January 24, 2016 | text: 1 Samuel 3:1-11, 19-21
Ever play phone tag? Not the telephone game where you whisper a message to the person sitting next to you, then they repeat the message to another. That’s a fun little game we play to teach a lesson. Phone tag is much more frustrating. That’s where I call and leave you a message, you me back and leave another message that you’re returning my call and so forth. Even if we both wish to open the lines of communication it can sometimes be difficult to make a connection. Samuel was a prophet of God in the Old Testament. It is unlikely we will hear God speak in an audible voice but we are much more likely to hear from God than the people of Samuel’s day. The real question is if we will respond the way Samuel did when called.
God speaks to us in many different ways. I heard a pastor some years ago say that when pray we are talking to God and when we read the Bible he is talking to us. That’s a good place to start but that’s a rather basic level of understanding. The Bible is the written Word of God and yes, he certainly speaks to us through it. We learn what God requires and the consequences of sin. We can read the sermons, parables and teachings of Jesus and of how we must be conformed to his image. The New Testament is a guide for Christian life including worship, missions, giving, finances and instructions to ministers, deacons and church leaders. Alistair Begg says that it takes the whole Bible to make a whole Christian.
In Experiencing God Henry Blackaby writes “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” The Bible is the first thing on Blackaby’s list for sure but there are others, and we may add to that list yet. Prayer is more than us talking to God. Prayer can be a two-way form of communication by which we speak and listen to what God is saying. We can get in a habit of saying table grace or muttering a short prayer on the way out the door in the morning but we are robbing ourselves – and possibly others – if our prayer life is no richer than that. The reason we hear from God when we pray is that we have opened the lines of communication. That’s when we are paying attention. If the t.v. is on, you’re looking at Facebook and carrying on a conversation at the same time, God may not interrupt all that you are doing. I might look at my schedule and try to squeeze you in somewhere. God doesn’t want to be squeezed in. That could be a whole other sermon for another time.
God has ordained the events of history and sometimes circumstances bring us to a place that we have to acknowledge God. We know that all things work together (Rom. 8:28) and God has a way of doing that behind the scenes and in ways we may not understand. But sometimes he also leaves us clues. You may have a series of conversations that revolve around a particular theme, or unexpected events put you in the right place at the right time to realize God is in it. It’s a little tricky to explain in so many words, but if you have ever been there you must know what I’m talking about.
God speaks through the church. A preacher reads from God’s Word, explains what the text means, and offers application. That’s one way God may speak. But “the church” does not just refer to the 11 a.m. worship service; the church is every believer that makes up the congregation. We may indeed hear from God during worship; it’s another one of those times we are paying attention, focusing on God as we offer prayer and praise, sing the hymns and read his Word together. But it could also be a Christian brother or sister calling on the phone, a conversation with someone in Sunday school, or a total stranger who is led by the Holy Spirit to act in ways you or I did not expect. The church is God’s people everywhere. Samuel was used to speak for God back in the day, when a word from the Lord was rare. Today there are so many of us all over the place.
Some people, including Christians, never or seldom hear from God because they don’t think he has anything to say, or that he no longer speaks. Maybe they imagine he speaks to important people, like the pope or Billy Graham, but has nothing to say to them. You know, regular people. Billy Graham would be the first to tell he is “regular people.” There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism and the same Spirit lives within the heart of every believer. Sin interrupts the fellowship and will keep God from speaking. It cuts us off from a spirit filled life that not only blesses us and those around us, but God. Sin disrupts the fellowship and communion we have with God. Simply being too busy to fit God into a full schedule will eventually become sinful. God wants to speak to us. Do we want to hear from God?
Come back next week for “God wants to hear from us.”