, God will open your eyes to see what he is doing, if you're willing to see.
What are things that only God can do? If you see any of these things happening, it's a sure sign that God is working.
- Draw people to himself, and make people spiritual seekers.
- Reveal spiritual truth
- Convince people that Jesus matters
- Convict people of sin
- Give people the hope of righteousness.
When you see God at work, that is your invitation to join him!
Often we pray and ask God what to do. But then when God answers, we miss the connection between what we asked, and what happens next. When you pray, always watch and listen to see what happens next; this is God's way of speaking to you, and inviting you to join him.
- What comes to mind when you pray? Any deep thoughts or impressions?
- What people do you meet or encounter?
- What do you read in the Bible?
- What do other Christians say and advise?
- What circumstances take place?
Reality #2 God pursues a love relationship with you that is real and personal.
God created you for a relationship. You are a person in the image of God, created to be loved and to love. Greater than anything else in your life, remember that you are created for a relationship with God. Never forget that your relationship with God matters most.
God pursues us in the relationship. It is God who pursues us, not we who pursue him. "No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them." John 6.44 God places people, events, and questions in our path so we begin to seek him. We sometimes say "I started looking for God" but we're not able to even seek God unless God prompts us with the question.
It's a relationship of Love. Love is the lens through which God always relates to us, and is at work in us. From our perspective we don't always understand what God is doing, but it is always because of God's love. God settled the question of his love for us at the cross.
The relationship is with God. God is a real person. He is something objective to us. Thus, we don't get to define, or limit, who God is. As God reveals himself we encounter someone great and amazing and awesome - God is holy, holy, holy. We prefer an small, controllable God; yet God is awesome and great, and he will do what he wills to do. On his terms.
The relationship is real and personal. God is not distant and unknowable. He is mysterious, but close. He is a more of a person than a thing - though holy and great beyond imagination. God reveals himself and intersects in our lives in a way that is real, and we can relate to and understand him.
- Spend time with God. Every day. If you want to know a person, spend time with them.
- Let your love for God grow over a lifetime. A friend of mine was married recently. Her groom said, "I can learn to love her." He didn't mean "I don't love her now, but maybe I will one day." He meant, "I love her now, but as I grow to know her more I will love her more and more." As much as you love God today, focus on your love grow through your life.
- Let Christ be with you all the time. Enjoy God in the good times; enjoy God in the hard times. Let God be close to you at all times.
- When Christ speaks, follow. Don't ignore a friend when he speaks to you. As you follow and obey your depth in trust will grow.
- Focus on the relationship. We ask, "What does God want me to do?" God wants you to know him. Nurture your relationship with God.
We are doing people. We measure our lives in terms of what we accomplish and produce. God measures you life by your relationship with him. God will not ask you, "What did you accomplish?" when you get to heaven. He will ask, "Do you know me?" You will be tempted again and again to skip past your relationship and try to accomplish and do. Do not forsake your relationship with God. Relationships are what make us human.
Homework Session #2
- Spend time with God every day this week. Read your Bible and pray, even 10 minutes a day. Spend time with God. Tell him you want to know him more.
- Memory verse for the week: Matthew 22.37-38 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
Reality #1 God is at work in the world around you.
Never question is God is at work around you. God sees the whole world together, every person, and is at world in a million ways, all fitting intricately together, to reveal himself and bring all creation back into a relationship with himself. God is at work around us, whether we see it or not. Sometimes it's in ways that we can't understand, sometimes we just don't have time to look and see. But God is always there, with us, around us, and busy at work.
Think of this pattern in the Bible. Consider Moses & the Burning Bush (Exodus chapter 3). God had a plan - to bring the the people of Israel out of Egypt to freedom. It was a great plan, bold, world-changing, and seemingly impossible. It was God who came to Moses to reveal this plan, in the form of the Burning Bush. In the end, the people would know who God was through this work.
- Believe: God is always present, and always at work. Even if you don't see it, still believe it.
- Watch. Look to God, and slow down to see God's work around your life.
- Be patient. God's not in the hurry that we are. Let God work in his time.
- Don't just do something, stand there. We're a doing people; become a watching & listening person.
- Focus on your relationship with God. That's the point anyway, not the work you accomplish. When you are in a relationship with God you can hear when he speaks.
- Don't ask, "What is God's will for my life?" Just ask, "What is God's will?" Lose yourself in God's will - and then truly find yourself.
- Remain in Christ. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit." John 15.5
Homework Session #1
- What does God see when he looks at the world? Take 30 minutes and go for a walk - it can be on your way to work, at school, at a mall, or in a park. Ask you walk ask yourself the question "What does God see when he looks at this world?" Ask God to reveal to you what he sees when he looks at the world.
- Watch and see God this week. Keep your "spiritual eyes" open. Look for God's activity. Try to see one thing that God is doing around you. Don't worry - if you're not sure if it's God or not, it probably is. When you see God at work, write it down so you remember it.
- Begin a journal of how you see God at work. Write down stories about things you see God do, and record how God is speaking to you.
- Memory Verse of the Week: John 15.5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."