Are you a skeptic?
I know I am.
Some people find it easy to trust and have faith in what they’re told. But as for me, I have reservations. Whether it be about research, politics, doctrine, or any ‘hearsay’ information, I prefer to take my time and investigate before making up my mind about anything. There is just something about trusting people that doesn’t come easily for me. If you have ever had experience dealing with a skilled liar, then you know what I am talking about. Too many people in the world have ulterior motives and I have very little patience for it.
Needless to say, experience speaks much louder to me than words alone.
That is also why I used to dislike the Christian term ‘sheep’. I mean, I feel that most of us are fairly intelligent human beings. Right? But sheep on the other hand…well, let’s just say they are less than gifted in the brains department. I tend to associate sheep with people who are gullible and easily fooled. And yet, historically, there is evidence to suggest that people do in fact, have a tendency to be misled. Yep, even the most intelligent of us.
All of this considered, it may be difficult to know when we are making the right decisions. So how do we recognize God’s voice when we hear it?
The answer is both simple, yet so easy to miss.
There is a passage found the book of John which delves into this idea of the Christian ‘sheep’. In this section, Jesus has once again found himself challenging some religious leaders on spiritual matters. Pointing out the cold nature of the Pharisees, he discusses the characteristics of a genuine, responsible, and compassionate leader. He describes the ‘good shepherd’ (himself) , so to speak. And, while his sheep may be vulnerable, they have nonetheless developed the ability to recognize their owner when they hear him. They won’t listen to just anybody! They won’t listen to a wannabe.
John 10:1-10 (NLT) – “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
In these passages, we have both a description of the true shepherd’s nature, as well as the instincts of the sheep.
Jesus has pointed out there is a clear difference between people with pure motives and people with tainted motives. He describes the undeniable fact that untrustworthy leaders have a way of revealing themselves in due time. He brings attention to the fact hidden motives cannot stay hidden for long, and that that ultimately, his believers have the ability to tell him a part from a ‘phony’.
That is why we don’t need to become overly fearful or distrustful. As long as we are making an effort to hear Christ’s voice, we can be confident that he will open our eyes to deception when necessary.
He continues on to say more about this shepherd and sheep relationship;
John 10:11-16-“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”
While we may have trouble trusting our own judgment, we can trust Christ to lead us in the right direction. There is a way to discern the way to go, and it’s through intimacy with our creator. It is by growing close enough to him to know his voice. We do this by becoming familiar enough with him to know his character; to be in tune with his nature. We can trust that he will reveal himself in every situation. That is, if we are patient enough to wait for him to speak.
How do we know God’s voice?
How do you recognize the voice of your best friend? Of your spouse? Of your family members?
You know them because you have spent time with them. You have heard them speak before and are familiar with the way that they communicate. You are intimate with their unique mannerisms of speech. Likewise, that is how become familiar with God’s promptings. The more we practice hearing his voice, the better we will be at identifying it.
Truth be told, sometimes the best way to learn, is to give ourselves permission to make mistakes; to let go our need for perfection. It is not so much the mistakes we make, as it is what we learn from them that counts. We gain just as much experience from our missteps as we do from our success stories.
If you struggle to hear God’s voice, don’t be discouraged. Take the time to search him out. Whether it be through prayer, scripture reading, or simply taking a moment to quiet yourself- Do what it takes to get peace and clarity in your life. Make decisions not out of fear, but out of trust in the one who made you.
Put your trust in the ”Good Shepherd’‘.
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