by Nancy Taylor Tate
Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, wrote a book titled, Is That Really You, God? This is a question we all can relate to at one point or another in life. In fact, through the years, from time to time I have left this book sitting on a table where I can see the title, as an expression of my own heart to the Lord. Loren said that as a young child, through the godly example of his mother, he came to understand that the Lord will give guidance when we seek Him for it.
Years ago, my dad was at a crossroads. He was getting much advice as he consulted and prayed with various ones. Time went on until finally, one day I asked him what he was going to do. He told me he still did not know. I was aware that certain thoughts shared with him had been excellent, so I asked him why he did not follow some of the advice he had already received. I will always remember his reply: He said, “Because so far all I have heard is a lot of opinions. I am waiting for a word from the Lord.”
Unless we have developed a sensitivity for “inner hearing,” we may miss the leading and direction of the Lord at a very critical time. Our ability to choose through reason has its place, and there are times when it may be acceptable for us to weigh the pros and cons concerning a decision as to direction and purpose for our lives. But it is extremely important that we have also developed our “spiritual capacity” to hear, for there are times when the Lord desires to lead us up into a higher level than our natural reasoning alone can take us.
There is an example in the Old Testament of how this higher level of “spiritual hearing” changed the course of history. After Saul had failed through disobedience, then lack of repentance, the Lord sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel.
When Samuel arrived, Jesse called seven of his sons to stand before Samuel. As Samuel stood looking at Jesse’s sons, based on the guidance he had received from the Lord, it would have been natural for him to assume that one of the sons standing before him was the one the Lord had chosen. As Samuel looked at Eliab, tall and handsome, he appeared to be the perfect king. “Surely,” Samuel thought, “this must be the Lord’s anointed.”
“But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
“But the Lord said…” Thankfully Samuel heard! As Samuel continued to look at Jesse’s other sons, he said to Jesse, “Are here all thy children?” And Jesse replied, “There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.” When David, the youngest, arrived, the Lord told Samuel, “Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” (1 Samuel 16:11-13)
What if Samuel had not been sensitive to the guidance of the Lord and Eliab had been chosen as king instead of David? What did the Lord see when he looked at Eliab’s heart, that Samuel did not see when he looked at his outwardly pleasant appearance? We can find the answer in the following situation, which the Lord foreknew.
All the armies of Israel were in a state of fear and trembling as Goliath challenged and mocked them. All but David. David was full of faith from worshipping and singing to the Lord through the long nights that he faithfully tended his father’s sheep. While alone with God, he had overcome difficulties and built platforms of faith into his life, upon which he could now stand. Because of this, he was ready and willing to go and face Goliath.
Eliab, however, not only lacked faith and courage himself to go out to meet Goliath, but he also mocked David, the vessel whom the Lord was about to use to bring Israel into victory. Angered by David’s faith, Eliab tried to discourage him by saying, “I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart.” In essence, Eliab goaded David, “Who do you think you are? The only thing you are capable of is watching a few little sheep. Go back and take care of them!” (1 Samuel 17:28).
The Scripture tells us that David turned away from Eliab. (1 Samuel 17:30) We need to know when to turn away rather than react, and move on with those things God has placed in our hearts!
When the Lord sent Samuel to Jesse’s house to anoint a king, He knew all that would happen. As Samuel’s natural rationale began to conclude that Eliab was the one, the Lord told Samuel no, because He knew Eliab’s heart, therefore Eliab was not the one He was choosing to lead His people. Fortunately, Samuel had a spiritual ear to hear and was able to move beyond his own logic into obedience to the Lord’s desire.
We tend to look at things through our natural eyes and reason things with our minds. We can make charts, list all the pros and cons, and arrive at very logical and seemingly good decisions, but we may still miss God if we have not come into this higher level of spiritual hearing.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
At this present time, there is an urgent need for those who can hear and see—as the Lord hears and sees. It is very important that we know the thought and intention of the Lord concerning that which is taking place in the world today, aside from all natural appearances, logic, and popular opinion. To come up into this level of spiritual hearing, we must become sensitive to the Lord’s thoughts and heart, and responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This level of spiritual sensitivity develops in our lives as we spend quality time in His presence. We must become inwardly quiet and spiritually sensitive, that we might discern His thoughts and His heart, so we can know how to rightly respond to the things we hear and also pray according to His will.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. If I desire to understand spiritual things, I must become spiritually sensitive. Apart from the Holy Spirit, there is no way to understand spiritual things. I must be willing to set apart time for my natural mind to become quiet from my own thoughts and come into submission to His Lordship. In recognition of my utter dependence on the Lord, I must value and prioritize this level of spiritual hearing. I must be absolutely convinced of the necessity of receiving understanding from the Holy Spirit, then make room for that in my life activities. This is the only way I can perceive, or understand, spiritual things.
“We have received…the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:12
True spiritual understanding is birthed by the Holy Spirit. As in an attitude of worship we commune with the Lord, becoming inwardly quiet and sensitive to our Lord’s presence, our hearts open to receive those things that He has prepared for those who love Him.
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“But the Lord said…” We need to know, as never before, what the Lord is saying at this present time, not only in our own lives, but also that which He desires to do in the world today through the body of Christ. May we be a part!
“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9
If you would like, please pray with me:
Father, we long for that level of spiritual hearing that enables You to move through us for Your glory. Lift us, Lord, into Your calling and purpose. We ask for Your increased intervention in our lives, for Your presencing, that our spiritual ears would hear as never before. Join us with You, Your heart, Your thoughts, Your will, Your purposes. Join us in all that You are doing, during this time frame in which You have allowed us to live. Quicken and lift us, Lord I pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.