“The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:11-12 (ESV)
At the Foster-Whiddon house, we talk a lot about hearing God’s voice. Not in a forced, preachy way… listening for God is simply a part of our daily lives. We are naive enough to believe that God speaks and, if we will listen, we can hear him. We believe that the lives of the Biblical figures were recorded as examples of what a “normal” life of faith is like. God spoke to those folks, they listened (sometimes), and he led them into incredible adventures.
My eight year-old son, Holton, recently made the comment, “I’m just a little boy. It’s hard for me to hear God’s voice!” There are many days I could say the same thing. It’s hard for me to hear, too. Trying to untangle the mess of messages that are wrapped up in my brain can be a daunting task. “I’m pretty sure that’s God speaking… no, wait… I think that’s just me… no, God is warning me not to do that… nope, I’m just scared… or maybe the enemy is influencing my thoughts… or maybe I shouldn’t have eaten Hunan chicken for supper.” Nope, not easy at all.
Even though it’s hard to do, learning to distinguish the voice of God is vital to the success of… well, pretty much anything that matters. Why is it such a big deal? Because “there is a way that seems right to a man” and, though everything in me is screaming “Yes! Do it! It’s right!”, that road has a tragic ending. As Henry Blackaby taught a generation, God speaks by his Holy Spirit through his Word, prayer, his Church, and our circumstances. I want to hear him and I want to follow where he leads.
My life would look totally different today if I didn’t believe in God’s willingness to speak and his ability to lead me. I wouldn’t be married to Vanessa. I wouldn’t have my four crazy kids. My business would not exist. All of these major life decisions have significant, somewhat dramatic stories about God’s direction in my life. God has proven himself faithful enough times that I feel pretty foolish when I struggle with doubt, and I still do. However, despite these doubts, I have heard God’s voice, I have followed his leadership (imperfectly), and I have seen him deliver over and over again.
I believe that v11 is meant to be read in context with v12. I recently found myself on the side of a mountain in snow flurries, 20 degree weather and 20 mile per hour wind gusts. In that moment, I realized that a tarp or a tent is a very poor barrier against the forces of nature. Obviously a house is more stable than a tent. Wouldn’t it be wise to choose the more protective option? Doesn’t it make sense to protect yourself somehow, some way? Following God into the wilderness is always, ultimately, eternally safer than following my own logic wherever it wants to lead, which is often to places like self-gratification, greed, prideful pursuits and disobedience. I can find many, many paths that lead to ends that seem right to me, but if they are not the paths that God has chosen for me to walk, they lead to death of some sort, every time.
Early one morning, just a few months before I opened my business, I was walking down the hall of our local arts center toward my lesson studio. In that moment I asked myself, “Are you sure you want to do this, to take this risk? Your program is bursting at the seams here and you have a great thing going. Why not just be happy with what you have?” In the stillness of that moment, I sensed God’s response. “You are successful here because I led you here and you followed. Now I am leading you to something else. Who promises that you will continue to be successful if you choose to stay in the comfort of this place when I have shown you another way?” I knew then that I had to move forward.
Does God care about the details of my business? Of course he does. Does he have an opinion about the daily operations of my business? For sure. Will he speak to me and give me direction regarding the decisions that I face day after day? Yes, absolutely. However, don’t let the concept of hearing God’s voice cause such anxiety in your heart that you are afraid of mistakes and are unable to move forward with life. Trust God’s ability to speak to you more than you trust your ability to hear him. Trust his ability to lead you more than you trust your ability to follow. If you truly seek first his kingdom – and not your own – he will make sure you have everything you need to walk the path he places before you. Hearing God is not easy, but it does not have to be complicated.