Posts Tagged ‘listening to God’



Anytime you are involved in the work of the Lord you can be overcome by fear.

  • Perhaps God speaks to us powerfully or calls us to do something special. This can make us afraid.
  • Perhaps God asks us to do something that is really hard or involves risks. This can make us fearful.
  • Or perhaps we are serving God and are going through trials and hard times. This can cause us to be afraid.

Fear isn’t good. It doesn’t help anything

  • When we are afraid we become reactive so that we make quick, impulsive decisions; we can’t think straight or hear God.
  • When we are afraid our mindset becomes distorted; we just see the problems around us.
  • When we are afraid we just want to retreat or give up.

In short, fear will keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

For all who are feeling fear this morning, God is calling us to faith, which is the opposite of fear. It’s not that there aren’t things to be afraid of, it’s that we are called to trust ourselves into the hands of the one who can lead us through anyway.

And so we have to release our fear into God’s hands, so that we can hear God and what he wants us to do, so that once we have heard from God – we can move forward in faith.

This threefold pattern of releasing fear, hearing from God and acting in faith shows up in three examples from the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. I want us to look at these, and the first one is –

The story of Zechariah: Luke 1:11-20

  • Something happened to him.  v. 11 says, “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” Gabriel, was his name (v. 19).
  • And this caused him to be afraid. v. 12 says, “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.” Surely the presence of the angel could cause anyone to fear and maybe he even thought he was in trouble with God.

And what is the first word given to him from God? 1. “Do not be afraid” – v 13.  You can’t hear God or do what he wants when you are overwhelmed with fear. So step one is to set aside your fear.

What’s next? 2. He listened to what God had to say. Gabriel goes on to say that he and his wife Elizabeth will have a son, even though she has been unable to and they are older. And this son will play an important role in God’s plan; he will be a great prophet – John the Baptist.

And once the message is heard, 3. He was to act in faithNow, at this step, Zechariah doesn’t fully measure up. In v. 18 he asks several questions that reveal doubt in his heart. How can they have children? And because of this he is sentenced to not be able to speak until the baby is born.

And so here we have a warning that we should act in faith when God speaks to us, or at least with more faith than Zechariah demonstrates.

Next is –

The story of Mary: Luke 1:26-38

  • Something happened to her. v. 28 – Gabriel (the angel) greeted her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”
  • And this caused her to be afraid.  v. 29 – “She was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” There is an angel, and, given the greeting, it sounds like God is about to ask her to do something special. And so she is afraid.

What is God’s first word to her? 1. “Do not be afraid Mary” – v. 30.

What’s next? 2. She listened to what God had to say. Gabriel told her that she would have a son, even though she was a virgin. And that her child is the promised Messiah.

Once the message is heard, 3. She acted in faith.

Interestingly, in v. 34 she also asks questions, about a virgin birth. But these did not come from doubt. And her faith rings out loud and clear in v. 38 – “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The final example is –


The story of the shepherds: Luke 2:8-20

  • Something happened to them. v. 9 says “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them”
  • And this caused them to be afraid. v. 9 says, “And they were filled with fear.” What’s going on? What does God want from us?

And what is the first thing that the angels said to them? 1. “Fear not” – v. 10.

And then, 2. They listened to what God had to say. The messiah has been born and they are to go and see him; to be witnesses of this amazing event.

3. They acted in faith. 16 – “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

What about us?

  • Well, sometimes things happen to us, hardships and trials.
  • And like in all these examples, our temptation is to be afraid.

But what do you think God’s first word to us is? 1. Do not be afraid. Don’t let fear and anxiety overwhelm us so that we can’t hear God, so that all we see are the problems, so that we just want to give up.

We must release our fear to God and choose to trust God, knowing that whatever happens he will take care of us. Yes, we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know the future and there might be a basis for fear and concern. But despite all this, we choose to trust and to put ourselves in a place to be able to hear from God and then move forward with whatever he says.

And 2. We need to listen to what God wants to say. This involves praying and listening to God. It involves seeking wisdom for what God wants to say to your situation. What does he want for you? What is the path forward?

3. Then we must move forward in faith. Move forward based on what you hear God saying, with trust and boldness.













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John 5:19-20; 30

We went through John chapter 5 in some detail last Summer. But I want to go back to it today, or to a few verses from it, to look at a particular topic – being in tune with God so that we do his will.

I think we all know in general what God’s will is for our lives from the Scriptures. For instance we are to share the good news of Jesus, and we are to love our neighbors. But I want to cast a vision for you of being so in synch with God that we not only know the general framework of God’s will, but we can also be guided by God in very specific ways in specific situations.

So God opens a door for you to share the gospel, and you know how to do this, but you are also listening for what God might want you to say to this specific person. Or you stop to help someone with a flat tire because you are loving your neighbor. But not only do you help you also listen for what else God might want you to say or do in this situation.

The goal is to always be tuned in to God and paying attention; listening so that if he has something specific for us to say or do, we can hear it and act appropriately. We want to know what God is up to in the situation and be able to respond accordingly so he can do his will through us.

Let’s begin with –

An example of Jesus being in tune with God

If you will remember with me, in the first part of John 5, Jesus healed a man who had not been able to walk for 38 years. It was an astounding miracle. But there was a problem. Jesus did this on the Sabbath, and according to the traditions of the Elders you are not supposed to heal on the Sabbath, unless the person’s life is in danger.

So Jesus’ healing action began a debate with the Jewish leaders, it’s really a trial scene, where they are accusing him of various wrongs. And Jesus’ defense against these charges is that he only did exactly what the Father wanted him to do.

Now let’s see what Jesus teaches about being in tune with God in his defense to the Jewish leaders, because –

Jesus was perfectly in tune with the Father

1. Jesus did nothing on his own. In v. 19 he said, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord . . ..” In v. 30 he said, “I can do nothing on my own.” And also in v. 30 – “I seek not my own will.”

So he is telling them that he didn’t decide to heal this man, God did. Now that’s not to say that Jesus couldn’t have healed him or others on that day if he had wanted to. It is just to say that that’s not how Jesus operated. He didn’t act on his own or independently of the Father.

2. Jesus was in the closest possible relationship with the Father. In v. 19 he talks about “what he sees the Father doing.” So he knows what God is up to and he talks about it in terms of seeing this. In v. 20 he says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” And in v. 30 he says, “As I hear . . .” from the Father.

Jesus had constant and perfect fellowship with the Father and so he both saw and heard all that the Father was up to; all that God wanted in each situation. There was no confusion on his part. It was clear.

And then finally, 3. Jesus did exactly what the Father wanted him to do. v. 19 – He “only does what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” And in v. 30 he said, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

Whatever God specifically told him, that’s what Jesus did. He was in complete submission to God.

To sum up, Jesus knew in general what God’s will was for him. For instance a part of his ministry was to heal people. But he not only knew this, he knew specifically who to heal and when, in this case on the Sabbath.

One way to summarize all this is the language Jesus uses in John 10:30, when he says, “I and the Father are one.” In context, this is talking about being united in purpose and action. Whatever the Father wanted, that is what Jesus did. They were in perfect synch.

Our relationship with the Father 

Now, we are not the Son of God, and so we don’t have that unique relationship that Jesus had with the Father from before time. And we are not called to be the Messiah so that the Father would need to show us “all” that he was up to as v. 20 says. Our every step doesn’t need to be specifically told to us. Much of what we do is simply operating in the general framework of God’s will.

But through Jesus we can also be in tune with God. There will be times when we should expect that God wants to lead us more specifically and so we need to be listening, we need to be tuned in so that God can accomplish his will through us.

In the gospel of John, Jesus talks about our relationship with the Father in two different ways that help us understand this:

We are given the Spirit to lead us. In John 14:16, 26 Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever . . . (and) he will teach you all things . . .” He also said in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Because of Jesus, we are given the Holy Spirit to live in us and to lead and guide us. We don’t have the relationship with the Father that Jesus had, but through him we do have a relationship with God.

Also we can be one with God through Jesus. In John 17:11 Jesus prays to the Father that Christians “may be one, even as we are one.” How were the Father and Jesus one? As we saw, they were one in purpose and action.

John 17:23 speaks to Jesus’ role in this, “I in them (by the Spirit) and you (Father) in me, that they may become perfectly one . . .” One with who? John 17:21 tells us, “that they may also be in us,” or one with us, like the Father and Son are one. So this is not talking about us being organizationally one. But rather how each one of us can be one in purpose and action with God through Jesus. But of course, when this vertical unity happens then we can have horizontal or organizational unity. Once we are all in sych with God it makes it much easier to be in sych with each other.

So although we are not going to be in tune with the Father, like Jesus was – 

Being in tune with God is the goal of our Christian lives

And Jesus is our example. 1. So like Jesus, we are to do nothing on our own. We have God’s general will for us – sharing our faith and loving our neighbors. But we are to be careful to listen to God to guide us so that we are not just taking the initiative and following our own agenda as we do these things.

What if there is something more specific that God wants us to say or do? If we don’t listen we won’t know and we will end up acting on our own. We are not to act independently of God, but in concert with God and what God is up to in a given situation.

2. Like Jesus, we are to be in close relationship with God. We won’t have the same level of relationship with God that Jesus had. But the Spirit does dwell within us and we are to be led by the Spirit. And so we can have a sense of what God wants in particular situations.

We won’t be one with the Father like Jesus was, but we can also be united in purpose and action with God so that if he tells us we know what he is up to in a given situation.

3. Like Jesus, we are to do exactly what God wants us to do. Once we hear God giving us very specific instructions – that is exactly what we do. We are to be in complete submission to God.

What do you think of this? That a central goal of the Christian life is to be in tune with God? Do you experience this?

Let me also say that this doesn’t just apply to individuals. As a congregation we need to be able to hear God and discern more specifically what God wants us to do – beyond just sharing our faith or loving our neighbors in general. What is God calling us to do where we are with the people that he has given us? We need to discern this as a group. And we will be working at this in the next few months.

Next time, the plan is to talk about how to get in tune with God.

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