Monday, July 14, 2014

Youth Questions: How Does God Speak to Us?



Note: Not long ago I asked our youth to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general and I would answer them during later group meetings.  This is the first of that series.

Question: I don’t get the whole “God will tell you what to do” thing (ex. What career, etc.)

    It’s been a while since they were popular, but not too many years ago, everyone was wearing bracelets and t-shirts that said “WWJD” which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?”  Wearing them was supposed to be a daily reminder to make the kind of choices that Jesus would make in your place. The difficulty is not in wearing the bracelets and not in remembering to ask ourselves what Jesus would do, the difficulty is really in having some idea of what it is that Jesus would actually do.

   This question deals with the same problem.  Too often adults like to tell young people that “God will tell you what to do” or “God will lead you to the right career” or the right job, or whatever.  But how does that happen?  Few of us have ever heard God speak in an audible voice, so how is God supposed to tell us these things? 

    Honestly, the adults in church are probably just as confused about this as you are.  In answer, let’s begin by reading 1 Corinthians 2:6-16…

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

    What we learn here is that, as believers of Jesus Christ, we are connected by the Spirit of God to the source of infinite wisdom.  When we became believers in Jesus Christ, put our trust in him and were baptized, something happened to us.  Baptism isn’t just about what we do, but also about something that God does.  When we became followers of Jesus and were baptized, God sent his Spirit to inhabit us, to live inside of us.  What Paul is saying is that because the Spirit of God lives inside of us, and because the Spirit of God knows the mind of God, God is able to speak to us and to tell us things that we had no other way of knowing.  We are, through the Spirit, connected to the infinite mind of God.

But we can carry that thought a little further and peel back another layer. 

We can also know the mind of Christ in an even deeper way.

    If you have a close friend, you can probably finish each other’s sentences.  You can stop and buy them lunch or an ice cream cone without asking them what they want, because you know what they would order.  You have taken up space in their mind, and they have taken up space in yours.  This is what it means to “have the mind of Christ.”  When you read the Bible and spent time in prayer on a regular basis, you begin to know Jesus in a deep and personal way similar to the way that you know your best friend.  When that happens, although you might not know what kind of ice cream Jesus would order, you do begin to know what sorts of choices that he would, or would not, make.

In Romans 8:5-6, Paul says…

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

    Because the Spirit of God lives within us, and, as we begin to grow closer to Jesus and increasingly “have the mind of Christ,” our minds become set on what the Spirit desires.  What we want begins to look more and more like the things that God wants. 

    Finally, there is a scripture that people often people take out of context and claim for themselves.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God makes a promise specifically to Jeremiah and the people of Israel who have been taken captive into Babylon, but even though it is a promise to them, it reveals God’s heart toward his people.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    We can’t say that God made this particular promise to you and that God wants you to be rich, but we can say that God does not make plans to harm you.  We know that God wants what is best for his people.  For these reasons, we “borrow” Jeremiah’s promise and we’re not too far wrong.  That doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen.  After all, this promise came to Jeremiah after he watched the destruction of his nation and his people carried off into slavery.  What this means is that even when life doesn’t go the way that you thought it was going to go, even when bad stuff happens, God is in control, God has a plan, so instead of complaining about how God abandoned you, you ought to be looking for what God might be trying to teach you through those particular circumstances.

    While God wants what is best for you, sometimes in order to get from where you are, to where God wants you to be, God may take you through some painful places.  I used to be an engineer.  I had a good job, a nice house and a good life.  But when God called me to leave engineering and become a pastor the process was painful. I spent two years unemployed, we moved, sold our house, and I spend five years in school fifteen years after I thought I was done with my education.

    God may not call you to be a pastor or a missionary, but God has given each of you skills and gifts that are unique to you.  Each of you will go places and meet people that no one else will.  Wherever you go, and whatever you do, God has sent you there.

    When you have the mind of Christ, you will naturally be drawn to the things that God wants for you.  And sometimes, God gives you choices.  I have had friends go crazy trying to discern which of three job offers “God wanted” for them until a good friend and mentor suggested that maybe all of them were “God’s will” and God was allowing them to pick what sounded like the most fun and rewarding.  When you have major life choices to make, it is important to spend some time in scripture, prayer and in silence, listening to what God might have to tell you.  And sometimes after doing so, you will know what you should do, but other times, if you have done all these things and God is simply not sending you a message one way or the other, feel free to use your best judgment and pick what you think is best, or what would be the most fun.

After all, God loves you and wants what is best for you.



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Other questions and answers in this series can be found here: Ask the Pastor

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