Being a youth pastor has its ups and downs but for the most part it's actually fun! I understand the weariness of leading people to Christ and I am by no means judging people who have become weary and discouraged because I too have been but when I take a step back, I realize how many good memories were created in this wild journey. I have been doing youth ministry for about eight years now and one of the most consistent questions that I get from my young disciples is, “How can I hear and know the voice of God?”
A good question for someone that is serious about following God because to not be able to discern his voice can lead any disciple to follow the wrong voice! There are millions of voices that are trying to speak into and steal our hearts away. Don’t believe me? If you have the privilege of living within striking distance of Times Square in NYC, you will know exactly what I am talking about. My first time walking through Times Square was such a surreal moment because for the better part of twenty years, I saw Times Square through a T.V. and it didn’t do any justice to actually beholding the monstrous beast with my own eyes.
First off, if you’re at the right intersection, you can see the bright lights and the voices of hundreds of people almost five blocks away and even if you are there in the dead of the night, everything but sleep is apparent in the square. Advertisements the size of buildings and flashing lights of products and shows are all screaming at you, in hopes to snatch your attention long enough to leave an imprint of desire for you to come spend money on what they have to offer. To walk through all these giant advertisements are the voices that are trying to speak into you. What you are able to experience with your senses but also within the invisible spiritual realm are things trying to captivate you away from the voice of God even if it means to mimic the voice of God.
We are living in strange times with strange voices and we are becoming ok with not fully being able to tell differentiate the voice of God in all of this! To hear the voice of God starts with the desire to hear it and I am not talking about just wanting it but actually going after it! Here are some tips on discerning and hearing the voice of God.
The word of God is the quality check to the impressions on your heart.
Impressions of the heart can range from feelings, emotions, and or images. We go through hundreds of impressions in the inner dialogue of our hearts and minds and sometimes hearing is not the issue but picking the right ones to have influence in our lives. Some would say it is the conscious but it can also be the demonic or the Holy Spirit Himself. Reading the word of God by far is the most simple but often the most neglected part of developing discernment because it is “boring.” The tips that come after this one won’t matter or make sense unless you take this step seriously!
In today’s passage, Peter hears Jesus say that He will die at the hands of the religious leaders but be raised from the dead three days later. Peter did not like what Jesus said and thus took upon the great task of rebuking Jesus, to which our gracious Lord and Savior responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
That’s my gentle Jesus.
What happened here? Peter was rebuked because he was not thinking in alignment with God. Then, what is the voice and will of God that we are to align with? How do we know? Was Peter simply trying to have Jesus not go down a road of suffering and live on to be the messiah of Israel? Well Jesus proclaimed His will and word to Peter before and Peter just went counter to what He had said. What Jesus plainly declared, Peter actively denied. Now we in the modern times can say that we would never do that if we had Jesus standing before us now but that is not true because we have the Holy Spirit in us and the Holy Spirit speaks through the written word but a lot of times we ignore it! To set one’s mind to be in alignment with Christ, you must know that it will never contradict His own word!
You’re gonna get it wrong, but keep trying
I get it, you get it wrong and you want to crawl into a hole and never try again. This is probably the most loving thing I can say to you at this moment… get over it and keep trying because it’s not about looking good but the supreme goal is trying to hear God’s voice. There are times I feel that we are more willing to fight for things of this world no matter how many times we fail than to try and develop our ears to hear the voice of God! You’re gonna get it wrong sometimes. It doesn’t mean God is not speaking or that you will never get it but you need to train yourself in it because TBH, this is going to be a new thing to you and most likely you’re not a natural at it.
When Peter failed to align with Jesus, Jesus rebukes him and it would seem to be a harsh rebuke but what I learned about this rebuke is that Jesus still calls Peter to follow. When Jesus told Peter to “get behind me Satan,” he was not calling Peter “Satan.” There are three characters in this scene, Jesus, Peter, and Satan. Jesus called Peter to get behind him and this was not the first time he had said this to Peter because the first time was when he first called him from the fishing boat. Jesus was reminding Peter in the midst of his failure to get behind him again and follow while rebuking Satan to remove himself from this one-to-one relationship.
When we fail, the call to follow and try again is actually louder and serves as a reminder that once we have become His disciples, we forfeited the right to give up!
The mind of Christ is often times opposite to the mind of the world
The church becomes powerless when it adopts the ways of the world over the ways of God. When human strategy reigns over the heavenly strategy of humble prayer and meditation in His presence, we have nice programs with no power. Here are some characteristics of the mind of the world:
Feelings based (feelings are not bad just bad leaders)
Conformity rather than unity
Play it safe, be logical, be “balanced” don’t give everything to God!
Program looks good but the messy situations of life are either ignored or rejected
Culture of silence, no one can admit to anything being wrong and can never speak up for the fear of breaking the “peace.”
There are probably more but these are some of things that I see in churches these days and I catch myself entertaining these things at times when I am not actively seeking the mind of Christ in my life and the life of the congregation that I am in charge of.
Now take this following list with some wisdom and ask spiritual leaders for clarification because I won’t go into detail with each one, but here are the things that are part of the mind of Christ
Not seeking safety over faith
Challenges the status quo
Emotions are allowed but not based on them because it takes an active decision everyday to follow Jesus
To live for Jesus and His agenda over your own personal agenda.
Again, there are probably more that what this list states but the one thing I noticed is that in the following passage of Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus makes huge demands upon those that wish to follow Him! There is nothing balanced about following Jesus in the sense that all of our decisions need to be done in such a way where it is for the glory of God while influenced by the Holy Spirit. Sorry to say, more likely than not, this does not mean that you get to skip school for the glory of God for the will of God is to also honor the authority figures in our lives that includes our parents. What this means however, is that in all that we do, we will never sacrifice our times with Him, that we won’t sacrifice giving God our best whether it be something tangible like offerings or something that is even more precious like our time in serving in the church we are committed to.
People think that going on missions to spread the name of Jesus is only for the summer or only during a certain period of our lives. Like when did obeying God become a seasonal thing? What the world will have you do is not be dangerous for the kingdom by having you be domesticated to the “American Dream.” To settle for the normal, quiet, and comfortable life to accumulate many possessions not realizing that you are being possessed by those very things you purchase. No brothers and sisters, if you really want to hear the voice of God and align with it, you and I will realize that God will often times call us to a place of sacrifice and love where to have nice things is not bad in of itself but to live for things does.
We all have busy lives. We all have packed schedules. But the question is whether we are going to not only let God disrupt those things but shape those things. For me I’ve come to realize that my schedule was revolved around in getting tasks done and not spending time with God. God is challenging me to create a schedule that prioritizes maximizing time spent with Him in the word and prayer and ministering to people in love.
I pray that your lives may do the same for that is where you will actually find your life!