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Hearing the voice of God is highly subjective and is therefore difficult to teach or even to explain. It would be much easier if God would speak to us in an audible voice, although the problem then would be to understand how to apply what He said. In my own experience and in talking to others, I have concluded that there is no particular advantage in hearing God speak in an audible voice (except to the hearing impaired). The quality of revelation is neither enhanced nor diminished by the loudness of his voice.
Elijah once needed to hear from God while sitting in a cave at Mount Horeb. First a great wind blew, “but the Lord was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19:11). Second, there was an earthquake, but “the Lord was not in the earthquake” either. The same was true with the fire. Finally, “after the fire a still small voice” came to him, and this proved to be the voice of God. Elijah’s experience in hearing the “still, small voice” was meant to teach him and us that God’s desire is to speak to us from within, not from the outside in a booming voice. It is God’s desire that we develop spiritual ears that we might hear Him speak through any situation or agency or person, no matter how humble the source.
In fact, part of God’s training is to speak to us a variety of ways. He does this to prevent our falling into a rut, where we are able to hear Him speak only through certain people. Perhaps the most obvious problem in the Church today is that many Christians can hear no one except the priest, pastor, or the recognized prophet in their midst. They cannot hear the voice of God through the little child, the visitor or guest, the known “heretic,” or the enemy. This is partly due to the control apparatus in the structure of the Church, justified by the pastor’s need to defend the sheep from predators. Yet often the underlying motive is to make the people dependent upon their own church or pastor, in order to keep them in the corral of the church or denomination.
Unfortunately, such “protection” tends to keep people from growing spiritually. One cannot truly learn to hear the true voice of God without also learning to deal with revelation that comes from the idols of man’s own heart. Leaders must allow even false revelation to be spoken freely in order to teach the people how to discern for themselves why it is false. This, too, is part of God’s training. For this reason God has given us laws and principles by which we may know and discern the true from the false. But if only one point of view is ever allowed, the people can never practice the art of spiritual discernment.
It is ironic and even a bit tragic that Church leaders are torn between wanting their members to grow spiritually and wanting them to remain spiritual babes, lest they become old enough to leave home. It is the God-given duty of the leadership to act like spiritual fathers. That is, in a sense they should work themselves out of a job. They should bring people into spiritual maturity, so that they in turn might become spiritual fathers to other babes in Christ.
But even as our physical children seldom share all the same views and values of their fathers, so also is it with spiritual children. The result is that spiritual growth is too often sacrificed upon the altar of unity. Church leaders fear diversity, because they equate this with disunity—and, indeed, too often this happens. But the solution is not to fight diversity of views or of revelation. The solution is to instill in the people a heart of love, whereby this diversity will not produce disunity and eventually erupt into splits. In an imperfect world this is difficult to maintain, but it is the responsibility of the spiritual fathers to set the example of Christian love. Most of the people would respond to such examples, and those who do not should be free to leave.
In retrospect, I now recognize that I had often heard the voice of God in my early life. To some extent I even knew that God had spoken to me, or at least that He had revealed Himself to me on occasion. I think that most sincere Christians could point to examples in their lives as well where God interacted with them on some level. In fact, this is how we know there is a God. It is not by scientific measurement, but by the subjective manner in which God interacts with us on a personal level. These experiences become a part of our being, our spiritual genetics, and we can no more deny the existence of God than we could deny that we breathe air that we cannot see.
I was raised in an evangelical church as the son of a missionary. I never recall a time when I did not have faith in God. At the age of seven I was coaxed into “giving my heart to God,” and then was told I was “saved,” but I know now I had faith in God long before it was formalized and established at any church altar.
Of greater significant was the day I was baptized at the age of twelve in a river in the Philippine Islands. I had held off being baptized, because I was not yet perfect, and in my young mind I had interpreted church teaching to mean that I was not truly saved until I was perfect. I had asked God for salvation hundreds of times, of course, but always by the next day I had sinned in some fashion—perhaps by quarreling with a fellow missionary child or by losing my temper. This proved to me that I had not really been sincere in asking God for salvation. After all, if I had really been sincere in the times I had asked for salvation, I would surely not have sinned so soon again!
Hence, I could not with good conscience be baptized with the other children that day in May 1962. But just two hours before we were scheduled to go to the river, God suddenly brought to mind that the missionaries themselves were not perfect either. I had heard some missionaries talking about others who were quarrelsome and difficult to please. It was quite plain that they had the same problems that I did at the age of twelve. And yet I had no doubt that they were Christians. Therefore, I concluded that one did not have to be perfect to be saved, because if that were the case, then the Church itself would be in serious straits.
I was baptized that day in 1962. More importantly, God had spoken to me in a still, small voice, and my whole life changed from that day forward. I knew from that day forward that I was a Christian—not because I had been baptized, but because of divine revelation. With the hearing of God’s voice, faith was born on a level I had not experienced earlier.
I was an assistant pastor in Arizona for six years from 1975 to 1981 and then started my own church in New Mexico. But God had other plans for me. I had known even from my early life that I was called into the ministry, and yet I knew from the beginning that I was not called to be a pastor. Nonetheless, as an assistant pastor I was expected to be in training to start my own church some day. It seemed that “the ministry” was synonymous with being a pastor.
When I finally did begin my own church in 1981, my pastoral experience lasted only a few months. Then God took me out of the ministry rather forcefully and put me on a disciplinary time cycle of 414 days, which we call “Cursed Time” (See our book, Secrets of Time.) During this 414-day period in 1982, God brought me utterly to the end of myself. Only then did I learn to hear God’s voice on a level I had never thought possible.
I resigned as pastor of the church on December 5, 1981 and spent the next year seeking God, not knowing what direction He had for my life. I did know one thing almost immediately: I knew that I would never be a pastor again. I remembered from my early life that this was not the type of ministry God had for me. And so, although I had about six offers from various groups to pastor, I refused them all. In February 1982 I came to know a family in Texas who knew how to pray and hear the voice of God. For the first time in my life I saw it might be possible to pray and actually get immediate answers from God! This was revolutionary.
On the 20th of March 1982 I came to the place where I knew that I had to hear from God Himself. Had God cast me off? Had He forgotten me? Was I really called of God into the ministry? If so, what kind of ministry? I knelt down on the floor of the little house in the back woods of Wisconsin and prayed with all my heart to know His will for my life. I received no revelation at that moment, but ten days later I went to a Passover conference in Lexington, Kentucky, where I did hear from God.
On the first morning of this conference, April 1, 1982, they had an informal time of prayer for people in need. In that time a man I had never met walked up behind me to pray for me. He laid his hand upon my shoulder and began to prophesy. In that prophecy God gave me the answers to all my questions I had asked God on March 20th. I had heard prophetic utterances in meetings a few times in the past, but this was the first time God had ever spoken to me directly and personally in this manner.
Then I knew why God had given prophets to the Church (Eph. 4:11) and why we still needed the gifts of the Spirit in the Church today. Perhaps others might not have needed a word from God after the first century, but I knew that I certainly needed it. The manna of that word sustained me during the rest of that very difficult year.
Seven weeks later I went to Canada for a conference at the time of Pentecost (late May). By this time I had no car and very little money. So I bought a one-way ticket, because I was short ten dollars to purchase a round-trip ticket. One of the great teachers at that conference was brother Gustav Hoyer, a professor’s professor, mathematician, astronomer, and Bible teacher with a beautiful spirit. The one thing I remember that he said which impressed me enough to write it in my notes was this: “The first thing we need above all is the spirit of discernment.”
Ralph Barney and John Green brought a very anointed message on the final evening of that conference about stepping through the third veil. The call went out for those who could hear to step forward and declare, “By faith I step through the third veil into the Holy of Holies.” I was one of many who did so. I do not know how this affected anyone else, but it had a profound effect upon my life, for from that moment on and for months afterward, I noticed that every time I went into prayer, the Spirit of God would come upon me. I could feel it physically. At first I thought it was coincidental, but it remained even after I returned home.
The last day of the conference, I found a little time to play the piano (a hobby that I enjoy on occasion). While I was playing, a woman came up behind me and put something in my shirt pocket. When I finished the song I was playing, I looked to see what it was. It was ten dollars. God was reminding me that He knew all my needs and would provide and sustain me always.
I returned home on May 26. The next day I began to pray and fast seriously in order to be able to hear God’s voice and to seek His face in preparation for the ministry. On the third day of the fast I studied Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness and how he overcame the temptations. This made me determined to fast 40 days if necessary in order to hear His voice! But God had mercy upon my ignorance and gave my Texas friends a word for me late that same night. They called at 2:00 a.m. with apologies to tell me this word:
Steve perceives well that he is to fast at this time in preparation for a great step of learning which he is about to take. . . Three days should suffice for him to remove enough of the dross of the world to allow My Spirit to flow freely in his body which is My temple. . . You must not fast long enough to weaken your system.
They were unaware that I had just completed three days of fasting, so I knew that this was a word from God NOT to fast any longer. In retrospect I know that hearing God’s voice is not obtained by fasting or by any other discipline. It may be helpful to some, but it is not the deciding factor. It is more a matter of focus and awareness. I came to hear because I focused my attention upon God with an inner desire to hear His voice that exceeded all other desires. In focusing my attention upon Him, I became more and more aware of His presence and was therefore more in tune with Him and able to hear.
On June 5, 1982 I rose early and went to my father-in-law’s church to be alone to pray. I first told God everything that I needed to tell Him, so that I could clear my mind of clutter. (Our need to talk to God and unburden ourselves distracts us from hearing Him speak.) Then I became still and focused my thoughts upon Him, asking Him to speak to me.
Presently, I seemed to have thoughts of God speaking to me, and so I wrote what I “heard” in a notebook. I only heard a few things and even then did not know for sure if this was “just me” or if God was speaking. I have learned since this time that the still, small voice is indistinguishable from one’s own mind at first. In fact, it is only as we persist and keep records of His words that we can learn the difference. In my records I wrote: “I asked God for confirmation, so I can tell if it is from Him or my own echoes.”
The next day, my friends from Texas called again. They had prayed, “Lord, Steve seems to be at a crossroads and asks your guidance.” The Lord said to them:
Steve already receives My guidance and is My beloved. He has not yet learned to perceive My words as you have, but the ability to recognize My presence and My blessing and affirmation is a great step forward . . . All who seek Me are able to find Me if they truly open their hearts. They shall find Me within their own souls where I have always been in the secret place . . . Steve must also go where I lead him. He is learning rapidly of My spiritual truth . . . You must walk always in faith, never in fear. You must know always that My love and protection and guidance go with you everywhere and with anyone else who truly seeks Me.
Again, they were unaware that I had already begun to hear the voice of God and that I had asked for confirmation. In fact, this word puzzled them a bit, because they assumed I was still struggling to hear. Yet God told them He was already guiding me. They telephoned to convey this word to me. When I told them of my recent “hearing,” they were overjoyed and said, “Oh, now this word makes sense! We thought maybe God meant He was guiding you through circumstances in general.”
This was how I came to know that I had indeed broken through the veil and had come into a new relationship with God that I had not experienced previously. As time passed, I came to understand that we all hear the voice of God. The problem is in recognizing that it is God as distinct from our own minds. We constantly hear two voices: our own mind’s voice (our conscience) and God’s voice. The great challenge is to distinguish between the two.
The conscience is manmade. Our parents, teachers, playmates, and others form and shape our conscience in our early life. The idols of the heart rule over the conscience. The conscience is only an accurate guide as it comes into unity with the voice and character of God. This takes place only as its idols are overthrown.
At first, the voice of God tends to be in conflict with the voice of our own mind, and we often fight Him. It is a battle between God and the heart idol. Whoever wins the battle becomes the supreme ruler in that area of life. If the idol wins, we will not hear God correctly in that area of life until another day when God again challenges the idol and overthrows him. Ultimately, the goal is the renewing of our minds, when our conscience is always in full agreement with the voice of God.
After recognizing the voice of God in early June 1982, I basked in the light of His voice for the next few weeks. He gave me many revelations that have proven to be foundational to the calling He had for my life and to my understanding of His ways. These are personal and have no direct bearing on the purpose of this book, which is how to hear His voice. But I did learn one very important principle, largely by accident, but which I know was divinely inspired. It is the law of the double witness.
Shortly after I began hearing, I asked God for what I called “a personal verse of Scripture.” He then gave me a Bible reference, which I looked up to see what it said. From the beginning I noticed that the Scriptures He gave me always seemed to have something to do with the word that He had just spoken to me earlier. It finally dawned on me that He was confirming His word by the double witness and that the Spirit and the word bear witness to the truth.
This was a simple way to obtain immediate confirmation of His word. Later, I would see that the Spirit would use this not only as a double witness, but also as an occasion to teach me the spiritual principle behind the written word. My records since that time are filled with notes where the Spirit of God taught me how the divine law operates in such things as spiritual warfare, intercession, and administering true justice and mercy to others. By this I began to learn the intent of the law, and not just its surface application.
I did not really learn about spiritual warfare until His spoken word had been tested by fire beyond anything I could have imagined. I was too young in these things to know that everything God loves He puts to death—first Jesus Christ, and then all others—in order that we might become one with Him and identify with His death. I suppose I had mistakenly believed that God would test us only to the brink of disaster, but would never push us over the edge. I discovered instead that Christ led the way to the cross for all of us, because He does not ask us to endure what He Himself was not first willing to endure. He died, not so that we could avoid death, but to teach us how to die with meaning and purpose.
During the month of June 1982, God had given me words of comfort, showing me that I was not to fear the future, but have faith that He would provide and lead me. I expected Him to come with great power and majesty and save me out of all my troubles. Instead, I found that when He comes to save us, He slays us, just as He did His only-begotten and beloved Son. It happened that my situation came to a climax in July 1982. Having been unemployed for seven months (and no way to get a job, no matter how hard I tried), I was brought down to the place where I had nothing left except my family. If God did not deliver me by early July, I would be crushed by debt and would have to work as a slave without pay (quite literally).
On July 9, 1982 I prayed to know if God was going to deliver me as He had promised. I was given Hab. 2:3.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.
This was definitely not a good sign. I hoped that what God meant was the last phrase of verse 3, indicating that the vision would NOT tarry. I closed the Bible and tried not to think about it further. This was certainly not a word I wanted to hear. Surely God would not do this to me. I had put all my faith in His deliverance, after all. Surely God would honor my faith. I did not know then that God speaks to us to give us faith, and then he adds to our faith patience, which comes only by testing and tribulation. James 1:3 says, “the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Rom. 5:3 says, “tribulation worketh patience.” I definitely did not want to learn patience. I wanted God to pour it into me the easy way. But He did not.
The next day (July 10, 1982) He spoke this to me:
Thou hast borne much for Me, and I will redeem thee. But first go to Egypt. There thou shalt see My mighty works. It is necessary that you go to Egypt. Fear not to go there, for I will be with you always. I will not cut you off. I will continue to speak to you and teach you new things each day.
Father, what of your past promises to me?
They have only been deferred, as I said yesterday. They shall surely come to pass, all that I have spoken. If you would rise to power as did Joseph, you must first be in the dungeon, as he was. Fear not, for I will also teach thee what I taught him and speak to thee, as I spoke to him.
Whereby shall I know that thou hast spoken unto me? I asked rather angrily.
James 1:19. . . “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
(Later, after cooling down a bit): Why must the vision be deferred?
James 1:2-4 . . . “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience; But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Then He said simply, “You have asked a great deal of Me.”
Well, that was true. I had indeed asked a great deal of God. Like everyone else, I wanted to know Him and the power of His resurrection. I had wanted God to use me in the setting up of His Kingdom. Perhaps it was just carnal ambition cloaked in spiritual robes, but I did not want to be an average Christian who saw little, heard nothing, and knew even less. But I did read the Scriptures that talked about ruling and reigning with Him, and I knew I wanted to be part of that company. And as soon as I discovered that God speaks to people even today, I knew that I would never be satisfied until I had thoroughly searched out this whole area of Christian experience.
And so began a downward spiral into complete death and destruction until I had lost all hope of ever seeing the light again. I moved my family to Minnesota to live with my parents indefinitely. Meanwhile, my mother was dying of cancer, and I had to help care for her while my father worked to try to make a living. To pay a debt, I worked with no hope of getting paid. My wife took a night job at a nursing home as a nurse’s aid. Then one of my daughters came down with kidney problems. No amount of prayer made any difference. I had no money for other health remedies, even if had known what to do. I finally had to get her a social security number and a “green card” so she could go to the University of Minnesota hospital for treatment.
Finally, on Oct. 23, 1982 I entered into “the thick darkness where God was” (Ex. 20:21). I died that day. My understanding of God failed completely. I lost all hope. I had no more faith left that He would fulfill His promises to me. What crushed me most was knowing that God had indeed spoken to me, but that somehow He had forsaken me. As I walked home that night after walking my wife to work across town, I asked God to just leave me alone and let me live a normal life like everyone else. “I wouldn’t treat my dog this way!” I said in total despair. In my personal notes for that day, I wrote this:
“I think I’m just about at the end of my rope. I may as well admit that I’m ruined, and I’ll have to start over again in a new kind of life. Faith is too impractical. I might as well admit it doesn’t work, at least not for me. The more I try to take problems with the proper attitude, the more God beats me over the head. It’s as though He is trying to make me admit ruin and throw in the towel. So far, I’ve taken everything on the chin and have come up fighting. Maybe if I give up and quit, he’ll stop beating me into the ground. It’s not fair, nor is He just in promising one thing and doing another. If he’d give me some encouragement once in a while, I could keep on. But I know people who can manage employees better than God does. I just give up trying to please Him. I quit.”
As despair engulfed me, I was as one dead for the next 42 days. During that time, my wife could not take the pressure and said that if things did not change by the first of the year, she would have to take the children and return to Wisconsin to live with her parents. I knew she was right, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation.
By this time my mother was nearly bedridden and needed me more than ever. So I prayed—or rather, informed God—that if we were not out of there by the first of the year, I would pack one suitcase and hitchhike south with the family. And if no one would give us a ride, we would walk. Even so, I knew God could easily prevent me from doing this, if He chose to do so. There was nothing to do but wait for God to do something.
Then on Dec. 4, 1982 God began to move. It was one year to the day after my resignation from pastoring the church in New Mexico. I received a bundle of newsletters from the Net of Prayer. Reading these newsletters marked the beginning of the end of my trial, for now I began to understand the purpose of God in putting me through such an ordeal. Again, one year to the day after we physically left New Mexico, I received a telephone call from Arkansas offering me a job as typesetter for a new company.
It was Dec. 30, 1982. God had met my deadline, and I did not have to hitchhike south. Someone was sent in a van to move us to Arkansas. We left Minnesota January 22 and arrived in Batesville, Arkansas the 23rd.
It was precisely 414 days after my resignation Dec. 4/5, 1981 to January 22/23, 1983. My “Cursed Time” had finally ended. It would have been helpful to me in those days if I had known about timing. But I knew nothing of Cursed Time until 1991. When nations are on Cursed Time, it is applied in 414-year cycles. When applied to personal situations, it is only 414-day cycles. But that is the subject for another book.
The night before I left Minnesota I had a long talk with my mother, knowing it would be the last time I would see her alive. She told me that she had prayed and knew that it was God’s will that we should move to Arkansas. She was at peace and had already entered into God’s rest when she died February 15. My mother was a remarkable woman. More than any other person, her prayers and her faith shaped my life.
In my book, Secrets of Time, I demonstrated how God always seems to add 76 years at the end of a 414-year period in order to bring about Blessed Time (490). The number 76 indicates a time of cleansing and restoration to bring us fully into the perfect will of God. I was no exception. Having completed my 414-day time of discipline and testing, I now entered into a final 76-day period into Blessed Time. The 76 days were from January 23 to April 9, 1983. Although I was totally ignorant of these precise time cycles, I did keep careful records, which allowed me to piece this together ten years later.
I took a plane to New Mexico on January 27 in order to move our household furniture to Arkansas that had been in storage for the past year. Then on February 1st I received notice from the Net of Prayer (which I had formally joined on Jan. 16, 1983) that we were being called into spiritual warfare on Feb. 7. I decided to begin a 7-day fast. During this fast it occurred to me that God’s word of July 10, 1982 had been fulfilled when He said I was to be as Joseph in the dungeon. Joseph was in the dungeon for twelve years; I began coming out after twelve months to the very day.
On Feb. 9 while in prayer, the feeling came over me that I was to make a trip to New Mexico and Arizona to make reconciliation with the past, and that I was to return and arrive at home on April 8. I also heard Him quote the verse from the book of Jonah, “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” I interpreted this to mean that it was to be a 40-day trip. If the trip were to end April 8, then I would have to depart Feb. 28.
I really did not want to make such a long trip, nor did I relish facing up to the past. After all, they had forced me out of the ministry and asked for my resignation. It appeared to me that I had been the one who was wronged and who had literally lost everything. And now God was requiring me to spend the money on a lengthy trip to reconcile the past, make apologies and require none in return. So I wrote letters asking to talk with the church leaders in Arizona and New Mexico, and then drove to the Post Office to mail them quickly, lest I lose my nerve.
That same evening we received notice from our new landlord that he had just sold the house, and that we would have to move in 30 days (by March 10). It seemed as though the trip had just been made an impossibility. There were four “mountains” that had to be removed to make this trip possible. First, my mother was dying, and I could hardly be making a long trip, only to cut it short to attend her funeral.
Second, I had just moved to Batesville not only to work, but also I had been asked to lead a Bible study group there, organized under the name of God’s Kingdom Church. How could I go on a trip after having just arrived there? No, they would have to be in agreement and commission me to go by the laying on of hands.
Third, I was skeptical that the people in Arizona and New Mexico would even agree to see me. I needed an invitation from them, agreeing to see me.
Fourth, we needed a house in order to move before I left.
Well, my mother died Feb. 15, and I drove back to Minnesota for a week (in a car given to me by a friend). I received an invitation from Arizona on Feb. 28, which began the 40-day countdown toward April 8. This corrected my understanding of the 40-day period. Feb. 28 was not the day I would leave, but the day I received the required invitation.
The local group in Batesville commissioned me to go on the trip on March 6, the same day that we found another house in which to live. We moved March 7, 8, and 9. I began the trip March 10. So it became a 30-day trip within a 76-day reconciliation time. (Many years later I discovered that all 76-day periods naturally divide into 46 and 30.)
From my perspective, the trip was a success in that I did everything that God instructed me to do. I made no accusations, but offered only apologies. When I left them, I was satisfied and joyous in my heart. Unfortunately, the reconciliation seemed to benefit me more than it did them, but I knew that I had been obedient and had done all that I could. Now I could move on into the new world that God had opened up to me.
I arrived home around midnight of April 8/9, 1983 precisely 76 days after moving to Arkansas and precisely 490 days after I had resigned the church in New Mexico. I was now in Blessed Time and could begin a new life.
When God tested my faith, I did not pass the test—I just passed away. All of my own faith was burned up in the fiery trial, and all that remained was His Word and the faith of Jesus. The brutal truth was that my faith was insignificant to the plan of God. My faith established nothing. He brought me down to the place of total despair, where I did not have the strength to “name it and claim it.” All His promises to me were established purely on the strength of His word, regardless of what I did, regardless of my faith, and regardless of my claims. All He required of me was to die and get out of the way. He did all things by the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). I have no boast of faith. I can only boast of the greatness and love of God.
I became a new person, a new creature in Christ experientially, not just doctrinally. I came to realize that I am not here to manifest my faith, but simply to bear witness to the works of God, which I see and hear. More than anything else, I now know by hard experience that Rom. 8:28 is true.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
I had believed and taught this Scripture for many years before God put it to the test to see if I really could believe His word in the midst of the fiery trial. In the heat of trial (Oct. 23, 1982) I made an interesting discovery: In my mind I could no longer believe this word, and for this reason I wrote: “I quit.” Yet deep in the recesses of my spirit, I always knew that God would indeed work all things together for my good. There was faith in my spirit when all faith had been wrenched from my carnal mind and soul.
I learned a very valuable lesson through this. Faith is not a state of mind; it is a state of spirit. The mind deals only with persuasions; the spirit is the home of faith. I know that the apostle Paul experienced many trials of his faith also, and for this reason he was able to write in Rom. 7:17, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.”
Perhaps the most remarkable lesson I learned in this was that the trial of our faith is given, NOT to prove us righteous and faithful, but to prove that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing. It is to show us the limitations of the flesh, not its strength toward God. My flesh with its carnal persuasions was quite strong, and so it took close to a year for it to die. But when I finally quit struggling and died, then God raised me up as a new creation in Him.
This resurrection was only the beginning, however. There were many more crucial lessons that I would yet have to learn. The Joseph revelation about being in the dungeon for twelve months was applicable only to that first year. It would yet have a long-term fulfillment of twelve years (1981-1993) that would not cease until the end of the Church Age. During that time, I would have to die two more times (thus far) in order to learn the consequences of disobedience to the voice of God.
I never cease to thank God for His disciplines, for I have learned that He disciplines His sons (Heb. 12:5-7). Thereby am I comforted even in the pangs of death. When I make my bed in sheol, behold, God is there (Ps. 139:8).
Hearing the voice of God has been the most wonderful, awesome, experience of my life. But it has also been a fiery trial. So when God showed me from Ex. 20:18-21 how Israel stood afar off, afraid to go up the mount into the fire with Moses to hear God’s voice, I can certainly understand the feeling. If, when I started down this path, I had had any inkling of what lay ahead, I probably would have joined the crowd of Israelites afar off.
But God deceived me by focusing my attention on the promises that would come in the end, rather than in the trials along the way. At first I was quite upset and angry with Him for this divine deception, even as Jeremiah said when he was put in the stocks in Jer. 20:1-9,
2 Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord. 7 O Lord, Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; Thou art stronger than I and hast prevailed. I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
Jeremiah was no different from any of us today in that he too had to go through the fiery trial of his faith because of the word that he had dared to hear. Our God is a consuming fire. Hearing His voice is not a call to glorious victory, but a call to die. This is not meant to discourage people from hearing His voice, but rather a voice of comfort to those who are dying in the midst of His fire.
God does not hate those He disciplines; He disciplines because He loves His children and intends to refine them as gold and silver to replace their dross with the divine nature. He intends to bring forth a people in His image, that they might rule and reign with Him, and that they might in turn teach others how to die, following Jesus to the Cross.
In bringing up children properly, the world tends to believe that discipline is harmful to a child’s development. Some parents even refuse to discipline their children on the grounds that they want their children to love them. They do not realize that discipline is not the problem, so long as it is done without abuse. Both discipline and abuse must be defined by Scripture. This is outside the scope of our present study, of course, but we do want to make the point that children who love their parents most are those who were properly disciplined by them in their early life.
It is the same in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Though God’s disciplines can often be quite severe, making us want to run away from Him, we will love Him in the end, for He disciplines us to bring us into maturity, capable of knowing His own agape love. The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is found in Deut. 6:4 and 5.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; 5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
So often we focus so much on the part that commands us to love Him that we forget how this is done. The key is in the first phrase: “Hear, O Israel.” Hearing Him is the first step toward loving Him. First we hear, and this produces faith. Second, that faith is tested by fire, so that the faith is pure and depends upon no human flesh or understanding. This testing produces patience, or endurance. Only then do we receive the promises. Heb. 6 tells us,
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, 14 saying, Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.