It is clear throughout the Bible that God has conversations with people. And of course we have these sort of miraculous clouds splitting, dove descending conversations that take place both in the Bible and through personal testimony. However, the primary mode of communication between God and people is conversation. So today we're going to primarily look at two questions. Who is able to hear from God and then what is the purpose of hearing from God?
I decided to follow Jesus spring break of my senior year of high school. Up until that point in my life, I had little interest in seriously following Jesus. I grew up attending church for the most part, and I following Jesus was just never really something that captured my attention. Also, at that time in my life, I had a lot of unresolved anger and hurt, and instead of dealing with that head on, instead of inviting Jesus into that, I found ways to numb the pain.
That the problem with ways of numbing the pain, whether you're a teenager or you're an adult, is that those methods that we use to cope with pain often inflict more frustration or brokenness or anger or resentment. That's what the pattern that I was caught up in.
Now, I don't want to be too hard on my teenage self because too often in our culture, teens are saddled with serious situations in life and not always provided with strategies to cope with these difficulties. And because of that, I got caught up in a destructive pattern and developed a callous both to God and to life.
So spring break of my senior year, God shattered that callous that was built in my life, and that's when I heard that sort of cloud splitting dove descending type voice of God. I wasn't in search of the voice of God, I wasn't quieting my life. God spoke and I knew that it was God speaking. In that moment, soon after I decided to follow Jesus, like as in a couple of days later, I heard the voice of God calling me again to pursue being a pastor.
My life abruptly changed over the course of a few days, and I was both ecstatic about the peace that I found and terrified about what that meant for my future. Following Jesus was nowhere on my radar. Certainly being a pastor in that moment was nowhere on my radar. So I began to take next steps to pursue this new found following of Jesus and this new found call to be a pastor. So several months after that, I found myself in an interesting situation.
As I said, spring break of my senior year in high school was when I decided to follow Jesus After I graduated high school, I planned to in the fall, to enroll in university to start studying being a pastor. Now, the problem was for me is that as I said, also this was a complete 180 from where I believed my life to be headed.
And so things were moving so quickly and developing so much that I decided that it was too fast for me. And so I put a pause on going off to college, which was in hindsight a very good thing for me and I'm thankful for people who told me that that was acceptable and okay, so I spent the first semester of when I would be in college working, trying to save up money, spent that time in mentorship, trying to solidify fully what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, solidify what does it mean to be a pastor. So I enrolled in the winter after my senior year in high school into university. So I was preparing to go and saving, have saved up a few hundred dollars in order to last me until I could find a job when I enrolled in university in Oklahoma City. So I found myself the last Sunday before I left the following Monday for university at church, and that morning I remembered that several months prior we were asked to
Make a pledge of generosity, and during that time I made a pledge of a few hundred dollars. The only problem is that when I made that pledge, I was not diligent to follow up on that pledge and instead of contributing that money over the course of the month, I completely forgot and did not contribute anything but maybe a few dollars. As this came to my mind in that moment, I heard the voice of God in a quiet, whispering sort of way to remind me about this pledge I had made as a pastor talked and the ushers came forward to pass the offering plates. I debated with God. I reminded God about all the expenses that I would have once I started college and that I didn't have a job, which meant I had to find a job and so a month or so might pass by before I'm even able to receive a paycheck.
I reminded God that the money in my pocket was every single cent I had. I regretted having that money in my pocket. I didn't have a check back then. I had all the money that I had was in cash and I wished I would've left that money at my house, but I had it in my pocket and all the while as I debated with God, I knew that God was speaking to me to make good on my promise, and in doing so, God was inviting me to trust. So as the offering plate neared the section where I was sitting, I reluctantly put half of my money in the offering plate. No, I didn't. It was actually all of it. I wanted to keep half, but that wasn't enough. God was not negotiating with me in that moment sitting there for the rest of that service.
I wish I could say that I had warm fuzzies and peace, but actually I was terrified. I sat there thinking how much gas is in my car? I don't know how I'm going to fill up my gas tank if I even have enough gas to get to Oklahoma City. Maybe I can get some money for my parents or something, but what am I going to do when that runs out? I was fuming inside that if I had to stop along the way and get gas, that I didn't have money to also get a snack or a drink. I was so nervous and scared that I had no more money to my name, and this is not the way that I wanted
To start my university experience. I hoped that morning to be present with people who taught me up until that point what I knew about following Jesus and to be able to say some heartfelt so longs for people who I wouldn't see for a while, and all of that was ruined because I listened to God. Looking back on that experience with the perspective of time and a little bit more wisdom than my 18 year old self had. I see that I was in the process of learning two lessons about following Jesus. The first was generosity and the second trust. In Luke 1229 through 31, Jesus says, do not set your heart on what you'll eat or drink. Do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things and your father knows that you need them, but seek first his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.
Your father knows what you need. Don't clinging to it and run after it and fret over it. God will give you what you need when you seek His kingdom. In that moment sitting there and my frustration with God, having given all my money away, my mind literally was set on what I would eat or drink because I was so focused on these things. I forgot what my money was going towards the funds I promised several months before I made good on that promise. We're going to around the world to build churches and hospitals and schools. It would provide education for children who had no means of receiving education. It would provide medical care for people who had no means to receive medical care. Here I was concerned about stopping to be able to get some chili cheese, Fritos, some Skittles and a bottle of Sunkist while God was calling me to leverage what I had in that moment to bless my neighbors.
The next step for me in that moment that God whispered to me was to avert my eyes from what generosity caused me to live without and focus on the way in which this generosity was going to bless others around the world. I learned an important lesson that day that I've had to relearn several times, but am beginning to understand it better each time. So that worry is a byproduct of holding on for control and freedom from worry is actually found in generosity. The second lesson I needed to learn that day was trust. Jesus continued on in that passage in Luke 12. He said, do not be afraid. Little flock for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom and listen to this, sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys for where your treasure is there, your heart will also be in that moment.
I needed to learn to trust God. All throughout the Bible, we read of people who trust in God and they trust their trust resulted in God proving to be faithful. I knew many of these stories, but I did not yet have an experience of trust for myself, and God was inviting me in that moment into that story through his quiet whisper. Trust is easy when you're able to provide the outcome, which is often our experience in our context. But trust is something completely different when you have no means to bring about resolution to the situation. But the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom.
This is especially present in our lives when we are able to let go of our ability to control and provide and trust God when we are able to trust, it unleashes the presence of God's provision in our lives. After I put that money in the offering plate, I cannot tell you what the sermon that day was about. I said Bye to a few people, but I tried to leave as quickly as I could for the rest of that day. I stewed over the fact that I gave that money away and had nothing left. I wasn't aware fully of the story in the moment, but I was a lot like Jonah in the Old Testament who listened to God and then stewed on rage because of his decision to listen.
Now, the difference between me and Jonah as I listened before the whole belly of the fish thing, but nevertheless, I walked away dejected and upset after listening to God. But the wonderful thing about God is that no matter what is our response to him, God remains present with us, patiently waiting, faithfully speaking, inviting us into a deeper trust in him. After a restless night that next morning, I threw a few more things into my car in order to head out, and I received a call from my former employer, Paula, who said that she wanted to see me before I left town. We made arrangements to do so, and when I saw her, she gave me a card, and in that card was nearly the same amount of money that I put in the offering plate the day before.
I think about that story often because it was the first time that I remember trusting God with my physical daily existence, and God proved trustworthy in that exercise of trust. It certainly wasn't easy. There were some dark moments after I listened, but God patiently waited for me to trust fully and proved trustworthy. Since that moment when I hear God call me to something, my objections are much fewer because I know through experience that God is faithful and when saying yes to what God is calling me to causes a little bit of frustration or agitation in my life because sometimes what God calls us to is not exactly what we want to do or what our culture tells us we should do, and so we can get a little bit perturbed about that. But even in those moments, God is with us.