Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to stop hearing from God

( . . . and burn completely out)

Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God says that God is still speaking in this day and age through the pages of Scripture, and Scripture says the same thing. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). An audible voice? Not likely. But in your heart that still small voice is there when the Holy Spirit is present through a vital, growing relationship with Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:19; Matt. 10:20).

Elijah heard God speak in a whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13). Young Samuel heard God calling him in the night, and he answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10). Isaiah heard God ask, “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8), and Isaiah answered, “Here am I. Send me!”

But you don’t have to listen to God. You can ignore him. “God does speak, now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it.” (Job 33:14). Without a listening heart anchored in a relationship with Jesus, God’s speaking might not sound like anything unusual to you (John 12:28-29). Here are some surefire ways to stop hearing from God and shipwreck yourself.

1.      Cut out all the margin in your life. God likes to write in the margins of our lives, but if we have no margins, there is no time or space for Him to speak to us. We have glorified busyness and activity as some kind of holiness, but it is the opposite, actually. Take no time to hear from God, and you can be assured you never will. You need some unstructured time, time to be still and be quiet with God. Be deliberate and intentional in taking time with the Lord. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). God ordained the principle of the seventh day and rested himself.

2.      Be self-sufficient. Never admit you need anything. Agree with the lie that people will think less of you if you don’t have it all together. Be more concerned about what people think of you than in being real. Independence is the way of the proud. God himself will oppose you (Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The Gospel is about dependence on Him, humility to confess your faults, and a transparent life that invites a loving Father’s presence, rather than the resistance of the Mighty Creator. The health of a church or a ministry or a person is measured by how unimpressed it is with himself (James 5:16). The truth is that the treasure works through fallen jars of clay, real cracked pots (2 Cor. 4:7).

3.      Respond to every need (because you are the only one who can fix them all.) Go with the idea that you are irreplaceable and that things cannot run properly without you being there. Be a people-pleaser. Consider every need a calling. Don’t listen for God to direct you to where He is at work. Get on that treadmill so you cannot hear anything except about the next fire that needs put out. Jesus did not respond to every need. Every need that exists is not your assignment. Jesus had one agenda – His Father’s business – He did only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:26, 28-29; 12:49; 14:10, 24). Your assignment is to look to the Master and go where he directs. One of those directions is to include time to speak with his Father (Mark 1:35).

4.      Be too busy for time in God’s Word. If you want to hear from God, put yourself where he has said the most – His Word. The Holy Spirit speaks to you through His Word. There He judges your thoughts and attitudes and intentions and gives direction (Heb. 4:12). If what you are thinking or feeling does not line up with the Bible, then God is not speaking to you. He is always consistent with His Word, and His Word never fails.

5.      Be too busy for prayer to be a priority. Yeah, that’s right. Live by the tyranny of the urgent. Live by reacting to everything. Don’t gain the wisdom found in prayer. Jesus was busier than we imagine ourselves to be with all our gadgets, so busy with the throngs that he did not have time to eat. His opponents were constantly spying on him, looking for a reason to kill Him. It seemed at times that his own disciples were such dim wits and spiritually inept that he had to watch out for them, too (Mark 9:14-18, 28-29, 31-32). 

But Jesus kept a priority and habit of prayer (Luke 11:1; 22:39). He prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22), before busy days (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42), after long, crowded days (Matt 14:23; Luke 5:16), as his fame grew (Luke 5:15-16), after success (Mark 6:30-31; Luke 10:21), alone and with his disciples (Mark 6:46; Luke 9:18, 29), before important decisions (Luke 6:12; 22:41-42), for little children (Matt 19:31), in intense conflict (Matt 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:29-46; John 12:27-28; 18:1; Heb. 5:7), for a restoration of a disciple (Luke 22:31-32), for his disciples and their unity (John 17), and even from the cross (Matt 27:46; Luke 23:34, 46).

6.      Get completely exhausted. Burn out. Be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted so much that the fatigue is louder than the still, small voice of Christ. Even Jesus’ three closest disciples fell for this one. When their Master needed them and their prayer the most, they fell asleep, exhausted (Matt. 26:43; Luke 22:45). When we are burned out, we are of no value to ourselves or anyone else. To hear from God, we must take adequate time off for rest and refreshment. If you do not take a Sabbath, you are violating the law – God’s law. Take a Sabbath rest for your own sanity so you can hear from God.

7.      Completely ignore the Holy Spirit. Ignore His Person and His work in your life. Slight Him. Fail to rely on Him. That is the best way to short-change your ability to hear from God. Better yet, look elsewhere for answers – friends, google, talk radio, the horoscope, and the self-help section at (even) the Christian bookstore. The Holy Spirit speaks truth and comfort for the challenges you face (2 Cor 1:3-5; John 16:13), guidance and discernment for the decisions you must make (John 14:25-26).

8.      Consider worship a waste of your time. If you are avoiding hearing from God, then roll your eyes at the waste of time and energy worship is for you. You wouldn’t want to be exposed to God’s choicest secrets revealed to those who deliberately take time to worship Him. (Num 12:7-8; Heb. 3:5; Psalm 25:14). Only pray in order to get things from God, with a shopping list, just to use Him for your own best interest. 

Don’t wait before Him to gaze into His lovely face and know Him intimately. God wants you to know Him intimately, not to use Him for his blessings. Don’t let God work in your heart in worship or you might end up wanting to work for him. What God works in us in worship, He works through us for our holiness and works out of us for His Kingdom’s expansion. He is the vine, and we are the branches which display His fruit, fruit that lasts (John 15:1-8, 16). The order is always worship, then warfare, then the work. Another way to keep from hearing from God is to . . .

9.      Have a ‘Me-First” Attitude. Look for what you can get out of God, rather than how you can serve Him. Think, “What’s in it for me?” Insist that God must conform to your way of thinking and your comfort zone. Make your personal comfort your highest priority. Make it your goal to be so comfortable that if perchance God would speak, it would totally upset your world, and therefore it could not possibly be God speaking. 

Be self-centered and self-enriching in everything you do at church. Satisfy self first and foremost. Always ask the question of every church event and ministry, “Did I get anything out of it?” Self-satisfaction kills your hunger to hear from God. Soon, you will also have no vision beyond yourself and where you are. If your hunger to hear from God is gone, then it becomes important that everyone hears from you and what you think. 

All those other needs and people out there where God is at work among the nations will be unimportant because you and your priorities will be more important. After all, if you’re the one who finances the church, then you should be the one who decides how the money’s spent, right? Then you will be free to give yourself to all things ‘You:’ your programs, your preferences, your position, your reputation, your personal agenda. Then it will eventually become your church. That’s right. It really becomes your church that you can run for yourself, your needs, your wishes, and your demands. Your personal shrine to yourself. What a concept! Could it have ever been thought of before? (Isaiah 14:12-14).

10.  Focus on religious activity. If you do not want to hear God speak, then do not under any circumstances cultivate a growing, vital relationship with Jesus at all costs. Dead religious activity is the best antidote to hearing from God. It keeps you from deepening yourself in the grace of God and spreading that grace to others. It creates impenetrable tunnel vision for the things that enshrine your agenda. Make it all look nice and religious. Just don’t get too fanatical about an intimate relationship with Jesus to advance His Kingdom (Rom 14:17). Keep to a form of godliness – just deny its power (2 Tim 3:4-6). 

Tolerate unconfessed sin in your life so that the Lord will not listen to you nor talk to you (Psalm 66:18). Let your unchecked sin and flesh dominate your life so loudly that you couldn’t possibly hear God if He spoke to you (1 John 3:21-22). Avoid the example of Isaiah who confessed his sin, heard God speak, and was sent on God’s mission (Isaiah 6:1-8; Heb 10:22). That would be too extreme (2 Tim 1:3). 

Just settle in on religious activity and expect that to satisfy God enough to leave you alone. Focus on surface issues and ignore the real invisible war going on in the spirit (Eph 6:12-13). Make sure everyone else does, too. 

‘Religion’ manipulates and controls others who have not yet figured out that you are the one in charge here. We can be sure we are religious when “our” church becomes our idol, a golden calf fashioned to look just like us (Exod 32:4; Amos 4:1). 

We just need to talk religiously about God, not really talk directly with God. That’s too dangerous. He might say something we don’t want to hear. That would be just awful because it might step on your toes or assail your conscience or hurt your feelings, and it’s not very religious to hurt someone’s feelings, is it? 

Do all these things, and you can be sure never to hear from God -- at least in this life.