Reverend James Hannah was an elderly Welch Presbyterian pastor who was notorious for repeating the same stories over and over. He loved to sit close and place his hands on the shoulder of the one to whom he was speaking whenever he told a story. This would ensure that he had their full attention. One always had to be cautious when listening to his infamous stories. You see, Rev. Hannah was missing his two bottom teeth, and he would accidently spit from time to time. There was no experience like having Rev. Hannah put his hand on my shoulder, move way into my comfort zone and spit his way through a story. What a blessing! I’m not sure why, but Rev. Hannah usually insisted on telling me one story in particular.
‘One hot summer day there was a young farmer plowing in the field. As he paused to wipe the sweat from his forehead he looked up into the sky and saw that the clouds had formed the letters ‘P-C’. The man thought to himself, “This must be God trying to send me a message. He’s trying to get my attention. P-C…must mean preach Christ.” So he sold his farm and went to prepare for the ministry.
Unfortunately he was a total failure. He couldn’t preach. He knew nothing about pastoral care. He was horrible with church administration and finances. Finally the leaders of the church gathered to discuss what to do. The young pastor waited outside the conference room door while the elders deliberated. Eventually the committee emerged and gave him the news. ‘Son, we have considered your call into the ministry. Since you are such a failure at preaching, we have decided that ‘P-C’ was God’s way of telling you to plant corn.” With that, the young pastor was dismissed to return to a life of farming.’
· Have you ever misunderstood God’s instructions?
· In what ways does God speak to His people today?
· How can we determine when it really is God giving us “a word”?
Study the Word
Samuel was a young boy serving in the temple under the direction of Eli? Tradition says he was around twelve years old when he first heard God speak. Have your class recount the details of the story found in 1 Samuel 3.
· Where was Samuel when God first spoke?
· How did God communicate with Samuel?
· What was God’s message to Samuel?
· Why do you think Samuel was afraid to tell Eli what God had said?
In the Old Testament God rarely spoke to the common person. His instructions were normally handed down from a leader of God’s choosing; usually through a priest or prophet. Priests needed no divine call to office, because they were born into priestly families. Prophets, on the other hand, received individual calls; direct experiences of God. Samuel would become known as a both a priest and prophet. (1 Samuel, 9:12-13, Acts 13:20, 1 Samuel 3:20). He was the last priest to judge and rule over Israel. In fact, he was instrumental in Israel’s transition from loosely associated tribes led by local judges to a unified nation led by kings.
· What are the advantages and disadvantages of God speaking to His people through a priest or prophet?
· Would you be comfortable going to a priest or prophet in order to hear God’s instructions? Why or Why not?
Now God speaks to people in a very different way. Have your class consider the following passages. How does God speak to us today?
· Hebrews 1:1-2
· John 16:13
· John 14:26
· John 14:6-7
I Samuel 3:1 points out that the word of the Lord was rarely heard in those days. In fact only two prophets are mentioned as having appeared during the whole administration of the judges (Judges 4:4; 6:8). Samuel had grown up in the presence of God and learned to serve in His tabernacle, yet he did not have a personal experience with the Lord. It was only through Eli’s coaching that Samuel learned to identify and respond to the voice of the Lord.
· How do you know when God is speaking to you?
· Would you like to hear from him more often? Is that possible?
· Do you think God would like to speak to you more often?
· Is it still important to have people like Eli to teach others how to recognize God’s voice?
One day a Native American Indian was walking through the streets of New York City with a friend. “The birds are singing beautifully today,” he commented. In amazement his companion questioned, “How can you hear birds singing? All I hear are cars and other sounds of the city.” The Indian took a coin out of his pocket and threw it on the ground. “Could you hear that?” “Well of course”, he retorted. “The reason you can hear a coin drop but cannot hear the birds sing is because you have been conditioned to hear certain things.” The same is true about God. We hear him best when we condition ourselves to identify His voice. Here are some ways we can improve our listening skills.
· We learn to quietly wait for the Lord (Isaiah 40:31, 1 Kings 19:11-13, Philippians 4:6-7)
· We learn to trust God (Proverbs 3:5-6)
· We hear God by studying Scripture (Proverbs 119:11,105)
· We see God open and closes doors (Acts 16:6-8)
· We seek the counsel of others (Proverbs 15:22)
· We test everything (1 John 4:1, Romans 12:2, 1 Thes. 5:19-21)
o John Wesley used four ways to measure whether something is true:
§ Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
§ Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
§ Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
§ Experience – a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ
One of the best ways I have found to hear God’s voice is by keeping a daily journal. In it I write my prayers and petitions, thanksgiving and praise. Over the course of time I can look back on the things I have written and see how God has been working in my life. I especially notice how God really was speaking to me and guiding me even in times of desperation when I thought He wasn’t listening. This Sunday we will be distributing a daily journal to each person who would like. We ask that you make an entry every day between now and Christmas. During the Christmas season we will have a time of sharing where you will have a chance to tell others what God is doing in your life. I hope you will accept the challenge.