Those words, unwelcome abundance, had been percolating in my head for some time. I tried to shake them off, but somehow they kept coming back. I wondered where they were from—a book, a poem, a movie? Two other words also came along: perspective and availability. Sometimes my mind makes connections that baffle me. Along with being intriguing, these words made me consider my relationship with God.
They made me consider the number of occasions when I felt resolutely that the Lord expected something from me.
First, they made me consider the number of occasions when I felt resolutely that the Lord expected something from me. Those occasions had as much to do with my personal life, my spiritual life, as my life as a member of a religious organization. If I am to be frank, on more than one occasion the impression was so firm and clear that I let myself be carried away by it, and the Lord blessed my efforts. But on more than one occasion, although the impression was clear, my opinions led me to other conclusions. My religious convictions and my biblical and theological knowledge argued that what was presented to me could not be the right perspective. After all, the Lord could only lead me on a path that is according to His Word. Well, at least from the perspective I had of His Word. I had the impression that the Lord had decided to manifest Himself in such an obscure way that I would remain unarmed, and I resignedly accepted His manifestation. In those cases, He did not disappoint me.
One writer has pointed out, in my opinion wisely, that
"All too frequently, in our commendable search for truth, we reject any perspective that differs from our own without understanding it or seriously considering its merit. Sometimes we resort to discrediting the integrity of those who hold opposing views in order to resolve internal confusion and bolster our confidence."1
As servants of Christ, our calling is to discover the message that God has for us and those around us. In creating a perfect world in which He placed humans, God made provision for their edification, first through His direct contact with them—giving them precise instructions that were sadly not obeyed—and then through His Word. God still speaks to us through that source of inspiration and direction. His precepts find application in every aspect of our existence—if our mind is open to the perspective He wants to present to us. That perspective can have a particular application for each of us. That’s right: particular—because God considers us individually, not en masse. He does not regard us as a group of believers. He considers each one of us as His children. For a father, every child is special. Each child is unique. Each child is considered individually. He sees you, He sees me, as His son, as His daughter. Individually.
Our individuality qualifies us in a special way as children of the Most High. It means that God comes down from on high and establishes His "tabernacle among us" (John 1:14, literal translation). Not taking advantage of the circumstances, not promoting a new campaign, not demanding a new commitment from us. He comes and sits at the table with us. Reads our newspaper. Watches the same show on TV with us. He spreads his blanket on the ground next to our blanket and rests with us. His presence is integrated into our life. He is real. He is palpable. And this has a special message for you and me. That message can sometimes only be understood by you. For it is like that “white stone" spoken of in Revelation 2:17—a stone with your new name written on it. Sometimes that message can only be understood by you, and it is difficult for you to put it into words.
That's in relation to perspective. The other word is availability.
We fail because we may not have been sufficiently available to understand the meaning of a call. A call can be as simple as the impression that we must pray for something or someone.
Once God has manifested Himself through His Word, what should my reaction be? It is at that point, it seems to me, that we fail. We fail because we may not have been sufficiently available to understand the meaning of a call. A call can be as simple as the impression that we must pray for something or someone. Or it can be as complicated as the need to bring together the church board to discuss a larger plan. We fail because we are not available enough to accept that God is speaking to us in such a direct way. After all, God no longer calls men and women to be modern prophets. Or is He still doing so?
I was struck by the words of these writers:
"Hearing the voice of God and receiving revelations is not as difficult as some might think. Many of God's people hear Him, but have not learned to perceive His voice. . . . To perceive means to take hold of, feel, comprehend, grasp mentally, recognize, observe or discern. Learning to perceive God's voice and act upon it is the key to successful Christian living."2
In my experience, recognizing God's voice is the key to building my spiritual life. "Doing something about it" is just as important as recognizing His voice—or even more important. It is not simply a matter of discerning the times and signs, it is what we do with that discernment that has the most value. It is the availability you place in the hands of the Creator that causes the greatest impact on your spirituality. It's what others notice.
When the Lord manifests Himself, it is not to entertain or impress us. Unless He wants you to do something special with His message, God is not in the entertainment business. When He makes a special appeal to you—through nature, a vivid impression, a sermon that reaches you to the depths of your being because you recognize it as His Word—He expects the proper reaction. He expects your availability. He expects that you pay attention to His message and act appropriately.
For some that may mean leaving family and homeland to go to the mission field. For others it may mean accepting a career that was never in their plans. Some are called upon to make serious financial commitments. For many, it means putting aside old preconceptions and acknowledging that they've been wrong—that can be the hardest thing. Above all, it means putting the self aside.
"Every soul should now be distrustful of self. Our own ways, our own plans and ideas, may not be such as God can approve. We must keep the way of the Lord to do his will, making him our counselor, and then in faith work away from self."3
If you are willing to accept the challenge of perspective and availability that unwelcome abundance presents to you, you can rest assured that the Lord has spoken to you.
Alberto Valenzuela is the associate director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference and editor of the Recorder.
1 Harold Faw, Psychology in Christian Perspective: An Analysis of Key Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995), p. 16.
2 Chuck D. Pierce and Rebecca Wagner Sytsema, When God Speaks (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2005), p. 60.
3 Ellen G. White, "An Address in Regard to the Sunday Movement," Review and Herald (Dec. 24, 1889), par. 8.