In my opinion, learning how to walk with God is the most exciting experience life has to offer. Like most things, it takes time and practice to learn to walk by the spirit. One particular area that many Christians struggle to understand is how to hear from God. The moment we become a child of God we have a direct line of communication with Him by way of the spirit, yet we labor to hear His voice. I know God does not withhold information we need; the problem lies with us. We bring a lot of mental baggage into the relationship, so it takes time to learn and recognize God’s voice and how He speaks to us.
Allow me to share an incident to illustrate this point.
This happened 40 years ago, but it is as clear as if it happened yesterday. I was living in Staten Island, NY and had just returned from a weekend church event upstate only to find that somebody had broken into my apartment and robbed me of everything of value – which fortunately wasn’t very much. The police were of no help and didn’t give me much hope of recovering my property.
I called my friend Jim, an elder in the church, to let him know what happened. We were at the weekend event together and had taken some new church members with us. He immediately asked me, “Do you know who did it?”
I responded with irritation, “How could I possibly know who did it? I was gone all weekend!”
His response was calm and deliberate. “Well, Charlie, God knows who did it, and He will tell you. Call me back when He does.” Ooh! My stomach got queasy. I didn’t like being put on the spot. But wait. I wasn’t on the spot, God was.
I went to my room and prayed. I asked God to tell me who the culprit was. I listened. I listened some more. I prayed and listened for two hours, but I didn’t hear a doggone thing! So my mind started to wander and think about other things. I thought about the weekend and what we did and the people that were there. And my thoughts would continually go back to the new guy we had with us. I’ll call him “Bill.” Did Bill enjoy the weekend? Is Bill interested in learning more about God? Why am I so concerned about Bill?
…and then the phone rang. It was Jim. The queasy stomach was back.
“Did God tell you,” he asked.
“I didn’t hear God say anything, Jim.”
There was a short silence, and then he asked, “Charlie, did God bring anybody to your mind at all?”
The only person that kept coming to my mind was the new guy, Bill. “But he was with us, so he couldn’t have done it?” It was more of a question than a statement of fact.
“I’ll be right over.”
When Jim arrived, he didn’t bother to come in. He simply told me to get my jacket – we were going for a ride.
“Where to?” I asked.
“We are going to see Bill.”
My stomach was really queasy now! Why were we going to see Bill? When I asked, Jim’s response made my jaw drop.
“Because God showed you that Bill is responsible.”
And my response was, “No, he didn’t! …Did he?”
Then Jim taught me a great lesson. He told me I was looking at the situation through my “five senses” knowledge, and that was deceiving me. God had answered my prayer, but I refused to see it. Jim, being a mature Christian, had learned how these things work. He knew we had to act on the information I had received.
When we arrived at Bill’s home, Jim instructed me to confront Bill and let him know we knew what he had done. The goal was to get my property back. Bill answered the door, and I did my best to address him the way that Jim had instructed me, but his response left me doubting all over again.
With the look of an innocent man being accused of a heinous crime, he said in a quivering voice, “But Charlie…I was with you!?”
He got me. I responded sympathetically, “I know, Bill.”
Jim saw me lose my confidence and trust in what I had just learned. He took a step toward Bill, pointed his finger at him, and said in a firm, authoritative voice, “Bill, you can fool Charlie, and you can fool me, but you can’t fool God! – and God told us, you did it!”
Wow! Like the prophet Nathan confronting David (2 Samuel 12)! I was so excited, I let out with an affirmative, “That’s right, Bill!”
Well, Bill crumpled and confessed. He had set it all up. He promised to get my stuff back to me, which never happened. But that’s okay – the education I received was worth every penny!
The point is this: learning to walk by the spirit is an ability gained through learning, practice and experience. You may be struggling now, but the more you learn, practice, and apply the spiritual principles involved, the more proficient you will become, and you will ever be learning. It takes time, but it is an exciting journey – enjoy it!