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The Still Small Voice by Robert Weston

The Art of
Turning Sight into Insight

. . .He had hardly left the hospital
before the Lord caught up with him: ‘You too have been too active for Me, and have not taken enough time to be occupied with Me.’


The Art of Reflection
  Think about what I am saying. The Lord will give you understanding in all these things. (2 Timothy 2:7)

It is no fun having your deranged ‘employer’ throwing spears at you! On the run from King Saul, David lost the plot and joined forces with the Philistines. The time came when he was called upon to fight against his fellow Israelites. It was at this crucial moment that the commander of the Philistine army intervened, questioning his loyalty and sending him away.

It is a supreme example of the Lord’s overruling. While he was away, David’s home town was overrun by raiders. His wives and children were taken away – and, as if that were not enough, his own men were so desperate that they were speaking of stoning him.

At this terrible moment, when fear and despair could so easily have shut out the Still Small Voice, David ‘found strength in the Lord.’
[1] No phrase better conveys the depths of his relationship with the Lord. Here is a man so used to quieting his soul that he is able to discern God’s strategy, even under such intense pressure.

My mind goes back to a man on a Pacific island, who heard the Lord telling him to cross the island and leave. He arrived at the port just in time to catch the last steamer out before the Japanese invaded the island.

Or the Christians in a town in Denmark during the Second World War who were warned through a prophecy to be out of town on a certain day. It turned out to be the very day the Gestapo raided the town. There is nothing theoretical about cultivating the art of reflection.

The Daily Review

Dr Pierson once visited a minister who had been in hospital for six long months. The doctor ventured to suggest that God might have permitted this illness as the only means by which He could cause this busy man to listen more to Him. He had hardly left the hospital before the Lord caught up with him: ‘You too have been too active for Me, and have not taken enough time to be occupied with Me.’ This experience made such an impression on Dr Pierson that he later wrote:

  I resolved to practice what I preached. At the close of each day, I sit for one hour in the quiet of my study, not to speak to the Lord, but to lay the day’s life and work open to the Lord’s penetrating gaze and appraisal, and to listen to what He has to say to me.[2]  

Even if we cannot devote anything like a whole hour to it, the great benefit of attempting such a review is that it gives us a second chance to ponder the events of the day, and to pick up on the nudges that the Lord has sent out way. We can ‘replay’ them, as if we were watching them pass before our eyes on a video. Then, as opportunities we have missed, or unkind words that we have uttered come to mind, we can ‘press the pause button’ and attend to the issues the Lord is highlighting.

As we make time to reflect, words that people have spoken return to our memory. Words of encouragement that confirm we are on the right path; or words of warning that save us from error – half-warnings even, that we might have missed had we been too engrossed in our own affairs.

Many people find keeping a journal aids this process of reflection. Rather than recording just the outward events, it will prove richer if we can include fuller details of how we believe the Lord is leading us. Such reflection enables us to trace patterns and to discern links where before we might have seen only isolated events.

Turning sight into insight

‘Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding.’ (Daniel 9:22)

The first time I drove up the ‘Atlantic highway’ on the west coast of Devon, I glimpsed large radar dishes. They reminded me how serious the issue of cyber warfare has become. Dedicated organizations hack into top security computers, passing on highly sensitive information to potentially hostile powers. In the wrong hands, this information could be used not only to replicate weapons systems, but even potentially, to paralyze vital communications systems. Since cyber warfare is sure to play a significant (perhaps a determining) role in any future world conflict, this is an appropriate topic to take up in prayer.

The Lord has many ways of alerting us to things that are on His heart. As I was walking down a cobbled street in a Devonian village a few minutes later, I heard a mother calling her child. I instantly felt prompted to pray for someone of that name. I rang her a few hours later, as I usually try to do when I sense such leadings, and found that there was indeed a pressing reason why the Lord had put her on my heart.

I also find that God uses ‘look-alikes’ as one of His ways to call me to pray. For a fleeting moment, some passer-by reminds me in a certain profile of someone else I know. I take it as a pointer to pray for the person I am reminded of. On other occasions a certain make or colour of a car serves to remind me of someone who drives a similar model.

Do such ‘coincidences’ really come from God? I find that in perhaps three-quarters of such instances there is an immediate reason why these people have been brought to mind.

More than we realize at the time, our prayers may be paving the way for the Spirit to open something up for them – or to protect them from some danger. In any case: how can anything but good come from praying for them?

Even fleeting thoughts may correspond to someone’s real need. My car broke down in a motorway service station once, when I was on my way to spend a weekend with some friends, who were following on an hour or two behind me. As they approached the service station, one of them had the thought, ‘Perhaps Robert has broken down in there.’ Unfortunately, he pushed it aside, and had to drive a long way back later on to pick me up!

The Lord uses not only words but also sights, sounds and even smells to trigger associations that lead to prayer and action – or simply to bring comfort. As I was wheeled into hospital theatre for a rather unpleasant operation, I distinctly smelt the reassuring wood-fire smoke of our favourite cottage in the Lake District.

On another occasion, after hearing a distressing report about someone who means a lot to us, our bedroom was suddenly invaded by the distinct fragrance of lilies, reminding us of the lilies that surround his apartment. On these two occasions at least, the Still Small Voice became the Sweet Smelling Fragrance!

Many of the clearest nudges I receive come while I am writing. It is as though the Holy Spirit is alerting me by sending me the equivalent of an e-mail.

A few come with such urgency that I feel the need to drop everything and pray. Normally, I just make a note of them, and resolve to return to them later.

For Reflection and Prayer

I need to be careful not to get so carried away with the fact that the Lord is sharing something with me that I forget to take it up properly later on.

  Lord, help us to recognize it is no coincidence when
You bring people to our minds. Help us to remain a
while longer in Your presence, in case You have more
to say to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sharing the Lord’s heart

The real prophets of our day are those who can perceive what is happening in modern society, see where it will lead us, and give a value judgment upon it . . . We should not just absorb facts, but think about their significance. (Richard Foster)

I was walking past a shopping mall the other day, when I felt the Lord saying in my heart:

  ‘This is a generation that has all but forgotten Me. It has everything it wants, but it does not know or honour Me. These are the Temples they have made – and they will take the consequences.’  

Scripture is clear that God judges cities and nations according to the opportunities they have been given.[3] We in the West have espoused wrong priorities, and made Mammon more important than devotion to the Almighty. We have acted as if any deity were His equal, and as though God’s laws were an impediment to be avoided, rather than a structure on which to base our society.

With little understanding of the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping, let alone of God’s holiness, more and more anti-Christian policies are being implemented in western nations. Combined with the increasingly ‘politically correct’ climate that causes people to impose their own self-censorship, these measures constitute a real threat to the distinctive Christian voice in our nation.

God is raising up many prayer warriors as a shield for our prodigal continent, but let us be under no illusion: judgment has already begun, and we need to continue fervent in prayer and repentance. We are on the thinnest of ice as a continent.

  Father, we recognize that we entirely merit Your judgment. We cry out to You that we, who know You, may respond in such a way that this work of judgment may yet prove redemptive rather than purely destructive – and that You may be more merciful to us than we deserve. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Listen for wider issues

I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding mind. (1 Kings 3:12)

God is interested in everything that happens, and through His Still Small Voice He interprets matters to us. When Stephen Parker conducted a survey of how believers made their decisions, however, he noted a heavy preponderance of what we might call ‘privatized’ leadings.
[4] None of the people he interviewed mentioned any example of being directed into public, social or political actions. This has nothing to do with the Lord not wanting us to take an active interest or involvement in these fields; it is more a sign that we are in great danger of ‘privatizing’ the Still Small Voice.

As we seek the Lord’s strategy for our lives, our churches and our communities, we may well find ourselves praying for people groups, regions and nations with as much longing as we have for matters closer to home and heart.

Such an attitude worries the powers of darkness, who promptly set out to try to neutralize the danger. They may, for example, try to lull us into believing that we are doing all right as we are. If they can succeed in nurturing complacency, we will see little need to reach out for the more that God has in store for us. Alternatively, the enemy reverts to brute force, trying to make us believe that the task we are facing is so far beyond our abilities and resources tat we may as well abandon it altogether.

If that does not work, they may try to fool us into thinking that listening to the Still Small Voice will make us too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use in a technologically complex society.

Let us start by restating something that ought to be self-evident, but which often gets forgotten or ignored, and that is that the Lord wants to speak about wider issues. A substantial proportion of our ministry has been spent in providing informed intercessory insights to help people pray about world events. We have directed people’s focus far and wide – not because any one person or group could possibly respond to all the information we send out but rather on the basis that the Lord can, at any moment, ‘harness’ what they have read, and turn it into heart-felt prayer.

For Reflection and Prayer

  As surely as the Bible teacher waits on the Lord
to discover what passage of Scripture to expound,
so may we listen to You, Father,
about the things we are involved in –
and about the things that are happening in our day.
We lift to You now especially . . .

Spiritual Warfare

The more we develop the art of reflection, the more likely we are to discern the specific spiritual influences that are at work in churches, situations and localities.

Wherever Jesus went, He wrestled to set men’s souls free from the various miseries that were overwhelming them. He saw in His Spirit the battle that had to be fought against the powers of darkness, and He was fully aware of strongholds embodied in certain people and places.

The warfare was at its most intense in Jerusalem, where the religious leaders had espoused the dangerous assumption that when the Messiah came, they would be the ones who would be offered star billing in His Kingdom. How insulted they must have felt by Jesus’ declaration that the first would be last, and the last first.

The Scribes and Pharisees had seen many things that should have melted their hearts – but religious pride had rendered the Still Small Voice inaudible to their ears. That is why they felt nothing but anger and jealousy when people were helped and healed. The Lord was grieved at their hard hearts. He denounced them as hypocrites, and declared that they would be excluded from God’s Kingdom purposes. Their critical spirit made it all but impossible for them to acknowledge the Messiah they professed to be waiting for.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew Aslan has just sung creation into being, but Digory’s reprehensible uncle is as incapable of appreciating the wonder of a new land being born as the Pharisees were of honouring the Lord Jesus.

  When the great moment came and the Beasts spoke, he missed the whole point. When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (‘only a lion,’ as he said to himself), he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing – only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring.

Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, ‘Narnia awake,’ he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, bayings and howlings.

Jesus pronounced serious ‘woes’ against the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, because words of love would not have even begun to convey to them the seriousness of their situation. A woe is the opposite of a blessing. It is more like a curse.

Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s house did not blind Him to the consequences of what He was doing. He knew fell well when he knotted a rope and drove the money lenders out of the Temple that, when they had recovered from their humiliation, the religious leaders would pursue Him to death.

Prayerful detective work often reveals patterns of attack or abuse that are, to some degree at least, satanically induced. When we realize what we are really up against, we pray and fight harder. I remember once ‘seeing’ an imp sitting astride a computer that refused to work. When I commanded it to go, the computer started working again. It was an object lesson in spiritual warfare. As always, discernment is vital. Computers also malfunction when you type in wrong commands!

Something more sinister than mere human differences is often at work when Christians fall out with one another. The devil loves to stir people up to bring false accusations against godly men and women. Paul prayed that he, along with other leaders, might be protected from evil
[7] because he knew how easy it is for Satan to outwit believers.

Evil is not an intellectual problem; it is a spiritual one. For us, as for Jesus, a major part of our work is not just helping to set individual people free in their walk with the Lord, but involving ourselves in the fight against systematic evil.

Paul recognized the activities of demons within human structures, but he did not make the mistake of confusing social institutions with the demonic powers themselves.

Tom Marshall has seriously helpful things to say about integrating faith, spiritual warfare and our place of work.
[8] He points out that corporations are not of themselves either evil or godly; it is the decisions they make, and the influences that are brought to bear on them which bring businesses, governments and churches under Godly or demonic spheres of influence.

As we set out to serve the Lord in these institutions, we will inevitably come up against prejudices and vested interests. Spiritual opposition then is all but inevitable. This is why it is important to prepare carefully for the task ahead.

Just as Paul mobilized people to pray for him,
[9] so we must set up networks of communication, involving people who have a heart to see God glorified in these places and organizations.

May the Lord use all who are seeking to make an impact for Him in institutions. Why not lift such people before the Lord now?

For Reflection and Prayer

  Help me to overcome evil, Lord –
not just by avoiding infringing specific laws,
but by honestly facing the things I need to face.
May no pressures from within or without
blunt my zeal for serving You.
May truth, humility and love
keep me from the evil one.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1  1 Samuel 29:4, 30:6
2  Dr Pierson was the son-in-law of George Mueller who founded the Bristol orphanages. Mueller’s extraordinary faith inspired generations of Christians to trust the promises in God’s Word more fully.
3  Matthew 11:21-24 cf Isaiah 28:21-22. We will look in much greater detail at what the Lord is saying to the nations in Led by the Spirit.
4  Stephen Parker Led by the Spirit (Sheffield Academic Press).
5  Use our web site to inspire you to pray – especially in the section ‘Intercessory Insights.’
6  C.S. Lewis The Magician’s Nephew (Harper Collins) pp.116-117
7  2 Thessalonians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 2:11
8  Tom Marshall Understanding Leadership. (Sovereign World). See the chapter ‘Meet the Corporation.’ Writing as both a successful businessman and a church leader, Tom has extremely helpful insights to share concerning both worlds.
9  Eg Col 4:3, 1 Thess 5:25, 2 Thess 3:1
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