The Voice of the Good Shepherd

There's one thing that is many times more difficult and more stressful than obeying God's voice and that is waiting on, recognizing, and hearing God's voice. It has been one of the great struggles of my walk with Christ, creating more doubt than anything else. However, I seem to have learned a few things from following my Good Shepherd over the past few years, though I doubtless have much more to learn.

My greatest comfort during times of seeking God's specific guidance has been John 10.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

When I totally freak about whether or not I've heard or missed His voice, I stand on the truth of Jesus' promises in these verses. He says that we KNOW his voice and that we WILL NOT follow a stranger. Knowing His voice comes from years of following Him and listening to His voice in His Word. Still, sometimes I freak out (did I mention that?), wondering if I've just made everything up in my head. When I cry out to God, "How do I know it's You? What if I'm screwing everything up?" He gently answers me with His Words from John 10.

I have been encouraged lately with the story of Abraham's servant who went seeking a wife for Isaac from Abraham's relatives in Genesis 24. When the servant sought God's specific choice in a wife, he was not afraid to ask for specific, practical signs from God. I personally think it's a little unfair, because God answered him before he could even finish his prayer, which He doesn't always do for me. However, the servant went seeking God, not with his own agenda, and then praised, worshiped, and gave total credit to God for the answer. How many times when God speaks do I then go about my merry way, never stopping to worship Him, show my gratitude, and give Him total credit before anyone who will listen?

So many times, I don't even ask Him for His specific direction. I just ask Him to agree with my direction, or I ask but don't really think He'll answer me. But in chapter 1 of his book, James says:

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

He commands us to ask, but we have to do so with our faith in God alone. We have to trust that He'll answer with His plan in His timing, and that His plan is best even if it doesn't agree with ours. Yikes. That's a little scary to me at times.

I have to admit, though, that harder than asking without my own agenda, harder than having faith that He'll answer, and harder than recognizing His voice is WAITING on His answer. Also included would be waiting on His answer to reach the ears of others involved and then bringing the answer to pass. But one thing I think I've figured out is that this whole waiting in faith is as important as our faithful obedience after He speaks. God has taught me so much in the waiting, yet I still hate to return to the "holding room" again.

It's a little like going to the doctor's office. Oh, how I dread arriving for my appointment only to wait. I sit on the edge of my seat and my eyes eagerly dart to the door to the promised land beyond everytime a nurse opens it to call out the name of the lucky person whose time has come. Then my face falls in disappointment as another person's name is called. I feel a bit dejected, but I continue to wait with hope. "I could be next." Then after an hour goes by, I find myself slouched back in my seat, bored out of my mind, my stomach growling, wondering if maybe they've misplaced my file and perhaps are NEVER going to call my name. Maybe I should give them a little reminder that I'm still there and that they are creating a bit of an imposition on my very valuable time. But I continue to wait, thinking I could possibly die here in this God-forsaken waiting room.

Then the moment arrives. The nurse swings the door back and I hear the blessed words, "Amy Bond?" For a moment, I think I'm hallucinating from the lack of food and water, but then I realize my moment has finally come. I eagerly answer the call, following the nurse back, only to be put in another room to WAIT. By this point, my patience is running a little thin and I'm really getting grandiose ideas about my own importance. How could my name be called and I still find myself waiting? But I remain. I need the wisdom and guidance of the doctor, whom I respect or I wouldn't be there. After another seemingly interminable amount of time, the doctor arrives and shares his wisdom and encouragement.

Then I have a choice. Walk away and ignore it because I didn't like what he had to say, or take his guidance to heart and obey. Hopefully, I choose to obey. And, once I do, it's amazing how quickly I forget about all the painful waiting I had to do and just rejoice that I've received help and guidance and the benefits that follow obedience.

So, what can we do to make the dreaded waiting more bearable? Anticipate the answer and praise the Answerer. As Habakkuk did while he waited on the Lord to make sense of the suffering and loss Israel would endure, we can stay alert for the answer, anticipating that God will show up.

Chapter 2: 1 I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.

We can remember that the Lord has always proven Himself faithful (3:2), the earth WILL be filled with His glory(2:14), and He is still in His holy temple (2:20). And then we can wait in the midst of whatever unlikely circumstances we find ourselves in. We can wait on our Good Shepherd to to act, to speak, to guide. And as we wait, we rejoice in Him.

Ch 4: 16 I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.


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