To Be Receptive To All God Would Teach Us

Is It God’s Will for All Christians to Be Wealthy?

To Be Receptive To All God Would Teach Us

More and more Christians, all over the world, believe that material prosperity is the right of all Christians. They believe that God expects them to ask for it and to anticipate it as a sure fulfilment of his promise. There is no doubt that both the Old and New Testaments teach that the faithful will be blessed by God.

But does that blessing necessarily always include material prosperity? Can all Christians expect to become wealthy? Turning to the Bible dispels such an expectation.

First, Paul often showed that his sufferings did not take away from his fullness of life. In his epistles he presents his suffering as part of the evidence that he was blessed and called by God (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:8-18; 6:3-10; 11:13-33; 12:1-10; Gal. 6:17).

He once described himself “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). In Ephesians, writing from prison, five times Paul mentions wealth—referring to the gospel and all its treasures.

 He himself was a poor prisoner deprived of many basic human necessities, but he viewed himself as being wealthy.

In Philippians, also writing from Prison, Paul said about his financial needs:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Phil. 4:11-12)

He implies that wealth is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing, but contentment is. In fact in this epistle the words joy, rejoice, rejoiced, and glad appear 16 times.

He says that we must “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). This is also the epistle that talks about the peace of God that passes all understanding (4:7).

So contentment, peace, and joy characterize a truly wealthy Christian.

Some years ago I did a study of all the places in the New Testament where Jesus is presented as a model for us to follow. Of the 29 texts I looked more closely at four were general statements asking the readers to follow Christ; two were about forgiving as Jesus forgave (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13), and two were about meekness and gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1; 11:17).

The other 21 were about the example of Christ’s servanthood and his sufferings.[1] So when encouraging generosity, Paul gives the example of Jesus and says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

Jesus himself said, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus covered with sores, it is the beggar who goes to heaven while the rich man suffers in hell (Luke 16:19-31).

We can safely conclude that the New Testament does not include material success in its basic description what it means to be a follower of Christ.

More Danger than Blessing

Third, the New Testament seems to show wealth more as a danger than as a blessing. It emphasises the dangers more than the desirability of wealth.

Jesus set the tone for this emphasis with his statement, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24-25).

This statement is cited in all three synoptic Gospels. But how often do we hear preachers repeat it today? Jesus underscores his teaching about the dangers of wealth in his parable about the rich farmer who acquired sufficient wealth to secure a comfortable retirement.

He is called a “fool” at his death. Jesus explains by saying, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).

In his evangelistic call to would-be disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him, Jesus warns, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). If we neglect this aspect of the call of Christ in our preaching of the gospel, we will be guilty of distorting the gospel just the liberals of an earlier generation.

When we turn to 1 Timothy 6 we find more warnings about the dangers of wealth. Paul says that it is right to want basic necessities food and clothing: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).

Beyond that necessity, wealth is not a big deal. Paul says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything the world” (6:6-7).

It is not essential that we are rich, but it is essential that we are godly and contented. Elsewhere Paul says that he is content even while suffering: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). The idea of strength in weakness is another neglected biblical doctrine today.

Let’s get back to the warnings. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 Paul says:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Another strong warning comes in the parable of the sower, where Jesus says about the seed sown among thorns, “The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

These two strong warnings tell us how the desire for wealth can cause huge harm by deceiving us into giving up God’s way for the way of supposed prosperity. Sadly, today we find so many people who have fallen into these very traps.

They have ruined their spiritual lives and condemned themselves to an unhappy life.

In light of such strong warnings about the dangers of desiring to be rich, backed by so many whose lives have been ruined in this way, preachers should be careful not to inflame that desire by promising wealth to their hearers.

Treasures in Heaven

At the same time, the Bible does not give an entirely negative approach to the issue of wealth. Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20).

This statement is made in the context of what to do with wealth. Using language familiar to people in the business world, Jesus advises that we make the smartest investment in the most secure place: heaven.

Preachers should encourage Christians to pursue eternal prosperity.

In 1 Timothy 6 Paul also asks the wealthy to be rich in generosity: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (6:18-19). We invest in the Bank of Heaven by giving to the needy.

Earlier we observed that Paul said in 1 Timothy 6 that wealth is less important than godliness and contentment. Now he is saying that lavish generosity is also important. The many teachings in the Bible about giving show that, for a biblical Christian, this is one of the great ambitions in life.

Paul says the Macedonian Christians were “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4).

When urging the Corinthian Christians to contribute to the needs of the church in Jerusalem, Paul says, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Cor. 8:13, NIV). In a world of glaring inequality, we give generously so as to bring some measure of fairness and equality.

This urgent need for fairness in the world has led many Christians to make a decision to adopt a simple lifestyle—avoiding extravagance and giving as much as possible for the work of God and to the needy. As someone has said, “We live simply so that others may simply live.

” In support of this idea of a simple lifestyle we refer to Jesus’ statement, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19).

Example and Hero

Sixth, many of the heroes and devoted people of the New Testament were poor. Jesus is our prime example and hero. He became poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7).

Some say that Jesus took on the curse so that we may not have to live under it, and therefore we will not suffer as he did. But in both these passages Jesus is presented to us as an example to follow. Paul even says that he desires to “share his sufferings, becoming him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

There is a depth of oneness with Christ that we will experience only when we suffer as he did. And to us union with Christ is the greatest wealth.

Many of the commended followers of Jesus in the New Testament were poor.

The Macedonians were heroes because they gave despite their poverty: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor. 8:1-3). The giving of these poor Christians is described using the word wealth. In a passage rebuking the church for considering the rich as superior to the poor, James says, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (Jas. 2:5). The poor believers were actually rich!

In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, only two churches do not receive a rebuke. And both of them are described as not having what the world thinks of as material success. The first is the church in Smyrna.

The angel talks of their “poverty” then immediately says, “But you are rich” (Rev. 2:9). The second is the church in Philadelphia, which is described as having “but little power” (Rev. 3:8).

They were two rare exceptions of churches having God-approved lifestyles at a time of great compromise.

And they were poor and powerless! Isn’t it interesting how the poor Christians in these passages are described in terms suggesting that they were wealthy? That sense of being wealthy constitutes an important aspect of the identity of a Christian. If we are happy about our identity, then we will surely be happy people.

The mother church in Jerusalem consisted mainly of poor people. So other churches had to help them. There is nothing to say that they were poor because of something wrong in their beliefs or actions.

It was a time of economic hardship in Jerusalem, compounded by the fact that many retirees lost their social relief benefits when they became Christians.

Therefore the Christians in Jerusalem had great economic needs that Christians in other parts of the world met through their missionary giving.

It is true that the Old Testament promises prosperity as one of the blessings of faithfulness to God (e.g. Deut. 28:11). But we must remember that these promises were made to a righteous nation under the Old Covenant.

The Old Testament often describes the pain of righteous individuals in that nation who struggled with the fact that the wicked were prospering while they were not. Many of the laments in the Psalms mention this struggle. Psalm 73 is a classic.

Here Asaph’s struggle over his lack of prosperity compared to the prosperity of the wicked is solved only after he realizes that God will judge the wicked with righteousness.

The books of Job and Habakkuk highlight the faith of genuinely godly people who honor God by refusing to give up trusting in him in the midst of terrible suffering. The Old Testament then does not assure the righteous of prosperity. In fact, the New Testament, it also warns people often of the dangers of prosperity (e.g. Deut. 6:10-25; 8:11-20; 32:15-18).

Finally, history shows that some of the greatest growth of the church took place when the Christians were really poor and struggling.

This was so recently in China, Nepal, and Korea (in the early years of church growth), and now in Iran where there is significant growth. Many qualities, such as child- trust, are easier for the poor to grow in their lives.

This is one reason why Christ said it was so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

God’s Plan

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that faithful people who are wealthy have an important role in God’s plan. Some exemplary people in the Bible, Abraham (Gen 13:2), Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:32), the Shunemite woman who helped Elisha (2 Kings 4:8), and Joseph of Arimathea (Matt.

27:57), were specifically described as being wealthy. After saying that the rich must not be haughty, Paul says that “God . . . richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Enjoying the things that money can buy is not necessarily wrong.

At the same time it is significant that each of these four godly wealthy people mentioned were commended for their generosity.

Wealthy Christians can honor Christ especially by being humble, generous, and godly while being wealthy. Poor Christians can honor him especially by being contented, full of faith, generous, and godly while being poor.

It is clear that in the Bible wealth is far less important than contentment, joy, peace, holiness, love, and generosity.

People with these characteristics are, according to the Bible, truly prosperous whether they are economically rich or poor.[2]

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Does The Bible Teach God Will Not Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

To Be Receptive To All God Would Teach Us

Is it true that God will never give us more than we can handle? What verse is that?

Tests, Trials and Temptations

The Bible uses the word tests, temptations, and trials almost interchangeable because the same word used for tests, temptations, and trials comes in the Greek word “peirasmos” and means “an experiment, a trial,” or “proving” so God doesn’t send tests or trials to break us but to strengthen our faith but to also show us how weak or strong it is. God isn’t trying to find out something about our faith; He already knows all that there is to know about us. He is interested in our proving to ourselves the depth or shallowness of our faith. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1st Pet 4:12). Peter’s point is that we shouldn’t be surprised when tests come because this is part of the Christian faith. If we have a faith that’s never been tested, we have a faith that cannot be trusted.

Why Trials?

Many Christians have often wondered why they are going through a trial or a test, but the Bible teaches us that God does not allow anything to enter our life that isn’t good for us, even using the evil done against us for our own good (Gen 50:20). We’ve already read where Peter says that the testing of our faith shouldn’t surprise us.

It is in fact to be expected, just as Jesus’ step-brother James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

His point is that trials or tests produce a steadfast faith, a steadfast faith when brought to its fullness, makes us complete or perfect so that we will lack nothing at all. The word “perfect” doesn’t mean perfection but maturity or completion.

The faith that’s tested is a faith that’s stronger and produces a steadfast faith that brings us into maturity.

Perhaps part of the maturity is that we will know that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (1st Pet 2:9), even “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1st Pet 1:6). If we understand that trials are intended to help us, we can “Count it all joy.”

More than we can Handle?

Does God ever promise to not give us more than we can handle or does the Bible teach that God will not ever give us more than we can handle? Many believe that this is what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 10:13 where he wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

” Remember that the word “temptation” is from the Greek word “peirasmos” and means “an experiment, a trial,” or “proving” so this verse tells us at least two thing; our tests, trials, and temptations are not that uncommon because it happens to all mankind, including those inside and outside of the church, but for the believer in Christ, God promises to not test us or have us endure a trial where it’s “beyond what” we “can bear.” This is because when we’re under a severe test or trail, God “will also provide a way out so that you can endure it,” but does this say that God won’t give us more than we can handle? In a sense, yes, but it’s speaking more about God not giving us too great of a test or trial that He won’t also “provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Tests, Trials and Tears

Jesus promised us some amazing things, but He also promised that the way to the kingdom won’t be easy. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation.

But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), but we are still told to pray to be delivered from the Evil One whose temptations are responsible for much of the world’s suffering (Matt 6:13).

Even the spiritual giant, the Apostle Paul, admitted, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death” but “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2nd Cor 1:8-9), so the tribulations and trials made Paul and his missionary party rely more on God so that’s one of the reasons God allows tests, trials, and tribulation to hit us.

Of course, this doesn’t make it easy to endure trials. When the Apostle Paul was leaving the Ephesus church and being present with the elders, he said, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:18-19).


Jesus promised some amazing things to us, but He also told us to “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24) and to “Enter by the narrow gate.

For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matt 7:13), so we should expect trials, tests, and temptations because these make us rely more on God than on ourselves, so if it seems you are overwhelmed by trials, tests, and temptations, remember that “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1st Cor 10:13).

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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What makes great teaching? – expert views

To Be Receptive To All God Would Teach Us

Popular teaching methods, such as lavishing praise on pupils and grouping students by ability, are not evidence and can harm student development, a report has found.

The Sutton Trust examined 200 pieces of research on what makes great teaching, concluding that some common practices have no grounding in research while other less popular approaches can be effective. The report found that the two most important elements of great teaching were the quality of instruction and how well a teacher knew their subject.

Different methods for evaluating teaching were also examined, including lesson observations and getting students to rate their teachers. All these methods were deemed useful, but the report said that they were also easy to get wrong and should not to be used in isolation. We asked experts to share views on the report’s findings:

Let’s praise children – low self belief is a cancer in the classroom

The report has some excellent advice for teachers as they continue on that never-ending journey of professional development. The problem is that one of the headline conclusions in the report is directly contradictory to my daily experience. Apparently, there is no evidence in the research that proves lavish praise works.

Low self-belief is a cancer in the classroom; if left unchallenged it will grow until it seems almost incurable. It can be the root cause of barriers to learning. Teachers will often challenge this with praise for the simple reason that they know it works.

I have seen pupils flourish in lessons when meticulous and experienced teachers surgically insert a seemingly hyperbolic positive comment into conversation with a pupil. I’ve seen others go even further and lavishly praise notoriously difficult pupils for things that seem mundane or trivial.

If you’re a pupil for whom negative behaviour is entrenched, this type of praise can help to break the cycle.

Of course you need to be careful in ensuring praise is not stifling aspiration. Using praise as a tool to raise self- belief is not the same as celebrating mediocrity. It is about creating an environment where pupils know they can succeed. Some pupils need this much more than others.

Joe Bispham is an English teacher at Frederick Bremer school in Walthamstow.

It concerns me that damaging beliefs about good teaching still exist

It is worrying to see the persistence of some damaging beliefs about effective pedagogy, such as the belief that it is important to teach with a pupil’s preferred learning style in mind, which leads to teachers pigeon-holing students and perpetuating a fixed mindset about how they can or cannot learn. The falsity of this approach has been known for years and it raises serious questions about professional development in schools given that 90% of teachers still think this is an effective approach. A recognition of the many different ways in which all students learn is at the heart of good teaching.

Similarly, the hugely successful and widely disseminated work of Stanford University professor Carol Dweck ought by now to have disavowed teachers of any notion that lavish praise is an effective tool. More surprising to many will be the relative ineffectiveness of setting.

The high value placed on the importance of a teacher’s faculty of judgment in making sophisticated decisions about how to interact with a class is heartening.

Despite offering a smorgasbord of sensible suggestions about effective practice, the report makes it clear that there is no one infallible recipe for success in the classroom, and there is as much art as science in effective teaching.

This will be music to the ears of those teachers who have been shackled to overly prescriptive schemes of work by distrustful managers and policy makers.

– Alistair McConville is deputy headteacher at Bedales School.

We must invest in the development of teachers

Of course the best lessons are when teachers can confidently draw from a toolkit of practice which they know works. Now that educational debate is focused on the classroom rather than the institutional status of a school, we are getting to the nub of challenges facing educators across the country – the anomalies in teaching not just between schools but within schools.

Surely we are reaching a point when teachers’ professional development should be a requirement for all? I know that many teachers take their professional development very seriously but if we are to accept that there are common threads to the most effective practice then schools must invest in the development of all their staff. The much vaunted educational systems overseas held up as models of best practice to teachers in our country make professional development of teachers a priority, investing time and money on practitioners.

I absolutely agree with professor Coe that it is a scandal we are neglecting the development of the key figure in our children’s lives – the teacher. Maybe the millions spent on the Govian dash to academies and free schools would have been better spent on supporting the professional development of our teachers.

– Tricia Kelleher is principal at the Stephen Perse Foundation, Cambridge

Teachers should be receptive to research evidence

The emphasis on the quality of teaching, the importance of teachers’ subject knowledge and the power of creating an environment of professional learning is heartening.

Where other findings in the report cause us to question our assumptions, this can only be a good thing. We should be receptive to research evidence that challenges preconceptions and makes us think more deeply about what we do and how we can improve. Isn’t it fair to say that only the arrogant or complacent would dismiss evidence which runs counter to their pre-existing assumptions?

Several of the findings in this report have been anticipated by excellent work already taking place in schools, for example the importance of effective questioning and scaffolding, and this report should encourage us to build on this for the benefit of learners everywhere. We need now to think carefully about how we use this knowledge, training the teachers of the future and developing those already in the profession.

– Jill Berry former headteacher and educational consultant. She tweets here.

Our idea of good teaching is not as clear as we might think

This is a brilliant and helpful report full of very practical advice. It moves the debate forward and has the potential to spark genuine improvements.

It is upfront about the problem we face: we do not have as clear an idea of what good teaching is as we might think.

So before we can discuss how to improve teaching practice, we need to clarify what good practice looks , otherwise we risk promoting practices that are not effective.

As the report notes, one of the main problems with attempts to define what makes effective teaching is that the recommendations are often too vague and lengthy, so that anyone can read the them and think, “I do that.

” One way the report finds around this problem is to make a specific list not just of features of effective teaching, but the features of non-effective teaching.

I would agree that the seven ineffective practices they identify have some currency.

One of the most interesting recommendations is that teachers should create better assessments, with the tantalising suggestion that the profession could create “a system of crowd-sourced assessments, peer reviewed by teachers, calibrated and quality assured using psychometric models, and using a range of item formats”. Such a system could not only improve students’ outcomes by improving the depth and quantity of feedback teachers get, it could also shed more light on what causes learning to happen. Perhaps as a next step the authors could write about how such a system could get started and what support would be needed?

– Daisy Christodoulou is the author of Seven Myths About Education and blogs here.

Follow us on via @GuardianTeach. Join the Guardian Teacher Network for lesson resources, comment and job opportunities, direct to your inbox

“,”author”:”Sarah Marsh and Kate Hodge”,”date_published”:”2014-10-31T07:00:05.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”//×1236.jpeg?width=1200&height=630&quality=85&auto=format&fit=crop&overlay-align=bottom%2Cleft&overlay-width=100p&overlay-base64=L2ltZy9zdGF0aWMvb3ZlcmxheXMvdGctb3BpbmlvbnMucG5n&enable=upscale&s=0244d400c0c839a66fc783b48c35bb19″,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”//”,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”A new report has reviewed all the research into what makes teaching effective. Our experts share their thoughts about the findings – have your say in the comments thread or tweet us @GuardianTeach”,”word_count”:1325,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}

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8 Ways God Speaks to Us Today

To Be Receptive To All God Would Teach Us

He conversed with Adam in the first garden. He told Noah to build an ark. He spoke to Moses in a burning bush. He promised Abraham a son. Paul heard His voice on the way to Damascus. But does God still speak to us today? If so, how? When? Where?

Often when people ask this question, they are talking about an audible voice. And God can do that. He can do anything He wants. He’s God. Why then, can’t I hear God speak to me audibly, someone might ask?

I can’t answer questions that the Bible does not make clear. And the way God works is one of those questions. I do think “hearing God speak” may mean different things to different people. To some, it may suggest, “I need answers for my life, or this particular crisis.” Another may say, “I’ve asked God for _________, but He never answers me.”

God treats each of us as unique children. None of us are cookie-cutter Christians. Because of that, God doesn’t “speak” the same way to all of us. However, here are eight ways God often uses to communicate with us.

8 Ways God Speaks to Us Today

1. Through His Word in general.

2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is “God-breathed.” His Word sometimes gives us a warning, a word of encouragement, or a lesson for life. It’s ”His-story”–written with love as God’s guide for life, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

That means God is whispering, and sometimes shouting, all through His Word, giving us instructions and principles for life.

As we interpret Scripture by other Scripture, we avoid the false logic and misinterpretations that sneak into our world.

If someone claims, “God told me to go kill my neighbor!” would you believe him? Of course not! God never violates His own Word or principles. That “voice” does not belong to God.

I needed help for raising my children. God “told” me about that in His Word, especially in proverbs. Marriage difficulties? God spoke about that as well. Times when I was afraid? I “heard” Jesus’ words to His disciples as they feared for their lives one stormy night: “Peace, be still!” and it was as if God was speaking to me, too (Luke 8:23-25).

2.  Through His Son, Jesus Christ

The New Testament was the fulfillment of God’s special plan. It’s the gospel: the good news of Jesus Christ. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).

Through the words of Jesus in Scripture, we can “hear” God’s heart and God’s voice–and know what God is truly . These words were not written for a few, select individuals who could jump through the right spiritual hoops (“For God so loved the world…”). Someone in Africa, in Germany, in China, and in Alabama can “hear” Jesus’ voice by reading the same Bible.

Comparing us to sheep and He as the Shepherd, Jesus says inJohn 10:27, NKJV: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Why? Because the sheep know who He is. They belong to Him, and they recognize Him by the sound of His voice. And He’s the one who will always lovingly lead them on the right path–again and again.

3. Through Nature and God’s Creation

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities���his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse ” Romans 1:20, NIV).

Through the intricate details and magnificent beauty of all that God has made, we can “hear” His voice. How? By observing the ant’s strength to store up food all summer long, we learn about wisdom and industriousness. By studying the heavens, we understand more of God’s greatness.

And through planting and growing a garden, we “hear” about miracles of death and rebirth. God designed–and spoke them all into existence.

4. Through Other Believers

God may use a friend, a teacher, a parent, or a preacher to convey His message of truth to us. Their words may come as a warning, a blessing, or as a prophetic truth about our lives.Whether we choose to hear it or ignore it, depends on us.

Do their words line up with Scripture? Will God confirm or affirm that truth in us? “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17, NIV).

I’ve “heard” God speak to me numerous times through other people. A good friend once cautioned me about flirting with danger. Words from a speaker or Christian author have both challenged me and convicted me at times. And I’ve “heard” God talking to me through my own children as their pure and honest words cut clear to my heart and spirit, reminding me of God’s true priorities.

All these things may not sound to you ways of ”hearing God’s voice,” but it’s possible to reduce God to our own image if we insist on Him acting or reacting a certain way. God is bigger than that. He once spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22:28). Why then, can’t He speak through anyone at anytime or in any way He wants to?

Bottom line is that if we are His children, God loves us unconditionally and will spare no expense to show us. Our part? Believe Him!

Hearing His “audible” voice would no doubt cinch His reality in an awesome way. But I’ve never heard God through an angel’s message. I have no taped recordings to tell you what God sounds . But I have heard God “speak” through the above ways–and in a few more. Read on.

Perhaps one of the ways I can sense God’s presence the most and “hear” His voice the best is when I am praising Him through music.

Maybe it’s because in times of depression and difficult trials in the past, I would pour over David’s songs in Psalms, often singing them back to God with my own tunes. Praise brings me instantly to attention, a sergeant’s command to his soldiers.

The words and the notes bring a soothing comfort, excitement, and passion that open my ears and heart and lift my spirits immediately.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a huge army of enemies who could have easily destroyed His people, but he did a strange thing.

With a declaration that his eyes were on God, he sent in a choir of praise singers: “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NIV).

God “spoke” clearly. He released His power, and Jehoshaphat’s army defeated their enemies!

6.  Through Circumstances

When others claim to hear God through circumstances, I try to caution them to test their conclusions with other evidence. God is a Holy God, and often uses circumstances to get our attention. But He will usually confirm it in other ways.

This happened to us before my husband and I married. We were dating in high school and were both involved in what could have been a deadly accident, when a speeding pick-up hit our car broadside.

Through that accident, my husband felt God had a special purpose for his life. Did he “hear” God’s literal “Yes?” No, but through much prayer, seeking God’s Word, and talking to others, he felt God’s confirmation.

Several months later, he committed his life to full-time Christian service.

Someone once told me they just knew God was telling them it was okay to buy a brand-new pickup. They’d prayed about it, and circumstances confirmed it: the local car dealership had just the color and model they wanted. But there was one small problem they were neglecting. They couldn’t afford it on their income. And they ignored other red flags as well.

Through Moses, God used circumstances (plagues) to convince Egypt’s leader to release God’s people from slavery. But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.

Sometimes God uses our circumstances to test our faith. We don’t always know how to interpret the things that happen to us. I recently took my first trip in an ambulance to the local ER–unfortunately as a patient. My pulse, along with my blood pressure, dropped dangerously low.

For several minutes my world looked a spinning photo negative. Scary, to say the least. Four hours of testing later found no cause as to why it happened. The doctor pronounced me healthy and sent me home, after encouraging me to get a follow-up–which I did. Nothing showed up.

I don’t know if God was speaking to me about something special, but the first thing I did was tell Him I was listening! If nothing else, life–and loved ones–suddenly became much more precious to me.

One of the first things I usually ask God when circumstances change is: “God, is there something you want to teach me through this?” Yes, I know everything is “fodder” for writers.

But I want to make it personal and learn the lesson first.

7.  Through His Spirit

I once heard someone teach about “minding the checks” in your spirit. Some may call it “God’s whispers,” while others say, “God’s still, small voice.

” We are made in the image of God, and when we confess Jesus and follow Him as our Lord and Savior, His Spirit comes to live in us (John 14:17, 1 Corinthians 3:16).

God’s Spirit speaks to us through our conscience, helping to make the right decision. When we’re tempted, that same Spirit warns and nudges us to do the right thing.

As a writer, I depend on God’s Spirit to give me direction. There are times when ideas pop into my mind totally unexpectedly–and sometimes directly after a plea for help from God. The good ideas I credit to God, because after all, He is the source of every good and perfect gift. The others? They’re in file 13. Even the good ones need developing and rewriting, but that’s a different subject.

Why do you suppose ten people can “hear” a sermon, but each person will walk away with a different truth that applies to him? In some cases, the speaker never spoke what the people say they “heard.

” Many times, that may be the result of God’s Spirit speaking a personal “Rhema,” a living, breathing word of truth to our spirits. It’s when Scripture comes alive to us–because it is truly “God-breathed.

8.  Through Prayer

Each way I’ve shared that God may speak to us today meshes into the other. God often speaks to us through His Spirit, through prayer. We may not know how to pray, but God’s Word tells us His spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27).

Often through a combination of fasting and prayer, our minds become clearer and our hearts are more sensitive to God.

Again, we may not hear God’s literal voice, but His Spirit confirms a certain direction or answer for us. As the distractions fade, we can sense His leading in a new way.

Sometimes while praying, God’s Spirit will remind us of a Scripture or a truth in His Word that we can directly apply to the situation.

Does that happen immediately? Not always. There have been occasions where I still had no clue what to do, but in faith I thanked God whenever and however He would answer. A day, a week, maybe even months pass. Then one day in the shower or on a walk, a thought comes–that gentle “whisper” that could only come from Him, accompanied by His peace.

You Are Unique

Does God speak to all of us the same way? No, we are all unique. Are these the only ways God speaks today? No. He’s a creative God. He speaks so many ways, including through miracles. In other countries where Christianity is taboo, God is also revealing Himself repeatedly through dreams.

Report after report confirms that an unbeliever who has never heard of Jesus dreams of Him–but doesn’t know who the “man” is–or what the dream means.

Then a messenger comes, shows a film about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the one who has dreamed recognizes the man in his dream: It’s Jesus, the Son of God!

Remember One Truth

Regardless of the way God chooses to reveal Himself or “speak” to us today, remember one truth. He will never contradict His Word, and the message He gives will always bring glory to God. The Bible warns about adding anything to the already written, God-breathed Word of God, or accepting any other messenger who claims to be superior to Jesus (Revelation 22:18-19;2 Corinthians 11:4).

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Publication date: July 11, 2012

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