God Said What???
I am by nature a one who loves to dig things out through study. Early in my life, I was taught things that were not biblical and when pressed to have them backed up with scripture or even early church tradition the answer always seemed to be “this is what we teach” or “I was taught this by pastor so-in-so.” That did not satisfy me. I needed to know that what I teach can be backed up biblically.
That being said, even with all the study that I can do, I still have to have those moments when I am alone with God and my heart is filled with tears. It is in those moments that the Lord reveals how to use and to apply what we learn through study. How sad it is when either of these are lacking. Without the study, when we hear emotional messages that at times are contrary to the Word of God we will find ourselves following along. Without the intimate, God given, leading we end up with a mere scholastic pursuit that is difficult to apply on a practical level.
It is through the study of the Word that I can point back and say, I can back up what I preach with the Word itself. But, it is from those quiet moments with the Father that I can stand strong knowing that “thus sayeth the Lord.”
A pastor friend of mine, looks for a couple of things when people tell him about a ministry they are planning to start. Sure, he wants to hear that what they are doing has a biblical base, but what he is really listening for is that moment that they describe when they knew, that they knew, that they knew that the Lord had confirmed that this is what they should do.
I can debate scripture with you (I will probably choose not to, but I can). But we are limited in how we can debate whether the Lord told someone to do something. First we can debate it, if what they say God told them to do is contrary to the Word of God. The Father does not do things or tell us to do things contrary to His Word. Second, we can, as fruit inspectors, tell if someone is not likely to do something properly. It is not likely that God is going to use a known pedophile to work with children privately. Third, we can see when someone is not prepared to do what God has told them to do. In the latter case, we may be the ones that will help them see what they should do to prepare. Fourth, we can hear them tell of God speaking to them and know that it must be true. One thing I cannot debate about is whether God is speaking to someone. When He speaks to me, I know His voice. I may not like what He says at times because I do not understand, but I cannot deny He spoke.
Time and time again, in preparation for messages, I have studied and then had that “Ah Hah” moment when God put the message in perspective. I have to admit, that this has even happened as I preached more than once. Those moments when you are preaching and you say something and immediately think, “I wish I had thought of that.”
Even more important than those moments are the times in my life where my heart is poured out to him and I am welled up with tears on the inside and the Lord speaks direction for my ministry. As a young man called into ministry when the Lord said, “I gave my only begotten Son, what makes you think I will not give you,” the time when the Lord told me that I could no longer support my ministry habit with a secular job even though secular work was paying really good, the time the Lord gave me a burden for a small church in a small town when all I had ever done was be in big churches and had the opportunity to stay in a big church in a big town, the time God would not let me take a staff position working for one of my heroes, or the time when I wanted to remain a pastor rather than taking a position as a US Missionary and the Lord said, “Do you really want this church to have Jonah in their boat?”
As I write this note, my mind is flooded with examples of when the Lord has spoken to me in, or for, messages and for direction in my life and ministry. I am a proponent for good biblical studies and solid teaching through our schools and mentors. But without those encounters with the Father, we have nothing to give. It is not a either-or question. There is a necessity of both for those who are walking with Christ.
I will continue to study and prepare, but I will never neglect to spend those quality times with the Father when I hear his voice and once again cry because I am amazed he would take time to talk to me. God said to study to show ourselves approved, but He also told me to talk to over with Him and to listen to Him so I can fully understand.