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The Voice Of God

Finding Favor With the One Who Speaks


By Charles F. Stanley JULY 31, 2019


According to Genesis 6:5-8, the ancient world was so filled with wickedness and evil that God  was grieved and sorry He had made mankind. Therefore, He decided to blot out every living  creature on earth. But in the midst of all the corruption, Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” and was rescued from the destruction of the flood (v. 8). Our world today is also filled with sin and corruption, and as Christians, we are called to walk as Noah did—in the favor of God.

The favor of God is expressed by His approval, acceptance, support, provision, power, and joy. This is what He showed to Noah and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28), and it’s also what He has manifested to everyone who has been saved by Jesus Christ.

But to receive His favor, we must learn to listen to God. This is a basic lesson for anyone who wants to live a godly life. The Lord doesn’t save us and leave us to do the best we can, but desires to communicate with us if we’ll listen.

Listening to God demands our time and attention. The Holy Spirit who directed and led the apostles is the same one who indwells and guides us. We have been tremendously blessed, yet we often think we’re too busy to listen to Him. Our minds are so crowded with other concerns that we can’t hear Him, but there is nothing more important than heeding His voice and operating under His control.

To listen to the Lord, we must learn to identify His voice.

  • God’s voice will be consistent with the scriptures. The Holy Spirit will never say anything in violation of God’s Word. The Bible is always our standard of measure.
  • God’s voice may be in conflict with human reason. Because the Lord is infinitely wise and omniscient, His ways are higher than ours and may not seem logical to us.
  • God’s voice will clash with fleshly desires. The desires of the Spirit are in opposition to those of the flesh (Gal. 5:17). Therefore, the inner conflict we feel when we’re tempted is the Spirit leading us in the opposite direction.
  • God’s voice will challenge us. Sometimes the Spirit leads us to do something we feel incapable of doing.
  • God’s voice calls for courage. Obedience is not always easy, but God’s commands are always accompanied with His power and strength.
  • God’s voice will speak quietly. He doesn’t shout but speaks softly through our conscience and into our minds, whispering, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isa. 30:21).
  • God’s voice will speak clearly. He wants us to know what He is saying, and has been speaking to us since the day of our salvation. First, His voice clearly convicted us of sin and moved us to repentance and salvation. Now He continues to communicate with us to bring us to obedience and surrender in our daily lives.
  • God’s voice will speak personally. He loves and cares for us individually and guides us in every situation or concern.
  • God is always speaking, but we must listen. We won’t hear His voice if we fill our lives with other things.

Although we may become hard of hearing, we can never silence the Lord. However, the Spirit of God may withdraw to some degree, and as His children, we’ll then find ourselves under His discipline. Our only response needs to be that we return to Him and open our hearts—and our ears—to His voice.

Our Idol Attention

Seeking the abundant life in an age of distraction



On Sunday afternoons, I like to ask my teenage son about the morning’s sermon. “What did you think?” I’ll say, and wait for the inevitable one-word answer: “Good.” I usually push a bit, asking for a little more detail, only to discover he cannot remember anything substantive about what was said. On my better days, I smile and fill in the blank for him. On my worse days, I ask why he can’t remember, allowing my frustration to color my voice. His response is often the same: “I want to listen, but it’s just so hard to pay attention.”

My son is right. Paying attention is difficult, and lately it seems to get harder. After all, we live in what Alan Jacobs calls “an age of distraction,” one where so many demands on our attention exist that we have less and less to give. The traditional attention hogs—television and other media, sports, politics, popular culture, even work—have grown fatter as they’ve migrated to the internet and become always-on, always-available temptations. What’s more, sacrificing to these greedy gods has become not only common but a normal, expected way of life. Places that once fostered face-to-face encounters now provide yet another place to be distracted among other people.

Talk like this comforts me, because it enables me to point the finger at someone or something other than myself. I want to blame the corporations that advertise on every available surface, the restaurants that cover the walls with televisions, the technology companies that deliver more and more media to my phone. I want to lash out at anyone who leaves me with a dwindling supply of attention for God, His Word, or His people. And like Adam, I will go so far as blaming God’s potentially good gifts for my own weakness and sin: “These gifts of common grace, they distracted me.”

In reality, I have to face a sobering fact—I’m the one who gives away my precious attention. I spend it as frivolously as the Prodigal Son of Luke 15 spent his inheritance, then find myself kneeling at the trough with pigs, rather than enjoying an abundant life in my Father’s house.

And that’s precisely the problem. Jesus promised abundant life (John 10:10), but how can we live abundantly if we ignore the way we spend our presence of mind? And how can we escape that faraway country of distraction in order to cultivate not only an abundant but also a generous life? In the parable, the lost son found his way home again, and his story can serve as a light to the dark path ahead of us. We, too, can go home, by which I mean toward a more mindful life.

I have to face a sobering fact—I’m the one who gives away my precious attention.

Our journey begins, as the Prodigal Son’s does, when we’re able to recognize where we are and how we got there. Our most difficult task may be that first one—seeing where we are—because our shiny bright world blurs our vision and hides the pigpen. We need the lights to dim a bit to understand how far we’ve drifted from the true, the good, and the beautiful—to see our distracted life doesn’t fulfill its promises of more and better. In other words, we need to find the off button. That might mean literally turning off a device, but it might also mean saying no to yet another commitment, or getting out into the natural world, or simply staying just a little longer for that extra cup of coffee on the porch. You might call this first-stage attention, because it’s what reveals our need and paves the way for a more attentive life.

After this recognition comes an opportunity to own our condition—in other words, to recognize we made the choices that landed us in our situation. The lost son sees his hunger for what it is: the fruit of his wasteful spending. We, too, have to come to our senses and recognize the great cost of our misguided attention. Pointing the finger at technology or some other scapegoat ignores our own culpability, but accepting our responsibility frees us to walk toward home.

And then we may use our knowledge and our will to choose differently—to attenddifferently than we have before. “Genuinely to attend,” as Alan Jacobs writes, “is to give of oneself with intent.” That determination is evident in the son’s decision to return to his father, even at the cost of his own freedom. When we attend in this way, we purposefully open our eyes and focus our minds on the object of our attention. And like the son, we find the most worthy object in our Father. For that moment, at least, nothing else intrudes. This amounts to living not just for God, but with Him.

This is difficult work. The distractions we meet on a daily basis promise diversion and delight, but these are hollow imitations of the eternal kind of life. God, on the other hand, promises us salvation, both now and for eternity. Even more importantly, He offers us Himself with the gentle reminder: Attention, please.


Illustration by Jon Ham

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