Why It Is Important To Listen To God Speak
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore, Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.'” So, Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:8-9
After his conversion Paul spent almost ten years of his life in obscurity–an absolute waste of time, so thought some. Think of what an exciting story Paul could have told. After all, how many people could top Paul’s roadside encounter with Jesus Christ? Paul was blinded by a brilliant light. He literally heard the voice of Jesus Christ. It was for real, not something conjured up by indigestion in the night. Then, after he was led to Damascus his sight was restored supernaturally. An old disciple, Ananias, prayed for Paul, gently placing his hands on this man who had been the #1 enemy of the church.
Something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Talk about a remarkable conversion! Wow! This was the kind of stuff that would draw crowds. Forget those dusty, dry orations in the synagogue. Get this guy booked for the main event. He can draw a crowd that would make a soccer match look like a Sunday school picnic.
No, God didn’t have this in mind. After three years in the desert, probably Saudi Arabia, Paul spent the next seven years of his life making tents back in his home town, Tarsus. No, he didn’t write books. He didn’t teach or lecture, and he certainly didn’t make promotional appearances. He sewed canvas and made tents. Occupational therapy? Better than that. God was remaking the man into something He could use.
When Paul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” he wasn’t asking for options. He was signing on the bottom line. He was committed. The issue was settled. “Ah,” you sigh, “I thought if we really commit ourselves to Jesus Christ, we can start looking for the spotlight and God’s going to do something great with us!” Strange ideas we get about commitment!
Everett Howard grew up as a PK (that’s a preacher’s kid). After he finished school, he was still struggling with his life goals, and finally he decided that, once and for all, he would commit his life to Jesus Christ. Going to the little church his dad pastored, he entered and locked the doors so no one could embarrass him or interrupt this great transaction which was about to take place.
Kneeling at the altar, he took a piece of paper and listed all the wonderful things he intended to do for God which included even his willingness to be a missionary if God so directed. He also gave God some second options like giving to the church, reading his Bible and being a pretty good guy. In his own words, “Then when I had finished that well-written page, I signed my name at the bottom and laid it on the altar. There alone in the church I looked up and waited for ‘thunder and lightning’ or some act of approval from the Lord. I thought I might experience what Saint Paul did on the road to Damascus or something equally dramatic.” But nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. He heard no voices. He felt nothing. He was disappointed. He prayed again, going all over the deal he wanted to make with God, and then he said it happened. “I felt the voice of God speaking in my heart,” he later recounted, adding, “I just felt in my own soul a voice speaks so clearly. It said, ‘Son, you’re going about it wrong. I don’t want a consecration like this. Just tear up the paper you’ve written.’ I said, ‘All right, Lord,’ And I took the paper I had written so carefully and wadded it up. Then the voice of God seemed to whisper again, ‘Son, I want you to take a blank piece of paper and sign your name on the bottom of it, and let Me fill it in.” And that was exactly what Everett Howard did, and for the next 36 years, God filled in that page, one day at a time. Friend, that’s what it’s all about. Sign your name, and let God fill in the blanks.
Resource reading: Jeremiah 18: 1-12.