I met with one of my elders this easter for a quick coffee. Nearly two hours later we hugged and said goodbye, having talked about some of the most well-known prophets in the world in the last few years, kitchens, pastors, people and the stuff of life that was affecting me and some friends who feel somewhat marginalised. I walked away reflecting on what else remained to be said and remembered that there were other things that I needed to discuss, but internally I was aware of something. I had said too much.
Story telling – you’ll get there one day!
The last few years have been full of the thrilling, exciting, challenging, sometimes-depressing sounds and colours of life – and so stories abound. Keeping conversations brief, on point and relevant is something that I personally am challenged by. Sometimes there is a need to realise, (for me especially) that the story we want to tell is not that relevant or important to others and our time and energy is best served in simply, listening.
Learning to listen
Listening is not something that comes easily which is why Jesus’ brother James urges us to take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19). Note that James urges everyone, not just a select few. We all not only need to be quick listeners but slow ‘engagers’!
In all of our rush to communicate our mind, thoughts, insights and solutions to others we miss the value of listening. If you think you are one of those people who are good listeners, James’ words are falling on deaf ears! You also, need to remind yourself of the things he says.
Listen to God too!
The thing is, that we are also caught in the same tension with God. One of the things that we excel at is our ability to not listen to God. Silence doesn’t come easy because we are in a rush for things to happen. When we pray we quickly move onto other things. Our faint-heartedness can be deafening, and God’s voice and intervention seem like silence.
I have encountered this with the gifts of the Spirit. God doesn’t play to our agenda or time constraints, but often the Church can try to rush Him, and He simply won’t be rushed or coerced into activity. Wait on the Lord. Waiting means simply that, waiting.
There is a myth at large in the Church todayi that you can prophesy at will, when you need to and where you need to. We really do need to be a people who know what it is to treat God as God, and to wait on Him. That means that our silent times are intentional. We are listening and waiting. We are never ‘downloading’ revelation. That sounds cool, but it is crude and doesn’t honour God. No, we are listening and waiting for Him to speak.
God breaks the silence – His Word
Now some would say that God has spoken in His word, and that it true – and we value the Bible higher than any other book. It is inspired in a way that our impressions, thoughts and Spirit-imparted revelation is not, and we weigh everything we have against the veracity of God’s eternal word. But we still need to wait on God, and carefully listen for his voice and not the imaginations of our minds and the inspiration of life – as if that were the voice of God. When God does speak, it will be with clarity.
Speaking with clarity
I was once told that I give prophetic words that people do not understand. I’m not sure what those words areiibut I take it on the chin and to speak more and more, only that which God speaks to me, even if I don’t understand what those words are meaning and referring to. As Bob Jones used to say, “we don’t always understand the words, we just get them!”
Sometimes God is silent. We must never interpret God’s silence as rejection or denial. If we continue in silence, waiting on God, that silence will speak volumes to us – but we must certainly never speak our own comforting words, because God is silent.
Our great comfort though, is that despite all the noise of life, God is the speaking God! We are never left to our own devices.