Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, January 30
Experiencing God author Henry Blackaby says that God speaks to us in many different ways, including through His Word the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church. Some of those seem obvious. The first thing one would do if interesting in knowing what God has to say is pick up a Bible. Prayer can be more than talking to God. When we stop doing other things and focus our attention toward God to pray, that makes us receptive to also hear what God is saying through the Holy Spirit. “The church” is made up of many individuals, and God could use the preacher’s sermon, the words of a hymn, a Sunday school lesson or the kind words of a thoughtful brother or sister to get his message across. For me, hearing God speak through circumstances is the most difficult to grasp, at least in a way that can put into words. God has ordained the events of history and he works things together for our good (Romans 8:28). We know from reading Ephesians 6 that spiritual warfare goes on around us, and in heavenly places, unseen in the natural world by physical eyes. There is so much going on that we are oblivious to, and in this case I believe an extended metaphor will help.
Imagine sitting in the audience at a play. What the audience may see is two characters on the stage having a conversation. What you will not see, if all goes according to plan, is everything else taking place to make that dialogue possible. The audience does not see the other actors moving around behind the set as they place themselves to enter the next scene; the stage manager following along with the script and keeping track of time; actors making costume changes and perhaps others having hair and makeup done. If you turn around you may be able to see the light and sound techs in a control booth, quietly moving in near darkness so as not to draw attention. You certainly didn’t see stagecraft building and painting the set walls, nor the many hours that went into rehearsal and line memorization. Many people work together for long hours so that what you notice are the onstage characters having a conversation. If you were to think about it you would realize all of those other people are there doing all of those other things, but if they’re doing them well you would never notice. And so it is with the way God works.
In a passage of Job, from chapters 38 to 42, God explains that he alone has laid the foundation of the world in place, measuring and setting the corners. He draws a line in the sand and tells the ocean how far it can come, he sets the goats free on the mountain, he hung the moon in the sky, he tells the sun where to hide until morning, and has snow stored up in great storehouses. It’s a very poetic way of saying that he created everything that we see and understands their workings better than we ever will.
The ancient Egyptians built an advanced and powerful empire very early in history. Paul wrote in Romans 9:17 ”For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” God allowed Egypt to rise to power so that he could do just what he promised Moses at the burning bush; bring the Hebrews out with a mighty hand. But God isn’t just doing big things of historic proportions; he feeds the sparrows by his hand and knows when each one falls. Matthew 10:31 reminds us that we are each more valuable than many sparrows. So it should come as no surprise that in our time of need the Holy Spirit moves a believer to have exactly the word of encouragement, or verse of scripture, or skillset that is required at that exact moment. He is the great stage manager of all the universe, constantly moving behind the scenes, that we often never even notice.
I don’t mean to imply that we are actors reading lines. There is no script, even though God knows what will be said. God sets the scene and we will each be held accountable for the things we say and do. Be encouraged that God is bringing up the lights, opening and closing doors, keeping track of time… and he never misses a cue.