Robert Jeffress - The God Who Speaks - Part 1
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Few things are more frustrating than trying to speak to somebody who's clearly not listening. It makes you wonder why you're bothering to talk to them at all. Well, though we may not realize it, we often make that same mistake with our Heavenly Father. God has important things to tell us and we need to pay attention. So how can we be sure we're listening? My message is titled, "he God Who Speaks" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Dan rather, remember him? Dan rather was once interviewing mother Theresa and he said, "When you pray, what do you say to God"? Mother Theresa responded, "I listen". And then rather asked the inevitable follow-up question, "Well, then what does God say when he speaks to you"? She said, "He listens". Have you ever thought how remarkable it is that the Creator of the universe is interested in listening to you? Your boss at work may not have time for you. He might not even know your name. Your mate might be too preoccupied to give you his or her undivided attention. Your children may be sitting mesmerized in front of the computer screen or the television set only emoting an occasional grunt when you try to engage them in conversation. But think of it, the Creator God of the universe is interested in listening to you.
Not only does God want to listen to you, God also promises to speak to you. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, found himself in prison after giving a politically incorrect message that God was going to judge his country for their ungodliness. He was in desperate need of a word from God that God was still in control of his life. And in that verse, so many of us quote for our own, Jeremiah 33 verse three, God said to Jeremiah, "Call on me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know". God said, "If you will talk to me, I will talk back to you and show you things beyond your imagination".
You see, ladies and gentlemen, prayer is a two-way communication. We speak to God, God speaks to us. When I think about that truth, I'm often reminded of the story that came out of the first Persian gulf war. It seems that a major had just been assigned the rank of major and he was excited about his new post and the chance to have his own office and secretary for the first time. So on Monday morning he arrived in his office, was seated in the big chair and his secretary buzzed in on the intercom and said, "Major, your first appointment for the day is here". And wanting to appear busier than he actually was, he picked up the telephone and pretended to be in a conversation, and when the private walked in, the major started talking. He said, "Yes, general Schwartzkoff. Yes, we enjoyed dinner with you and the Mrs last night as well. Yes, we need to do that again. Thank you so much, general".
He hung up the phone, he looked at the private and he snarled, "Now what do you want"? And the private kind of stuttered and stammered, he said, "Well sir, I was the guy assigned to hook up your telephone". And you know, most of us treat prayer that way. We think prayer is just a one-way conversation. We talk to God, but not only do we talk to God in prayer, God actually talks to us and that's what we're going to focus on this morning as we continue our series on discovering God's will for our life. We're not going to talk so much about how we ought to speak to God, but we're going to talk about how to listen to God, and what is it exactly that God wants to communicate to us.
Now I have to admit to you, I have a lot of questions about prayer, a lot of unanswered questions. For example, if God has a sovereign plan for our life, if everything has already been planned, why should I bother to pray at all? Does prayer really change things? Could it change God's will? Or why is it that some things I pray about for months and years and God doesn't answer, other things, I ask him one time and he answers instantly and dramatically? Or why is it that God seems to answer prayer sometime of people a lot less spiritual than I am? That's a joke. Why does he do that? And yet he won't answer my requests? Have you ever had those kind of questions about prayer? Yet all of my questions about prayer melt away when I look at the example of Jesus Christ.
I want you to turn over to Mark chapter one for just a moment. Mark chapter one, beginning with verse 35. Now, it's interesting to note when this event in Jesus' life occurred, the day before this event occurred was the busiest recorded day in Jesus' ministry. Jesus had spent the entire day and evening preaching, teaching, casting out demons, meeting with people individually. He crawled into bed very late that night, but then look at what happens on the next day, verse 35, "And in the early morning, while it was still dark, he arose and he went out and he departed to a lonely place and was praying there".
Now, if I were Jesus, I could have come up with a lot of reasons to stay in the sack that morning, to roll over and hit the snooze button and say, "Lord, I know this is the time I usually meet with you, but I had such a busy day for you yesterday. Surely you want me to catch up on my sleep. Surely you don't want me to get sick". But you see, for Jesus, prayer wasn't a nicety, it was a necessity, and I think it was that commitment to prayer that caused the disciples to ask this question, "Lord, would you teach us to pray"? Now, what were they asking when they asked that question? I don't think they were saying, "Lord, teach us to use that special prayer language we've heard you using when you pray".
Read through the Bible, there's no example that Jesus ever employed a special prayer language, nor were they saying, "Lord, teach us to use those theological terms you like to use when you pray". Now, Jesus prayers were very simple, and I think when they said, "Lord teach us to pray," they were saying, "Lord, teach us how to have the same commitment to prayer that you have".
You see, Jesus didn't just pray when his back was up against the wall. Isn't that what we do? We'll pray if a crisis comes, like one writer says, we're tempted to pray when the phone call comes in the middle of the night or when our boss tells us that our job is up for grabs, or when the doctor tells us that things aren't looking good or when our mate tells us somebody else is starting to look good, that's when we're forced to pray. But that wasn't true of Jesus. He prayed at all times. He was committed to praying, and ladies and gentlemen, if prayer is essential for the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, if prayer was vital to him, how much more important is it for us? Jesus was sold out to prayer, not only so that he could speak to God, but so that he could listen to God as well.
Well, what sort of things does God want to talk to us about? When you say prayer is a key, a primary channel for knowing the will of God, exactly what part of God's will does Jesus or do God communicate to us through prayer? Let me mention three things that God communicates to us in prayer. First of all, God will communicate his direction through prayer. He communicates his direction in prayer. There's a very interesting verse in Psalm 14, verse four. It reads this way, "Will evil doers never learn? Those who devour my people as many bred and who do not call on the name of the Lord".
Notice how the Psalmist defines an evil doer, an evil doer, he doesn't define as one who gets drunk or one who commits adultery. Those are ungodly things to do. But look at the verse again. Psalm 14:4 says, "Evil doers are those who do not call upon the name of the Lord". Ladies and gentlemen, to live your life, to start your morning, to end your day without ever calling upon the name of the Lord, that's ungodly, it's wicked. The Bible says, "An evil doer is anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who lives his life apart from God without ever consulting God for his direction and his will".
I think it's that thought that James had in mind when James chapter four verses 13 to 17, "Come now, you who say the day or tomorrow will go to such and such a city and spend a year and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor, a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. But as such, your boast and your arrogance, all such boasting is evil". James isn't condemning planning. God wants us to make plans, like that great Philosopher Yogi Berra said one time, "If you don't know where you're going, you're going to end up someplace else".
The Bible says we need to plan. We ought to make plans. The sin here being condemned is not planning, it's planning without God, without ever consulting him for his direction in our life. Remember the story of the Israelites. They had a great success in their battle at Jericho and then finally at AI and intoxicated with their success, they went after the Gibeonites and they suffered tremendous defeat, and why were they defeated? Joshua 9:14 tells us, "So the men of Israel took some of their provisions and they did not ask for the counsel of the Lord". They refused to consult God about their plans. James 1:5 says, "If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who generously will give to all men without reproach, and it shall be given to him". They say confession is good for the soul, so let me confess something to you this morning.
Too often prayer for me is a last resort instead of a first response, I'll face a difficult dilemma and my first instinct is to pick up the phone and call somebody to talk the problem over with or to seek counsel. And in the weeks ahead we'll see why that's important or I'll pull out my legal pad and I'll make a list of the pros and cons of a particular decision. I do everything except pray, and what the Word of God says is when we are facing a dilemma or our problem, prayer ought to be our first response, not our last resort.
The late Paul little writes about an experience he had when he was a college student attending the Urbana Mission Conference. He said at the Urbana Convention in 1948, "I heard a speaker ask this question, 'how many of you who are concerned about the will of God spend even five minutes a day asking him to show you his will'? When I heard that, it was as if somebody had grabbed me by the throat. At that time, I was an undergraduate student concerned about what I should do when I graduated from the university, I was running around the campus going to this meeting, reading that book, trying to find a little 1, 2, 3 formula. I was frustrated out of my mind trying to figure out the will of God. I was doing everything but getting into the presence of God and asking him to show me".
May I ask you the same question? Do you spend even five minutes a day asking God to show you his will? All of us Christians would do well to take that question to heart. Praying for God's will is a daily responsibility and one for which a serious Christian must make time. God communicates his direction for our life. Secondly, when we listen to God, he communicates his peace through prayer. His peace through prayer.
Remember when Paul was in prison, he had a number of things he could have chosen to worry about, whether or not he'd ever be released, whether he was going to live or die. He could have worried about the church in Philippi that was being torn in two, but instead look at what he says in Philippians 4:6. He said, "Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God". The living Bible says, "Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything". And remember the suggestion I gave, that you make a list of everything you're worried about, your worry list.
Think of everything you've even ever thought about worrying about and then make another list, your prayer list, and one by one, take things off the worry list, scratch them out and place them on your prayer list. Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. And what will happen? Look at verse seven, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard just like a Roman soldier, it shall March around your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". People whose worry list is full usually have a prayer list that's empty, and people with a full prayer list usually have a worry list that's empty. The Bible says, "If you will simply pray instead of worry, in some inexplicable way, the peace of God will flood your hearts". God communicates his peace to us when we pray.
Number three, God will communicate to us his desires when we pray. He wants to communicate his desires when we pray. You know when we pray, sometimes we find ourselves talking to God about the things we're concerned about, but did you know every now and then, God has some things he's concerned about that he wants to talk to us about? And that's why prayer is important. It's not only a time to talk to God, but also a time to listen to God about the things he's concerned about in our lives.
Turn over to Genesis chapter 17 for a moment. Turn over to Genesis chapter 17, we see a great, great illustration of this in the story of Abraham. The story of Abraham actually begins in Genesis chapter 12 and in chapters 12 through 16, there's some exciting events in Abraham's life. His call out of Ur of the Caldeez. His successful battle against the kings of the east, the night of forbidden pleasure with that slave girl named Hagar. That's Genesis 12-16, and then when we get to chapter 18, some more thrilling things that happen, the near death of his son, Isaac, a wedding, the loss of his mate, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. That's from chapters 18 on, but between chapter 16 and chapter 18 comes chapter 17.
Isn't that a great theological insight? You never knew your pastor was so theologically astute, did you? Seven years of seminary between 16 and 18 come chapter 17. I want to show you why that's important because in chapter 17 in one of those lulls that you wouldn't think was that exciting, God did something significant in Abram's life. Look at chapter 17 verse one. "Now, when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham and said to him, 'I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless and I will establish my covenant between me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly'".
Now, here's the key, verse three, starred, "And Abram fell on his face and God talked with him, saying". It doesn't say that Abram fell on his face and began speaking to God. No, it says Abram fell on his face and God began to speak to him. Let me ask you a question, when is there in your daily schedule a time for you to listen to God, not to just pour out God, give me this, do this, do this, do this, but for you to listen to what God wants to say to you. Abram fell on his face and God began to speak to him. Well pastor, what sort of things does God want to talk to me about? What kind of things does he communicate? What desires does he have?
Let me suggest three, just put 'em out to the side of your outline. Sometimes God wants to speak to us about sins that we need to abandon, sins that need to be abandoned. Is there anything in your life displeasing to the Lord? Sometimes he'll want to talk to you about those things. In Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24, David prayed, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way".
David was saying, "God, I want you to take the searchlight of your Holy Spirit and I want you to shine that search light into my heart, look into the inner recesses of my heart, and see if there is anything displeasing to you, and if you will show me what's displeasing to you, I'll change it because I want to walk on the everlasting way. I want to experience your blessing in every area of my life".
By the way, when you ask God to show you anything in your life displeasing to him, that's one prayer he will always answer, guaranteed. If you'll ask him to show you, he'll show you. Sometimes God wants to speak to us about sins that need to be abandoned. Secondly, sometimes God communicates to us, speaks to us about relationships that need to be mended, relationships that need to be mended. Have you ever had this experience? You're in church, semi-listening to the pastor, or maybe you're at home trying to pray or reading the Bible when all of a sudden the picture of somebody comes into your mind, somebody you're having a conflict with, and try as you may you can't get that person or that conflict out of your mind.
I used to think when that happened, that was Satan trying to interrupt my worship time. Satan trying to distract me from worshiping God, but I realize more and more many times that's the voice of God speaking to me. God many times will speak to us about relationships, especially in the church that need to be mended. Jesus had that truth in mind when he said in Matthew 5, verses 23 and 24, "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you," by the way, will you notice? It doesn't say you remember that you have something against your brother, big difference.
If you're worshiping, if you're driving along in the car and you remember you have something against somebody, you know what you're supposed to do? Forgive, right there on the spot, let go of it. That other person doesn't have to be present. They don't have to ask for your forgiveness. You have the ability, Jesus said in Mark 11, right there while you're standing to forgive, to let go. That's not what he's talking about. He says in Matthew 5:23, "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there. Go your way, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering".
If there is some damaged relationship in your life, especially with another believer, God wants that relationship to be mended. Many times he'll point that out to you. Number three, sometimes God speaks to us about commands that we need to obey, commands to be obeyed, and in fact, that's what God spoke to Abram about in Genesis chapter 17. Abram fell before the Lord and God began speaking to Abram and one of the things he said to Abram was this. He said, "Abram, I want you to be circumcised, you and all of your family".