As a child I was accustomed to falling asleep to the sound of my Mother’s voice as she read to my sisters and I. I have an older sister and a younger sister and for years we shared a bedroom. Three twin beds and a whole lot of pink! From the time we were old enough to listen, every night my mother read to us a chapter from a book. She read great books like The Hiding Place, Little Women, The Cross and the Switchblade, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, and Pilgrim’s Progress, to name just a few. I love the sound of my Mother’s voice and the comfort it brought me as a child, safe and warm in my bed. It was the last sound I heard each night and the first sound I heard each morning. I could hear my Mom’s voice even in a crowded room … because I knew it well.
My Mother is a bedrock person in my life. She expertly modeled for me how to love others well. I watched her love my father, love my brother and sisters sacrificially and everyday love God’s family. She became a Christ follower as an adult and took God’s word at face value. I spent my childhood watching her walk through the gospel. When I would arrive home from school, she would have her Bible and pen/paper out on the bar in our kitchen where she had been studying. She was trying to”catch up” so she could serve God well and teach us the truths of the gospel. It was a common sight to walk into our house and see my Mom praying or simply holding a hurting sister. Her walk with God was apparent in every part of her life. Even simple trips to the grocery store were mission fields for her. At some point during a trip down an aisle, she would see a hurting soul and immediately offer comfort. It was not unusual to see her holding hands and praying with random strangers at a moment’s notice. I was privileged to have a front row seat and watch my Mom, and my Dad, for that matter, live out the gospel. Now we did not grow up with extras, but I watched my Mom generously love others. She invited people into our home on a regular basis – this example has shaped how I live my life today. My Mother is truly an inspirational person, and I am so thankful to call her Mom – often, hers is the voice I hear in my head.
For example, I will sit on the couch, cross legged and I’ll hear her voice state “Sit like a lady.” I’ll start to make a meal and hear her say “every plate needs something green.” I will start to give a piece of advice to one of my adult children and I’ll hear her say “Unsolicited advice is never heard.” I will be at a pivotal point in a decision and I’ll hear her say “God’s word is timeless and has the answer for every situation.” I know my Mom. I know her character. I am a student of her thoughts and an observer of her actions. Even when a novel situation occurs, I can predict with pretty good accuracy what my Mom would say because I know her. This level of intimacy comes from years of close fellowship. And it is probably the best way for me to start an explanation about how to walk in the Spirit.
The spirit led walk is implied in John 10:27, and it is one of my favorite verses – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:”
So let’s break down the three steps Jesus described in this verse. Hear. Know. Follow. How do we hear God? The number one way is through His word. The time spent in the Word of God, through systematic study or pleasurable perusing, is important. We cannot be a student of God without devoting our time to studying and learning His words. The memorization of scripture cannot be overvalued, it is important to bury His word deep in your heart so He can remind you of it at a moment’s notice. How are we known by God? We are known through daily communion with Him. This can happen through prayer, praise or meditation on His word. And, lastly, how do we follow Him? By obeying his commandments, for starters, and through the leading of His spirit. I am quick to say, I feel God nudging me to talk to this person, or leading me to read this chapter today in the Bible, or I feel God is prompting me to start a blog, to give a very specific example. I know it is a comment many are uncomfortable with. Did I hear the audible voice of God to start a blog? No. But in prayer time, I felt the nudge to be more effective in my discipleship of the believers around me. Then one day, about a year ago, I was reading a very interesting Christian blog and I thought what an effective use of time, to speak to a number of people at once, real time. And I felt that familiar nudge or check in my heart that said this idea was not just a good thing but possibly a God thing. The same way I knew without asking, that my Mom would approve of the blog, I knew God would too. Because I have spent almost 5 decades getting to know Him, and because I am a long-term student of His character, I am also comfortable in saying that God is nudging me to do this or that. I know many of you would love for God to write a message to you in the sky, or speak in an audible voice, but if you are not a student of His character, you’ll still have questions and you won’t know what He means. You may even be paralyzed in indecision. So even a message in the sky would not be enough. The problem is not that God is incommunicado, but that we are too busy or unprepared to listen. Or maybe, you are too afraid to do what God’s spirit is urging you to do because it may cost you something. Your time, your money or your comfort, huh?
The perfect safety nets to practice walking in the Spirit are your marriage and a gospel-based church. If you and your spouse are believers, sit down and discuss issues that you know God is working on in your lives. Devote this idea to combined prayer time. Together search the scripture for relevant answers. What does God have to say on the subject? Discuss what you think the answer could be. Does the answer line up with God’s character? When you are in agreement, try it! Where two are gathered together, God promises to be there too (Matthew 18:19)! So, you can’t go too wrong. And if it is not the right time, but it lines up with God’s word, how bad could it be? Don’t be paralyzed with indecision; be bold! Follow God’s prompting. Like with everything, the more you act on the Spirit’s urging, the more comfortable you will become obeying, and the quicker you will recognize the nudge.
I remember one of my very first step outs with the Spirit’s leading. Jody and I were living in Germany on a very small budget with three children, and I was in the commissary, which is a military grocery store. I was walking through the store with my three children, all under the age of 3, two in the cart and corralling the oldest, and silently praying inside my heart. As I got to the meat counter, I started to pick up the correct amount of chicken for my small family when I felt this nudge in my heart to buy more. I also felt led, or prompted by the Spirit, to buy more than enough vegetables and a dozen fancy dinner rolls from the bakery. When I left the commissary, I felt excited and anxious. Had I just wasted our money or had I actually felt the Spirit’s prompting? What would Jody say when he heard this story? Why would God need 4 more chicken breasts and fancy bread? But I trusted the feeling in my heart. I had unpacked the groceries and gotten the kids settled when the phone rang. Someone from the chapel was calling to ask if we could entertain missionaries that night who were in town unexpectedly- four of them! I quickly said, YES! I got off the phone rejoicing that God had chosen to use me! Now, I don’t remember much about the evening other than having an overwhelming peace that I served a God who cared enough about these 4 missionaries to make sure they had a good meal. SIDEBAR: Now why He hadn’t wanted to give them dessert is still a mystery, but I will ask one day when I get up into heaven! When I told Jody the story, he was also excited and encouraged me to never back away from the nudging of the Spirit. We agreed to be available for God’s use. And so it began.
Another similar example happened more recently. This past Christmas, God nudged us to prepare food for the Manna House, our local rescue mission. It was the Thursday after Christmas, and the 8th day of our family’s 10 days of Christmas celebration (another post to follow). I felt nudged for us to make sack lunches for the mission and donate them that very day. Why sack lunches, I didn’t know. I have brought food there before, but never sack lunches. But who am I to question God? So, I simply obeyed and left the details to Him. The day had not gone smoothly, to include my having to go to work, even though I was technically off. But I knew in my heart that no matter how busy we were, we had to get this done. So, we furiously made 60 sack lunches – sandwich, orange, bag of chips, and a couple of cookies went into each bag. We finished and ran to the mission. As we were driving, I was exhausted and I said out loud, “If I’ve missed God with these sack lunches, oh well, someone will surely eat them.” When we drove into the parking lot the mission was closed. Jody, my son, his wife, and I looked at each other and said, “We’ll put them on the benches in front of the building and see what happens.” We had no sooner started unpacking the boxes from the back of our car when out of the woodwork came 60 people, all of whom God dearly loves and wanted to feed. Not a single lunch was left – the exchange took less than 3 minutes. If I had brought my usual food to share, it would have been a waste, no utensils, no plates, etc. God had the plan, and He was the author of this meal. God proved Himself again. My whole family rejoiced in being used during the Christmas season to share His love!
Now God prompts me to do things besides cook, but if that is the extent of His need for me, I’m cool with that too. Together, Jody and I have made lots of little steps, and some big steps too, and with each step our faith becomes further entrenched. We have both made boo boos as well, like giving money to someone when we thought is was God’s prompting only to have it turn ugly, and the money used in unbecoming ways. But that is OK. God doesn’t expect anything more than our attempt at obedience. And that is what we are whole-heartedly striving to do.
The church and the fellowship of believers are also very important in learning how to be led by His Spirit. I pray you are in a church that encourages you to follow God’s leading, and supports bold moves, and loves you through missteps. A spirit led life is easiest lived with lots of support and when watching the examples of others. But if that is not possible, it is still OK. You and your spouse, walking together and grounded in the Word of God, while chasing after Him, will figure it out too. There doesn’t have to be an audible voice, or a finger writing in the sky. As you try again and again, your comfort zone will expand, and so will God’s ability to use your marriage for His Kingdom. I love how Jody’s and my journey together towards a truly word washed life draws us closer together. My favorite moments are when Jody and I are leading a marriage group and at the Spirit’s prompting, we go “off script.” It is an amazing tie that binds when you serve God as a couple – what a bright light it is for the world to see! I love what Francis Chan says in his book, Forgotten God, “Live a life that demands an explanation.” Amen! I don’t want an explanation for our life that doesn’t require God to make sense! May the same be true with you as well!
About the Author:
Sue is a Christian Lifestyle Blogger who writes over at Word Washed Wife. Please be sure to check out her writings, and give her a follow!