In Chapter 1, Dr. Willard says there are three general problem areas that humans have regarding receiving messages from God.
I know he comments on them but I want to discuss them also. They deserve extra attention.
Problem Area # 1
It is human nature but sometimes we want to inhibit the Lord and His power. However, Dr. Willard says God can communicate to us in many forms. He is all powerful and He will use any means that He wants to use to send us messages. Too often you hear things like “The same issue keeps showing up again and again — maybe it’s God trying to tell me something.” “I don’t feel at peace about something, there may be a message in my turmoil.” “I feel at peace, there is a message in that.” “A similar idea or theme keeps showing up in my life; perhaps there is something to learn from God in this recurring idea.” “A door has closed in some area of your life; perhaps there is something better or different on the horizon.” These are common signs that people cite as instances of God communication but as Dr. Willard says, “God is willing to reach out to humanity in whatever ways are suitable to its fallen and weakened condition.” If we get fixated on certain things happening, we may miss a message from God when He gets creative in His message delivery system. Our preferences for certain communications can limit our ability to receive His word.
Problem Area # 2
We have wrong motives for seeking to hear from God. I don’t know how much time I spend in my day thinking about what I am going to do. It disturbs me greatly that I don’t pay more attention to what I am doing in the moment. What I am saying is I want to know my future.
This obsession about knowing my future can weaken my faith in my Lord as I want to hear what God has in store for me. Many of us are like that. We want to glare into the crystal ball and see where we will be next week, next month, and next year!
We want to know God’s will for our lives. We want to know how to get prepared. We want to see a bright future. That knowledge of the future is powerful but it is not the main reason to know God’s will.
Most of us are so preoccupied with ourselves that we don’t want to be surprised. We want to be safe and comfortable.
What if God does not want us to be comfortable? What if he wants us to rely on Him a day at a time? The Israelites were promised by God that He would provide for them as they crossed the desert and God did, but they were not happy. They wanted to store the manna that God provided but He said do not store it. It will spoil. They chose to disobey His commands and it did spoil. God was not happy at all.
What did God want?
He wanted them to depend on Him day by day.
We want to know what to expect tomorrow and the day after.
Problem Area # 3
How we perceive God can be a problem. I have commented in a past entry about some people who see God as a benefactor. Some see God as a friend and some see God as a change agent.
How we see God can have a profound effect on how we receive messages from Him.
I have heard countless times of people struggling to know God. The major stumbling block can be how they were treated by their earthly father. If a child has an abusive father, that can make a relationship with the Heavenly Father tough. If a child has a permissive father, that can make a relationship with the Heavenly Father tough.
I have heard people say “I could not relate to God until I cleared away my thoughts about my earthly Dad from my experience.”
God is not going to be domineering. God is not going to be too directive. God is not going to be controlling.
God wants you to choose your behaviors. He may guide you and me but He wants us to be active in the way we shape our behaviors.
I had a counselor tell me one time about the love of the Lord. He does not want us to be caged birds. He wants us to be birds that live in a cage with an open door. The cage shows us some boundaries but we are free to live as we want. What makes God happy? We fly back to the cage and choose to live with Him.
That’s a pretty simple explanation of God’s unconditional love and His desire for us to have free will.
He does not want to treat us like children. He wants us to live a life of adults, making adult decisions, living adult Christian lives, choosing Him over the distractions of everyday life.
Dr. Willard uses John 10:27 to summarize this point: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
As we move on into Hearing God, Dr. Willard will address these three problems in greater detail, but I am sure that he will say that these impediments to hearing God must be dealt with if we want to have Divine communications.
As we reflect on the three problems, they are caused by our lack, not God’s. We are the ones who want God to talk to us in agreed-upon ways. We are the ones who want God to predict our futures, and we are the ones who want God to be more directive or less directive. God wants us to have free will.
If the rest of Dr. Willard’s book is as good as what he has written so far, the three general problem areas will not be left undiscussed, unanalyzed and unsolved.
These barriers to hearing from God will be removed and we will be all the better for having studied them.