Communication is more than just speaking; it involves listening as well. By making an effort to listen while communicating, we can benefit in almost every aspect of life. It can make all the difference in our personal relationships, work environments, and most importantly in our spiritual lives.
God has gone to great lengths to communicate with mankind. This is because He loves us, and wants to help each of us come to the knowledge of salvation, experience a personal relationship with Him, and then grow spiritually. If we are listening, we will hear God speaking to us in a variety of ways such as through His written Word, by the Holy Spirit, and through other people who He puts into our lives. By examining how He uses these methods to communicate with us, and then how we respond to His communication, we can more effectively understand His specific instruction and will for our lives.
God communicates through His written Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul listed some of the ways in which He does this. He said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Why? “That the man of God may be perfect [complete], throughly furnished unto all good works.” The word doctrine in this verse refers to the set of teachings that come directly from Scripture, so through His Word, God provides (or communicates) the foundational principles that we live by.
God also reproves and corrects us through His Word. When we do something that God disapproves of, we may experience an uncomfortable feeling when reading the Bible. Every word can seem to highlight our error until we make it right. It is never pleasant to receive a rebuke from the Lord, but He does it because He loves us and does not want us to get hurt. When my children were young, if I found one of them playing with matches, I didn’t say, “Oh, that is so cute!” I was able to see the danger that lay ahead—that he could get burned—so I spoke quickly and firmly. Also, I took the matches away and said, “Don’t touch those again; they can hurt you!” God communicates the same sentiment to us through His Word.
In the 2 Timothy account, Paul said Scripture is profitable for correction or straightening one’s path (the word correction comes from the Greek epanorthosis meaning “to make straight”). It provides a right understanding when we get confused by conflicting arguments around us and don’t know which way to go. When this happens, we can take the opinions on either side of a debate and compare them to the Word. If one of them contradicts Scripture, then we know it is not of God, and must not entertain that thought any longer. Scripture is also profitable for instruction in righteousness. It is the practical “how to” of Christian living. There is nothing in the human experience that Scripture does not speak to. When we are unsure whether an action is right, wrong, or simply not expedient, we can search the Scriptures with an honest heart. God’s Word is alive; it will always speak to us.
God communicates by the Holy Spirit. When I received salvation, no one had to tell me the transaction had taken place in my heart. The Holy Spirit bore witness with my spirit that I was a child of God, just as it says in Romans 8:16.
After we are saved, the Holy Spirit leads our lives on a daily basis. In John 16:13 we read, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” One example of the Holy Spirit’s leading was given in a testimony during one of our church services. A brother said he was driving home from work one day when he felt a compulsion to take a certain freeway exit and go a different way than his usual route. At first he thought, This is silly. Going that route will add at least an hour to my commute. Then the Spirit spoke to his heart again, but a little more insistently this time. The third time, he realized the Lord was communicating with him and he took the exit. Not too long after, he heard on the radio that there was an avalanche above the road he would have normally taken. It pays to listen to the Holy Spirit when we feel that tug at our hearts.
God communicates through others. In 2 Samuel 12:1-13 we read the account of God sending Nathan the prophet to King David with a parable to help him realize that his sin with Bathsheba was known to God. Nathan relayed that a rich man, who had many flocks of sheep, took the one little lamb, a family pet, belonging to a poor man. When David became indignant and asked who did this, Nathan replied, “Thou art the man” (verse 7). Sometimes God uses other people to reach us when we are trying to sidestep what He has to say.
Sometimes God uses other people to reach us when we are trying to sidestep what He has to say.
Some years ago, when I went to visit one of my friends, his parents, whom I had never met, were at his house. Introductions were made and his dad shook my hand . . . and didn’t let go. After a few moments, I became uncomfortable, so I tried to pull away. However, he just gripped a little tighter and leaned in and asked, “When are you going to stop running?” I had not told anyone that the Lord had called me to preach. Later, when the opportunity arose, I asked my friend, “What have you been telling your dad?” He replied, “Nothing.” In this situation, God had used that godly man to remind me that I needed to deal with His call.
Our response to God’s communication. It is amazing that the God of the universe wants to communicate with us, but it will not do us any good unless we reciprocate, and the primary way we do that is through prayer.
A good way to open communication with God is by thanking and praising Him for all He has provided. This brings God’s presence and blessing. The Israelites experienced this when they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the newly completed Temple. We read in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord . . . then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.” When we come before God in prayer with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving, we can be sure He will meet with us.
We look to God for all of our needs, so part of prayer is bringing Him our petitions, but we want to do this in the right way. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” Sometimes it is difficult to know if what we desire is in accordance with God’s will. However, if we will lay the request before Him while setting aside our own thoughts on the matter, and listen for His communication to us, God will make His will clear. Then, when we know our request is in alignment with God’s will, we can pray unhindered expecting an answer.
If we have brought a request before God and have not received an answer, we can ask again. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” This verse has also been interpreted as, “Ask, and keep asking; seek, and keep seeking; knock, and keep knocking.” In His own time, the Lord always gives a response, so we should persevere until we receive one. It is possible to overlook an answer when it is not what we are expecting, or it is simply to wait. However, if we will employ listening in prayer, God will help us to hear the answer.
The most important communicating we will ever do is with our Creator. In Isaiah 46:9-10, He said, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand.” God knows all things, the past and the future, and when He says something, it is established forever. Therefore, when He speaks, we would do well to quiet ourselves and listen.