Joel Osteen - Listening To The Whisper
I want to talk to you today about Listening To The Whisper. We don't always realize how God speaks to us. We've seen in the movies where God spoke to Moses, and the voice boomed out of the heavens, sounded like thunder, was so powerful and dramatic, gives you goosebumps. But most of the time God speaks to us in a gentle whisper. It's not something loud, it's not forceful, it's called "The still small voice". We feel an impression, a prompting. Not in our head, but in our heart. It's like a suggestion, something that we suddenly know we're supposed to do. That's not random, that's not you just thinking up things, that's God speaking to you.
Six times in the Gospels Jesus said "He that has ears let him hear what the spirit is saying". Well everyone has ears, he wasn't talking about physically, he's talking about your inner ears. He was saying "Are you sensitive to the whispers? Are you paying attention to what you're feeling in your spirit"? It's easy to ignore it, push it down. But if you'll start obeying the promptings, the suggestions, the gentle whispers, God will lead you down the best path for your life. You see that co-worker and suddenly you have the desire to be good to them, you feel compassion, something says "Let them know that you care". You'll be tempted to reason it out, they look fine to me, they don't need my encouragement. Don't ignore the whisper. God wouldn't have given you that impression if they didn't need it. You don't know what people are going through, you can't judge by the outside. That whisper is God leading you. The more you obey this still small voice, the more God can entrust you with.
Sometimes you feel an unrest, and uneasiness, like an alarm is going on, telling you not to do something, stay away from that person, don't take that business deal, don't get involved in that situation. It looks fine, everything seems okay. Don't go against the whisper. God sees things that we can't see. He knows where the dead ends are, he knows the people that are going to pull us down, waste our time. When we look back over our life at mistakes, disappointments, failures, most of the time if we're honest, we can see how God tried to warn us, we felt the uneasiness, we knew something wasn't right, but we wanted our way so badly we overrode it.
But if there's an unrest, if that whisper is saying "back off", it's not because God is punishing you, keeping you from something good, he's protecting you, he's keeping you from heartache. The reason that whisper is saying "No" is because he has something better in store. When you have big decisions, things you're concerned about, it's important to get quiet and listen to the whisper, listen to what you're feeling. You can't hear it if you're always busy, noisy, stressed out, getting opinions from others, on the phone all the time. It's not that God isn't speaking, it's that it's too loud around us. You need times of peace, times of quiet so you can hear the whisper.
Every morning I like to start the day off saying, "God, help my spiritual ears to be sensitive to your voice. God, help me to hear what you're saying to me today". It's not going to be your mind, just a feeling down in here, an impression. All of a sudden you have a desire to check on your children, a prompting to go to a certain place. It's easy to dismiss it, "Oh, that's nothing. That's just me daydreaming". No, that's God speaking to you. Pay attention to the whispers. There are times these whispers are going to ask you to do things that you don't understand, things that don't make sense. If you reason it out and look at it only from a logical point of view, you'll talk yourself out of it. This is when faith comes in. "God, I believe you know what's best for me. My mind is telling me all the reasons not to do this, but Lord, I trust you. I'm gonna follow that still small voice in my life".
When Victoria and I were first married, we found this town home that we really loved. Was a beautiful place, had big windows, looking out to the woods, tall ceilings. We got it for an amazing price, almost half of what it was worth. We were so grateful, we never dreamed that in our mid-20s we would have a place that nice. About a year later Victoria said, "Joel, I feel so strongly we need to sell this place and buy a house". I thought, "What do you mean? This place is perfect, we just got here". That didn't make sense to my mind, but when I got quiet and listened down in here, I could hear that same thing. Don't be surprised if that still small voice whispers things that go against your logic. God's ways are not our ways. That's a test. You have to trust that God knows what's best for you.
We took that step of faith and sold it. A few months later Victoria called and said, "Joel, I found our new house, meet me at the property". I pulled up and it was this old rundown house, hadn't been lived in in years, had broken windows, foundation problems, the kitchen had buckets on the floor from the water from the holes from the roof. Was it even livable, but it was on a beautiful half-acre lot close into the city. All of our logic said, "Are you crazy? You moved out of your beautiful town home to this piece of junk"? But down in my spirit I could hear that whisper saying, "This is it. Move forward". The scripture talks about peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:5). That means sometimes your logic is not going to understand, your intellect is not going to get it, but down in your spirit there will be a peace, a rest, a knowing. You can't explain it, it doesn't make sense on paper, you just know that you know that it's right for you.
We bought the house and we're going to fix it up. The day we closed on the property, I was standing in the front yard, this car pulled up. A lady got out and asked if we wanted to sell the property. I said, "No, ma'am, we just bought it". She said, "How about I pay you more and you make a good profit"? I said, "No, thanks, we really want to stay here". She said, "Congratulations, you just brought your dream house". I didn't know what she meant, but the neighborhood was in the process of changing the deed restrictions, so you could subdivide the property. A year later a builder knocked on our door and wanted to buy it. We sold half of the property for more than we paid for the whole property. He built two houses: one for him and one for us. Our house he built for no fee, we just paid the materials and the labor. It was more than we could ever imagine. We went from a small town house to a beautiful new home in one of the nicest areas in Houston. This all started from a whisper, a simple suggestion down in our spirit. If you'll be sensitive to that still small voice, not talk you out of it, God will lead you places that you've never dreamed.
See, the Holy Spirit is on the inside of each one of us. He's called our helper, our counselor, our guide. The more sensitive we are to his whispers, what we're feeling, the promptings, the nudgings, the further we're going to go. This is something I've learned strongly over the last 20 years, especially since I've been a pastor. I won't go against what I'm feeling on the inside. I trust my censor, that's where God speaks to you. No matter how good the opportunity, no matter how impressive, if you don't have peace about it, don't move forward. Just the opposite: it may seem impossible, the odds are against you, the circumstances say it's not going to happen, but if you have that peace, that knowing, take that step of faith. When you develop this skill of listening to the whisper, following that still small voice, God will not only take you further, but he'll protect you from things that would have caused you heartache and pain.
My brother-in-law Kevin was working on his washing machine a while back, and Kevin can fix anything. He disconnected the hose in the back, turned the water off at the valve, and he needed to run up to the store and pick up some parts. As he was about to leave, something said to him out of the blue, wasn't even thinking about it, "You need to put a cap on that faucet in case the valve breaks". Normally when you turn the faucet off, you don't need to cap it, but he heard that several times. Not out loud, just an impression, a gentle whisper. He's in a hurry, thought "There's no need, I'm just being overly cautious". A few hours later his children called, "Dad, hurry home, there's water all over the house: the kitchen, the den, the study". He said, "Joel, I heard it so strongly, but I kept ignoring it".
Pay attention to the whispers, especially when it won't go away, it keeps coming back, that's God speaking to you. Sometimes the whisper is very practical: "You're drinking too much caffeine, you're not eating healthy, this is not good for you". You keep hearing it again and again, pushing it down. Don't ignore it. Or maybe you hear the whisper, "You need to get to work on time. You need to treat your spouse better. You need to watch your words". Gentle whispers, impressions in your spirit, not in your mind. Your intellect may say, "It's fine", but down in here you know it's something you should do. When we understand that the whispers are for our benefit, the whispers is God leading us down the best path, then we won't ignore it, we won't push it down, we'll be quick to obey. At the mall: you don't feel good about that purchase, you don't override it, you put it back. At home: you feel that prompting to spend time with your child, you turn the TV off and obey. At work something says, "Don't hang around that person". You feel uneasy, that alarm is going off. You don't reason it out, "Hey, they look fine to me", you trust your censor, you make that change.
My father was driving down the freeway one day, and when he got off the feeder, he felt something whisper, "You better slow down, there's a policeman around the curve". Just an impression, a prompting. He didn't pay any attention, he kept speeding along, he got around the curve, and there was this policeman with his radar gun, waving him into the parking lot. Daddy pulled in, the officer came up to his car. My father said, "Officer, you won't believe this, but the Lord told me you were here". He looked at my father like, "Yeah, right, who is this guy"? He took his driver's license and went back to his car. He came back in a couple of minutes and gave it back to my father. He said, "Listen here, preacher, I'm going to let you go, but the next time the Lord speaks to you, you better listen".
How many times is God whispering to us throughout the day, but we're not sensitive to it? Just a whisper: slow down on the freeway, be kinder to your spouse, call that friend and encourage them, stop by and see your parents, turn off that computer, get some more sleep, take care of yourself. Gentle whispers. They're not loud, God's not going to force you to do it, it's just an impression. The word "Obey" in the original language means give ear to. To be obedient you have to give your ear to what God is saying. You have to be a listener. Be sensitive to that whisper. What are you feeling in your spirit may not be words, just a knowing, something deep down you know you're supposed to do. I've heard it said "The loudest voice in your life should be the still small voice". The whispers will be quiet, other voices, thoughts, reasoning, people's opinions, news will be much louder, but you have to learn to give the whispers the most attention. When you let the still small voice be the voice you follow, you'll make the best decisions.
Friend of mine that attends Lakewood was in her senior year of college. There was a young man in her math class that she became friends with. She would see him from time to time, and they would talk or go to the math lab together. One day something said to her, "Invite that young man to church". She didn't know him well, she didn't know what he believed, she thought "That's going to be strange, he's going to think that's too forward", on and on. She kept coming up with all these excuses, and wouldn't do it. A week went by, two weeks, a month, but she couldn't get away from it. One way you know it's from God is it won't go away. That impression, that prompting, it keeps coming back. Every time she saw him down deep she heard that whisper, "Invite him to church". Sometimes God will ask you to do things that are uncomfortable, where you have to stretch and take a step of faith.
Well, the last week of school she got her nerve up and did it, she invited him to Lakewood. They both graduated, went their separate ways. She never knew what he did with the invitation, but she felt good that she obeyed the still small voice. Two years later she met her husband at Lakewood, they fell in love, were married, life was good. One day they were leaving the service, and she saw this young man from college at the back of the auditorium. He had a badge on, he was an usher here at Lakewood. She was amazed. She said, "I can't believe that you're here and that you volunteer". Her husband went over, gave him a big hug, "How you been doing"? They began to talk like they were old friends. She looked at her husband and said, "How do you know him"? Her husband said, "He's the one that invited me to Lakewood. He's the reason that I'm here". That whole time she was hearing that whisper, "Invite him to Lakewood", she thought she was doing him a favor, in fact she was doing herself a favor. That gentle whisper was saying in effect: invite your husband to church.
God sees the big picture, he knows how to connect the dots. We're never going to understand at the time all he's doing, how he's arranging, moving, preparing. Anytime you feel that whisper, that impression, it may be to be good to someone else, but it will also be instrumental in reaching your destiny. There will be these times that you're uncomfortable, you have to stretch, you have to push past the fear, the uncertainty, and do what you know God's asking you to do. Every act of obedience leads to a blessing. You may not see it right now, but down the road God will connect the dots. The gentle whisper may be telling you to forgive, to let go of the hurt, to quit holding that grudge. That's uncomfortable, your mind will say "No way, they hurt you too badly". You get to choose which voice are you going to obey: the loud, forceful, "Don't change, take the easy way out" voice? No, let the gentle whisper be the voice you follow. May be uncomfortable, but God knows what he's doing. When you're sensitive to the still small voice, when you're in tune with what you're feeling in your spirit, not just living by your intellect, but listening to the promptings, the impressions, then you're going down the best path for your life.
When my father was in his mid 70s he had to go on dialysis, he had struggled with high blood pressure most of his life, and it has damaged his kidneys. Many times I would take him up to the clinic. One morning he called me at 3:30, said "Joel, I can't sleep. I'd like to go up to dialysis now". I said, "Okay, I'll come pick you up", and I drove him to the clinic. After we got him all hooked up and settled, it would take about four hours. Normally I'd go run errands or go to work, come back later. It was only 3:45 in the morning, I was planning on going back home and sleeping. But as I was about to leave, I heard something whisper, "Joel, you need to stay here with your father and visit with him, keep him company". I felt it so strongly. Not out loud, just an impression. I knew I was supposed to do it.
Now my mind said, "Joel, you can visit later, it's four o'clock in the morning, you can go back home". These loud thoughts came telling me something different. If you're going to listen to the whisper, you have to have your ear tuned to what you're feeling. Don't let the loud thoughts drown out the gentle whisper. Develop your ear to where the whisper becomes the loudest voice. My father thanks me for bringing him, said he'd see me later. I said, "No, daddy I'm gonna stay with you today, and we'll just visit". He was so happy, we talked for four hours. The time went by so fast. I brought him home eight o'clock in the morning. We were standing in the kitchen, he said, "Joel, you're the best son a father could ever hope to have".
And leaving that morning I felt so satisfied, so at peace, so fulfilled. My father knew that I loved him, and I knew that he loved me. Well, those were the last words I would ever hear my father speak to me. That night he had a heart attack, and went to be with the Lord. I'm so glad I didn't ignore that whisper to stay with him. God knows the future. He knows what we're going to need, what to avoid, what not to do. At the time we may not understand it, doesn't make sense, we're uncomfortable, but you can trust the whisper, you can trust that knowing. Not in your mind, but in your heart. Don't override the still small voice. God is leading you down the best path. You can't accomplish your purpose on your own. The whispers are what gives you an advantage. The whispers will give you inside information. The whispers will take you where you can't go on your own.
1 Kings chapter 19, the prophet Elijah was in a difficult place. He just called down fire from heaven, destroyed 450 of the false prophets of Baal, it's one of his greatest victories. But when the king's wife heard about all these men they had lost, she was furious. She set out to kill Elijah. He was hiding in a cave, discouraged and afraid. He needed direction. God told him to go stand on the mountain, he was about to pass by. Verse 11 says, "There was a great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks". You would think, "Surely God showed up, that was so powerful". But it goes on to say, "God was not in the wind". After the wind there was an earthquake, something even bigger, split the ground open, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a great fire, burned things up, but God was not in the fire. After the fire, the scripture says, "There came a gentle whisper".
God was showing us how he speaks. When all the circumstances are loud, it's noisy, thoughts telling you "It's not going to work out", people coming against you, it's easy to get confused, live stressed out. You have to come back to that quiet place. The reason God whispers is because he's close to you. You don't whisper to strangers, you don't whisper to people you barely know, you whisper to your spouse, you whisper to your children, you whisper to someone you love and trust. That's why God whispers to you: you're his child, he loves you, he trust, you he wants the best for you. He's not going to shout, be loud, forceful, he'll lead you by gentle whispers, by the still small voice.
Psalm 25:14 says, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him". When you honor God, he'll tell you secrets, he'll whisper things in your spirit that you had no way of knowing. He knows, like he did with me, when you need to spend time with someone. He knows where the property is that's going to increase. Like my friend, he knows where your spouse is, he knows where the good breaks are, the promotion, the resources, the abundance. He'll give you inside information. A gentle whisper it's the secret of the Lord. Won't always make sense, may not seem logical, the facts say otherwise: trust the whisper, obey the promptings, the knowings, the still small voice. That's God whispering secrets.
I know a man that bought some property years ago, way out in the middle of nowhere, hardly paid anything for it, less than a hundred dollars an acre, he bought several hundred acres. Logically speaking as an investment it looked like a waste of money. The land was dry and barren, you couldn't grow crops on it, you couldn't raise cattle. It's like the desert, just rocks, clay and cactus. He used to go check on it every so often, it always puzzled me: why he bought the property? I thought, maybe he had family in the area, some kind of plans to develop it. He said, "No, Joel, I was just driving by one day, and I felt so drawn to it, I knew it was supposed to be mine". Just a whisper, just a prompting that he felt in his spirit. God will ask you to do things that are not always logical. The battle will take place between your mind: all the loud voices, and the gentle whisper. And when it's from God, it's more of a knowing, you can't explain it, on paper it may not make sense, your reason can't justify it, but deep down you have this peace. You know you're supposed to do it.
Fifteen years later he received notice that the state was putting a highway in. Out of all the land it just so happened it was going to run right through his property. They had to buy him out, he ended up making more than a hundred times what he paid for. Next time he buys property, I'm buying next door. This man, he's really funny, he's an older gentleman, kind of country, and a reporter from that regional paper was talking to him, said "Sir, you sure know how to pick a piece of property". He said, "Yes, my father told me about this place". The reporter said, "I didn't know your father was in real estate". He pointed up and said, "No, I'm talking about my Heavenly Father. He knows where everything is".
When you listen to the still small voice, you'll come across blessings, favor, good breaks, things you had no way of knowing. You can't explain it, you don't have any data to back it up, but you do have the spirit of the Most High God living on the inside of you. He'll whisper secrets to your spirit. Some of these whispers are destiny moments. They are vital for you to see the fullness of what God has in store. The reason you feel it so strongly is because it's about to launch you into a new level of your destiny. God is about to whisper some secrets, he's going to give you insight into things that propel you ahead. You are one whisper away from stepping into greater favor, greater influence, greater resources, something you've never imagined.
Now, it may not happen the way you think, may not make sense logically, your mind will try to talk you out of it. Follow the still small voice, you can trust your censor. I believe God is whispering something to all of us. Maybe an area we need to grow, come up higher and make better decisions. We heard it, we keep ignoring it, but it won't go away. Now is the time to act. Maybe it's a whisper where we need to stretch, get out of our comfort zone, take a step of faith. My challenge is: pay attention to the whispers. Be sensitive to what you're feeling, the impressions, the promptings. Let the still small voice be the loudest voice in your life, the voice that you obey. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: God is going to whisper secrets to you. He's going to give you inside information. You're about to rise higher, accomplish dreams, and become all you were created to be, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today? Amen.