I believe in hearing the voice of God.
I believe in hearing His voice through Scripture, through worship gatherings, through dreams, through tongues and interpretations, through the voice of my brothers and sisters–hearing His voice forms that are both personal and communal (though never private). I pastor a Church that practices these things. As a lifelong Pentecostal, I don’t need anybody to rehearse to me the dangers of having this kind of dynamic, vibrant understanding of hearing God’s voice. I have as many cautionary tales and war stories about such things as I do testimonies, some of them devastating and all of them very personal. But I will also tell you this: I’ve been convinced for a long time that is more dangerous to ignore these dynamic ways that God has always spoken and continues to speak than to live with the threat of abuse.
When things get out of order, when somebody thinks they’ve heard from God and gets it badly wrong–that can be corrected. But the dangers of not taking seriously that voice through the mysterious and strange ways He speaks are far greater. So no matter how much wackiness is out there or how much pastoral correction I have to offer, I will forever err on the side of openness. And if you don’t like this, you won’t like our Church, because it is in this dynamic understanding of God’s voice that Renovatus is most Pentecostal (even though we don’t generally run the aisles, knock anybody down, or swing from the chandeliers in our worship services).
And yet for all of that, there is this other side: that God does not always offer direct counsel on every matter, he offers His wisdom. And I am beginning to think that while the divine voice of God and the wisdom of God are deeply related and both wrapped up in Christ Jesus Himself, they are not precisely identical. Here is what I mean: a while back, when I was struggling with a number of decisions, the Lord led me through a beautiful devotional book to Proverbs 2. This is what the text says:
My child, if you accept my words
and treasure up my commandments within you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 if you indeed cry out for insight,
and raise your voice for understanding;
4 if you seek it like silver,
and search for it as for hidden treasures—
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and preserving the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 prudence will watch over you;
and understanding will guard you.
Though I can recall reading about God’s wisdom from a very young age, I had not contemplated the word for a very long time. What I felt so clearly that morning was that God was gently prodding me to see that He gives wisdom freely to those who want it, and that rather than giving direct counsel on every decision, we learn to lean on wisdom that is deeply embedded. The world might think of this as relying on intuition, playing the hunch. But for those who make themselves available to the wisdom of God planted and watered in them by the Spirit, intuition is not what its about. The wisdom of God is not irrational, but trans-rational–it transcends human wisdom. It is supernatural even when it is not demonstrative. So then we are able not to operate out of self-confidence, but what is a deeply-shaped awareness of God. And of course there is a way that leaning on this wisdom is as good as getting His direct counsel, because He is the origin of it all.
These things are not mutually exclusive (and they really aren’t “versus” each other!). When my friend Peter from South Africa prayed over me a few weeks ago, he prayed powerfully and prophetically about the wisdom God was giving me, especially with regards to dealing with people. Wisdom that would cut through unhealthy traditions, but yet also that God would use to draw mothers and fathers in the Lord back to their children–wisdom that crosses generational lines. So interestingly enough, there was a direct word from God about the very kind of wisdom I’m describing–which does not mean I will always hear the voice of God explicitly for every situation! (I hope that makes sense)
Today I’m open to the Spirit of God to tell me anything I need to hear through anybody I need to hear it from. But I’m also learning to fully trust the wisdom He has placed in me. I don’t play my hunches or intuition per se, but I do trust that the source of all wisdom resides in me, shapes my thoughts and dreams and desires.
I believe in the divine voice of God that shatters and surprises. But I also believe in the wisdom of God, the current of truth that runs slowly but powerfully beneath the surface. I don’t think I’m smart. At all. But I do happily receive the gift of His wisdom, which does not originate from me and only brings glory to the Father.