I don’t spend hours writing a blog post…they are reflections ‘in the moment’, most often about what I’m thinking about. They are a sort of public journaling when it seems possible that they may provide some grounds for reflection for others. I say that because what I’m about to write is no definitive ‘how to’ approach or strategy that will have you blessed and unstressed by Friday, but rather, some answers to a question I was asking. I was wondering what it might mean to coach/encourage Christians in the art of hearing God who were new or uncertain of the idea. I came up with a few pointers:
1. Submit to God. May sound ‘severe’ but I think its important to get the order right. We are not God and we don’t even know half of what there is to know about anything! When we come to him we come to one who is all knowing and so getting outselves in the place of humble listener will help us more than not.
2. Putting our ear to the Bible. These texts are our key guide to the main thrust of God’s general will and what it means to be his people. It has a voice, and an importantly crucial voice at that. I’m not saying its an easy thing to come to the bible in this way, but I’m not actually advocating JUST coming to the bible when we’re listening. I’m suggesting that it is to be our bread and meat and that we internalise its message. This means that we are more likely to understand how God speaks through it and how the Spirit guides us in our discernment. It is here, too, that we find out if Jesus’ teaching or actions have anything to apply to our particular matter.
3. Seeking the help of the Holy Spirit. I mentioned this just now, but its important that we ask God’s spirit to guide us, not only as we come to the bible, but as we reflect, pray, listen and engage all the faculties God has given us to hear and respond. He is the illuminator, the nudger, the prompter and the inspirer and his residence is with us, as his church, as his temple. He is active in the transformation of our body, mind, soul and spirit as we seek after God’s purposes.
4. Enter shared corporate discernment with an open heart and mind, accepting that together we make up the body of Christ. This is where the rubber hits the road because we are all seeing through darkened glass, but we cannot escape the importance of the whole Christian community. Wisdom can emerge from within the body of Christ which is full and helpful. It can sometimes sound like the opposite but perhaps thats more a symptom of bad listening than good listening. I’m saddened by what I see sometimes where discernment is replaced by democracy as if that is the God-given pattern. Working towards consensus isn’t about everyone agreeing, its about agreeing to disagree and choosing a course of action anyway.
5. Not failing to engage our brains. If we’re not using our heads we’re not fully engaging, but its also important to remember, as Paul said, that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. In other words, our heads are not the sole authority. We use our heads to ask the questions, explore the answers, make conclusions, try things, evaluate and refine – all under God’s leading. Included in this is where we’ve seen God lead in the past, and asking if that has anything fresh to say in a new situation
That’s all rather generic rather than specific, but they were the key things that arose for me when thinking about how we engage in discernment. You might think I’ve missed out ‘PRAY’, but I think this whole process is the essence of prayer. In engaging in these things we’re in dialogue with God…speaking, thinking, listening, responding, testing and stepping out believing we may have heard without any fear of coming back to the start when things turn out to be not as we’ve understood. Humility required, and a teachable spirit.
Are there any other factors you would consider?