While reading through my Bible, I see places - many places - where God speaks to people: Adam, Moses, Abraham, Samuel, David, Paul and many more. In some cases, he was downright chatty, and there were some fascinating conversations between men and God.
And as I read, I think, "What's so special about these guys, that God talked to them? Were they better than I am?" I just can't see a fundamental difference between us. What sets them apart was that God in most cases called them to some exceptional task for him. They were not in some way intrinsically superior.
So does God speak in a similar manner to us today? Can God speak to us today? More to the point, does God speak to me today? As I read and pray and think, I can find no reason, either biblical or logical, that God would speak then but not now.
So I concluded that I might be missing out on something I considered important. And I did not like it.
As a result, I began paying closer attention as I read my Bible and as I prayed, listening for the voice of God speaking to me.
And I have heard him. He has spoken to me. I think.
Here's a problem: The Bible doesn't record instances of Moses or Abraham or Paul struggling with understanding whether they were hearing God or their own wishful thinking. Perhaps they did have that problem, but we don't know.
I certainly have it. What's the voice of God and what's my own wishful thinking? I don't always know. But, very often, subsequent events make the difference clear.
I recall a time when I thought God was telling me to resign my job. I had a mid-management position in a hospital and a family to support, with two kids in high school. Quitting made no sense. Nevertheless, over a couple weeks I had this consistent sense that I was to quit.
I prayed a lot. I sought the insights of others. And in the end, I never had a clear certainty that I had heard God. I thought so, but there was always some doubt.
Part of my problem was that I - perhaps like you - didn't want to act on something and find out too late it was a big mistake. But, truth be told, I think there is a greater danger than making a mistake while trying honestly to obey God. I believe the worse "mistake" is to do nothing - out of fear of making a mistake.
Inaction indicates a lack of trust in God. We would like it better, we think, but in fact God will not likely appear to us in a burning bush. Nor - I hope I'm not presuming too much here - will God send us a hand-delivered, notarized statement of his will for us.
A further complication is the presence of an opponent, one who is delighted when we are frozen and inactive because of fear. One who delights in muddying up the waters.
So I think there will nearly always be questions and a measure of uncertainty. But the little yapping dog kinds of questions are easily addressed, and the uncertainty is magnified by our own imaginations. However there is another matter, more important: the Big Question. The Big Question is, when there is doubt, who gets the benefit? God? Do we trust him and move according to what we think he is saying? Or do we trust someone else more?
Now, I'm well aware that "God told me" is perhaps the most widely abused statement on earth. People often use it to justify their own wishes or actions. But I'm not talking about that. What I'm referring to assumes both submission to the Bible and a good measure of integrity.
Given those two conditions, it's imperative that we act and not sit, fearful of a mistake. God seeks those who will be completely committed to him, who will act boldly when he speaks, either in writing or through his Spirit. Or, perish the thought, even through someone else, just like you and me.
Act! Don't be afraid! We serve a God who loves us, who wants us to know him in increasing measure and to be bold and tenacious in carrying out his purpose in the world. And he is very tolerant of honest mistakes.
And, by the way, I did resign. I decided to act in what I thought was God's direction.
I spent the next nine or ten months unemployed, in a pit of depression, and wondering if I had made a huge blunder. And then, without warning, I was asked to move over 1,000 miles to serve in leadership of a Christian school. I did, and God richly blessed me there. Looking back, everyone involved agreed that I had heard God.
Now, I think he told me some months ago that I would be moving back to Colorado. Hmm....