Thirty-three years ago I took a woman to a Gilbert and Sullivan play as a first date. Before the evening of our get-together, I had a collection of facts about her: she was a farmer’s daughter, she was a Social Worker, and she was cute. After the evening of our get-together, I told my parents that I had just met the woman I would marry.
What happened during those few, short hours? I had known she wanted to be a missionary, but over a glass of wine, she told me of her longing to help internationals. And I fell in love. I didn’t get new information; somehow, something I already knew became real.
She breathed life into the facts I already possessed. A personal connection trumped my data.
Western nations—Americans in particular—are information junkies. The Self-Improvement market guzzles ten billion dollars a year as we gather more info on health, personal finances, and relational well-being. Yet we remain over-weight, under-saved, and highly-divorced.
Christians likewise are data collectors. We download hundreds of sermons, stockpile libraries of books, frequent retreats, and memorize verses. Yet we remain anxious, timid, and lonely.
We don’t need more information; we need what we already know to become real.
We’re hoping in the wrong solutions
Our biggest problem—at this moment—is that God is not real to us. We think our greatest need is for good advice or different circumstances: “What must I do to achieve a healthy marriage?” or “If only I had a better boss”. But more data or better jobs won’t heal our aches.
Jesus said the Bible is written so we can meet God personally; not just know about him but know him; not just encounter cold facts but encounter a warm person; not just to change our settings but to be transformed by a relationship:
You search the Scriptures because you think you will find rich life in them; yet they are talking about me. You refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)
Our single greatest need in all the world right now is for God to become more real to us.
So … how do we do that?
When we read the Bible, we see … but do not see, and we hear but do not understand. We read Scripture to find guidance (a change of circumstances) or to affirm what we already know (one more data point to collect). Jesus says we should come to meet him.
One day a piano tuner told me that if I sang the right note into a piano, the corresponding string would vibrate. She struck the middle “A” so I could get the right pitch, dampened it, and I then sang “Ahhh” into the piano. And the string reverberated. Though it took me a couple tries.
When we read Scripture, we have the “A” strings of information, like that God loves us enough to call us his children. But it isn’t enough. We are seeing without seeing. We need something more. We need the resonance of God’s Spirit.
That’s why Paul tells us that “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). God begins to sing his word into our hearts and soon the information we have begins to resonate. Information about God is trumped by God himself.
It’s really all we need
The book of Job overflows with Job seeking God for information (“Why, God, are you doing this?”) or a change in circumstances (“God, let me die”). Instead, God simply reveals himself.
When Job meets God, he responds, “I had heard of you with my ears, but now my eyes see you” (Job 42:5). And he is completely satisfied. Notice: God has not told Job why all this is happening, nor has God changed the circumstances. Yet Job says he got all that he really wanted.
Scripture says that no one “knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him. So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). Our need is for the Spirit of God to speak his words into our lives—to hear the living God himself—and we’ll be satisfied.
Instead of asking God for new data, let’s just ask God for a date; and let our knowledge of him resonate as he sings his song into our hearts.
This article includes material from my upcoming book Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere. It will be released in mid-July by Kregel Publications.
I believe it will help you begin to hear God in a new conversational relationship.
Please consider pre-ordering the book now by clicking on one of these links or on the book cover.
- Learning to recognize the sound of God’s voice
- Hearing God in his silence
- How to Brainstorm with God
- Hearing God in Scripture
- Hearing God for guidance
Wayne Jacobson, pastor and author of He Loves Me and Finding Church, said this:
If you want to grow in your ability to recognize how God makes himself known to you, I can’t recommend a better guide than Sam Williamson’s Hearing God in Conversation.