Challenges to Knowing and Hearing from God

We are challenged to accept no substitutes for the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.

As you pursue the knowledge of the Lord, settle it for yourself that you will resist the temptation to minister out of your own temperament, skill, position or personal inheritance. Many ministers, for example, are such good speakers that they are able to convince their audience themselves rather than allow the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to convict them on His terms. Another example is in ministering in prophecy or words of wisdom. You may have noticed how general many prophetic words are. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Lord is not speaking, but that there is a lot of interference, probably from the person delivering the word. We are all to discern the difference, and encourage one another to “hold out” for the actual flow of the Spirit through our spirit. Many also have a tendency to add their own emotion or power of persuasion—the force of their personality—to their ministry, and the recipient is left overwhelmed by the person to the point they may not be able to discern the truth. Likewise there is a tendency to attribute ministry responsibilities to second and third generations, that a ministry is somehow a birthright of a ministry family and can be passed down from generation to generation.

Take note that it is possible to duplicate some of the effects of the moving of the Spirit through our own efforts, especially since most people that we are ministering to don’t want to embarrass ministers, and therefore will go along with what is being said or done. But the true results of His moving—freedom, healing, assurance—can’t be faked. Either God moves or He doesn’t: If He’s not moving, don’t try to talk Him into it. Likewise, if He’s “rocking the boat,” don’t try to stop it!

We are challenged to both recognize and submit to the sovereignty—the absolute and sole authority—of God over our lives and our training.

It is possible to be so focused on the “things” of the Spirit that we neglect our relationship with the Lord. The reason doesn’t matter; not tending to your responsibilities of knowing God face-to-face is denying your heritage and authority. If there is something keeping you from resting and trusting in Him, take care of it now! If there’s a concern you have about what He may say, or ask you to do, go to Him and settle it now! He knows how you’re wired, your circumstances, your needs, and has already laid out everything you need to accomplish His purpose for this time.

The Lord wants you to have full confidence in His commitment to you, and will therefore become jealous over you. Anything that you turn to before you turn to Him will be brought to your attention as a distraction. He doesn’t want us to hold Him at arm’s length, but to be so close to Him we can hear His heart beat. Remember that if you want to get along with God, stay out of His chair—And don’t let any one, or any thing, sit in it either.

We are challenged to acknowledge and take responsibility for the inheritance, gifts and authority God has given us.

All believers are gifted of God, but not all believers accept or act on that reality. In our physical bodies, whether we were taught that we each have a heart or not doesn’t mean we don’t have a heart, and that it is operating to give us our physical life. We don’t pay much attention to it unless it starts to give us trouble. But many are educating themselves about how our actions today affect the health, longevity and effectiveness of our heart, affecting the quality and length of our life. Each of us is responsible for and has authority over our bodily health, though we did not have a say in its inception, and often have to go to great lengths to get accurate information from the medical community.

Likewise, each of us is responsible for educating ourselves regarding our gifts. That’s right, OUR gifts. Though we are re-born as sons of God and co-inheritors with Jesus, we grow into dependence through this life process. Acknowledging and accepting responsibility, and sometimes accepting credit, for our own dependent relationship with God, including the precision and operation of the gifts, is one helpful measure of our understanding of our purpose here in this life—to be healed, have our flesh exposed, and live in full dependence on God.

We are challenged to deal with our individual temperament’s strengths and weaknesses.

Remember that God gave you the temperament He wanted you to have—it ain’t broke, and He ain’t gonna fix it! One of our goals as we learn to move in the gifts is to be able to overcome the interference of our soul and recognize as truth what is going on in the spirit realm.

MIND (what we think/believe)

Over time, the strength or weakness of our mind will interfere less and less with the expression of our spiritual nature. A thinking person is no more able to move in the gifts than a less intellectual believer. In fact, it is often the child-like believer who is willing to let the Lord move without having to understand all that He is doing. But the Lord deals with each of us individually, so though it is helpful to research what He is doing in others’ lives, the final test is: Does it work for YOU? God gives us understanding and wisdom despite our temperament, not because of it.

WILL (what we choose to do)

Some of us have no trouble acting swiftly on the direction we hear from God. This needs to be tempered, according to His training. Jesus called Peter out of the boat, to walk with Him, because Peter needed to overcome His cautious temperament—throughout his life, Peter was challenged to act based on the Lord’s direction rather than on what he believed to be truth. Many families and ministries have been injured because no distinction was made between the desires of the spirit and the desires of the soul. We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve acted on what they believed was the word of the Lord for them, and got married, moved, quit a job, sold their house, etc., even with the encouragement from those in “authority” over them, only for disappointing consequences to follow. Sometimes these are the exact circumstances God had arranged, but often it is a result of people acting before depending.

It is not surprising that God will use those who are easiest to satisfy, those who are content, to accomplish great things. Moses’ temperament made him quite content to spend his days tending the sheep, yet he knew the Lord’s voice when he heard it, tested it, then acted on it. God calls us to act despite our temperament, not because of it.

EMOTIONS (what we feel)

The level of our emotions, and their expression to others, depends on our temperament. As with the mind and will, social expectations and personal history also play a role. Women have a tendency to minister from the strength of their emotions more than men, regardless of their emotional make-up, because there is often both an acceptance and expectation that this is the way women (and men) act. But the strength or weakness of an individual’s emotions is temperament-based, not gender-based. So we all need to learn to relate to God and to others based on God’s ways, not how we feel about Him or the person being ministered to, or doing the ministering. Because of their temperaments, many are “turned off” from receiving ministry from those who express strong emotion, and often reject God’s Truth and Life because it did not come they way they thought it should. God motivates us with compassion and desire despite our temperament, not because of it.

We are challenged to take risks, make mistakes, be wounded and rejected.

Because of our temperaments, personal history, etc., each of us has our own set of fears, though when it comes to God, they generally fit into three categories: fear of punishment (God will make me, or others that I love, pay for my mistakes), fear of failure (disappointing God) and fear of abandonment (God won’t take care of me unless I meet His conditions). Each of these is rooted in the lies that feed the power that the world, the flesh and the devil have over our unregenerated souls. But once we become new creations, the Lord starts the process of bringing us into alignment with the truth that because we are genetically a part of His family, we are unconditionally loved (free to be ourselves), unconditionally accepted (free to make mistakes), and unconditionally valued (free to live according to our inheritance).

Embrace the notion that the greatest lessons are learned, the deepest changes are wrought, through making mistakes. Life is by trial and error. A comedian was asked “What do you want to hear when you get to Heaven’s Gate?” His answer, “Okay, now that you’ve seen how it works and what choices to avoid, are you ready to do it for real?” But this life doesn’t have “do-overs,” so scheduling priority reviews—re-aligning daily choices to coincide with God’s goals—and making regular adjustments is a prudent and wise habit for all of us.

Part of the process of growing in dependence is overcoming our fears of being wounded or rejected and becoming used to taking risks and making mistakes. As we learn to depend,

* We become willing to put in the effort without knowing if it will be worth it or if there is a guaranteed reward, but simply because He has asked us to act;

* We risk getting hurt and wounded, knowing it will give us more opportunities to get healed;

* We distinguish between what others call faith and what the Lord says is faith—confidence in the unseen, or what is spiritually discerned and not necessarily supernaturally or naturally discerned or commonly experienced;

* We overcome our fear of man, and become less concerned with how we appear to others, their opinion of us or our actions, their willingness to support our activities, or even their shared perception of God Himself;

* We become willing to have the Lord draw attention to us and what He is doing to and through us, equally accepting the appropriate accolades, criticism and likely rejection for saying or doing something differently than what is expected.

We are challenged to restful, diligent patience with ourselves, others and with God.

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE IS THAT KNOWING GOD TAKES TIME AND ATTENTION! Ours is an instant society, in which wars must be fought and won without any inconvenience to or thought from the general population. But knowing and experiencing the truth takes research, diligence, hard work and patience, and most of all it takes time. We rarely give a second thought to going on vacation or spending hours in front of the television, and allow strangers to feed us their opinions in regard to the nature and substance of truth. We must also keep the rewards in perspective: our goal is to Know God. What that will look like will be different for each of us, and so will not necessarily be evident or explainable to others. Each of us must come to value the work itself, rather than the results, regardless of its value to others.

To hurry God is to find fault with Him.

As we grow in patience toward God, we will also grow in patience with ourselves and others, for we begin to see the plan God has for His people is all-encompassing—spirit, soul and body. And to be critical of the visible path is to be critical of the Way. Though we are patient with ourselves and others, accepting them unconditionally for today, our need to be hearing God for His direction becomes even more critical as we are available to Him to be used to encourage, direct and heal.

We are challenged to be devoted to God alone, looking to Him for encouragement, reward, recognition and motivation.

One way to determine who and what has authority in your life is to identify your source of encouragement and motivation. Just as we recognize God as the sole authority in our lives, we recognize Him also as our sole motivator and encourager. Who (or what) do you go to first? Our God is a Jealous God and will be both protective and strict with those seeking to depend on Him for life. When you are discouraged or hurt, how do you handle it? Do you turn to your pastor or friend? Or play some good worship songs, search for your favorite scripture verses, perhaps remind yourself of what God is doing through you in other ways? Or do you present yourself before the Living God and ask for help? God knows you need encouragement—look to Him for it; He may use people, but when you recognize it is from the Lord, the impact will be life-giving.

Knowing God is primarily a solitary endeavor rather than a team effort. No one can walk your walk for you, and you have not walked this way before. There is an accusation prevalent in some religious circles that people ministering outside an authority structure of denomination or congregational leadership are acting independent of the church, or as “Lone Rangers.” This attempt at manipulation is generally merely an expression of:

1. Control on leadership’s part. If every believer heard from the Lord for themselves, a goal most church leaders would say they are working toward, there would be no need for continual expansion of the local congregation, no need for building programs, outreach fund-raising, pledge drives or even bake sales, since when God is in charge, what needs to get done, gets done! The local church would merely be the structure where people would be taught to learn for themselves, then committed into the hands of the Lord, which would likely take, on average, no longer than 6 months.

2. Immaturity on an individual’s part. If we believe our religious leaders are responsible for our education and growth, we reject God’s sovereignty and abdicate our responsibility to know God for ourselves. One of the great lessons I learned very young was to search for God’s point of view until I got it. Our pastors would bring into our fellowship speakers that had a mixed word, containing both law and grace, so that we could learn to distinguish between the two for ourselves. This served many purposes, one of which was to help each of us to overcome the fear of error, for truly what is not from God will not sprout in our lives, and will merely pass through as we keep our focus on the Lord.

The Lord is both your Reward and your Rewarder. Though there will most likely be evidence of God’s work in your life, there is also the likelihood that no one else will ever know all the hard work, the time, attention and sacrifice it takes to know God. But we are to count the cost before we start to build the tower. If we are hoping at the end of our lives to hear from the Lord, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” that’s a little late, isn’t it? The Lord wants to not only encourage us now, but reward us now as well. These rewards may not be public or even in the natural, but if we are aware of the Lord’s values, we will recognize His abundant and fitting rewards, trophies and bonuses. These are most often to be kept secret, between you and God. This provides us with another reason not to judge others according to public recognition: that brother or sister you just cut in front of in traffic may be seated at the place of honor at the King’s Table.

The Lord may choose you to receive credit for something you didn’t take part in, or came in at the tail end of. The more we know the Lord we will accept His recognition when, how, and on behalf of whom He chooses. Today we are reaping the great benefit of all who have gone before us, and likewise of having advantages of living in this day and age. Are we to snub the benefits that come from this opportunity, or simply embrace and appreciate it all the more because we know we are accepting the honor for all involved? Can we just say, “thanks,” or do we have to make sure that everyone knows we’re not trying to claim the prize for ourselves? If we know the Lord knows our part, and has chosen us, for whatever reason, to be on the receiving end of the blessings of this age, drawing attention to our own level of involvement does just that, draw attention to ourselves.

Confidence Overcomes Challenges

God is committed to your success in learning to depend on Him. You already know Him in your spirit; He wants you to know Him completely—spirit, soul and body. So ask Him now to give you a fresh hunger for the things of the Spirit—the manifestation of His Personal Presence, to Hear His Voice, to move in His gifts. Trust that this desire could only come from Him, and that as you give Him the time and attention these things deserve, He will make Himself known to you as your Guardian, Teacher, Pastor, Mentor, Encourager and Example.

Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas