“Lord… am I getting this right? I am about to speak to a group of people and you are changing the message?”
On May 22, 2011, I was driving to Monticello, Arkansas to speak in the morning services at First Baptist Church, where I had been serving as interim pastor for over a year. Each week, I prepared sermon notes, a fill-in-the-blank listening guide for the bulletin, and an accompanying slide presentation. I usually emailed the handout to the church office by Thursday. Enjoying the creative exercise, I prepared the slides on Saturday morning. All week long, I reflected on what I could use as a creative element to help “burn in” the truth of God’s Word – something to make it memorable. Hours are involved.
Where is God in the process? I normally pray about what I am going to preach. I listen for His direction and usually feel a sense of “oughtness” as I set a course for the preaching schedule. It is common for me to drive around the church property on Sunday mornings. Call it “prayer driving,” but I am typically asking the Lord to come, to drive away every wrong spirit and distraction, and to draw everyone to the church that needs to be there on that day.
Consequently, during that particular morning drive last May, I felt good about my readiness for the day. Until the thoughts came about 80 miles from Monticello. The thoughts I knew I didn’t initiate. Thoughts I recognized as coming from Him. Thoughts about a different message to be shared that morning.
I love creativity, but divine spontaneity is a little scary. The message came quickly and clearly. I grabbed a notepad and set it on the armrest. Scribbling while keeping my eyes on the road, I jotted down an outline about the final judgment of God described in Revelation 20:11-15. I gave it the title Six Reasons to Keep the End in Mind. God used it… He spoke to His people that day.
Sometimes His guidance comes that way—as thoughts that He brings to mind. Walking with God requires me to be prepared to listen to Him when He speaks and in the different ways He speaks.
One of the defining characteristics of the earliest Christ-followers in the book of Acts was their readiness to change course when the Holy Spirit spoke.
- Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
- Acts 10:19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
- Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- Acts 16:6-7 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.
The Lord gives clear and specific guidance to His people. My need for that kind of direction continues today. More than dutiful obedience, this way of walking with God captures the essence of my relationship to Him: I am dependent on Him for everything.
In the absence of such “unexpected direction,” I have a mind and I have the God-breathed direction of the Bible. Those precious resources are a primary and sufficient mechanism for receiving direction from God. There are other times, however, when He is clearly speaking to me in a way that supersedes my logic and reason, without contradicting the written Word of God.
I believe we must learn to recognize and become sensitive to His voice whenever and wherever He speaks.
[Author’s Note: This post was originally published March 11, 2012 at DonPucik.com and migrated to EquippingSaints.com]