God Spoke to Me – Through the Bible
I’ve heard the phrase, “God spoke to me” a lot lately. This isn’t really all that new. People have been saying it for quite some time. It comes and goes. Recent expressions focus on dealing with problems or struggles. One person said, “I feel guilty that I don’t talk to more people about Jesus. So I asked a friend what to do about it and he suggested I pray and ask Jesus what he thinks. So I did. And Jesus told me he wasn’t upset with me and that the amount I was witnessing was just right.”
I’m not a fan of allowing guilt to be a motivation for evangelism but something sounded incomplete in this person’s resolution to the problem. I do think we need to pray about everything but we also need to seek out what God has already told us in his word. I wonder if this person’s reflections on 1 Peter 3:15-16 might have helped her express “the hope” she has in the gospel. Or I wonder if she could have used Jesus’ many conversations with individuals in the gospels as models for asking conversation-starting questions.
Apart from the topic of evangelism, the larger issue of how we hear from God raises some red flags for me. Most of the time when I hear people talk about “hearing from God,” the net effect has been a downplaying of the importance, authority, clarity, and sufficiency of the scriptures.
Here’s a short way to say it: “God can speak to us and indeed he already has. We may not need anything more.”
Why do I say such an extreme statement? Because of 2 Timothy 3:16–17. We often quote these verses to validate our belief in the inspiration of the Bible. And we’re right to do so. But note the last phrase of this important text:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Note the use of the word, “every.” In other words, there is no task, no decision, no challenge that requires more than what we’ve already been given in God’s “useful” revelation.
This does not negate the need for “wisdom” in decision-making. God promises that, if we need wisdom, we should ask and God will give it. See James 1:5. Often the wisdom we need regards specific situations the Bible does not address specifically. (“Should I take the job in Atlanta or the one in Chicago?”) Most often, that wisdom sounds like “It seemed good to us” (as in Acts 15:28). We’d prefer the more dramatic experience of Acts 16:9 where a vision of a Macedonian man told Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Does God sometimes give those kinds of visions? Yes. Is this the norm? I believe not. The bigger issue that concerns me is that the demand for or total reliance on hearing a unique word from God devalues the scriptures and promotes the exact opposite of the effort we need to present ourselves as workmen “who correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). (I think it’s that “work” part we don’t like).
In a day that exalts experience over character, feelings over truth, and sensations over studied conviction, we should seek out God’s voice where we’re sure to find it – in the Bible. It’s useful for “every” situation and it’s worth the work to find it.