My daughter and I enjoy putting puzzles together. We started out with 24 piece puzzles and then moved to 36 pieces. At four years old, she became so comfortable with her puzzles that she knew where every piece belonged. If I tried to help, she would say, "No, I can do it." We then got her a 100-piece puzzle. With excitement, we sat down to put it together. The pieces were small and progress was slow. After a while she said, "This is taking too long — this is hard. I don't know where this piece goes, I think I'm done." I tried to encourage her to keep working as we looked at the picture on the box. She tried again, but soon she wanted to go back to something easier that was less complex.
Many times, we want to do the same thing in life. We enjoy putting the puzzle of life, relationships, and ministry together until it becomes too complex. When we are not sure what do next or how everything will come together, we feel frustrated, lost, or defeated. The key is to get the maker's perspective. With a puzzle, we look at the image on the box so we know how it is supposed to look in the end. With life, relationships, or ministry, it is not that easy. We don't know what the future picture will finally look like. Thankfully, we not only have an instruction manual, but we can also talk to the puzzle maker — our Heavenly Father.
All of us understand that we are limited in our abilities and knowledge. We need wisdom and insight that is beyond ourselves in order to handle the complex issues of life. We need God's direction, leading, and guidance. We need to have God speak to us, and He does, in many different ways. The book of Hebrews begins with these words, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." God has spoken and continues to speak, but are we listening?
Throughout Scripture, we see God speaking in creative ways. God spoke through a burning bush, angels, visions, and dreams. He spoke through a gentle whisper, the casting of lots, miracles, and fleece. God used nature and the priestly Urim and Thummim and spoke directly with an audible voice. Then, He spoke through Jesus and the writings of the Apostles. God used impressions given to people through their spirit, and He used objects to speak to a truth or action He was about to take.
God told the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 18 to go to the potter's house for there he would be given a message for the people. There, Jeremiah was given an image to convey the truth that God wanted communicated. God spoke to Amos in chapter 7 by showing him a swarm of locusts, a consuming fire, and a plumb line. Each contained a message of judgment. God spoke in creative ways then as He does today. He also speaks through silence. God told the prophet Amos in chapter 8 that a day was coming when a famine would be sent upon the land. Not a famine of food or water, but a famine of God's Word. In order to get the attention of His people, God would be silent and not speak to them. Silence would cause the people to question, "Why is God silent?" Then they would examine their lives.
In our busy, hectic lives, God's silence may not be noticed at first. Then, we hear of God speaking to others and think, "When was the last time God spoke to me?" We begin to realize we are in a spiritual drought. It could be that in our prayer time we are doing all the talking and not stopping to listen. When we become still and quiet — earnestly asking God to speak to us, He will. Too many times, we approach prayer as a time when we share our burdens, requests, and needs with God without giving Him the opportunity of speaking to us. As we listen, God will use His Word to strengthen us, direct us, and encourage us. He will speak to our need, and we will experience His presence in a fresh new way.
Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God said in relation to God speaking, "The important thing is not how God communicated, but that He spoke. The means God uses to communicate with us is irrelevant; the fact that He is communicating is what is critical." Despite the means, one truth is constant for us today; God will never contradict His Word given to us in the Bible. God is speaking, but are we listening?
Our need is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit speaking and moving in our lives. Through the Holy Spirit, we will be prompted, impressed, and led as we listen and obey. With every impression, God will always confirm His direction to us through His Word. The Bible is our rule.
Four years ago, we adopted our daughter from China. Since the time we brought her home, we have been impressed that we should adopt again. We've talked and prayed, and the promptings have remained. Later, our daughter began asking if she could have a brother. Our prayers changed to, "When Lord and who?" Recently, my wife was reading the Dr. Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with our daughter. As she turned a page, there was a figure with eleven fingers. As my wife saw the picture, she felt an impression of the Lord saying to her that our child will have a hand difference. As I write this article, we are moving through the adoption process of adopting a child who is missing a thumb on his right hand. His name will be Kaleb. There have been other confirmations that God led us to this little boy, but He spoke clearly, in a way unexpected, and we said yes.
Ask the Lord to help you to be sensitive to His speaking. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you throughout your day in unexpected ways. As He speaks, leads, and guides us, the pieces of a beautiful and exciting picture will come into view.
Pastor Mark Hiehle served as a Center Director for over 15 years. He now pastors the First Church of the Nazarene in Chickasha, OK. He continues to help centers grow through tools found at www.highcalling.com.