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Will God Talk to Me? And Other Questions

God's guidance, our nature and happiness.

How Does God Guide People?

God's primary means for giving us guidance is the Bible (see John 16:13). The Bible is our rule book of faith and practice. If we know and understand the scriptures, we will be well on our way to having His guidance. He never guides His people contrary to the clear principles of His written Word.

Second, guidance comes from a knowledge of God Himself. We need to know what pleases Him and what displeases Him. There is no substitute for walking with God, sharing with Him, and talking to Him daily (see Isaiah 58:11). When you do that, you will experience His direction and His correction. You will come to know what His desire is (see Psalms 25:9, 32:8, Proverbs 11:3). This relationship develops over a long period of time, not instantaneously. Through constant use, your senses become sharpened so that you know good from evil (see Hebrews 5:14). Spiritual maturity forms a basis for guidance.

A third key to God's guidance is found in the book of Proverbs, here we read: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding: In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5). This means that you are not only to know God, but to trust Him implicitly. Every aspect of your life is to reflect His sovereignty over you. "In all your ways acknowledge Him" means in your work, in your family, in your personal life, in your thought life, in your recreation, in everything you do, you acknowledge that God is in control of you. Then, lean not on your own understanding. If you think you know all the answers, if you have everything all figured out, then you are leaning on your own understanding. If you trust God, acknowledge Him in the way that you live, and do not lean on your overconfidence or past experience. Let Him guide you.

You must have knowledge of the scriptures, a personal knowledge of God, and the knowledge that you are living each day in tune with Him, expecting His guidance. Finally, to have His guidance, you need to be filled with His Spirit. The Bible says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth (see John 16:13). In the book of Acts, there are recorded instances where the Holy Spirit gave personal guidance. He said to do this or not to do that. He gave revelations. And He still does all these things! He guides by means of specific scriptures that suddenly come alive for you. He guides by bringing people to you providentially to give you advice and counsel. He guides through circumstances. But you must be filled with the Spirit.

There are many other ways that God can guide you. If your heart and life are centered on God, His Word, and His Holy Spirit, you can rest assured that He will direct your path.


How Do I Know I Am Hearing A Word From God?

There is no way of knowing for certain that someone is hearing from God, unless that person has been listening to God over a long period of time and then testing what he or she has heard. Such people have become accustomed to discerning God's voice (see John 10:27). There are many others, however, who think they are hearing from God when maybe they are not. How annoying are the superspiritual who always say, "God told me this--God told me that--God told me this other." It seems that their every thought is a revelation from God. God does not customarily operate that way. He speaks to us, but He does not chatter away, day in and day out, the way some people claim He does. This has been my experience, and it is the concept that is in accordance with the biblical record.

The Bible says that we can tell if someone is a prophet by seeing if what he has said comes to pass (see Deuteronomy 18:22). That is a very pragmatic test, and it works.

A friend who purported to hear from God told me, "My second child is going to be a boy. God told me." His second child was a girl. He said, "Well, God told me that it was not second child who was going to be a boy, but the third child." His third child was a girl too. At that point I determined, That brother isn't hearing from God. It was clear: He made a statement, supposedly from God, that did not come to pass.

There is no shortcut to spiritual understanding. You have to learn to walk with God and to know His voice; otherwise, you will mistake your own voice for His. You even may be fooled by the voice of Satan, or you may hear the clamoring voice of the world. It is so easy to get these voices mixed up. Usually, God speaks to us in a still, small, quiet voice (see I Kings 19:11-13). It takes time, prayer, and waiting on God to hear His voice.

Nor does God scatter His pearls around recklessly. He said, "You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29). God does not reveal Himself to every casual onlooker who would take sacred things and play with them like toys. I have known some adults who treated the gifts of God as if they were just little baubles to play with. To please God and to receive counsel from Him, people must be both determined and serious.

How do we succeed in hearing God's voice? By spending time with God. The ultimate is not merely to get direction from God; the ultimate is to know God. God can make it difficult for us to get into His presence, because He wants to see if we truly will expend the spiritual energy and exercise necessary to do so. Will we stop certain sins? Will we get rid of things that hinder us? Will we truly seek Him with all of our hearts?

Some people only want a quick fix. "God, tell me how to make money on this business deal, please. See you next time!" And then that is the end of it. But God wants to be treated with reverence and deference that His nature warrants. He wants to change us, not merely give us quick answers to difficult problems. We will never be changed unless we come into His presence, spend time with Him, and allow Him to purify us from our sinful nature.


Is All Pride Sinful?

Pride was the first great sin. Satan had been created a beautiful creature. After considering his own splendor and wisdom, he came to the conclusion that he knew more about running the universe than God did (see Ezekiel 28:14-19). Satan's attitude was called pride. It was the beginning of sin in the universe. We are exhibiting pride in its worst aspect when we feel that we can do a better job of things than the Creator. In the Bible it resulted in the statement, "I will exalt myself."

The sin of pride conveys a sense of inordinate self-esteem, arrogance, and haughtiness. One of the Hebrew root words translated "pride" or "proud" means to lift up or be high. We use the term high and mighty to describe a proud person. This attitude of heart is deeply wrong--thoroughly repulsive, in fact--before the Lord.

However, we also use the word pride to mean a sense of accomplishment or a desire to do well. For instance, you may be proud that your child makes a straight-A average in school. That does not mean you are trying to put yourself above somebody else; it means you are pleased with this achievement.

I think satisfaction in a completed job well done is proper, even though Jesus had a corrective for that attitude if it went too far. He said that when we have done all, we are to remember that we are "unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10).

Pride, as a sin, must be guarded against. The best way to eliminate pride is to look at yourself, your family, and your achievements as objectively as possible. However, knowing what you can do well is certainly not pride. For example, a world class runner would lie with false humility if he said, "I'm just an old slowpoke." He should say, rather, "God has given me the ability to run very fast, and I use it for His glory and praise Him for it." If somebody is a wonderful architect or artist, he should say, "I thank the Lord for the talent He has given me."

Many times, God will give me a teaching that I did not know before. I can sit back, look at it, and say, "Well, isn't that interesting? I have never heard that before, and the Lord just revealed it to me!" I admire it because it is something that God gave me. It should not be a source of pride to build me up, but a source of satisfaction to know that the Lord has done it. The danger comes if I think, I am more exalted than others because God gave me something that others do not have.

You must make an honest appraisal of who you are. This is proper and glorifies the Lord. But when you begin to compare yourself to other people, you begin to get into trouble. "I can build a better house than he can. I am faster than he is. I am smarter than she is. We are richer than they are." That sort of thinking leads to pride that is unhealthy and sinful. The psalmist said, "In God we boast all day long" (Psalm 44:8). We are proud of the Lord. I boast about Jesus because He is wonderful. That kind of pride is certainly all right.


What Is The Secret of Happiness?

The secret of happiness has been defined by someone as the progressive accomplishing of worthwhile goals. Ancient theologians used the term summum bonum, which means "the greatest good." They believed that the greatest good was the "beatific vision"--seeing God--the attainment of that condition of spirit and soul which would allow them to come into the presence of God, to talk to Him, to see Him, and to be with Him. That was the ultimate good and the ultimate happiness.

Happiness is not a warm puppy or a fire on a cold night. It is not the beach at dawn or the other things that people say would make them happy. The deep, deep happiness that transcends all else comes from knowing God and, in turn, from being known by Him. Happiness is communing with Him, hearing His voice, and knowing that the work you accomplish in life, whatever it is, is in fulfillment of His desire for you. When you know and do these things, then you will begin to know perfect happiness (see Isaiah 26:3-4, Philippians 4:7, Proverbs 28:14, John 13:17).


What Makes People Happy?

People are, by and large, happy when they are giving up themselves for something bigger than they are. Jesus spoke about such happiness in the beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God (see Matthew 5:3-12).

There are many degrees of happiness, but the greatest happiness comes from serving God, knowing Him, and knowing for certain that your life is contributing, in a positive fashion, to His ultimate purposes. I think that is the greatest happiness a person can have.

People who do not know God will never find lasting happiness. They may achieve a transitory type of happiness, but it will be shattered whenever unpleasant events come. A man may say, "I am very happy, because I have a lovely wife, healthy children, a nice home, and a good job." But what happens if he loses his job, his house is repossessed by the finance company, his wife leaves him, or one of his children becomes sick? What becomes of his happiness then?

If you are fellowshipping with God and serving Him, peace and happiness will be there despite the circumstances. You can be happy in the midst of problems.


What Is Success?

The world defines success as the obtaining of power and/or the accumulation of wealth and fame. In the Kingdom of God, the successful person learns the principles of the kingdom and applies them for the good of mankind and for the honor and glory of God (see Proverbs 2:10-11, 4:7, 9:10, 22:1). The Westminster shorter Catechism says that man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Anyone who has learned to glorify and enjoy God can be considered truly successful.

To the Christian, the ultimate success, according to Jesus, is not to have devils subject to you or to do mighty works or great deeds, but to have your name written in the Book of Life. (see Luke 10:20). Primarily, success for us should mean being saved and knowing we will go to heaven. Beyond that, success means to learn and to apply heavenly principles here on earth.

There is nothing wrong with being successful financially, but you must be careful not to make riches and honor your god. The Bible tells us, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life" (Proverbs 22:4). If a man is humble before God and learns to fear the Lord, he will be granted riches, honor, and life as a result. Jesus Christ said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). In God's eyes, the successful person is the one who lives within the kingdom and by its rules. Worldly possessions are of secondary importance.


How Do I Get Out of Poverty and Debt?

Poverty is a lack of money or material possessions. Poverty is usually accompanied by debt obligations to others. Debt, whether or not associated with poverty, is a form of slavery. Following God's principles will break the hold of both poverty and debt.

First of all, you must commit yourself, your finances, your family, and your life to Jesus Christ. Agree to live by God's principles and seek to know what He has to say to you in your situation. Be absolutely honest about the faults and mistakes in your life, past or present, that may have caused your problem of debt. To escape trouble, you must know what put you there.

Second, do everything you can to understand God's principles. The Bible says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). There are many Christians who have no concept whatsoever of the principles of God's kingdom. They understand neither God's laws dealing with material prosperity nor their own privileges as children of God. So, for lack of knowledge, they suffer.

People in debt or in poverty especially need to understand a rule of God's kingdom that I call the Law of Reciprocity. This is a law of cause and effect, of action and reaction. In the area of money, the law is simple: "Give, and it will be given to you: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). When a person begins to give to God's work and to the poor and less fortunate, God begins to give back to him. Regardless of the debt burden, a person should give a very minimum of 10 percent of his income to the Lord. Even if you are at a poverty-level income, you have something you can give to God. Start where you are. Reach out in compassion to those less fortunate than yourself. As a first priority, get into a position to give love, time, energy, and money to other people even if it is only a little bit.

Next, set up a realistic budget. Most people do not have budgets, and their spending has neither plan nor control. Whatever your income level, you should set up a budget that includes one or more tithes (see Chapter Eight, Question Eighteen) plus offerings to the Lord, which may be in the form of aid to those who are less fortunate (see Malachi 3:10). After setting aside your tithe, establish a realistic plan to pay off your debts. Go to your creditors and obtain an agreement that they will accept your payment schedule. Make it understood that you cannot pay any more than a certain amount, and they will almost always accept your plan.

Once you have done that, you have to resolve in your mind that there will be no more accumulation of debt. You cannot go back to living beyond your means. Make a vow to God that you will not buy anything on credit, and that your lifestyle will be curtailed to fit your income. This takes a definite mental and spiritual commitment. It may take a year, or two years, or five years, but you are going to get out of debt.

It has been suggested by a very wise businessman that part of any budget should go for recreation. There should be some time each month when the family can get away from the pressures of life. Maybe it can be a picnic in the park, a fishing trip, or possibly a night away from home in a motel or resort. Recreation includes anything to get away from the constant pressure and to allow your mind to be recreated in God.

Along with recreation, I recommend a Sabbath rest. You cannot work seven days a week. There must be one day a week that is dedicated to God, to thinking about Him, praying to Him, studying the Bible, and resting. All of these things are necessary to prepare your mind and spirit to win the battle.

Then, with all of these things going for you, you need a renewed faith in God. He is the source. As you give to Him and trust Him, God will begin to take you from bondage to debt into His blessings. He will open doors for you and will give you concepts and ideas to help you overcome your situation. You must believe this and expectantly look for His answer rather than to some other person as your source. God is your source.

Every day, speak words of confidence. Say out loud that you are going to be free from debt and that God is going to put you in a different position. Memorize scripture verses where God says things such as, "He raises the poor from the dust/And lifts the beggar from the ash heap./To set them among princes" (I Samuel 2:8). Speak these words over and over again, confidently, knowing that God can do all things and do them well.

With that frame of mind, you should be on your way. It may take a year to pay off your debts. In the instances that I know of, the average was about eighteen months. But it may take three, four, or even five years. You will win the battle if you use the weapons that God has made available to you! You can be debt free!


What Is The Kingdom of God?

A kingdom is a place where a king rules. The Kingdom of God is wherever God reigns over the lives of His subjects. The Kingdom of God is not visible because God is not visible. It is a spiritual kingdom, not a visible one. Jesus Christ said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).

Jesus gave us, in the Lord's Prayer, a petition to God: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). This prayer shows the priority Jesus gave to the Kingdom of God. Can we not say that the Kingdom of God will come on earth when the will of God is as respected here as it is in heaven, when the visible world totally reflects the invisible world? I think we can. In the Kingdom of God, everything is subject to God's power, instantly, with no question. In the visible world, there is resistance to God's will.

The Kingdom of God is eternal. It is the place where all Christians ultimately will dwell. At the present time, it is an invisible kingdom here in our midst. Wherever there are those who honor the king, and wherever the Spirit of the king is, there is the Kingdom of God.


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