I am almost at the end of the series of Nuggets I intend to write on Hearing God’s Voice (HGV). My plan is to share about the two occasions I have heard the audible voice of God in this Nugget and then in the following Nugget to share of the time I heard God’s voice so clearly that I could have thought it was audible but I don’t include that “word from God” as hearing His audible voice and I will talk about the difference. Then I intend to sum up hearing God’s voice in the last Nugget of this series unless I “hear” otherwise from your readers asking for more clarification or asking questions.
In the very first Nugget of this series I included in the list of the many ways God can speak the category “audible voice”. I was leading the group and drawing from them the ways that God had led them and communicated with them. I had waiting to see if anyone in the group would add the example of God talking to us in an audible voice but no one had. So I added it to the list to the surprise of those gathered. I have heard God’s audible voice twice in my life. I have not told you those stories in this series until now because I wanted to leave talking about hearing the audible voice of God until the end. Neither have I talked about God using teletext. I will include that next week. I am firmly convinced that God can do anything and talk to us in any way He pleases, even though that might categorize me as a kook in the minds of some of you. Just bear with me as I tell you of these true personal experiences or in the case of the teletexting, the experience of a friend of ours. But that I will reserve for the next Nugget.
The first time I heard the audible voice of God was when I was in the middle of having my Quiet Time in my study in Matamata, NZ in the 1970’s. I had had my Bible reading and meditation and was going through my prayer list. I used the Navigators ACTS acronym for my Quiet Time.
- Adoration – singing, worshipping God
- Confession – dealing with the events of the week and confessing the ways I had sinned or fallen short
- Thanksgiving – giving praise and thanks for what God had done in my week for which I needed to thank him
- Supplication – praying for the needs of other people before I asked anything for myself or my family
My prayer list was laid out on a piece of graph paper with the days of the week across the top (the X axis) and the list of the people or items I was praying about regularly down the side (the Y axis). The graph paper grid squares I used to tick off when I prayed for that person so that through the days of the week I would not leave anyone out and make sure I had prayed for each person multiple times over the week. There were too many people on my list to pray for at one time. I had just read John 5:39. “You search the Scriptures thinking that they testify of me and eternal life and so they do but you fail to come to me to have life.” I had thought about the verse for a while and meditated on what that meant. As I settled back into my routine, I heard a voice behind me saying, “Ian, what are you doing?” I turned around to see who had come into the room; it was that clear a voice. But there was no one else in the room. I puzzled about it, even prayed about it some more and then settled back into MY ROUTINE again. At that point I heard the voice saying the same words as before a second time. Only this time the intonation had changed. “Ian. What ARE you doing?”. At that point I started to cry. I realised I had organized God out of my Quiet Time and I was just searching the Scriptures daily thinking that they testify of Him. But I had failed to come to the God of the Bible and talk to Him, interact with Him. That experience profoundly altered the way I have my Quiet Time. It made my times with God more intimate and made me more intent on pausing and waiting to hear what He had to say to me.
The second time I heard the audible voice of God was after the time God had been leading us clearly over a period of months to work with Wycliffe. A number of the times God led us clearly I have shared before in these Nuggets or in the Gems I write. This next encounter with God happened after I returned from Wellington and the Move Out Conference and after God had confirmed we were to do a Bible course at BCNZ. I had begun to have second thoughts when faced with the cost of all that lay before us, despite all the LORD had confirmed to us. Where were we going to get the money for all of that God had laid before us when I had just given the Principal of Matamata College, Graham Reid, my resignation, on Friday September 11th 1981. The definitive nature of handing in my resignation was weighing on me.
The only way I could see out of the predicament was to sell our house and use the money to cover the expense of all that God had shown we would do. That Friday I called our pastor Dick Hemmings and asked if we could come and talk to him. Dick was excited about the way the LORD had been leading the Vails. I had kept him up to date with all that God was doing. Now I just wanted to share with him how stressed and burdened I felt. It was like a black cloud had descended over me. Dick told me to come out with Tania and the girls Sunday for lunch. John Massam, the guest preacher, was a guest for lunch but after he had gone we could talk about what I wanted. I just wanted to tell him how I was feeling and to seek someone to whom I could pour out my burden. After lunch, all Dick could do was to excitedly tell John Massam about the exciting things that had been happening to Ian & Tania and how they were soon going to Bible College and afterwards to work with Wycliffe. All I could think of was the cost of all this commitment and how I would have to sell my house to pay for all that we faced.
As Dick told my testimony again I descended once more into despair and began thinking that the only way I could see out of this predicament was to sell my house in order to pay for all we needed to do. At which point John shocked me by saying, “Ian, I feel the LORD is telling me, if you are thinking of selling your house, not to!” That comment although amazing and timely, sent my mind reeling as to how we would cover the costs if I didn’t sell my house. Finally John left and I had the chance to tell Dick how hard this all was and how burdened I was financially over all we faced ahead. As I started to tell Dick how I felt, a car came up the drive and around the back of the house. Another guest had arrived, Mike Shaxton. Mike had been a missionary in West New Britain, PNG and had lost his wife over there when she pricked her finger with a needle which became infected and she died. But Mike was an irrepressible, enthusiastic Christian who was always positive and up-beat. What went through my mind was, “Oh no Lord, not Mike Shaxton. I just want to tell Dick how I feel and that I am under a black cloud.
Once more as we settled down to talk after greeting Mike, Dick began to excitedly tell Mike what the LORD had been doing in our lives. Again my thoughts turned inward as before and once again I was got to point of thinking the only way out of this was to sell our house. Yes I know I had had the word from the LORD through John Massam not 20 minutes before but I had descended back into the pit. I am just simply telling you honestly what happened. The LORD spoke through Mike this time when he in turn, ‘out of the blue’ without any prompt from the conversation said, “Ian I believe the LORD would say to you, if you’re thinking of selling your house, don’t.” Dick almost fell off his chair laughing. Twice in a short period of time God had said, “Ian, don’t sell your house.” Dick blurted out, “You were thinking that again, weren’t you?”
I share this part of my testimony freely but I rarely tell the next part. Talking about hearing the audible voice of God brands you as a weirdo, a spiritual nutcase. I was numbed by Mike’s statement which was virtually word for word what John Massam had said a half an hour earlier. I tuned out for a few minutes just thinking through the implications of what to do now. I felt I had been robbed of the chance to share my burden and my feelings with Dick. I mean it was laughable, to be told twice in the space of no more than 30 minutes not to sell your house. Each time at the exact moment I was indeed thinking that very thought. Twice! I was sitting there lost in my thoughts as Mike was updating Dick on his walk with the LORD when God spoke to me again in an audible voice saying, “Stop and Listen! I have brought him here for you. Listen to what he is saying.” Once again, as I had done the first time God had spoken to me in an audible voice. I looked behind me to see who had said the words.
When I tuned back in again, Mike was telling Dick of a time when he had been in Paraparaumu, NZ and felt God was leading him to go to Christchurch for a mission weekend he had heard about. He was being billeted with a family while he had been sharing with their church over two week nights. He thought, “I can’t go down to Christchurch LORD, I don’t have the money to do that.”
The LORD seemed to say to him, “What would you do if you had the money?”
He thought, “I would phone the travel agent and book a return flight from Wellington to Christchurch.”
God seemed to say, “Well do it.”
Mike rang the travel agent and asked how much it was to Christchurch return. The travel agent told him. (I have forgotten the price Mike told in his story but $86.50 sticks in my mind.) Mike said, “The agent told him if he booked he would have to come in within 24 hours to pay for the seat or the booking would be cancelled. Did he want the agent to book the seat? (Mike hadn’t mention the price while he was on the call). He said, “Yes book it.” The moment he uttered those words, he felt the man of the house where he was staying slip something into his pocket. Changing for bed later that night he remembered the thing in his pocket and found an envelope with $88.50 in it. Mike concluded his little story by saying, his lunch at the missions weekend on the day he attended cost two dollars.
When Mike finished his story I felt God say to me “in my head” “I will provide for you in the same way I provided for Mike. Step out into what I am calling you to. Trust Me!” God indeed had brought Mike Shaxton and John Massam there for me, just as He told me in an audible voice. Tania hadn’t heard the voice. Dick and Greta hadn’t heard the voice but I had. It was different from the times when God had spoken to my thoughts. This time the words sounded as though God had spoken in an audible human voice behind me but when I checked there was no one behind me and only I had heard the voice.
It is probably clear to you now that I have been gathering together the times when God had led clearly us one way or another in the way He has wanted us to go. I will draw it all together in the next Nugget while adding one more way in which God leads – texting. Following that I will share with you something more from the pages of Deeper Bible in the form of an explanation of how to hear the voice of God taken from one of the nights of Experiencing the Bible.