Hearing the Voice of God

Much has been written about the importance of vision, and rightly so. Without vision, one wanders around in darkness. That is why leaders, in an attempt to reinforce the power of vision frequently point to the Apostle Paul. In fact, mention “the Damascus road” (Acts 9:3) and every bible student and scholar knows you are speaking of the call and conversion of Saul of Tarsus. However, not every conversion or vision moment is accompanied by flashing lights and a voice from heaven. This does not negate or minimize the process God uses to get our attention. Consider the Ethiopian official. From his perspective, Philip just happened to be in the right place and the right time to open the Scriptures to him so that he would know how to be saved. No flashing lights, no heavenly voice. Nothing like the light from heaven and voice from above that Saul heard.

There are several conversion accounts in Acts that are equally without flash or fanfare. For example, Lydia and her household believed after hearing Luke and Paul speak to a gathering of women (Acts 17:13-15). Crispus, a leader of the synagogue in Corinth, believed on the Lord, along with his family, after hearing Paul preach Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 18:5-8). Hopefully these conversation accounts remind us that never every encounter with God is accompanied by flash and fanfare.

Why are some encounters more dramatic than others? The best response is to admit we do not fully know the answer, although the context does seem to impact the approach used by God to bring a bring about His will. For example, the Philippian jailer asked before his conversation, “Why must I do to be saved.” Like many, the response did not require the aforementioned flash and fanfare, only an answer, which was sufficient for him and his household to come to faith. Saul, at the time of his conversion, was “breathing out murderous threats against the disciples.” (v. 1) God used the sight and sounds to not only get Saul’s attention but to validate His work in Saul among his companions. Later, in his testimony to the crowd in Jerusalem, Paul recounts how Ananias told him, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One and to hear the sound of His voice.” (Acts 22:14). For reasons known only to God, Saul was able to hear the voice from heaven because God wanted him to hear. Paul’s conversation on the Damascus road should not be understood as normative, but as a divine act of God used to prevent many Christians from arrest and martyrdom, and bring Saul to a point of repentance and conversation. Later when God gave Paul a vision to go to Macedonia, (Acts 16:9-10), no lights appeared. No sound came from heaven. Only a vision to take the Good News to those who had not heard.

At the end of the day, what is important is not “how” God speaks, but that you attend to what He says.

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