Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hearing the Voice of our Shepherd

Many of us struggle to hear from God whom we cannot see, hear, feel or touch. But the good news is that we have a Risen Saviour who is our Shepherd and that we can hear His voice. Before we can hear our Shepherd calling us, we must first recognize that Jesus is our Shepherd. We need to choose to direct all our desires and aspirations to honour God. When we do so, we will be led to the pasture of the abundant life of God's pasture.

John Kramp shared some of the ways by which we can hear our Shepherd's voice which I have found to be true and relevant in my life. Firstly, we are created as emotional beings and so we can experience God's presence through our emotions. Our feelings and emotions about certain situations is one of the ways God can speak to us. The Psalms provide us with a model of prayer in which we can vent our feelings to God. We can use our feelings to draw us closer to God instead of listening to our feelings and allow them to draw us away from God.

Secondly, we will learn to see the opportunities and roadblocks in our lives as the ways by which our Shepherd redirect and protect us. We will then to be able to discern more clearly God's direction in times when we need to make important decisions in our lives.

Thirdly, our weaknesses and failures are often the means that God uses to communicate truths that we can hear more clearly when we fail than when we succeed. John Kramp rightly reminds us that "many times God leads us into difficult situations so that He can get our attention and guide us in new directions."

Fourthly, we need to reflect on our abilities and successes and offer them as our sacrifice of praise to God.  To discern God's plans for us in the future, we need to see our capabilities as God's gifts to prepare and equip us for what He is calling us to do.

Finally, God's will is accomplished only through the Church which is the Body of Christ. It is essential, according to Henry and Richard Blackaby, for Christians to find the place in the church body that Christ has assigned for them so that they and those around them can hear and respond to God’s voice. They are of the view that facets of the Christian life can be fully experienced only in the midst of God’s people – “believers who choose to set themselves apart from an interdependent relationship with other believers will not be in a position to hear all God has to say.” They will also be holding back a blessing from other believers when they isolate themselves.

It is a struggle to understand and even appreciate the viewpoints of other Christians but John Kramp pointed out that we cannot isolate ourselves from them as we may lose a perspective we need in order to understand what God is doing around us.

But the above subjective experiences must be tested against the teachings of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that “the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions and that to receive an answer from it, we only need to ask with persistence and a little courage. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives the following wise advice:

“Only when we once dare to read ourselves into Bible as though it really is God who speaks to us here, the God who loves us and will not finally abandon us to our questions, only then will reading the Bible become a joy.”

The truth is that we often asked the questions that we don’t really want to hear the answers. But when we listen to the voice of our Shepherd, we will be able to live through the questions in our lives - our lives will then be our psalms of praise - our poems and songs of God's love and care for us.

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