Stewardship Part 2: Stewarding His Voice
I have been thinking about stewardship a lot lately. I wrote here about the first significant shift in my thinking; maybe we could even say a revelation: the idea that rather than just asking God for the resources I need, I need to ask Him to make me a worthy recipient of those resources—a steward he trusts. This morning, however, as I was writing in my journal about some things that happened in me at church this weekend, God added another little component to this idea of stewardship.
I think if you were to summarize this particular little tweak in my thinking, it would come down to an addition to what I previously considered a resource that God would ask us to steward. Let me explain.
I have for some time been asking God to speak to me—to speak more frequently, more clearly, more loudly, more obviously…whatever. I just want to KNOW that God is speaking to me, and KNOW what He is saying. This weekend God reminded me of several times I have just known something. There wasn’t an audible voice, or a burning bush, or anything written on a wall. There have been, however, several times in my life where I suddenly knew something with crystal clarity.
One day, right after I had just made some radical adjustments in my life, I just knew I would be on staff at Kanakuk Kamp that summer. I had been a camper there as a child, but hadn’t ever worked there before; I hadn’t even applied yet. There was no guarantee I would be accepted. Lots of amazing, Godly people I knew applied and weren’t accepted for the limited positions they had. It didn’t matter; I just em>knew it, with crystal clarity. I was going to be on staff that summer.
I also knew a few summers later with the same startling clarity that it would be my last summer there. I wasn’t done with college, there was no reason I wouldn’t work there the following summer. I had, till then, had every intention of working there again. I absolutely loved it, and that particular summer was the best time I had ever had there—I had no reason not to come back. Certainly, if you were to ask me what I wanted to do, with all my heart I wanted to come back again. In fact, my best bud that summer, Corey, caught me looking sad that night and asked what was wrong. I told him, “This is my last time to work here…I don’t know how, but I just know—this is it.” God was preparing me, telling me to enjoy my remaining time at the Kamp that had filled the best summers of my life since I was 13, it would be my last.
For some reason, the other time that stands out to me that I mostly clearly just knew something was almost an identical situation. I had never had any intention of going to Russia, but suddenly there it was— I just knew it; I was going to Russia that summer on a mission trip. My friend asked if I should pray about it first. My response was, “God’s told me that I’m going. Why do I need to ask Him again to tell me what I know He already said? All I need to ask Him about is how He’s going to pay for it!”
All said and done, I had six of the most amazing trips of my life to Russia over the next few years. And once again God spoke to me with that sense of knowing He had given me before. I was over there having the greatest time ever, and suddenly I just knew it would be my last. There wasn’t any discussion. God didn’t ask me if I wanted to come back (I did, desperately). There wasn’t any debate. I knew there wasn’t really even any choice in the matter. He was simply letting me know the way it was. I wasn’t going to be back—at least, not to do another camp for orphans like we had done. I don’t know why it was time to stop; I would have been content to keep on going and doing those camps for forever. I only know that that door was closed, that chapter in my life was finished.
I don’t know why God chose to tell me those things. I’m pretty practical. As I seek for God to speak to me more, I know that I tend to want orders and direction, practical things from Him. I don’t tend to ask him to tell Him that He loves me, but rather to tell me what He wants me to do.
I should point out that while I have said I’m asking God to speak to me more, I am equally aware that He might be speaking to me already and I am not aware of it. That would mean that I either cannot hear His voice for some reason or other, or that when I hear it, I don’t recognize that it is His—maybe I just think it’s my own idea. In that case, we are given the mind of Christ, but I want to distinguish when I’m thinking with HIS mind, vs. my own. And in the former case, I need to ask God to reveal anything that would hinder me from hearing his voice. No matter what, whether I am asking Him to speak more, or to help me hear better, I’m still searching for the same thing: I want to hear more from God.
So, as I was praying and journaling about the time I spent asking God to speak to me, I suddenly saw that this too is a stewardship issue. God’s voice is a resource no different than the money he gives you, the place where you live, the time that you have, etc. His voice is a gift, a resource that He gives to you. How would you be a good steward of His voice though? I mean, I have just talked about how I don’t just want His resources, but I want to be worthy of them. So how can I be worthy? How can I be someone He wants to talk to—not just because He loves me, but because He can trust me with what He says?
Think of a reporter and his “source.” Why does a source choose to confide something in that reporter? They don’t have to tell anything. They talk because they get something in return. They get money, they get justice, or they get off the hook for something (obviously this varies greatly depending on the nature of the snitch). The point, however, is that I began to question what would make God want to trust me with His thoughts, His voice, His directions, even.
The first step in becoming a good steward of God’s voice is simply to obey what He gives you. Whatever He has given you to do already, do it. Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it. Is there someone you need to repay? Do it. Is there something you need to give away? Give it. Once you have done the first thing, you have shown yourself faithful. Now you are ready to hear the next thing.
Think about it. I want God to tell me what to do, but why would He bother to tell me what to do if He knows I won’t do it? I want God to tell me what to dream and what to pray for, but why would He tell me that if He knows I’ll dismiss it as being impossible?
The second thing that seems to me to be important in the idea of stewarding His voice is to not be greedy with it. I should explain. If God gives financial resources, we understand that we ought to look for opportunities to share those wisely with those in need, to “gain friends” for ourselves, or to invest in ways that will benefit the Kingdom. Those resources shouldn’t be only for our own personal gain. We are to steward them, not to hoard them. His voice is a resource just as finances are. The same principle applies.
How could you be greedy with His voice? Well, by thinking that the only reason He talks to you is for your own benefit. I can think of two ways in particular that you can share His voice with others. The first applies to any time He gives you understanding. When you read the Word and God speaks to you through it, sometimes that new understanding isn’t just for your own personal sake. Sometimes (if not always) you are growing and maturing in Christ so that you can pass that understanding on to someone else in the faith. We call that discipleship.
Why on earth would God want to speak to you and reveal Himself to you if you had no intention of sharing your understanding of Him with someone else? This is why Christian writers and speakers do what they do. It’s why we have youth leaders and Bible study leaders. Because when God speaks to us, we feel compelled to share that resource with someone else. We feel compelled to steward that resource, to invest it into God’s Kingdom and see it multiply.
The other way I have seen people steward God’s voice is a bit more niche and may not apply as generally to all, but bears mentioning. I have known many people who feel that God has told them something that was really for someone else. This can take many forms. It can be some word of encouragement, a Bible verse, or some other thing that they feel they are supposed to share with someone else. It may be that they had a dream or vision. Or it could alternatively be something as simple as God putting someone on their mind. No matter the form or the breadth (or simplicity) of what God shares, the result is still that it really requires that you pass that on to someone else.
This sounds simple enough. It’s not such a big deal to call someone and say, “Hey! I don’t know why, but I feel that God put you on my mind. I just thought I’d call and check up on you.” It may take a little effort to find the time to call (or text or email or FB or whatever it is you do these days), but that’s not too hard.
For some of my friends, though, who have gotten much more specific words, it can be very difficult. I know someone who felt God saying he should walk up to a couple of strangers and say something that made no sense (to him anyway). Here is where it begins to get tricky. The fear of man seeps in along with the fear of being embarrassed. We begin to rationalize. “What if I’m wrong? That would be really awkward. I mean, that may not have been God. Surely He wouldn’t want me to make Him look bad by saying something He didn’t really say, right?” While we thus debate the message we have been given, the opportunity or the momentum to obey is often lost.
It can be even more difficult than that. What if you feel that God gave you a vision of something painful? What if you saw some hurt that you knew that person wanted to hide, and you felt God wanted you to bring it to light? Or what if it was something that you felt God was showing you was going to happen? What if you weren’t even sure what you were supposed to do with the information you were given? You don’t have to look far into the Old Testament prophets to realize that not every time God spoke it was to say, “Jesus loves you.” Jesus does love you, and He is always working out that love toward you. It’s just that sometimes that message of love is cloaked in discipline or warning or correction. Those are hard messages to give. We love to steward messages of His love, but it’s not so much fun to steward messages of reproof. We must, however, be a good steward of either.
Stewarding God’s voice—it was something I had never really considered before. If I am to be the kind of woman He can trust with His voice, His messages, His word…then I must be willing to obey when He speaks, and I must be willing to share it (and so I write this article, hoping that it is in the spirit of obedience and generosity, of good stewardship—not in some twisted sense of pride).
The final point I want to share about stewardship is to point out who is the giver and who is the receiver. I realize this seems basic. God gives, I receive. Simple enough. The fact is simple, but the implication of that is a little bit harder to grasp.
Here’s what I’m getting at. I desperately sought to hear from God, but felt like I kept getting the silent treatment. I was discouraged and disappointed. People all around me were telling me that God speaks and I can expect to hear from Him. I was even telling that to other people. I still believe that is true; don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe that He does. The thing that hit me, though, was my sense of entitlement about it. “I sought after you, therefore you must answer me; you must speak to me.” I admit, the delivery sounded much softer and more acceptable at the time, but this was kind of the heart of it.
God does speak—when HE chooses, not when I demand or even politely ask, or desperately beseech. No matter how I may posture myself in an attempt to manipulate His response, the choice is still up to Him, as GOD, as to when, and how, and how much He chooses to speak to me. I can certainly ensure that I don’t do anything to hinder Him from speaking. I can become worthy of that gift, that resource—but it is still His resource to give, mine to receive.
Honestly, I came to a point where He had been so silent after such a long and intense period of my seeking that I had to finally ask myself this: “If He never chooses to speak to me again, is He still worth following?” With all my heart I said yes, but the question was a bit of a turning point. I realized that I had been arrogant in my expectations and demands. There was a small part of me that felt he owed it to me. There is a fine line between faith and demand. I am learning to ask and to fully believe that He will speak to me when He deems it wise and best. I am learning that He will speak to me in the way that He thinks wisest and best for me. I am to humbly wait upon His timing, and gratefully accept His way with me. I may eagerly hope and ask for more, but I still have to “Be still and know that He is God.”
When thinking about stewarding His voice, there is something I would be remiss not to address—one word of caution, if you will. It has to do with how we listen and search for what He would say to us.
I think it will be clearest if I address the same issue with the issue of finances first. God is the great Provider, and He certainly can provide money from the sky or in a fish’s mouth. However, He is probably not so likely to do that for someone who is able, but unwilling to work. Otherwise, the church would be filled with the rich and unemployed. For the majority of us who are of sound mind and body, as we ask for God’s provision, it would behoove us to also seek employment, recognizing that one of the ways God most often provides financial resources is through a job.
The same applies when we desire to hear from God. God can write on the wall, or talk through a burning bush. He can take us to the top of a mountain, chat with us amid a bunch of thunder and lighting, and then leave us with a few pages of notes to make sure we didn’t miss a thing. He can do all of that. However, He is probably not so likely to do that, at least not regularly. God’s primary means of communication with us is through His Word. How many people (myself included—I’m not pointing fingers here) want to hear something new from God, but they (WE) aren’t willing to hear what He’s already said? Or they might be willing to hear it if someone else will tell them (thus, they go to church on Sunday), but they aren’t willing to read and study for themselves; that would take too much effort. I know the Holy Spirit does speak to us; I just wonder why He would bother speaking to someone who wouldn’t bother to read what He’d already said? It’s as presumptuous as asking God for financial resources, but refusing to see a job as that means of provision.
I mentioned a time when I felt that God wasn’t speaking. I should clarify something. It’s that God wasn’t speaking other than through His Word, and I was seeking more. I can say, though, that He did consistently speak to me through His Word. His Word itself is God speaking to us.
If you want to hear from God, start with reading His Word; start with what He has definitely, already spoken. Recognize that He has spoken to you, and it is your joy to seek that out through study and meditation. When he speaks to you through scriptures, and if he does speak to you beyond that, have a grateful heart that humbly accepts and appreciates that He, in His love and sovereignty and holiness, deigns to speak to you at all. Be willing to do the first thing that He asks of you when He speaks. He is likely to give you only one point of instruction at a time. His word is a lamp to your path—one step at a time is all He promises to illuminate. Finally, ask God to show you how you can give away the Word He has given to you. Search out how you can multiply and steward well the investment of the resource of His voice that He has entrusted to you.
Oh that we, His people, might all be such that He would feel every confidence in us and freely speak to us, knowing that we were worthy stewards of such an honor. Amen.
If you missed Stewardship Part 1: Being, not just Receiving, click here.
I do know camp is spelled with a “c”…but when referring to Kanakuk, they spell kamp with a “k”, for all you grammar types and Scrabble/Words with Friends aficionados who might be hung up on that particular spelling choice.