“Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
—Exodus 13:22 (NRSV)
The people of the Exodus were guided by God via the visible pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Never did God’s Presence leave them.
Even though we live in this post-incarnation and post-salvation age, complete with the Presence of God within us via the Holy Spirit, we have nothing as overt as the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire to guide us in the direction God would have us go. We will struggle to discern the way we should go, and if we are normal people we will make many poor and untimely decisions.
But there are three reliable ways we can ‘hear’ God’s guidance.
1. We Hear God by Our S.H.A.P.E.
The critical question for every single one of us is, “Who has God made me to be?”
We can spend all our lives unpacking that one, and the answer often changes. But when we acknowledge our spiritual gifts, passions, abilities, personality, and experiences we get a very good idea of the sort of things that we could or should be doing.
We ought to accept the song in our hearts; that definitive purpose we can found all our lives upon. It’s best to live as the first version of ourselves, not the second version of another person.
2. We Hear God Through the Bible
People often complain they don’t hear God’s answer to their prayers. Aren’t we supposed to hear God? But God has already spoken through his Word, and we possibly agonise too much over many life issues that are already covered in the Bible. There are many no-brainers within the Christian faith, because of what is written in the Bible.
The Bible tells us we ought to forgive; God’s Word tells us this is nonnegotiable. So why do we proudly defy the Word of God and insist on unforgiveness? This is but one example of the thousands of practical items of guidance in the Bible. It is our instruction book for many perplexing situations of life.
Through our application of reading God’s Word, we are invited to listen through the threads of our lives for what God is already doing and through what is being prepared to be done. Let us notice the coincidences; when coincidences are more commonplace our prayer life is working. Through diligent prayer, also, our dispositions in life change for the better.
3. We Hear God Through the Christian Community
Some unwise Christians believe they can survive without the Church, but these choose ignorance in place of true confirmation.
The people of God are often best placed to affirm the Spirit’s leading. If our personal sense of ministry call is not affirmed by others in the church we may have due cause to reflect a little more before we decide the direction of our service.
There are three ways God guides us in life: 1) by the passions and purposes in our hearts; 2) by what is written in the Word of God; and, 3) by what trusted others speak into our lives through their encouragement. These three are our pillars of cloud by day and our pillars of fire by night.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: Dr. Brian Harris, Principal of Vose Seminary, Perth, Western Australia.