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The Still Small Voice by Robert Weston

The Art of
Listening for
Wider Issues

. . .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

Hearing ‘beyond’ our traditions

Nobody is big enough to carry a cross and a prejudice! One of the best ways to pinpoint our prejudices is to ask someone who knows us well to highlight what they have noticed.

In this section we are asking the Lord to highlight our limitations, and to take us beyond them. All that God says and does will be in line with His will as it is revealed in Scripture, but our understanding of His Word may be more blinkered than we realize as a result of our doctrinal upbringing and past experience. From time to time the Lord pushes these boundaries.

Rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, pouring out the Holy Spirit – right until the end Jesus kept surprising His disciples into confronting their prejudices. Left to themselves, they would have repelled the woman with the flow of blood, scattered the milling children, and sent the lepers (the great untouchables) packing – to say nothing of withholding the gospel from the Gentile world.

It is worth reflecting on what might never have happened to the Church had Paul not had the courage to stand up to Peter. He pleaded with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church to look beyond their Jewish traditions and embrace God’s call to the wider world.
[12] Through the centuries, countless churches and denominations have parroted the argument that certain gifts were ‘for the early Church only.’ Ross Patterson describes how the otherwise godly Bishop Ryland rebuked the young William Carey, telling him that if the Lord really did intend to convert the heathen, He would do it without involving us.[13]

How grateful we can be that Carey did not allow the bishop’s tirade to squash his missionary heart. Carey’s motto ‘Expect great things from God’ kept him going through the setbacks and obstacles – and his pioneering work in India paved the way for a host of subsequent overseas missions.

In our day, it sounds strange to believe that anyone could equate the ‘Great Commission’ as being ‘for the first disciples only’ – until, that is, we remember all the voices that continue to urge us to desist from any form of missionary endeavour. In the name of tolerance we are exhorted to respect other faiths, even to the point of watering down Jesus’ call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. May we be as resistant to these siren calls as William Carey was – and as open to receive the Lord’s true directives.

For Reflection and Prayer

  Enlarge the scope of our listening, Father.
May the Holy Spirit direct our thinking,
rather than our minds quenching Your Spirit.
May neither fear nor prejudice hold us back
from seeking Your face and following Your leading.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thinking laterally

Ros and I often say to each other when watching the news, ‘What isn’t being said?’

The Lord’s leading will cause us to explore themes and to go to places that matter profoundly to the Lord, but which merit little or no mention in Church or media circles. At other times we may sense that what we are reading or watching is being slanted in a particular direction. Rather than simply responding to what is being served up for us, the Lord may want to show us a different way to pray about that particular situation.

I am about to give the draft manuscript of this book to a few friends to read through. It will be relatively easy for them to spot the spelling mistakes, and perhaps to take issue with particular points. It is asking rather more of them to notice things that I have not included that might have made it more punchy. May the Lord help us to think outside the box!

In step with the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

When I was a young Christian worker in Oxford, I used to visit a remarkable old lady. Although she was completely blind, she had the courage to walk along busy streets on her own, right into the city centre. ‘I put my hand in the hand of the Lord,’ she declared, ‘and off we go together!’ How about that for an example of keeping in step with the Spirit?

Some thirty years ago, I prayed for someone in great need. Just after I had read aloud some wonderful verses from Hosea, she received a powerful infilling of the Holy Spirit. With the enthusiasm of the convert, I dragged a friend round the following evening, told him how wonderful it was to be filled with the Spirit, and duly read aloud those same verses.

Precisely nothing happened. I was out of step with the Spirit or the simple reason that there is no such thing as a formula for going deeper with the Lord. Just as David waited on the Lord to receive His strategy for each new battle, so we must seek the Lord’s wisdom for every situation that we face.

The strategies that worked well twenty years ago are no longer the best ones to reach today’s largely unchurched post-modernist generation, for whom relationships and experience are more important than a top heavy hierarchical approach. Many secular professions are similarly encouraging an enquiry-based approach to learning rather than settling for traditional didactic methods.

This is a vital area to explore, not least because so many believers are left feeling permanently hungry as a result of hearing too many words but seeing too little power Sunday by Sunday. Large swathes of the Church leave excellent men and women cooped up in their seats, with their spiritual wings clipped. More focused support and encouragement could empower these people to go out and accomplish marvels.

I am increasingly comfortable using the word ‘church’ as a verb rather than just a noun. Whilst the Protestant reformation restored vital doctrines, it did little to permanently alter the way church services and structures operated. Luther may have promoted the priesthood of all believers, but he lacked the vision to implement the ministry of all believers.

As Paul wrote in Titus 2:14 ‘He is purifying for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.’ One of the ways the Lord can use our ability to hear His voice is to help us contribute to the new, more participatory forms of church that He is developing.

The goals of this ‘mega shift’ that is occurring are broadly in line with those of previous generations, but the means of expressing and achieving them will be radically different. Young ones are sure to be at the fore, but God will use older ones, like Joshua, to encourage and mentor them.
[15] There are few more important things to pray about than passing on the baton to a generation who will go further than we have done.

For Reflection and Prayer

  Lord, help us as fellowships and as individuals
to be in tune with Your plans and purposes –
even when You appear to be stepping right off the map.

Yielding that leads to life

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1 Cor 15:36)

You may be familiar with the following story. A young minister reached the conclusion that in order to further the ministry that the Lord was developing through him amongst young people, he would need to devote the whole of his life to it. After tendering his resignation in a painful meeting at his denominational headquarters, he and his wife were driving home when they had a serious accident, His wife was flung from the car following a collision and lay lifeless on the side of the road.

Within the space of a few hours this man had lost the two most precious things in his life: his wife and his ministry. At this moment of utter desolation, he heard the voice of the Lord more clearly than he had ever known before, ‘Will you still follow Me?’ You can almost hear the Lord Jesus asking Peter the same question at a time when many were turning back because the cost of following Him was proving too high.

Like Peter, this servant of the Lord also knew that there was nowhere else for him to turn to, and so he reaffirmed his willingness to follow the Lord, no matter what the cost. It was at this critical juncture that the Lord spoke a second time, telling him to pray for his wife. A desperate battle ensued, before life began to return into his wife’s body.

The man’s name is Loren Cunningham. Together with his wife Darlene, they went on to found Youth with a Mission: an organization that has reached countless young people for Christ.
[17] If Loren had settled for calling an undertaker and being an early widower, just think of all that would have been lost to the Kingdom. This is why reflection is so important. Are we facing situations we need to ‘yield’ back to the Lord? Or are we needing to take a stand and not yield an inch?

For Reflection and Prayer

  Lord Jesus, we find it hard when You call time on
something that has meant a lot to us
Like Peter, we want to build booths to prolong the
blessing, and to provide a sense of permanence
Teach us afresh the grace of yieldedness.
May we experience the truth of Jim Elliot’s words:
‘he is no fool who loses that which he cannot keep
in order to gain what he cannot lost.’

Listening for enlargement

Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.’ So God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJ)

Almost overnight, millions of Christians have begun praying a hitherto somewhat overlooked passage from the book of Chronicles. It is so entirely appropriate to pray to make an impact for the Kingdom that we could almost say that if we are not praying the ‘Prayer of Jabez’ then why is this?

Those of us who are wary of the often exaggerated claims of the ‘prosperity gospel’ may find ourselves veering too far in the opposite direction. There is nothing humble about under performing in order to avoid going over-the-top. To play safe risks living far below the level the Scriptures call us to. ‘Reduce the size of your tent’ might be a word to an elderly couple to downsize their family home, but the general tenor of Scripture urges us to have faith and extend our service for Him.

For Reflection and Prayer

  To realize how wonderful God’s promises really are, it can be helpful to turn them upside down. It is nonsense, of course, but if such an exercise helps us to realize how powerful the verses are the ‘right way up,’ then perhaps it can help to enlarge our vision, and to pray and act with more confidence.

The Lord is my slave-driver, who leaves me short of change. He drives me on by day and night, and drains me of my strength down paths I did not want to take. (Not Psalm 23:1-3)

Now may the God of all discouragement drain you of all joy and peace as you continue to doubt Him, so that you may end up feeling entirely helpless. (Not the Epistles to the Romans 15:13)

Now to Him who is able to do less than we can ask or imagine, due to the lack of power that is at work within us. (Not the Epistle to the Ephesians 3:20)
12 Galatians 2:11f, Acts 15:1-29
13 Ross Patterson The Antioch Factor (Sovereign World)
14 David Oliver and James Thwaites outline this problem on page 70 of their book Church that Works (Authentic Lifestyle). Wolfgang Simson also explores this new way of learning: see especially his chapter, ‘Fathering the next generation’ in ‘Houses that change the world – the return of the house churches.’ (Authentic Media) pp. 257-258. James Rutz has extremely important things to share about making Church more participatory in his ground-breaking publication, Megashift (Empowerment Press, Colorado Springs).
15 See my article, ‘The Joshua Generation,’
16 John 6:66-68
17 Loren Cunningham Winning God’s way (Front Line Publications)
18 So named after Bruce Wilkinson’s best-selling book The Prayer of Jabez (Multnomah, 2000)
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