I’ve just finished leading a Family Service series looking at ‘Developing our spiritual senses’.
Here are my talk notes from the second of that series about learning to listen to God. In preparation for this talk I used material that I’d taught to the children in sessions based on the book by Deborah Reed called ‘God has nice things to say’. It’s very helpful and you can find it here: http://www.itreasures.org/store/p17/God-Has-Nice-Things-to-Say-(MANUAL)/product_info.html
The previous session we started off with ‘Taste’. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ and, if you missed that one, I’ve put it here: https://whatcarolinedidnext.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/developing-our-spiritual-senses-1-taste/
On with the show… 🙂
1 Corinthians 13v1-14v4
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
Today we’re looking as ‘Hearing’ and how we can best listen to God and hear what he has to say. Today’s passage (1 Corinthians 13v1-14v4) is dealing with Spiritual Gifts. We’re not going to look too much into the gift of speaking in tongues today, that’s for another time. Paul compares the gift of speaking in tongues with the gift of prophecy and we’ll look a little into that today.
To begin with, it’s important for us to realise that God has nice things to say and that he is speaking all the time and wants to communicate with us.
We have come this morning and praised him through our worship, given him thanks for what he has done and we have also confessed to him any sins that may have kept us from him this week. All of this helps us to get our hearts in the right place to listen and hear from him. As we saw earlier, it’s like we have our satellite dishes pointing in the right direction and we are ready to pick up the signal that is coming our way.
If a satellite dish is wonky, then the picture won’t be clear, but if it’s pointing in the right direction and set up properly, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be clear communication happening. Our TV screens are clear and easy to see, or we can hear from God clearly too.
It’s also important to note that God is speaking today. He has given us his Word, the Bible, and through his Holy Spirit in us he helps us to understand what we read.
But the Holy Spirit can communicate with us in other ways as well, he’s not restricted to the Bible, but he will never contradict what is in the Word of God. When you believe and confess that Jesus died for you, to take away your sins and to restore a relationship between you and Father God, the Holy Spirit comes and lives in you, as a sign that you belong to God’s family. As the third person of the Trinity, he is also God, alongside Jesus and God the Father.
So we, as children of God, have part of God living in us. And he wants to help us to live in the right way.
But God has given us free will.
We are free to choose him or free to go our own way.
God loves us but he won’t force his love onto us.
Even with the Holy Spirit in residence in us, we still need to ask him to guide and show us what to do. The great news is that he is ready and waiting to communicate with us.
So when we come to listen to God, we prepare our hearts and we want to hear from him. God has nice things to say to you today if you want to hear them.
He loves us and he wants us to share in that love and to share His love with others.
He wants us to hear him speaking to us individually and he also gives this gift of prophecy, which is essentially us listening to him speaking with messages for others from him.
The satellite dish is like how we receive messages from him to us. And when we listen for others it’s like we’re a telephone and he is speaking through us to someone else.
So How does He speak to us?
Well God is God, he’s not human and his first language is not English.
He speaks to us in his own unique ways. Here are some of the ways he might speak to us as we listen to him:
- Pictures – we might get an image in our mind.
- Dreams – God might talk to us as we sleep.
- Visions – we might get a series of pictures or it might be like moving pictures with a story.
- Colours – different colours mean different things in the Bible and God might give us a colour
- Bible – we might get a Scripture reference or a verse
- Numbers – again, these mean different things in the Bible
- Impressions – we might get a feeling or an emotion as we listen to him. For example we might feel sad or happy or we might get a pain in a part of our body if God wants us to pray for healing for someone who might have a problem in that area.
These are some of the ways that God speaks to us. His words have power – think about it, this is the Creator of the Universe, Almighty God, who is also our Father, who wants to talk to us and to use us to bless others and to share his love with them. That’s pretty amazing stuff!
Anyone can have the gift of prophecy.
It doesn’t mean that you are prophet. People who are prophets do more giving of direction and correction whereas those of us using the gift of prophecy don’t do that.
We’ll look at boundaries in a minute. God can use any one of us to bless and encourage another person by telling us something for them. Every single person who reads this can hear from God and bless someone else today, if we want to and choose to and have the faith that He will speak to us.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 14 v 3, Paul explains the 3 main uses of prophecy and they are:
- Strengthening (edification) – this is to motivate someone. It’s like this balloon. (Hold up balloon) When we share a word from God with someone, it’s like their heart swells us like this (blow it up). They recognise the good things that God has already started in them. We are building up a person’s heart by sharing with them.
- Encouragement (exhortation) – we can encourage people and this brings people closer to God. Like this rope (get a child to hold the other end and pull it towards you) God is pulling someone closer to himself through words of encouragement. He is reminding us that He knows what we are going through now and that we are precious and valuable to him.
- Comfort – sometimes we need to share a comforting hug from God with people. (wrap a blanket around a child and hug them). God can give us just the right word to share with people that only he knows they need.
Paul end today’s passage with the encouragement that ‘He who prophesies edifies the church’. The main reason we listen to God is to build up our church family and to encourage each other. And that’s a great reason to do something.
We’re going to have a go at listening to God in a moment, but first a few boundaries.
Firstly, when we listen to God for someone, we don’t tell them their future – we’re not fortune telling, we are listening to what God wants to tell them now, about their life at this moment. Also, we don’t share bad things with them, because our aim is to encourage, build up and comfort. God doesn’t give us scary stuff either to share so we don’t share that. And if we get anything that’s questionable we check with someone we trust before sharing it. Basically, we keep everything positive because as we saw in today’s reading, it’s all about Love.
Ok, So this is what we’re going to do. In a moment I’m going to pray and invite God’s Holy Spirit to come and share with us what God wants to say to us today. We’re then going to sit for a moment and play a track in the background, which might help us to focus on God. There’s no magic in it, it’s just a nice track which helps. After a short while we’ll see if anyone has anything they want to share about what they’ve received. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share what you get, it’s only if you’d like to.
We’ve found with the children that often they get pictures and they don’t always understand them first time so I would encourage you in your heart to ask God to explain and reveal to you what He is saying to you about whatever he drops in your heart and mind. He knows what he’s talking about and He will make it clear to you because he is the God of clarity and not confusion.
This time is for you to listen to God for yourself. Some may get something that needs sharing for others, some of you will get something that is just for you, to encourage and build you up.
It’s important to know too that nothing is too silly or odd, God can use the strangest and funniest things to get our attention and speak profound things into our hearts, and don’t try too hard to get anything, just relax in the music and let God speak to you.
[At this point we took a few moments of listening to God with some quiet anointed music on in the background – why not find some of your own music and try it for yourself now!]
That was for your comfort and strengthening and to build you up. Now we are going to do a quick exercise in hearing God for others. I’m going to ask God to give you an encouraging Bible verse, so listen for what drops into your head. Once you’ve got one, find it in the Bible. Then in a moment everyone is going to get up and share that verse with someone else. The verse must be a positive one. Don’t try too hard, just relax and go with what comes into your head, it’s not about you being clever, it’s about God speaking through you to bless someone else. You don’t have to pray for someone else, just give them that verse then move on.
If you really struggle with this and nothing comes to mind, pick one of these verses below and go to someone else with that one. It might be the very thing someone needs to hear. Let’s try it. At the very least, you might encourage and edify someone today.