Robert Jeffress - The God Who Speaks - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Have you ever tried to talk to someone over the noise that's blasting from a television set? It's frustrating to say the least. Yet many of us expect to hear God's voice over the distractions that fill our lives. Today, I'm going to show you how to escape the commotion in order to hear God's voice. My message is titled, "The God Who Speaks" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
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? Abraham 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, o 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 search light 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 five, 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, verse 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 Abraham about in Genesis chapter 17. Abraham fell before the Lord and God began speaking to Abraham. And one of the things he said to Abraham was this. He said, "Abraham, I want you to be circumcised, you and all of your family". Now, because there's a mixed crowd here today and children in the audience, I won't go into the gory details of circumcision. But let me just say to you, circumcision was a very unpleasant experience, especially in the days before anesthetics, okay? Very unpleasant. And yet God said, "Abraham, I want you to circumcise yourself and then your family".
How did Abraham respond to that? Did he look up at God and say, "Now, God, let me get this straight. You want me to take a knife and you want me to do what? You've got to be crazy". Or did he say, "God, you want me to do this? I'll tell you what, God, let me pray about that a little bit longer. I'll be getting back to you". That's not how he responded. Look at what he did in verse 26. It says, "In the very same day that God had spoken, Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael, his son". Abraham obeyed God immediately. As we'll see in the days ahead, that was one of the keys of Abraham's success in life. When God spoke, Abraham obeyed without question.
Sometimes God will speak to us about specific commands in our life that he wants us to obey. God communicates his direction for the dilemmas we face. He promises to give us his peace when we're facing turmoil. He promises to communicate his desire for our life, desires by the way that are always good and always for our best. Now, how many of you believe everything I just said that God will communicate his direction, his peace, and his desires? How many of you believe that? Raise your hand. You really believe that? Then let me ask you the question, why don't you pray more? Why don't you pray more? If the sovereign God of the universe wants to talk to you about direction, he wants to give you his peace, he wants to show you his good desires for you, why don't we spend more time in prayer?
I think author John Piper might have the answer to that question. He says, "It's not so much that we don't want to pray". He says, "It's because we don't have a plan to pray". Listen to what he says. "Unless I'm badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God's children don't have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don't want to, we don't plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you just don't get up one summer morning and say, 'hey, let's go today'. You won't have anything ready. You won't know where to go. Nothing has been planned. But that's how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing's ever ready. No time, no place, no procedure, and we know that the opposite of planning is not some wonderful flow of deep spontaneous experiences in prayer.
The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don't plan a vacation, you'll probably stay home and watch tv. The natural unplanned flow of the spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your prayer life, you must plan for it". I want this message to be intensely practical, and so let me suggest for you a plan for prayer where you can really hear, listen to the voice of God. In many ways, this resembles a plan for reading the Bible, but I believe there are three essential ingredients if you really want to hear from God in your life. First of all, there has to be a period of time, a period of time.
Now, the truth is we ought to pray at all times. First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing". And you know that praise without ceasing in Greek, it's a word that literally means to pray with the frequency of a hacking cough. You know what a hacking cough is? I'm listening to some of you with it right now. You know, you've got this tickle in your throat and you try to suppress it as long as you can, but finally you can't help yourself, and you clear your throat. And you go along for ways with that and then all of a sudden, there it comes again. As hard as you try, you can't suppress it. And Paul says our prayer life ought to be that way.
Prayer ought to be like a hacking cough, or it ought to be as natural as breathing. It ought to be just a natural response for all of us. When we're driving along, "Lord, protect me". Or when we're stopped at a red light, "Lord, please take care of my family today". Or before we go into an important meeting, "God, give me direction. Give me wisdom". We ought to pray frequently without ceasing, but there also needs to be a period of time every day that we've set aside not only to talk to but to listen to God. For Jesus, it was in the early morning hours while it was still dark. For some people it might be over the noon hour. For some people it might be at night, but there needs to be a time that we set aside as holy, sacred, to listen to the voice of God. We need a period. Secondly, we need a place. We need a place. There needs to be a place that we meet with God to listen to God.
A week ago, Friday night, I was driving to one of our Sunday school parties and Amy was at home working on her talk for the women's meeting the next day, and so I took my two daughters with me, Julia and Dorothy. And we were driving to Richardson and we were going down belt line road, and I pointed out on the left, our high school, Richardson high school where their mother and I went to school and they couldn't have cared less. But... Then I pointed out over on the right, I said to them, "See this park over here, cottonwood park"? And I said, "When I was in high school, the four years I was in high school, just about every morning of the week, I would ride my bicycle. Then later drive my little Volkswagen beetle down to that park, 7:30 in the morning, and I would sit on that park bench. I would open up my old green living Bible, remember those? I would read from it and then I would pray and listen to God".
I told my daughters it was in that park on that bench that God spoke to me about some of the most important issues in my life, the choice of a mate, about the ministry God wanted to give me and a dozen other things. That place is a very special place to me. And over the years the place has changed, but the principle has remained. There are places that I go to to meet with God. And I would want to just suggest to you that you find a place right now that you can meet with God. You know, for Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, that place was out in the wilderness where he went for 40 days of spiritual testing. Later we saw in Mark one he had some place, we don't know where it was, it was that solitary place that he went in the early morning hours. Even as he faced the greatest trial of his life, he had a place he went to, Gethsemane.
Many of us have been there before. By the way, I don't think that was the first time he went to Gethsemane that night. It was a special place for him. If we're going to be serious about listening to God, we need to have a prearranged place that we're going to meet God at a certain period. And then third, for an effective prayer life, we need a pad. And by that I'm talking about a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen. In fact, I've become more convinced that this is the greatest essential to an effective prayer life than anything else. What do I mean by a pencil and pad? Well, first of all, I mean a place where you can write down the things you're talking to God about, your prayer request. I started this practice a long time ago. Maybe you've done it as well.
Well, I'll take a legal pad, I'll draw a line right down the middle and at the top of the page on the left hand side, I'll write, "My requests". And then on the other side I put, "God's answer". And I'll make a list of the different things I'm talking to God about, the things I'm asking him to do, and I'll date it. And as God answers those requests, yes or no, I'll write the answer out beside it on the right hand side. I've got dozens and dozens of pages I can go back and look at through the years of requests that God has answered. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The older I get, I'm more grateful sometimes for the no answers than I am the yes answers.
But it's a record of God's faithfulness, and I think it's important to keep that as a way of being effective and focused when you pray and talk to God. But a pad and a pen are also important for listening to God. Not only talking to God, but listening to God and recording what God says to you. Those of you who have employees, you've probably had this experience. You ask one of your employees to do something they kind of have that blank stare. Okay, yeah. Mm-hmm. And you know the chances of that getting done are about slim to none. But when that employee will take out a pencil and write down what you're asking him or her to do, you know they have an intent. They're going to be serious about that. They're taking your words seriously.
I think it's important for us to let God know we're paying attention when he talks to us. And when we write down the lessons he's teaching us, it's a way of saying, "God, we're really listening". And that's why one of the things I encourage you to do with a pen and a pad is to keep a spiritual journal. Now, a spiritual journal is simply a record of how God's dealing in your life. It's not like a diary that you keep every day. You write, you know, today, February 3rd, bowl of bran flakes for breakfast, you know, not that kind of stuff. No, no. A spiritual journal is simply a way of recording the things God's teaching you, the way he's working in your life.
You may not write in it every day, you may just write in it once or twice a week, but as you write those lessons down, it will amaze you as you go back over the months and years to see the lessons God has taught you and the way he has dealt in your life. I believe a pad and a pencil are essential for listening, hearing the voice of God in your life. Friday night, this past Friday night, I was finishing up some things in the office and felt so relieved the desk was finally cleared at least till Monday morning, it was clear.
And so I had some time just sitting there and thinking about our church. And I'm excited about our church. I'm excited about what God's doing in our congregation. I'm even more excited about what I believe he's going to do. But to be honest with you, for a moment while I sat there, I started to feel overwhelmed as I thought about all that was ahead of me and all that was ahead of us as a church. Not discouraged, but just kind of overwhelmed by the task. And so I went and I pulled out some of my spiritual journals from 20, 25 years ago and I opened them up and just started reading. And I smiled at some of the things I read, 'cause some of those things that seemed such a big deal 10 or 20 years ago. I mean, when I look at them now, I laugh. They weren't a big deal at all. God took care of them so quickly.
But then I read about some of the things I had prayed about. I read about God who was doing, exceeding abundantly beyond anything I could have asked or thought. And tears started to flow down my face as I saw once again the faithfulness of God in my life. And I wasn't planning to do it, I just fell on my knees right there at my chair and I started praising God, saying, "God, thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness over these years".
And it was as if God started speaking to me and he said, "Robert, don't worry about these things. Just as I have taken care of you in the past, just as I have blessed the other churches you served, I'm going to take care of you now and I'm going to bless this church beyond anything you can imagine". And the peace of God just flooded over myself. I got up, turned out the lights, went home with that assurance that God is in control. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book years ago. "He is there and he is not silent". God really is there, and he's not silent: he's speaking to you. The question is, are you making time to listen?