Thirty lashes with a wet noodle! This should be my punishment today, I thought to myself (metaphorically, of course). I had a doctor’s appointment that Tuesday morning, and as usual, we were rushing to make it on time. Right before we left the house, my husband Benny received a call from Brother Andre, Director of our church pantry, informing him that thieves had broken into the storage containers on the church property again (the third time in two weeks). Benny told him that he would not be able to get there until after my doctor’s appointment.
To hurry things along, Benny dropped me off at the door of the medical building and headed to Lowe’s to purchase replacement hardware and locks. At the receptionist’s desk, I was waiting longer than usual for her to pull up my records. I began to sense that something was off. Finally, she said, “Mrs. Knotts, your appointment is not until next Tuesday.” Uh-oh!
I asked her if there was any way they could squeeze me in, but she replied that even if the doctor were willing to do so, I could be waiting a long time, since he would see all present patients with appointments first. Moreover, patients would continue to arrive. I knew I couldn’t wait. Benny needed to get to the church as soon as possible. I had to call him and let him know what was happening, and I surely was not looking forward to it! I knew he would be aggravated, and rightfully so, but at least he would get to the church sooner, I reasoned to myself.
Uh-oh! I realized I had left my phone on the charger at home! I asked her if I could use the office phone to call him. He had just arrived at Lowe’s when he answered. As you can imagine, he wasn’t happy. I told the receptionist that I was officially in the doghouse! She just laughed and shook her head.
Here’s the Kicker:
Earlier when I was rushing around getting ready, I distinctly heard in my spirit: “Go and look at the paper on the refrigerator.” I always keep my appointments paper on the side of the fridge. I remember thinking to myself Okay, but I got distracted, and then I forgot. Had I obeyed that still small voice immediately, I would have seen that my appointment was not until the next week!
Not only this, but the night before, while out for dinner, I reminded Benny of my appointment in the morning. He remarked, “Why would you schedule your appointment for the week when I am printing the magazine?” Knowing this was unusual for me to do, it should have prompted me to check my appointment when we got home, but with all the details I had on my mind, preparing for my mom’s upcoming 85th birthday party that Saturday, and our annual Campmeeting in two weeks, I did not follow through.
Even though it was a huge aggravation at the time, it was a small matter that was easily fixed, and later that day, we both chuckled at my inconvenient mix-up with the “you’re getting old” remark. But the Lord is using it to reinforce to me that whenever I hear that still small voice, I must obey it immediately. If I ignore it, the moment may pass without further reminder. While this situation had relatively benign consequences, that might not always be the case.
How many times have we shrugged off that small prompt in our spirits? How many times have we pushed aside that little check in our spirits, only to realize later we could have avoided a problem, or received, or given a blessing, had we acted on it?
On the other hand, there have been times when the Spirit of the Lord prompted me to pray for someone (the grocery store, doctor’s office waiting room, even on the street), and I obeyed. What a blessing! For the recipients and for me! Often, people (especially strangers) are surprised by an offer to pray for them, and at first, they may be flustered. But I have never had anyone turn me down. After prayer, their faces seemed to light up with the sense of God’s attention to them, and I came away with a wonderful joy, knowing I had obeyed the voice of the Lord.
Practice the Presence of God
In recent years, I have gotten more proficient about hearing and obeying the inner voice of my spirit, but this one slipped by me because of all the busyness on my plate at the time. This incident highlighted my need to pay closer attention to, and then to heed the voice of the Spirit when I discern His gentle nudge—right then!
Hearing the voice of the Lord is one step in the right direction. Knowing His voice brings greater confidence to move forward. Following His direction brings ultimate joy. The way to know God’s voice is to become familiar with it through fellowship, prayer, waiting on God, and reading His Word. In Hebrews 5:11, Paul wrote he had “many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing.” The Greek text makes it clear that this was not always the case with them, but they had become this way by default: dull, slow, sluggish in hearing. Consequently, it had become necessary to return to the foundational teachings and principles of God’s Word, because like babies, they had become “unskillful in the Word” (vs.13). The meaning is, they lacked experience and so could not take on more mature responsibilities.
There is only one way to get the necessary experience to be able to hear and detect the voice of the Lord: Spending time in God’s presence exercising your spiritual faculties. It’s like any other thing you want to be good at—you practice over and over. You talk to God, ask for His wisdom, and listen for His response. Generally, it will come as an illumination of a thought, or a quickening of a Scripture to your spirit. Of course, this requires you to be full of the Word, so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to your remembrance at the right time (John 14:26). It also means taking time to be still before the Lord. At first you may experience a whirlwind of thoughts vying for your attention. Just continue to push them side with worship and try again to be still in His Presence.
Paul concluded in Hebrews 5:14: “But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age (mature), even those who by reason of use have their senses (spiritual) exercised to discern both good and evil.” It is by reason of use—practice—that we become familiar with the way God communicates to our spirits. Often in my prayer time, the Lord will bring someone to mind, not only to pray for, but to send a card or give spiritual materials to. These are no-brainers, take little or no faith, and are a pleasure to obey. But by following through with these little nudges, I learned to detect the prompts and checks in my spirit. When I am not sure if I am hearing God’s voice or my own, I simply ask the Lord for confirmation. This is not a sign of doubt, but in accordance with the Word: “…in the mouth of two or three shall every word be established” (2Cor. 13:1).
Anything can get out of balance, and I am suspicious of some who claim that God speaks to them about everything they do, including what to eat for breakfast (unless they are on a specific diet program). But I do believe we can be alert to the voice of the Spirit in spiritual and practical matters when we live on a higher spiritual plain.
“…Morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as the learned” (disciplined) (Isaiah 50:4).