One of my favourite verses in the Bible is found in Luke 24 when a couple of disciples have just realised that they were talking with the risen Jesus and they say to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke the word to us?” It’s how they recognised that it must have been Him. They knew that when HE spoke, their hearts burned. For me, that should be the deciding factor in hearing God’s voice: does my heart burn? Does it ignite passion?
Sometimes in Christian teaching we hear obedience emphasised a lot, and this is never wrong. But it would be wrong to leave this unbalanced by hope – that is, the understanding that if God calls us to something He doesn’t expect us to do it 100% blindly. He always gives us a hope to hang on to. He’s a good God and He knows how to encourage us! I have found, and I have begun to find it’s true in Scripture as well, that when God speaks, He doesn’t just speak any old word which we have to do. He speaks to things which He knows He has already put resident within our hearts, within our DNA.
He made us. And He made us all uniquely, with different giftings and callings. So when He speaks, He can speak exactly TO those things which He had already written into us, and bring them out. Or as I have begun to see it, He has made my heart like tinder, and His words are the match.
Take Abraham, as one example. When He is first called out, it seems a remarkable story. One word from God (Genesis 12:1-3) and he just ups and goes! As far as we know, God has never spoken to him before in all his seventy-five years. Is this just random, blind obedience? It would appear so.
But there is something subtle, something deeper. Abraham was human just like the rest of us. Was he any more gifted at being able to just obey a word from God than any of us? Or was there in fact something that caused him to WANT to obey? Radical idea I know. But look with me, for a moment, at his name.
Okay, at this point, it was Abram. Confusing, but for our purposes useful to know. Abram meant ‘exalted father’. He came to be known later as ‘Abraham’ when God changed it. That meant ‘father of a multitude’, and it was based on the promises that God was giving Abraham.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. When he was first called, he was Abram, ‘exalted father.’ Except that, er, he had no children. None. He was part of a grand old family, and his parents had granted him the privilege of being named ‘exalted father’, and yet here he was at 75 years of age, with no children. Not just a shame that he wasn’t going to be able to continue his family, but a bit embarrassing given his name. And names were REALLY important back then. Even today we like to know the meanings of names, and hope that they signify character and so on. But even more so in Abe’s day, names were everything. So for him to have got this far with not even one child, must have been a huge disappointment.
SO – can you see where this has been going? – when God speaks to him and gives him a promise that he’s going to become a father of multitudes…that must have meant a lot to him! Now, I’m not so surprised that he just up and went.
And that’s the beautiful thing about how God speaks to us. He speaks to the godly desires that are already resident within our hearts through our make-up and our DNA (literally and spiritually), with words that are a match for them – literally, a match, which is burning, and waiting to set those dreams and desires alight. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but it’s just like God took a burning ember and threw it in with dry tinder and set it alight.
There are other examples. Peter was a fisherman. It somehow represented something of what he wanted to do with life, though perhaps it wasn’t quite fulfilled yet. So when Jesus comes along, He calls him and says that he is going to become a fisher OF men. I bet this got right through to Peter’s heart – and that of the other fisher disciples – as being the true desire of their hearts!
For me, it happens whenever anyone starts talking about revival. Or the Holy Spirit moving in power. People getting saved, healed and delivered. When people start talking about the kingdom manifesting around them. Sometimes it brings me to tears – like the time I was at a prison ministry conference with my girlfriend who is called to that realm. Most of the day was just informative to me, but at the end the last speaker came and gave a general exhortation. But it was as he was speaking, that my heart began to BURN. He spoke about the kingdom of God. He spoke about the power of the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit transforming people’s lives beyond recognition. And then he spoke the words that broke me: “Just do the things you know to do: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” He was in many ways just an ordinary guy – a policeman in fact – but in that moment, to me he was Jesus. Those words spoke deep into my destiny and calling to pursue that kind of lifestyle, and so when they came through they landed in my heart like a burning torch and set ablaze once again the fuel that was already in me since I’d been born again.
This is how God speaks to us. Like I said, He is a good God. He won’t just ask us to blindly step out in just anything, with no understanding of what it is or how we’re supposed to do it. He has put dreams, desires, giftings and callings within every one of us who know Him, so that when He speaks to us, He knows exactly the words to use which are going to set a fire going and cause us to obey – not out of fear, though we should reverence the Lord (see Ps 145:19, below), but out of love, because He is a Father who knows exactly how to speak to His children. It is my prayer that this releases some of us from the burden of years where we have felt that we can’t really know God and we just have to legalistically follow what He says even though we have an evil, sinful nature which doesn’t want to obey. Some of us have grown up with that lie. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to deal with that! The Scriptures do not speak to no purpose which say, “May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your counsel!” (Psalm 20:4); “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4); “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.” (Psalm 145:19) …And so on.