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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When God Speaks

We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve faced what seemed to be formidable odds. You were well out of your comfort zone.

You felt strong opposition. There was great temptation to despair. You knew you’d followed God’s will, but that seemed of little comfort when the circumstances of the endeavor were swamping you.

Of course I’ve had those times too. They’re the ones that usually keep me awake at night. Over the years, I’ve learned that when I’m frustrated by the inability to sleep, a simple prayer asking God to help me get to sleep just doesn’t do it. It seems there is more.

Quite often I’ve had to get out of bed, go to my Bible and “listen to the Lord.” (The Bible is His primary way of speaking to us.)I had one of those events this week.

Last week I did something outrageous. I took a bold step. There was no looking back, no changing of one’s mind. What I did results in a lifelong commitment. Mind you, I’ve taken on lifelong commitments before, but when they’re the kind of thing everyone else does – like getting married or having kids – they don’t seem so onerous.

No, this was one of those endeavors that could even threaten my life! I knew I had God’s instructions and I waded right in. I believed what I was doing was ultimately going to make me a better Christ-follower, more useful to God.

This week, the circumstances of that decision have been overwhelming me. To put it mildly, they’ve been miserable and oppressive. Last night, I lay awake in bed. My mind was suffering. I felt strong opposition. I prayed and asked God for gentle sleep. It didn’t come.

Finally I arose from the bed and went to my Bible, to listen to the Lord. I opened the Bible randomly to Joshua, chapter 3. I was amazed at what God had to say.

The story in Joshua 3 is right after Moses’ death. The Israelites are about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They would have to fight and destroy an evil enemy. It would take boldness, confidence --- and one would have to be certain God said to do it. (I likened this to my situation last week.)

I won’t print the whole chapter here, but God said several things to me in this chapter, within minutes of opening it.

Joshua 3:5 - Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”

Joshua 3:7 – Then the Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all … They will know that I am with you …”

The story continues that the Israelites followed the Levites who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. They were at the Jordan River. It was swollen to flood levels. There would be no way to get across. The Levites actually had to put their feet in the water --- and then the water on one side of them stopped flowing and began piling up. The water on the other side of them continued flowing out to sea and the land became dry. The Israelites crossed safely into the Promised Land. What a miracle! What a memorable day for the Israelites.

But I saw something for myself in that story, in that one chapter. So this is how God speaks. I read my Bible and I know He’s talking to me. I read Joshua 3:5 and 3:7 and I hear His words for me. I know they’re His because they meet my oppressive circumstances perfectly.

“Purify yourself, for tomorrow I’ll do great wonders among you.” (What you’re doing is worth it. Don’t forget that.)

“Today I will make you great. Everyone will know that I am with you.” (Your suffering will be my glory.)

Suddenly the opposition fades. I know I am done reading the Bible at 2:00 AM. I leave it open on the kitchen table and slip back to bed … to a welcome slumber. The demons of despair are defeated with a word from my Father.

I’m not a Bible scholar or a trained theologian. I just know God speaks. And when He does, my life works.

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