Sunday, September 25, 2005

Intimacy with God (4)

Another way God communicates with His people is through other individuals. From my own experience I can provide countless examples of this, because it seems that this is either a way God chooses to speak with me very often, or I may be more receptive to hearing His voice in this way than in other ways.

Many times when I have been teaching/preaching I have had an insight which has come to me while I've been on my feet, part-way through my exhortation/lecture/sermon. I've departed from my prepared notes and gone with the new thought or insight. I used to be amazed when someone would come up to me after the service and say something like "There was one thing in your talk which really helped me a lot" or "I've been praying about something, and I felt God gave me an answer when you said ..." Of course, the "one thing" which really impacted these people was always the insight I'd been given while speaking.

I said "I used to be amazed" when this happened, but it has happened so often now that I almost expect it to happen, and I can often (although not always) recognise the "insight" as being a word from the Lord for someone. I've shared this with other speakers/teachers and discovered that many others have had this same experience.

The same phenomenon happens to me, as well as through me. Very often when I pray about something the answer will come to me through another person. It may come in an exhortation/sermon, or through a private conversation, or a book. Several weeks ago I'd seen a reference to a book somewhere and thought at the time that the next time I was in a Christian bookstore I'd look out for it. About two weeks later I was at the bookstore with my wife. We'd gone specifically to buy some books which someone had asked me to get for them. While I was there I had this thought in the back of my mind that there was something I was going to look out for, but I couldn't think what it was. As I wandered around the store I prayed "Lord, what was it?" and minutes later I literally tripped over a small pile of books on the floor which had just come in and not been put on the shelves. There it was! The book I wanted to check out was right on the top! Without looking inside I knew that the Lord obviously wanted me to read that book, so I bought it immediately. And yes, it contained some great material which I believe I was meant to read.

If you want God to speak to you this way, or through you, then you have to make yourself receptive to Him speaking in this way. The more God speaks to or through me, the more receptive I become. Some times when I'm praying a person will come to mind. I will always then pray for that person, and sometimes I will contact them immediately or soon after. I remember praying one day in my car when someone came to mind that I hadn't spoken with for quite a long time. I phoned him immediately on my mobile phone. He started crying and said "You won't believe this, but I was just praying that God would put me in touch with someone I could talk to who would understand, and while I was praying your call came!"

A couple of years ago I was very busy with a lot of things happening in my life, at work, in church, practically everywhere. I kept getting a thought that I should study a particular subject (let's just call it xyz), but it wasn't related to anything I was writing or speaking about, so I thought it might be an unnecessary distraction, a time-consuming tangent. So I prayed about it and asked "Lord, should I study xyz, or should I wait till another time when I have more time". A couple of weeks later I received an email from a close friend in another country. He said "while we were worshipping in church this morning you came into my mind, and I had a thought that you should be studying xyz. That sounds weird to me, but does it make any sense to you?" Of course, it made perfect sense and God was speaking to me through my friend with a very specific answer to my prayer. I commenced a study of the subject, and found that it provided some enormously powerful tools for me in my Christian life.

However, for God to have been able to speak to me through my friend, He had to speak through someone who was receptive to Him doing that. If, when my friend had that thought about me during worship at church, he put it out of his mind by thinking "that's weird!" and simply dismissed it, then I would never have received that word from the Lord through him (and God might never have used him again in that way). But my friend is receptive to that. He knows from his own experiences that God does stuff like that, and so he doesn't dismiss anything as "weird" - he passes it on. And God can use him because he does.

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