Monday, 14 August 2017

The still, small voice of God

1 Kings 19: 9-18 (page 301 in our pew Bibles) The still small voice of God speaks to Elijah, called a low whisper in our translation, or "a thin silence" in some others. God can speak to us in any way He likes but it certainly doesn't have to be dramatic.
Romans 10: 5-15 (page 946 in our pew Bibles) The assurance of salvation has to be preached. This is the solemn duty of every minister of the gospel.
Matthew 14: 22-33 (page 820 in our pew Bibles) The authority of God in Christ extends over all creation. Peter only shares in that authority while he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus

A favourite hymn of some in this church is a hymn called “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine”.
And you know that is I suggest one of the major differences between Christianity and all other religions.
In some Eastern religions who believe in reincarnation where you go and what you become are determined by how good or otherwise you have been.
In Islam your fate is in the hands of a distant, unknowable deity and while Allah can do as he pleases salvation is again believed to be determined by how good you have been.
In both cases, salvation, your future, is determined by “works” as the Bible puts it.
To put it in prosaic terms, whether you go to heaven or not is determined by what you do here on earth but nothing is guaranteed because we all know how far we can stray from the straight and narrow..
People often wonder why Christianity is called “Good news” which is what the word “Gospel” means.
It means you have absolute assurance of entry to the kingdom of God not by what you have done or not done but by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Faith in God’s grace (his free and unmerited love) demonstrated on the cross means that we believe that anything that stood in the way of our entry to heaven or the Kingdom of God was cleared away and forgiven, clearing the way for us to be granted that holy status as a child of God.
And in simply stating that to you all this morning I have fulfilled Paul’s call spelled out in his letter today. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” (v. 15)
You have that blessed assurance that your soul is clean and you are a child of God when we put our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our sins are forgiven and we have access to the kingdom through faith in God’s Love.
Making that claim loud and clear is what Paul is concerned with.
But how is that claim confirmed in our hearts. How does God communicate with us. How does He speak?
On one level he can speak through monumental acts like the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but as  is recounted in the first letter of Kings today He spoke to Elijah not through a mighty wind or an earthquake but in a “still small voice, in the translation we use it is referred to as “a low whisper” or in some others in “a thin silence” which is very mysterious and evocative.
It conjures up notions of having your conscience pricked, or a strange feeling in your gut, being mysteriously drawn in one direction or another.
You can be struck by a particular phrase or sentence of scripture even though you may have heard it scores of times before.
Sometimes words can appear in your mind or even “heard”. I have only one experience of this personally. My first wife, who died, was a very down to earth woman not given to flights of fancy but when I was trying to decide whether to go forward into public ministry in the church she was sitting on our front doorstep having a cigarette contemplating, and came in and said that she had heard words spoken to her in a soft whisper and the words were
“Feed my sheep”
Words which have propelled me in my ministry ever since.
God speaks to us also through other people (and they don’t have to be Christians or aware that God has acted through them) and through situations – both good and bad.
God speaks through Jesus’ teaching and occasions in the Bible. One such is the walking on the water incident which on one level is a description of God’s transcendent power over the created order – but the most important part of that story is not concerned with Jesus directly at all but with Peter.
Peter can walk on the water as well – that is the point – but only all the while that he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. As soon as he is distracted, his gaze wavers, and he starts to sink and Jesus has to haul him out.
And there lies the message on this passage. Not a spectacular stunt to amaze your friends, but in all things and in all situations keep your eyes fixed on Jesus because he transcends all situations and all calamities. 
If we don’t, when storms come, and they WILL come, we can metaphorically sink and be overcome by the storms of life. But keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and the good news he brings and let that be the dominant voice in our predicaments we can transcend all situations. We can walk on water.
God will have spoken to you all in one way or another in your life, otherwise I doubt many of you would be here today. What we need is to pray that our antennae are turned on and sharpened so we can hear what is so often a still small voice.
Let us pray.
Father you come to us and speak to us in many and various ways. Help us first of all to be expecting you to do so and secondly to be able to discern your voice amongst the clamour and noise in this world.


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