Have you ever embarrassed yourself by putting a little too much trust in caller ID? I could share a true story but I’m not ready to face those memories yet, so I’m just gonna make one up…
The screen on your phone lights up. A picture of your sweetheart appears and her special ringtone comes drifting through the tiny speakers. It is music to your ears and you answer “Hey Hottie! I’ve been waiting all day to hear your sweet voice.” Only, what you hear next is not her sweet voice. It is the sound of a man clearing his throat and and awkwardly speaking your name—with a question mark on the end.
Then you remember that her rather stoic and intimidating father, who you don’t know very well and very much want to impress, is accompanying her as she runs errands today. Turns out, he wanted to ask you a quick question, but didn’t have his phone on him. So—he borrowed hers. And now your face is getting warm and you feel like hiding under something even though you’re all alone.
The truth is, the way we communicate with and respond to people is drastically affected by the nature of our relationship with them and the level of comfort and trust that has been developed within that relationship. If we don’t know who we are talking to, it is very difficult to respond appropriately.
And now—the volta! (Volta is the technical term for the turn of thought in a sonnet. This is not a sonnet, but I had an impulse to impress you with obscure vocabulary. And you should be impressed—even my spell checker is not familiar with that word). What I mean to say is that I now intend to share how awkward caller ID episodes provide a good illustration for a spiritual truth.
We need to know who’s calling.
I’m talking about analyzing who it is that we’re hearing from—in our spirit—and responding appropriately. We have a caller ID of sorts; this one will never steer us wrong. The Bible provides us with a description of God’s character and a history of his interaction with mankind. If we are familiar with God’s word, we will have a good idea of the kinds of things He would or would not say to us. Likewise, we have an account (though somewhat more limited) of Satan’s motives, activities, and conversations. We should also be able to identify his darts when they come our way.
I’m not saying it’s always easy. I’m not very good at this, as a matter of fact. It is all too common for me to allow confusion and doubt to carry me down their path (instead of recognizing them as two of Satan’s primary strategies for immobilizing God’s people). I confuse guilt and hopelessness with conviction and discipline, not recognizing that there is always hope when God disciplines and his conviction never produces despair.
Conversely, I have been known to ‘feel really good in my spirit’ (code for: it must be from God) about something simply because it was a self-serving thing for me to do. Of course I felt good about it—and nothing in the Bible condemned it per se… But I have the ability to consider what the Bible has revealed to me about what pleases or displeases God and what his priorities and passions are.
It is often said that we can know a thing is not from God if it does not line up with Scripture. That is true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can go hunting for a verse that explicitly deals with a particular situation. God has personality and you can bet that his is at least as complex as any human personality (though without the complicator of sin). Christianity is a matter of loving God, not a matter of superficial adherence to a list of technicalities.
We need to know him in order to recognize his voice.
We need to be familiar enough with what God has revealed about himself—and about the enemy—to able to ask (and answer) some questions. Does God approve of this behavior or thinking pattern? If so, is it the best way to build his priorities into my life? Is this the kind of thing God has said before or is it more like something the enemy has said? Whose fruit is it producing in me? If I choose this path, whose goals will it achieve? Etc, etc.
Only when we learn to discern whose voice we are hearing will we be able to respond appropriately—and dare I say?—with maturity.
I am not nearly as consistent as I need to be, but I have benefited from being held accountable in this area. I can say that when I put it into practice, my confidence in God and his ability to communicate with me is greatly boosted. I do not have to be double minded.
James 1:5-8 (NASB)
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I have caller ID.