Even before being sentenced to serve a 30-year federal prison term, I’d been begging God to talk to me. To comfort me, to encourage me, to give me wisdom and direction. I’d asked Him to reveal His plans for me.
Imprisoned since 2009, I’ve increasingly asked God to speak to His purpose in all of this. There are so many aspects to serving time that are difficult for me–being unable to be there for my children, losing my marriage, being separated from my family and friends, being unable to be in church or participate in ministries outside of these walls, and being prohibited from working to earn enough money to make meaningful payments towards my $5.1 million restitution obligation. All of it has been frustrating. So, I ask the Lord, “What am I supposed to do?”
All the while that I’d been thinking that God was not speaking to me, I’ve learned that the problem was that I was not listening.
God speaks to us. He is speaking to us now. He has spoken to us far more frequently than, I think, we have ever imagined. We don’t believe this, perhaps, because we aren’t listening. We don’t hear His voice. Or, maybe we hear Him but are blocking what He is saying because we don’t truly wish to know what He has to say on the matter. After all, we are independent-minded people with Free Will who have sinned against our Lord and Creator–choosing to go our own way instead of submitting to His Will in all things. Furthermore, when we do claim to hear from God, it’s not always God that we’d heard. For we often hear what we want to hear because we do what we want to do.
I know this because that is how I have lived most of my life.
But even now, after all the time that God has provided for me to learn how to hear His voice, for all of the quiet and solitude that He has given me in prison, I find myself distracted. I get busy, and in the midst of the cacophony of life–even inside these prison walls, I’m not listening, not waiting on the Lord. I know how difficult it is to struggle with all of the voices of the world, the noise, and the responsibilities and demands on one’s attention and time.
As God continues to speak to us, have we lost the ability to hear Him?
So, we should ask ourselves these questions: To whom does He speak? How does He communicate with us? What kinds of things does He say? Why does He want us to listen to His voice? What do we need to do to better hear Him? And, How does He want us to respond to what He is saying to us?
To whom does He speak? His Word says that He speaks to His prophets, revealing His plans through them. He has spoken through Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many other Old Testament prophets. He has spoken through Peter, Paul, John. We remember His message to Jonah about Nineveh, and what David prophesied in the Psalms about Christ. We may know some of what He revealed to Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Obadiah, Malachi, and others. “Thus says the Lord,” “the Spirit fell upon him,” and “the Word of the Lord came to,” appear over and over in the Scriptures. We know what our future holds because God has revealed it.
He speaks through His apostles. When Peter told the lame man to pick up his mat and walk, he was responding to God’s voice. When Paul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, we can picture the exchange that turned him from a man who murdered Christians to one of the most powerful missionaries to have ever lived. Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Stephen’s last words. Paul’s letters to the churches. What is written in Hebrews and James and First and Second Peter. These are the words of our Lord spoken through these men.
He speaks to all believers: Jesus tells us that His Sheep Hear His Voice. In John 10:27, it reads, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” First Corinthians 2:16 says that we have the mind of Christ. He also speaks to those in authority, whether they acknowledge God or not. Most notably, we recall how the Lord moved Cyrus to free the Jews. Similarly, we know that God spoke through dreams to Nebuchadnezzar, moved the heart of Artaxerxes to grant Nehemiah’s request, and spoke to an Egyptian pharaoh through dreams interpreted by Joseph. He used Isaiah to speak to King Hezekiah, and His priests and Spirit to speak to King David. Does He not move the hearts of kings any way He desires, like channels of water? And He speaks to all mankind through Creation. Romans 1:20 speaks to this truth, as does Psalm 19:1-4: “The heavens reveal the glory of God,” speaking to all peoples in all languages.
How does He communicate with us? He has spoken to some face to face: to Adam while walking in the Garden of Eden, to Abraham as the Angel of the Lord, to Moses from a burning bush. He has spoken through judges and prophets, to Elijah with a still small voice, and to Job from the midst of a whirlwind. Both Ezekiel and John heard Him speaking while seeing Him on His Throne with eyes of blazing fire. Mary and Joseph heard from the Lord through messenger angels. Many heard from God in person during Christ’s ministry. Still more have heard from Him through His disciples, apostles, and other believers. Paul was warned in advance about the shipwreck by an angel. All of us have heard Him speak to us through the Holy Spirit.
He speaks to us through dreams, visions, a Voice Speaking from Heaven (most notably during Christ’s baptism, transfiguration, and Passion Week). He speaks to us through the Word of God. Some of us have the spiritual gifts of prophesy, knowledge, and wisdom–all involve hearing from God and sharing His words with others. Romans 12:6 tells us those who have the gift of prophecy to exercise it in proportion to their faith. With faith, we hear from God and know His will for our lives. John 8:29. He moves our hearts, He answers prayers, and He has given us each a conscience through which He speaks Right and Wrong (Romans 2:14-15). In all things we are led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14) as He teaches us all things (John 14:26).
What kinds of things does He say? He makes predictions, delivers exhortations, makes proclamations, issues condemnations, decrees adoptions, provides directions and instructions (like in Joshua 1:1 and Judges 6:14), and offers invitations (like John 3:16). He reaches out to us with the Greatest Love that we could ever know. He speaks Life, Forgiveness, Redemption, and Restoration. The Bible is so full of God’s words that we cannot ever get enough of it. He has designed it to be our Bread of Life, continually sustaining our spirit and giving us wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement as we learn to obey Him better and to serve Him more effectively.
How does He want us to respond to what He is saying to us? In Matthew 21:28-31, Jesus speaks of a man who asked his two sons to work with him out in the field. One son agreed to work with his father, but never showed up. The other son told his father that he wouldn’t do it, but ended up showing up and working all day. Christ asks this simple question: “Which of these two sons is their father pleased with?” Great question, and it speaks volumes.
We are all familiar with God’s call in Isaiah 6:8, “Who will go for me?” His response should be ours as well, “Here I am, send me.”
Look at the stark contrast in John 8:47: “He who belongs to God hears what God says. If you don’t hear from God it is because you don’t belong to God.” In other words, if we have lost the ability to hear God speaking to us, we are not in a right relationship with Him. We have allowed the concerns of this life to crowd out His Word.
Are we setting aside time to listen to God? When we hear Him, do we understand what He is saying to us? Do we accept it? Are we obedient to what He wants from us? Do we respond by going to do His work? He has said that He needs more workers for the harvest. He has given us the Great Commission? Is God pleased with how we have responded to Him? Or are we deaf to what He is saying to us, having lost the ability to hear what our Heavenly Father wants from us?
It is never to late to turn to Him and listen to His Voice and obey Him. We owe Him our very lives, our salvation, the forgiveness and mercy that He has freely given us–the hope of eternal life. We cannot live without Him. We cannot exist apart from Him. He is calling out to us, “Come!” Let us respond with, “I hear you, Lord! I am coming!”
Troy Titus, a father of five and former attorney, has been incarcerated since June of 2009. Troy welcomes correspondence mailed to Troy Titus 58299-083, FCI Ashland, P.O. Box 6001, Ashland, KY 41105.