There were a few occasions in Brazil when I served as a translator for an English speaker. He stood before the audience, complete with the message. I stood at his side, equipped with the language. My job was to convey his story to the listeners. I did my best to allow his words to come through me. I was not at liberty to embellish or subtract. When the speaker gestured, I gestured. As his volume increased, so did mine. When he got quiet, I did, too.
When he walked this earth, Jesus was translating for God all the time. When God got louder, Jesus got louder. When God gestured, Jesus gestured. He was so in sync with the Father that he could declare, “as I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11 NRSV). It was as if he heard a voice others were missing.
I witnessed something similar to this on an airplane once. I kept hearing outbursts of laughter. The flight was turbulent and bumpy, hardly a reason for humor. But some fellow behind me was cracking up. No one else, just him. Finally I turned to see what was so funny. He was wearing headphones and apparently listening to a comedian. Because he could hear what I couldn’t, he acted differently than I did.
The same was true with Jesus. Because he could hear what others couldn’t, he acted differently than they did. Remember when everyone was troubled about the man born blind? Jesus wasn’t. Somehow he knew that the blindness would reveal God’s power (John 9:3). Remember when everyone was distraught about Lazarus’s illness? Jesus wasn’t. Rather than hurry to his friend’s bedside, he said, “This sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God, to bring glory to the son of God” (John 11:4). It was as if Jesus could hear what no one else could. How could a relationship be more intimate? Jesus had unbroken communion with his father.
Do you suppose the Father desires the same for us? Absolutely. Paul says we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29 NRSV). Let me remind you: God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus. God desires the same abiding intimacy with you that he had with his son.
I’ve always wondered what people meant when they said God told them so-and-so, or they heard God say this-and-that, yet I could never hear anything. I remember at the first retreat I went to, I heard the speaker say how he would just sit in his room for hours, and he’d encounter God. Excited by his experience, I went home and tried. I was expecting some extraordinary, what I didn’t know, but just something.
To my disappointment, nothing. I didn’t see a thing, or hear a thing. A year (more I think) has past since then, and I’ve come to realize that God’s voice and presence is not physical like that of a human beings (there could be exceptions though). It’s like a gentle breeze: you don’t see it, you don’t hear it, but you know it’s there. It’s always been, you just never knew it.
You know those voices in your head that argue back and forth when you’re in a dilemma? The good and bad voice? I once asked my mentor if the good voice was the Holy Spirit speaking to me, and she told me yes. The bad one is then obviously Satan. Those voices have always been speaking to me as long as I remember, but I always thought those were mine. So though I heard God’s voice, I didn’t know and thus continued to act the same way.
But now that I know I’ve been hearing God’s voice all along, and the more I study His words and spend time in his presence, the clearer the voice grows. And it talks to me at school, at home, when I’m sad (though I tend to ignore it then), when I’m happy. It’s always there.
*** It can be tricky figuring out the source of the voice at times. Remember, the devil is the master of lies and often disguises himself as “an angel of light”, so any voice you hear that conflicts with the bible is NOT of the Holy Spirit!