November 2, 2020

​“I Know That Voice!”

Hearing the Holy Spirit boils down to one thing: familiarity.

Jim Ayer

Honey, I want to go to Duelekal and buy some cauliflower for tonight’s dinner. I want their first meal to be special.”

Janene responded quickly, “We have all the food we need.”

“Aw, come on, the car isn’t here, but it’ll only take a little while to walk. It’ll be fun.”

She finally responded, “OK, let’s go. I know you won’t be happy until you get your way.” She was right.

I wasn’t going to be happy, because I had the overwhelming impression that I had to have that cauliflower. We had been bouncing down a boulder-infested roadway earlier in the day when I noticed a beautiful green-and-white pile of cauliflower on a tattered grass mat. We hadn’t stopped until we reached our lodge perched on a cliff overlooking the Himalayas, but I wouldn’t have any peace until the inner voice had been obeyed.

We moved quickly, having to return in time to fulfill our assignment as head cooks for our 50 Maranatha volunteers working in Nepal.

There it was: my stack of cauliflower. But before I could make my purchase, I noticed a copy of Steps to Christ in the window of a shop not far away. This was highly unusual because at the time, the country was officially Hindu and didn’t take kindly to Christianity being shared openly.

Entering the store, I began to check out the nicely stocked shelves to see what else I could find. I saw other Christian books, but no other Adventist material. “Can I be of service?” the shopkeeper asked in broken English.

“May I ask where you obtained the Steps to Christ?” I asked.

He began to share his story and testimony with me, struggling with words here and there. I was able to discover that this man was district pastor and leader of several church groups and had received the book from someone years before. When he found out that I was an Adventist, he became animated and asked if I would preach in his church.

“I’ll be happy to come,” I responded.

This encounter eventually not only led me to speak in his church, but opened the way to introduce him to Joel, the country’s only Bible worker, who was able to share many happy days of Bible study with the shop owner and meet with others of his faith as well.

Something to Share

On our way back to the lodge, loaded down with my prize, we felt a little like the disciples from Emmaus, who, upon discovering that their traveling companion had been the Lord Himself, ran back to Jerusalem bursting with joy to share the good news.

The idea is not how God spoke but that He spoke.

Two important lessons: First, God may speak to only one person in the relationship at any given time and not to the  other one. In this case He impressed me to get the cauliflower, not my wife. But we’ve learned over the years that when the Lord impresses one of us to do something for Him, we must allow that partner latitude in judgment to follow God’s lead, regardless of whether or not we feel impressed.

Second, and perhaps the most important takeaway in this story, is that God speaks to us today.

In the Garden of Eden God spoke in person to Adam and Eve. But it was the devil’s studied purpose to cut off all communication. Once that was broken, our Lord took the initiative to restore the lines of communication that had been severed by Satan.

The Creator came calling out after the pair, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Our Lord reestablished verbal contact with the human race, and He has never stopped talking to us. The devil wants us to believe the lie that God has stopped communicating with humanity. He knows that where such communication exists, there is power to resist his lies.

The Bible is packed with examples of God talking with His people. Consider Samson’s mother talking with the angel of the Lord regarding her son’s upbringing (Judges 13), or Moses’ burning-bush conversation (Ex. 3). Remember Balaam’s talking donkey (Num. 22)? Or how about Elijah at the cave entrance when God whispered, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9). Then there was Abraham, Jonah, Job, David, Samuel, and Gideon. The list is almost endless. Then there was the blinding encounter on the Damascus road when Jesus spoke powerfully to the apostle Paul.

A burning bush, a blinding light, a talking donkey, a whisper—the idea is not how God spoke but that He spoke. Jesus communicated throughout the Old Testament to His people, He spoke to humanity in the New Testament, and He still speaks today. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

On the Mount of Transfiguration the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love. . . . Listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28).

The blessings of Jesus’ assurances of eternal life presume a commitment to listen to His voice and follow His instructions. And yes, in order to do as instructed, we must hear what God says to us.

So how do we arrive at the point that our ears hear a word behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isa. 30:21)?

The Voice of Recognition

Ring, ring, ring. “Hello. Yes, I’m doing fine, but who is this? Janene? Oh, hi, honey! I didn’t recognize your voice.”

Gentlemen, how many times could you get away with not recognizing your spouse’s voice on the phone? Any more than two or three times, and you’ll be talking to yourself.

Recognizing my wife’s voice comes as a result of spending time with her. With additional time, I can even recognize certain looks.

There’s no substitute for spending quality time together and talking with one another. If we want to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must spend time getting to know Him. Jesus said, “This is eternal life; that they know you [the Father]” (John 17:3).

Interview 10 couples happily married for 30 years or more, and you’ll likely discover a common thread running through their lives. There will be variations, of course, but the underlying vein of gold will certainly be conversation. Great numbers of previously happily married couples enter divorce court because husband and wife no longer talk to each other. As time passes, they become so busy with careers, children, and the race for money and possessions that the special time they once spent talking about life, dreams, and each other has been replaced with long work hours, television, and the computer.

The devil’s plan is working perfectly.

Communication with God is not only desirable but essential. Hearing and recognizing God’s voice through Bible study, prayer, and acts of service is absolutely necessary for being available to do His will. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10:27).

Jim Ayer is president of Talking Donkey International, a ministry that shares the gospel of Jesus Christ through various media.