For those of you that have been reading my little devotions over the past three months might recall that I stated that I have heard — really, audibly, listened to — God on three occasions (thus far in my life). I have already talked about the last two times He spoke to me. And let me add that He has NEVER spoken to me about someone else. His words are always directed to me and what I should be do or not doing.
Anyway, the first time I heard Him speak to me I was 22 years old and walking around the old football stadium at the Wake Forest. I had been at the seminary there for about two months, and although I was blessed to be there on a couple of scholarships and grants, and was presently out of money. I needed to find a job or quit school. I was at a cross—road and had to make a decision. I had the option of leaving the school and taking a job as a support staff at a camp in the mountains or I had to find a job — fast. In my mind I determined that I would never find a job in Wake Forest; too many of us were chasing too few jobs at even fewer churches! So I walked around that stadium and explained to God that I had determined to quit seminary and go to work at the camp. And that is when I first heard God speak to me. It was so clear, obvious, and so near to my ear that I stopped and shook! I had never heard Him before, and whereas He was not shouting at me, it was the voice of a father speaking to a child. And His command was simple with no possibility of being misunderstood. He merely said, “No”. I knew it was Him, and knew what He was talking about and I knew that I had no choice but to obey Him or live in deliberate defiance. I obeyed Him. I did not quit seminary.
This happened on a Tuesday morning. By noon that same day three churches had contacted me about coming to serve as a youth pastor in their churches! The churches were Nashville Baptist, Guess Road Baptist Church, and the Edenton Street United Methodist Church. I could write a book about the church that eventually hired me, but my point is that God spoke a small word — and in this situation I listened to Him. As I said earlier I have heard Him speak very clearly two other times. But I do hear Him “whisper” to me every day or two the same: “no”. I’ve heard Him whisper “no” when I start to share some gossip, when I start to give my opinion on another pastor’s merits, the times I want to “put a person in his/her place”, etc. It’s the “no” that I hear the most, and to my shame I must confess that I do, at times, ignore the whisper. It’s a pity, because the “no” is always the right counsel, but sometimes I can’t resist sharing those “tasty morsels” with a friend — the things that might be true, accurate and deserved, but at the same time are unhelpful, unneeded, and not very chivalrous.
“Better to be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt”, and better to remain quiet when tempted to say something when He says “no”. If I am uncharacteristically quiet at times, it does not mean that I am in deep thought, it might mean that He’s reminding me to not speak.