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Abide 8 – Listening for God’s Guidance  

Day 1 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2) One of the great joys of hearing God is that you receive specific guidance from him. In the book of Ephesians it says, Ephesians 5:10 (NIV) … and find out what pleases the Lord. How desperately a person needs to hear God’s voice and specific guidance to walk in a relationship that honors him! That’s what this lesson, Abide 8, covers. Enjoy!  

God Gives Specific Direction to His People   God desires to address the needs and issues in your life; he wants to give you direction. As the Psalmist says, Psalm 32:8 (NLT) The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” When you read this, do you allow it to impact you? Do you believe this? In fact, there are no valid reasons to hesitate in following God and his ways with your whole heart and life!  

In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this pattern for you. He said that he only did what he saw or heard the Father doing. As he was teaching, for example, he said, John 5:19 (NIV) I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (see also John 8:28; 12:49; 14:10, 24, 31)  

This way of living did NOT begin with Jesus! It has always been God’s ideal for his servants (that’s what you are). At the moment of their creation, you see God communicating and giving direction to Adam and Eve! He told them to be fruitful and increase in number; to fill the earth and subdue it; to rule over the fish, birds, and animals.  

God instructed Noah to build an ark to escape the coming judgment. And he gave Noah detailed instructions on how to build it. God spoke to and called Abraham to leave his country and go to a land that would be given to him. The place where Moses and Joshua went to hear God is called the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:7-11). This was simply a place for being with God.  

At one point God took Moses up on a mountain where he showed him a heavenly vision of what the tabernacle was to look like – in great detail! The tabernacle was a place where the priests of Israel ministered, made sacrifices and gave offerings – until the temple was built. God warned Moses to make the earthly tabernacle according to the pattern he saw (Exodus 25:9, 40). This is highlighted in the book of Acts, Acts 7:44 (NIV) Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.  

This has always been the best way to live and minister: to hear and see what God’s desire is in heaven, then copy it on earth! After all, what does the Lord’s Prayer say? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)  

The early church certainly lived like this. Some say, “It doesn’t matter where you’re serving God, or what you’re doing to serve God, or how you’re serving him. All that matters is THAT you’re serving him!” But the Bible reveals otherwise, and you can see this in stories such as Philip being directed to the eunuch (only 1 person), even though he was successfully ministering in Samaria (see Acts 8). Paul also made very significant, SPECIFIC decisions, through God’s leading.  

Now here’s the key question – why would God change how he leads his people now? He hasn’t. And so he longs to lead you in the same way. The Way of Jesus is certainly a way with specific “trail instructions!”  

For Your Journal Reflecting and Reviewing (2 Timothy 2:7)

1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading.

2. What are some biblical examples of God giving specific direction to his people? If you can think of some that are not in today’s reading, that would be great!  

Life Application (James 1:22)

1. In the previous lesson, you saw that God can speak through others. Ask God for the name of someone who needs encouragement. Listen in prayer for them.

2. Take what you received in the previous question and send it to the person that needed encouragement. This is part of doing the work of Jesus! Make sure that you pass on the “word” with humility, remembering that it is the other person’s responsibility to pray about it.

3. Review John 15:5-6, Romans 12:2, Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 5:8, John 10:27. 4. Memorize James 1:22.  

Bible Reading

1. Please read Matthew 15:1-20.

2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you.

3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.  

Day 2 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2) Today and the next three days, you’ll be provided with wisdom on how to receive and obey God’s guidance. It’s important to not forget that learning to be a disciple of Jesus, including hearing his voice, takes time. No one is immediately an expert.  

In fact, even Jesus learned how to obey! (Hebrews 5:8) This does not mean that he moved from a place of imperfection to perfection. He was already perfect! Instead, it refers to the reality that he had to learn the fullness of the Father’s plan for him.  

A key question then, is this – are YOU willing to learn? How silly it would be for a follower of the Way to say that they have, “arrived.” The one who is truly desiring to be a disciple of Jesus will eagerly search for greater accuracy in hearing the voice of their good Shepherd. The independent person, on the other hand, only goes their own way. In pride, they run their own lives, taking credit for what happens (and then often questioning God when things go poorly).  

When you learn to hear God’s voice, you are directly doing something that will give God glory – an important call in the life of a believer.  

Six Steps for Receiving & Obeying God’s Guidance   First: submit to God’s will  

The best way to begin is to submit to God’s will, whatever it is. If you really do not want God’s guidance for your life, then no matter what you may SAY, you will position yourself before God in such a way that his voice will be filtered out. Consider what James says, James 4:3 (NIV) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  

It’s easy to understand this by looking at a funny example. E.g. A child, when he was 4 yrs. old yelled at his 3-yr. old cousin: “Jesus said, ‘Give it to me!’” In a less obvious way (at least to human eyes), those who are older can do the same thing – misuse the voice of God. The fact that so few ask God for guidance when not in trouble or needing to make a big decision, is a sign that most people don’t really want God to be in control of their lives. Therefore, when they do encounter difficulty and go to God for guidance, they seldom receive it. This is because in their hearts they didn’t want his guidance in the first place – they just wanted to get out of trouble.  

It’s possible that a person can learn this lesson when they are very “young in the faith”, or that someone who has been a Christian for many years is still trying to run their own life. Here’s a brief story about this first step, from a follower of the Way:  

When I was 33 years old, I felt so confused and nothing was working out anymore. I felt absolutely stuck. I was a Christian, and had many opportunities to serve in the church, but something was missing. I realized what it was! I wasn’t being led by Jesus, or maybe I’ll say it differently – I wasn’t wanting him to lead me. I thought I knew better. One day I was reading Romans 12:1-2, and I noticed that we get to know his good and pleasing will ONLY when we first offer our bodies as living sacrifices. This was tough to do, to offer up my whole life, but since then he has spoken so clear to me. Rarely do I get mixed up. And I’m seeing so much fruit in my life because of it.”  

For Your Journal Reflecting and Reviewing (2 Timothy 2:7)

1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading.

2. What is the first step in receiving and obeying God’s guidance? Is this something that people do easily or what gets in the way?  

Life Application (James 1:22)

1. Read Romans 12:1-2 in at least three translations of the Bible (maybe NIV, ESV and NLT). What does it promise right at the end of verse 2?

2. Listen in prayer regarding this question – “God, is there a part of my life or will that is unsubmitted? Is there something I will not let you direct me in?” If he reveals something, really wrestle through submitting it. Believers often rush to spend time on less important things! This is something that impacts your ability to hear the voice of God.

3. Review James 1:22.  

Bible Reading

1. Please read Matthew 15:21-39.

2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you.

3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.  

Day 3 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2) Six Steps for Receiving & Obeying God’s Guidance   Second: receive a personalized word (rhema) – the WHAT  

This is the “rhema” word or specific message to YOU. This is where you ask the question: “is this what you want me to do?” Many believe that ‘open’ and ‘closed’ doors are all that is needed to figure out God’s will. This is NOT true!  

That is, just because a door is open doesn’t mean that God wants you to go through it. Put another way, not every good thing is the exact God thing for you! For example, Paul and Silas remained in prison to minister, though God had broken their chains and opened the prison doors.  

It’s also true that just because a door is closed doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want you to go through it! Sometimes he wants to break down the door and show his power and glory. For example, the walls and gates of Jericho were shut to the Israelites, but God brought the walls down with devastating power. Also, when the disciples saw a huge crowd that was hungry and tired, they pleaded with Jesus to send the crowd home. Instead, he responded, “You feed them!”  

It’s not enough to simply look at the circumstances of your life as you seek to understand God’s will. Or as it says in that ancient book of wisdom, Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding …. Did you notice what it says? Do not lean on your OWN understanding.   Often you may receive an answer or direction as soon as you stop to intentionally listen to Jesus. These are times of great blessing! But often you must wait, and this is also a blessing – because God has big plans! Sometimes when people don’t get an answer immediately, they panic and take matters into their own hands - that’s a big mistake! This is what Saul did when Samuel didn’t show up immediately to make an offering (1 Samuel 13:1-15) and the consequences for this were severe.  

There are times when God wants you to silence yourself and wait on him. Sometimes he is testing your heart, as he did with Saul. Other times, God may be seeking to change the desires of your heart. Or he may give you additional insight into the situation that you are praying about, either directly as you listen in prayer, or through circumstances that develop as you’re waiting on him.  

As you read the Bible, which is vital to do in waiting for wisdom, he may grant you additional insight into his Word, or bring a passage of the Bible to mind that would enable you to act and pray more effectively. Or he may want to impart to you a deep assurance of what his will is. You can see that there are many reasons for God to wait in answering!  

And if you are desiring God’s will, he may speak to you as you go about your day (e.g. while reading a book) or even as you sleep. Finally, even as you ask him specific questions, it’s crucial to know that he could answer in one of four ways: i) yes ii) yes, with conditions iii) no iv) wait.  

For Your Journal Reflecting and Reviewing (2 Timothy 2:7)

1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading.

2. What step for receiving and obeying God’s guidance was discussed today?

3. Is an open or closed door the best way to determine God’s will for you? Write down an answer to this question in your own words.  

Life Application (James 1:22)

1. Can you think of time in your life when a door seemed closed and then God opened it? Can you also think of a time when a door seemed open and then it closed? Write down any examples.

2. Can you think of times in your life when you received an answer from God immediately and when you had to wait? Write down these examples.  

Bible Reading

1. Please read Matthew 16:1-12.

2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you.

3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.  

Day 4 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2) Six Steps for Receiving & Obeying God’s Guidance  

Third: confirm any direction that was received (rhema) – 9 tests to be used for confirmation

a. Test 1: Consider if the ‘message’ received or its outcome would violate any biblical principles.   What you receive must not be acted on if it contradicts God’s written Word. For example, any voice that promises total freedom from all suffering is most certainly not God’s! This requires that those who wish to hear the still, small voice of God, must spend much time in the Bible. It is also why this principle is suggested – if you’re not reading your Bible regularly, you have good reason to question what you’re receiving in prayer. Why would God speak to you directly if you ignore what he has already said?  

b. Test 2: Reflect on the “tone” of the message.   Does what you received from God have the tone of God’s voice or that of the enemy? For example, though God will point out sin, he does so with conviction, love and hope, drawing you to himself and to change. Satan too loves to point out sin, but when he does so, he does it with condemnation, hoping to discourage you to simply give up, or to feel you are not worthy to continue. Or if the voice brings chaos instead of peace, then it is probably coming from the enemy. Even when God asks you to do something difficult, it comes with quiet confidence.  

c. Test 3: Ask if the ‘word’ is repeated.   A thought that repeats and is useful is often an indicator of God speaking. Many just let these thoughts “blow away” and forget them – then God looks for someone else to do the work he had for you.  

d. Test 4: Ask for confirmation (a sign) as the Bible is read.   Gideon asked for additional confirmation! You can read about this in the book of Judges. Some might argue – but isn’t this testing the Lord? It all depends on your MOTIVE! Is your deep desire to do God’s will, so intensely, that you want to make sure you get it right? Or are you asking for confirmation because you are hoping that you can get your own way? There’s a huge difference between these two things! Gideon had a massive challenge, and so he asked for a sign to give him confidence. It is true that the bigger the decision is, the greater the need for confirmation!  

e. Test 5: There may be a sensation or feeling as the Spirit operates upon our spirit.  

f. Test 6: Receive wise advice or counsel.  

God tells his children to seek advice from others. As one verse notes, Proverbs 12:15 (NIV) The way of a fool seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. When you are receiving advice and good counsel, you must always remember that what you are asking for is rooted in that person’s knowledge (biblical and other), personal experience, or wisdom (gleaned from observing the way things really work, or as a spiritual gift). There are many topics on which one should receive advice from those qualified to give it: marriage, parenting, finances, work, or career, and so on.  

g. Test 7: Receive confirmation through others.   What this means is that another person receives something in listening prayer concerning a decision you need to make. Wise counsel is generally more reliable than confirmation, because it is based on something more solid, like knowledge, experience, and wisdom. However, once its limitations are understood, confirmation CAN be a very valuable means of testing! For this reason, those you choose to give you confirmation should love God, be wise, and have a track record of hearing God accurately.

h. Test 8: See if circumstances point in the same direction.  

i. Test 9: If we receive something asked for even while still praying or shortly after. (e.g. wisdom)   A final thought on these tests and confirming what you’ve received. Basically, the ultimate test of whether or not you heard God comes after you step out and act on what you thought was a rhema – does God’s blessing follow? In the end, nothing is perfect and nothing makes up for the experience in hearing God’s voice. You will, no doubt, make a mistake from time to time – that too is good for followers of the Way! Mistakes can even help keep you in a position of humility and dependence on God! Nevertheless, the longer you listen (and obey), the better you will become at discerning his voice.  

For Your Journal Reflecting and Reviewing (2 Timothy 2:7)

1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading.

2. What step for receiving and obeying God’s guidance was discussed today?

3. What are 9 tests to be used for confirmation?  

Life Application (James 1:22)

1. Think of an example of a significant decision that you’re about to make or have made in the past year. Write it down in detail.

2. If your example is a past decision, look through the 9 tests given on this day. Did you test this previous decision?

3. If your example is a current decision, about to be made, filter it through the 9 tests given today.  

Bible Reading

1. Please read Matthew 16:13-20.

2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you.

3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.  

Day 5 Renew the Mind (Romans 12:2) Six Steps for Receiving & Obeying God’s Guidance  

Fourth: ask God to reveal the process – the HOW  

God told Gideon that he wanted him to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites. Once Gideon agreed, God revealed HOW (the process) he wanted Gideon to do this – with 300 men! Would you have obeyed God with these instructions?   It’s important to recognize that the “HOW” is as important as the “WHAT.” Again, because people are often in a rush, this step is frequently skipped over. In fact, many followers actually get frustrated – “God, I did WHAT you wanted me to do. Why didn’t this work out?”   However, if you skip over the “HOW,” you have not actually obeyed God fully. And of course, you are called to love God with your WHOLE heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Put another way, you’ll need to love God with the HOWs, WHATs, and as you’ll see in a moment, the WHENs.  

Fifth: wait for divine timing to act – the WHEN  

When God tells you WHAT he wants you to do, and HOW he wants you to do it, you must still wait for the right timing – WHEN you should do it. If you rush ahead, you may destroy everything that God is working out at that time.   You need to be patient, as there are often many “moving pieces” that God is shifting around to bring glory to his name and good to your life!  

Sixth: obey the personalized word (rhema)  

Here’s a good saying to remember: “you shouldn’t doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” This means that you need to act on what he has shown you. As James teaches …  

James 1:5-8 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  

For Your Journal Reflecting and Reviewing (2 Timothy 2:7)

1. In your own journal, write down something that stood out to you from today’s reading.

2. What 3 steps for receiving and obeying God’s guidance were discussed today?

3. Why is it so hard for people to wait for the time that God wants them to act? Why is it also hard for many to follow through when it’s time to act?  

Life Application (James 1:22)

1. Spend some time writing out a prayer to God, expressing your desire to: be led by him, not be rash, and to follow his will. Do not rush this – carefully reflect on each word you write, asking – “is this true in my heart? Is this the commitment of my will?”

2. Review John 15:5-6, Romans 12:2, Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 5:8, John 10:27, James 1:22.  

Bible Reading

1. Please read Matthew 16:21-28.

2. Write down 1 or 2 verses from the passage that stuck out to you.

3. Take time to quiet yourself before Jesus and meditate on the verses. Write down any thoughts that come to mind.  

Day 6 Final Steps 1. Exercise:  

Step 1: Ask God to begin to give you direction for one or two of the following areas in your life:

a. Assurance of salvation

b. Your walk with God (character, holiness, state of relationship with him)

c. Kids’ extracurricular involvement

d. Spiritual growth of kids (things to pray for or actions to take as parents)

e. What to do on time off (weekend, or vacation time)

f. Finances (giving, saving, spending)

g. Fasting, exercise, and eating

h. Inner healing

i. Evangelism

j. Devotional life (Bible reading, prayer, other reading)

k. Ministry calling and gift development

l. Ministry involvement (can have separate categories for separate ministries)

m. Marriage

n. Other relationships (family, work, neighbors)

o. Scheduling (amount being done, strategies for greater efficiency, and effectiveness)

p. Business, career, or work

q. The Bible questions (understanding)

Step 2: Next, tell God that you are willing to do whatever he tells you - and mean it!

 

Step 3: Ask God to give you confirmation (see the 9 tests from Day 4).


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