A good friend of mine, an elementary teacher in Las Vegas, NV, posted his story on Facebook this week. He granted me permission to share it today.
“Last Monday, right after the students were dismissed, a Kindergarten teacher ran up to me and asked if I had seen one of her students. When I told her that I hadn’t, she ran back towards the office. This kind of thing happens quite often, a student does not go where they are supposed to and he pops up a few minutes later (because he had to go the bathroom, etc.).
I went back to my room, got cleaned up, and went to church for my internship. I was tempted to take a different route but went my usual way. God was urging me to keep my eyes open for this student. In my heart, I just KNEW that I was going to find him.
Well, once I turned onto Sunset Road, I saw a little boy running and crying. I quickly stopped and yelled his name. He came running towards me and I gave him a hug. I called the school and his mom came to the church a few minutes later to pick him up.
I have received praise for this, somewhat of a “hero’s welcome,” but I do not want to take the credit. If his teacher did not run over to me and tell me that he was missing, I would not have known to look for him or even to call his name. If my intimacy with God was not what it is on a daily basis, I would not have been able to discern His voice in my busy life. God “told” me that I would find this student…and it happened. Let that sink in for a second.
We cannot expect to hear from God if we are not listening to Him. The closer we are to Him, the easier it is to hear His voice.” – Matthew Pfeil
Today, in the first half of Daniel chapter two, we see how Daniel leans when faced with an incredibly high stress, anxiety-producing, life and death situation. Because it’s not everyday we find ourselves in the midst of life threatening events, it’s important to note that how we lean is not just critical for the obvious, in your face, do-this-or-you-die scenarios, like Daniel’s story. Our everyday conversations with our everyday relationships, like my friend Matt’s story, always hold the potential to be life-giving, life-preserving, and life-saving.
A MOMENT OF TRUTH
Continuing the story of Daniel in Babylon, chapter two begins with King Nebuchadnezzar waking from a terrifying and disturbing dream. It wasn’t the normal, “I was standing there in my underwear” dream, but the kind where you feel terribly connected to another world, and you can hardly go back to sleep. He knew this dream held significance, so much so that he wasn’t willing to risk his staff placating his ego this time. He refused to share the dream, and instead demanded that they first tell him the dream, and then he could probably trust the interpretation that went with it. Everyone failed. And the king sentenced the whole lot of magicians to execution, including Daniel and his three friends who weren’t even there.
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” (Daniel 2:14-15 NLT)
Daniel immediately went before the king, requested more time, which was granted, then returned to his friends to pray. They probably cried desperate pleas for God’s divine intervention, and intervene He did. That night the dream and its interpretation were delivered to Daniel. Thrilled, and awed by the immensity of our God that we serve, he praised God before he did anything else.
A moment of truth for Daniel, made possible through preparation. In the first lesson I talked about the pattern of God’s will, and that by recognizing where we are in the pattern, we have the opportunity to partner with God in the process.
In the second lesson I talked about how we partner with God by how we respond to Him.
- Seek to know Him
- Seek His presence
- Seek His vision
- Seek His confirmation
We will all inevitably find ourselves in a moment of truth, revealing how ready we are to walk into our purpose. And scripture says that we will rely on the understanding we have to guide us through our decision-making. The real question is, whose understanding is it? Our own or God’s?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB)
Only God’s voice, His direct revelation and guidance, will help us in wisdom and discretion. The challenge we all face is discerning His voice above all the others. Don’t worry, it’s as easy for us as it was for Daniel. His world was just as noisy as ours, he had doubts and insecurities as we do, and he faced the same spiritual enemy we face. These moments of truth are part of our preparation. They indicate our readiness to move into God’s purpose.
You’ve probably heard people say things like, “Just listen to your heart. Go with your gut. Listen to that still, small voice.” For as long as I can remember, I have always had an internal dialogue going on inside my head every day, all day. That internal voice is louder for some people than it is for others, but it’s usually there. From my perspective I see three basic categories of voices:
Aside from attachment disorders and other behavioral complications that deaden the voice of the conscience, the vast majority of us are born with some degree of conscience, also commonly known as our “heart.” It’s the voice most often associated with self. Our voice. Even without the help of the Bible, there are some things we just know are right and some things we just know are wrong.
However, the problem arises when we allow and encourage our conscience to be the dominant voice, because our conscience is largely shaped by the values and morals of the surrounding culture, as well as personal experience. What is considered “wrong” by one group, in one setting, and in one period of time, may not be considered “wrong” by another. It can then lead to the conclusion that nothing is inherently wrong, allowing culture and experience to dominate that definition.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
The heart reproduces what’s been instilled in it, good and bad. The conscience is ultimately an unreliable voice unless it’s been saturated with holiness.
Then there’s the nefarious voice of the devil, also known as the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44) and his demons. Around for millennia, they’ve nearly perfected the art of manipulation. Masters of saying just the right thing and pushing just the right buttons, they work toward one goal: destroy humanity.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8 ESV)
For those of us who have committed our lives to Christ, the devil cannot snatch us from his fingers (Jn 10:28), however it does not make us immune to his schemes either. This is why we must be watchful and aware. We need to recognize the sound of the enemy’s voice, so that we can reject it outright. Below is a quick guide to recognize the devil’s most common tactics.
And finally the most important, most sacred voice of all: the Spirit of God. I often call it that still, small voice. But why is it so small if it’s so important? I believe it’s because we allow it to be reduced by the choices we make when we choose the world over Christ. If we were to truly understand the implications of not fostering an intimacy with Christ on a daily basis, we would never choose the busyness of this world over Christ. But we don’t, so we do, and then we can’t hear God, and we wonder why.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)
This is the voice we should want to dominate our lives. This is the voice that represents heaven.
The voice that grows is the voice we feed, so we need to talk about how to nourish the voice of the Spirit. It’s called intimacy. Intimacy with Christ is really the whole point of…I don’t know…everything! It’s another word for what I’ve already described: knowing Him and being with Him. God introduces us to the wilderness of preparation so that we can understand how to know him and be with him. We go into the wilderness so that we can grow in intimacy with Christ.
God asked Hosea to marry a prostitute knowing full well that he would suffer through her rejection and unfaithfulness, all so that we might have a picture not only of Israel’s rejection and unfaithfulness to God, but also ours. But then…
But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to here there. (Hosea 2:14 NLT)
There are times when I get thirsty and one sip of water will do. But then there are times when one sip of water seems to trigger an insatiable thirst, causing me to guzzle glass after glass after glass. This is the kind of thirst for God that intimacy causes. You get a sip, and you want more and more of God. As you pursue this living water, over time you will notice the voice of His Spirit growing inside you. Like any relationship, you come to know the in’s and out’s of this voice by spending quality time together. Intimacy with Christ makes you one with heaven.
Have you heard the term “Jacob’s Ladder?” It comes from Genesis, the story of Jacob’s life, when he dreamt of a stairway that reached from heaven to earth. “He saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.” (Gen 28:12) Years later, the Apostle John records Jesus at the beginning of his ministry.
Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth. (John 1:51 NLT)
I believe Jesus was foretelling, in part, the intimacy that would soon be freely available to the disciples and each of us. An intimacy only made possible by his death on the cross. We can see the heavens opened up for us.
LEANING WHICH WAY
Getting back to Daniel, he was a smart guy. If anyone would be tempted to rely on his own logic and intellect, it would be Daniel. But we see him, in this moment of truth, going straight back to God. We know he prayed, but we don’t know exactly how he prayed or any other form of worship he may have employed that evening. However, I’m pretty confident he sought God’s presence as much, if not more, than he sought God’s insight. And Daniel was floored by how much more God revealed about Himself in the process. Daniel asked for the dream and an interpretation, and in addition walked away with (maybe for the first time) a much grander appreciation for God’s expansiveness and sovereignty over the world and its future.
While we have all been equipped with varying degrees of education, intellect, and talent, without the insight that comes from the Spirit of God, then it’s merely our own understanding. Our understanding can be logical, rational, and flat out astounding, but without Christ and his confirmation, we could end up on a path that only looks right, but turns out to be terribly wrong.
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12 NLT)
Recognizing the truth of this proverb, and our dependency upon God daily, keeps us humble and attuned to His voice. And it’s His voice that leads us into life-giving, life-preserving, and life-saving decisions. It’s imperative that we make knowing Him and being with Him the priority every day. Partner with God in your wilderness so that when these moments of truth arrive, and they will, your character will shine in how you lean.