do you hear what I hear?

My readings in fideism brought me to Henry Blackaby’s popular book, Experiencing God: How to Live the Full Adventure of Knowing and Doing the Will of God. I would like to hear from any of you who have benefited from this book.  Please don’t be shy about letting me know (kindly) what I may be missing.

My take on this book is that Blackaby puts a lot of pressure on people to hear and obey the commands of God but gives scant help in discerning his voice.  He says that God wants to tell us what is “on His agenda for your church, community, and nation at this time in history.  Then you and your church can adjust your lives to God, so that He can move you into the mainstream of His activity before it is too late.”  He assures us that God gives us these specific instructions through Scripture, prayer, circumstances, and the church but he does not explain how.  He concedes that he cannot give us a formula or method to discern when and what God is speaking, but says that if we develop a relationship with God then we will just know when it happens.

He raises the stakes when he warns that “If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.”  On the other hand, “You also need to be very careful about claiming you have a word from God.  Claiming to have a word from God is serious business.  …If you have not been given a word from God yet you say you have, you stand in judgment as a false prophet.”  And “Be very careful how you interpret circumstances.  Many times we jump to a conclusion too quickly.”  On the other, previous hand, you should not be too slow in claiming a word from the Lord, for “The moment God speaks to you is the very moment God wants you to respond.”

I’m guessing that this back and forth advice is bound to load up many sincere Christians with false guilt.  It seems unfair to tell people that they must hear God’s specific, regular directives (or their relationship is in trouble) and then not tell them how.

Thoughts?

8 Comments

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  1. “Unfair” seems too kind. It seems to me like pastoral cruelty to tell people “If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience” and then not give them a sure remedy for not hearing His voice.

    BTW- I needed a good laugh this morning so I stopped at the local “Christian Bookstore” here in western Washington. To my delight, found a copy of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ on the shelf. Of course, with the way the shelves were arranged, it was next to ‘Your Best life Now’ (O being at the bottom right of the previous section of shelves, W being at the bottom left of its own section), but I suppose in such circumstances you take what you can get!

  2. Justin:

    I had “cruel” but removed it because I didn’t want to be unkind–at least you can read my mind! Do you think that God is using Joel Osteen to move my book? Looks like I have underestimated both of them again!

  3. Perhaps Blackaby is hesitant to tell people the “how” because it would have to include advice along the lines of “Stop spending so much time reading books like this and spend that time in prayer, listening for God to speak to you.” I can’t imagine that would be good for sales, and it would certainly ruin any chance at a sequel. Although, I’d have a lot of respect for an author who titled his/her book “Don’t Read This – Pray Instead.”

  4. I think Gary Meadors’ book “Decision-Making God’s Way” is a well-researched and well-written response to Blackaby’s line of argument.

    One thing I especially appreciate about Meadors’ book is that he asks, ‘How does God speak in prayer? How can we know when it’s Him, instead of us just thinking pious-sounding things?’ (That’s not a direct quote.)

    Here’s a pious-sounding thing from Blackaby: “If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.” So, where does Blackaby get that from?

  5. It seems to me that many people spend more time talking about God’s will, being sensitive to his movement, and “chasing” after his plan than they do simply knowing God. Kevin DeYoung touches on this a bit in Just Do Something (which I might add is the best book I have read on knowing God’s will).

    And I think what you say is so true. Many people feel a sense of guilt for not having this sensational experience with God though they have no idea what that even means or looks like. Some things become so ingrained in our culture (or Christian culture) that we stop thinking about why they are believed or practiced.

  6. Gary T. Meadors October 9, 2009 — 7:19 am

    Jeff … give mine a shot … Decision Making God’s Way: A New Model for Knowing God’s Will (Baker 2003).

    I am working on an upgraded/expanded title on God’s will for Zondervan. My paradigm will be the same but I want to chase issues like “what is biblical wisdom” (Friesen doesn’t have a clue), a critique of the 3 or 4 major books on the subject, et. al. items.

    What am I doing on a blog … the Wittmer flu has infected me.

  7. Dr. Meadors, you need to write your own blog! I’d go there every time you wrote a new post!

  8. But isn’t knowing God’s Will for one’s life the very problem that has faced mankind throughout all the Ages?

    One man hears God’s voice from a burning bush.
    Another hears Him while sleeping.
    One man is told to leave town by an Angel of The Lord.
    Another somehow just knows that he is to leave.
    Some people are led by a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke.
    Other’s are led by a “still small voice.”

    Personally, although I admittedly am still struggling with the same issue in my own life, I think that having a relationship with God is the key. Did Jesus not say “My sheep know my voice?.”?

    Differentiating between God’s voice and my own imagination and desires sure is a challenge!

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