I was driving to Redding for a Master’s degree class on spiritual formation thinking about the issue of listening to God. As I drove, an incident that happened two summers before suddenly came to mind. My family and I were hiking in the mountains of southern Utah when we heard a noise along the trail that couldn’t have lasted more than a second, and sounded like a chipmunk.
As we passed that spot we saw a rattlesnake coiled alongside the trail no more than two feet from where we were walking. We quickly gave it plenty of room and there was no harm done. Several years before, I’d heard a rattlesnake, but it had continued rattling, so I didn’t recognize this one for what it was.
But as I was driving, this scene flashed through my mind and the Lord said, “If you had been attentive, you would have recognized it for what it was. In the same way, if you are being attentive in your spiritual life, you will hear what I have to say.”
So, the question that was preeminent in my mind as I went to my class was, “How can I be attentive to God?”
When we’re talking about hearing the voice of the Lord and listening to what He’s saying we always start at the same place –the Word of God, the Bible.
Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread. Now, He said elsewhere, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes out of the mouth of God.” You need to know that when the Lord is teaching us to ask for bread, He’s not just thinking of our tummies.
Jesus wants us to expect to hear God speak to us every day. Fresh baked bread from heaven. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” What you may not realize is that Bethlehem is a Hebrew word that means “House of Bread.”
Jesus, the Bread of life, came down from heaven, was born in the house of bread, and he was laid in a manger. That manger, literally was a feeding trough. They cleared out the feeding trough, put some hay in there, and put this baby in a feeding trough.
What a phenomenal picture at His very birth! The bread of heaven, born in the house of bread, and placed in a feeding trough. And what He is asking us to ask His Father for, is daily encounters with the Lord Jesus! Where He speaks to us on a daily basis.
As we talk about ways of developing attentiveness to the Lord, it all centers in one place and that is in the Word. In Psalm 62:1,2,5,7,8, David said:
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
The Lord’s direct challenge to me over the last few years has been to find and stay in that rest. It’s becoming more and more necessary to know God through spending time in His presence. I feel constantly feel a stronger need to listen to Him, to know how He is directing my life and my ministry – to know what the Father wants to do, not what Ray wants to do.
But at the same time, it has been the most difficult thing in my life to achieve – not that spending time with God is difficult, no, it’s wonderful – it’s easy to spend time with my Lord. What’s hard is breaking out of the tyranny of the urgent – the tyranny of the busyness that our lives want to force on us.
We need so desperately to spend time in silence and worship before the Lord. Not asking Him for anything (unless He directs us to), but just enjoying His presence.
Billy Graham said, if he knew he had only three years to work, he would spend two of them waiting and in the Word.