In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul prayed “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (1:17-19).
In the same letter Paul wrote that according to the will of God, we who are in Christ are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who serves as a guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life while we are still here in our earthly bodies (see Ephesians 1:2-14). In John 16:7 Jesus declared, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” This Helper is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus described as “…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” This distinction, between the world, which does not know the Spirit of truth, and the Body of Christ which has received the Holy Spirit, is the key to understanding how to hear from God.
It is understandable that Jesus could be in the Father and the Father could be in Jesus, but how can it be that Jesus is in us and we are in him? This can happen because when God the Father received Jesus back to himself to sit at his right hand after the resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit to live within us as our comforter, helper, teacher, and guide.
When Jesus was on earth, he was fully God and fully man, and was born in a human body. Of course, one human body cannot occupy the same space as another human body. While Jesus could be close enough to touch us, he could not enter fully into us. Therefore, for God to get as close to us as possible so that he could literally live inside us forever, he had to send his Spirit. Because God as the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, he can be in all places at the same time, and that includes dwelling in the heart of everyone who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
In fact, the mystery of the Church as the Bride is that at salvation each individual believer’s spirit is sealed with the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Bible provides a blueprint of God’s plan for ever-increasing intimacy with his people. In the Old Testament, God spoke to mankind from heaven, through his prophets, or even from a burning bush! In the Gospels, God was born in a manger to walk among us as a man so that we could see him, touch him, and embrace him physically. Beginning in Acts chapter 2, through all the epistles, and even unto this hour, God lives inside of his people as the Holy Spirit. Paul described this in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).
The Spirit of truth is standing by to explain God’s will to all of us who inquire of him. Therefore, if you want to know the will of God, first you must be filled with his Spirit. Which brings us to Steps Four and Five of our series: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.
First let’s look at Step Four, Let God Fill You. As we said above, each individual believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit – and is sealed by the Holy Spirit – at salvation. This is so important that Paul wrote to believers in Rome, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).
The Holy Spirit is not an abstract idea, or an impersonal force. He is an equal member of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, God has come to dwell within us, because there is no separation between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. With that understanding it makes sense that to know the will of God, we must first be filled with the Spirit of God.
Listen to what John wrote in his first epistle, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. And in his gospel, John recorded Jesus as saying, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). The presence of the Holy Spirit teaches us what the will of God is.
Step Five is to Let God Help You. When we want to hear from God, it is not enough to be filled with the Spirit, we must also be attentive to the Spirit. Romans 8:5 says “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Elijah was a great prophet, but sometimes he, too, had problems. 1 Kings relates how after Elijah called down fire from God and defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This made the evil queen Jezebel so angry that she vowed to murder Elijah. When he heard this, the mighty prophet lost his cool and ran for the hills, where the word of the Lord found him, hiding. And the word of the Lord said, “…‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, ‘So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13 MSG).
Because Elijah was accustomed to participating in great demonstrations of God’s power, he believed that God only spoke in ways that were obvious, like earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire from heaven, and the like. When Jezebel came after him, he expected God to show up with an impressive show of force, and when God did not perform the miracle that Elijah expected, he was disappointed. So, God provided Elijah with a display of all the things that Elijah thought were worthy demonstrations of God’s might…but God was not in those things. Rather, God showed up for Elijah, his anointed prophet, as a still, small voice. And in the still, small voice was the Holy Spirit.
Now don’t miss my meaning here. God was surely the one who manifested the whirlwind, earthquake, and fire on the mountain. But he proved for Elijah that it was not always necessary for God to speak in great sweeping gestures. Most of the time, God speaks to his people through his Spirit as a calm, quiet voice. God does not always make his will known with manifestations of power falling from heaven to impress everybody, as he did for example in the story of Job chapters 36-42. Most of the time, the voice of the Spirit of God bubbles up from the depths of our spirits, into our souls, and through our hearts to guide, comfort, and encourage his children with wonderful tenderness and intimacy.
Psalm 46:10 instructs us to “Be still, and know that I am God” when we are surrounded by enemies or in the midst of catastrophe. Our part is to be still, so that we can hear God’s guidance from his Holy Spirit. Remember, the mystery of the Body of Christ is that the Holy Spirit is joined with our spirits. He does not have to shout to get our attention, he already abides in the deepest part of our beings. A quiet whisper will do if we will only be still and listen.
In Part Three of How to Hear from God, we will discuss how The Word of God Speaks.
God bless and please stay tuned!
For more information on Elijah’s encounter with God, please visit this link:
How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Have a Snack and a Nap.
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All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.