I Heard from God Today!!!!!

Those of you who read the introductory piece I did a couple of months back when I first started out here, know that I am currently a college student.  I had a dream of becoming a teacher; by a crazy chain of events I wound up studying accounting.

A few weeks back somebody at church asked me what I was doing.  I said I was studying accounting.  He then said, “So you feel that the Lord is leading you to study accounting?”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

My reaction to this was interesting.  At first I wanted to punch this guy in the face.  (I wisely restrained myself; punching someone in the face at a church meeting is not a good thing to do.)  Because it frustrates me to no end that evangelicals feel they have to justify everything they do in terms of “The Lord led me to do this.”  I can’t even get out of bed and put my clothes on without having to justify myself by saying “I felt the Lord leading me to get out of bed and put my clothes on today”!!!!!

I guess that perhaps in an ultimate, cosmic sense I could say that God is leading me to study accounting.  After all, I have bills that need to be paid, and accounting will certainly generate enough revenue to pay the bills.  I am reasonably good with numbers, and able to keep track of what goes where on all the various and sundry financial statements.  So it makes sense that I would pursue a career in accounting; I have gifts in that area and I would do well to use those gifts to generate a living in a way that honors God.

So why do I say all this?

There has been a good little discussion over at internetmonk.com this week about hearing from God.  It started with this post from Jeff Dunn, and it continues with this response to a comment on the first post.  There may still be more to come.

Where do I come down on all of this?

On the one hand, phrases such as “I heard from God…” or “The Lord told me to…” or “I feel the Lord leading me to…” are WAY overused in evangelical Protestant-dom.  Frequently they are used to claim divine justification when no divine justification is necessary.  Can’t I get in my car and drive to school today without having to feel that God led me to get in my car and drive to school?  No, we have to have divine justification and divine sanction for everything we do.  Because when we do, we can feel superior because we are truly surrendered to God and we know that God will bless that.  It is not enough to simply follow God; we must go all out to show ourselves and the world how much we are following God.

And as if that isn’t bad enough, these phrases are also frequently used to say that God has said something which he, in all probability, has really not said.  If you have a good feeling about something, that’s more than enough to be able to say that the Lord is leading you.  Never mind that the thing you claim God is leading you to do is something which God, in all probability, would never lead anyone to do.

And yet…

There are some people running around out there who really do hear from God.  People who have a unique vision and a unique calling to wrap their lives around, who have the sense of having received something special directly from God and know that God has said something unique directly to them–and are doing what they believe they have heard and received from God.

I resonate with the commenter at internetmonk.com who said:

I wish I knew God like you do….Could hear His voice. I feel like an Israelite, sitting in the camp, waiting for the truly spiritual to go up the mountain, meet with God, then come back and tell me about Him.

But I want to go…I want to hear Him speak to me. And I have no idea how.

I resonate with this because it has been my experience.  In the absence of direct words from God, my modus operandi has been, in the words of St. Augustine, “Love God, then do as you please.”  I know things that I am good at, and I order my life around those things.  If I have a major life decision to make, or any other decision for that matter, I simply weigh the alternatives based on what makes the most sense for me in light of who I am, what I am good at, and what I want in life, and then choose the alternative which is most appropriate for me.  It is a sensible way to go, and I trust that in the end God will be honored by the life I have led in this fashion.

But at the same time, I wish I could hear from God.  I would love to know that I have some unique vision or calling from God, something inside of me that I could know is directly from God and uniquely for me.

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4 thoughts on “I Heard from God Today!!!!!

  1. I can’t imagine a world where my every decision, from how I drive to work, to where I work, to how much I give to the church is dictated by a nebulous feeling of being led by God. I don’t think it reflects a lack of faith to not understand how this works and to be suspicious when people may be using this as an excuse to do whatever they want.

    I have had one, and exactly one, experience where I “felt led” to do something. Basically, it involved doing something I never would have done in a million years on my own. I just woke up and knew what I had to do and, much to everyone’s surprise, I did it. But even after I had pretty much already made up mind, I still went through a process to better understand what I was about to do and whether it really was the best decision. (I wrote about that here.)

    And, of course, the downside to “being led” that no one ever talks about is the pain you may have to endure because of it. Look at St. Paul’s missionary journeys: he was specifically called out by the Holy Spirit to do something, something God himself sanctioned, but at every turn someone was trying to kill him. A typical evangelical will pretend that once you “have peace” that “God has led you” everything will be perfect. In my experience that is not the case.

  2. I haven’t been keeping up with Internetmonk, so I probably ought to read the Jeff Dunn posts before I proceed. I will suggest, however, that one doesn’t leave behind job, friends and family to move to middle-of-nowhere KY without being led. Anyone that serves as a missionary, pastors a church, or leads others in ministry is either following God’s direction or has made a terrible mistake.

  3. (Disclosure: I haven’t read the Internet Monk post, so I’m only reacting to Joe’s post and Clark’s comment.)

    I grew up outside of the US (my parents are missionaries) and can think of at least a dozen people who “felt led” to become full-time missionaries but in reality became very short-term missionaries. In looking back at that, I see that they were either manipulated by good preachers or, for some reason, convinced themselves they were called to be missionaries, or more probably, a combination of both. As Clark said, they had made a poor choice. (I don’t know why they made the choice, but I would never doubt their sincerity.)

    For those who have left everything behind to face uncertain circumstances, I believe there is no other explanation other than God’s calling. Just a few weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my parents, who I only see every two years. as they left to return to their home. Other than God’s calling, there can be no other explanation as to why they would leave behind mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren to minister to dying souls.

    In that sense, I understand “feeling led”.

  4. I understand exactly what Joe is saying as well. Some people have an understanding of God’s will that he has thought out every single possible inevitability and has exactly a single perfect will regarding everything. Some people sought to be led by God when making major decisions like which college to attend or who to marry down to the minute and trivial decisions we make each day.

    I’ve heard Michael Spencer say more than once that no one in his church as he grew up ever said that he could teach English and serve God. To be called only meant one thing, and that was the call to preach. Michael was a great preacher, but he had a passion for English, particularly for reading and teaching Shakespeare. He was well into his adult years before he understood that teaching English, which he desired to do, did not remove him from God’s will. He was inspired to do so, which comes from God.

    I think that God gives us some very basic guidelines for making good decisions, and then lets us make them. We are in his will if we are in the process of becoming more like Christ. If we are supporting the work of ministry and sharing the gospel as we have the occasion, then these things please God. I believe that some people seek divine leadership for each minute detail because they are afraid of doing even one thing wrong. Perhaps they are like the Pharisees who kept the letter of the Law, but missed the spirit of the Law.

    God takes the broken, flawed effort that we make and uses it for his glory. (There’s a blog post.) Praise be to God that what I produce does not have to be perfect. Little is much when God is in it. Pray that God’s will be done, then go out and do the best you can with what you’ve got.

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