Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 26, 2012
Many voices clamor for our attention in this noisy world
Admit you “hear voices” in your mind and people may think you are strange. Some serial killers have blamed their violence on “voices” in their head. But weird as it may seem, many Christians claim to hear a voice that guides and comforts them.
At the risk of your concluding that I am weird I admit that I am such a Christian. For some 60 years I have heard a voice within my mind and heart. I was in my mid-twenties when I heard the evangelist E. Stanley Jones talk about listening to what he called “the Inner Voice.”
It was a new concept for me but I seized it as a fresh new way of relating to God. That day I began earnestly to listen to and obey the Inner Voice of Jesus. Though I have not always fully obeyed the guidance I heard, I can testify that the Inner Voice has never given me bad counsel. Whenever I have obeyed I have been blessed. And the more I have heard, the more I have wanted to hear, not so much with my ears as with my heart and soul.
Jones helped me to believe that when the Inner Voice speaks he is always wise, practical and sensible. It was Jones’ habit to rise early every morning and spend time at his “listening post.” One morning, though he was dogged tired from having slept only a couple of hours that night, he dragged himself out of bed to keep his appointment with the Inner Voice. With a grin Jones said the Voice told him to go back to bed since he needed more sleep! I find it easy to trust a God like that!
On my journey I have found the guidance of the Inner Voice to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus found in the Bible. That is not surprising because the Inner Voice and Jesus are one and the same. But I do believe it important to constantly test the teaching of the Inner Voice with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The Inner Voice actually counsels me to do that and doing so helps me avoid confusing His Voice with some of the other inner “voices” clamoring for my attention.
My decision to listen to the Inner Voice was further confirmed for me by the marvelous Quaker writer D. Elton Trueblood. Speaking in a conference in Oklahoma City Elton offered what was for me a profound definition of a Christian. He said that a Christian is someone who “hears many voices” amidst the noise and confusion of the world but “One Voice” gets his attention. That is the voice of Jesus Christ. Listening to and obeying that voice the Christian begins to “know the joy of being used for a mighty purpose by which his little life is dignified.” As he spoke I felt my heart pounding Yes, Yes, Yes!
In recent years I have been blessed by the writing of the eminent theologian N. T. Wright. He too urges Christians to listen to the voice of God and obey it as best they can. Wisely, Wright advises us that the one place where we can be sure to hear the voice of God is “in the cry of those in need.” That has been true for me. I have often heard the Inner Voice speak directly to me through the cries of the poor, especially helpless widows and orphans.
What, you might ask, have I heard the Inner Voice say to me? You can figure that out rather quickly; he tells me the same things he tells any sinner who is listening! Sometimes he says quietly, “You were wrong; repent, apologize, and ask forgiveness from those you offended.” And unless and until I obey his voice, he says nothing else. His silence is a great motivator so I get busy trying to obey.
At other times he affirms me, reminding me that I am loved despite my sins and as long as I am willing, he is willing to let me do things that will bring joy and dignity to my little life. Now and then he grants me the great joy of knowing that I was in the right place at the right time doing what he wanted me to do.
More than anything I constantly hear him whispering, “I am with you. I am your Lord. I will help you as long as you lean on me. Keep listening to me and you will not go astray. Look every day for ways to help your brothers and sisters who are in need. I will give you the grace you need to do my will. And never forget that in spite of your weaknesses, I love you. You are mine and I am yours, now and forever.”
Hearing such a voice makes me glad to be alive despite the pain and heartache of this broken world. And every day I pray for the courage to keep saying as long as I have breath, “Yes, Lord, whatever you say!” + + +