I was a relatively new Christian at a Christian convention, and I was being offered a place at a Bible College if I would just sign up there and then. It felt like it could be a ‘Follow Me’ moment. Was Jesus asking me to leave everything, i.e my University course, to follow Him? This would be costly in terms of telling non Christian family, but was this part of me ‘taking up my cross’ to ‘follow Him’? Matthew 10:38. I was confused and a bit scared. Scared of disobeying the Lord and missing an open door opportunity in front of me, but also sacred of ‘stepping out in faith’ and risking everything. Could it be that this was how I would demonstrate my commitment and faith to the Lord?
Well, I was a new Christian but I had already had some good teaching and had learnt a few scriptures. I knew somehow that it wasn’t the Lord’s way to hustle us into things, and so the pressure to make an immediate decision put on a warning light for me, even though I knew that the disciples left their boats and immediately followed Jesus when He called them. (Reading the gospels years later, I did realise that the disciples had probably already been watching Jesus, and feeling that hunger stirring in their hearts to get close to Him, before He called them. Mark 1:14-20)
Back to my journey with the offer of a place at Bible College, and feeling very churned up, I decided to take a step back and think a little more about this decision. That is when the Holy Spirit ‘dropped’ into my mind the scripture from John 10 about the sheep ‘knowing the voice’ of the one who is leading them, ‘the sheep listen to His voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When He calls….he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger’. John 10:3-5.
It was a good moment. Peace was restored, and I knew that this wasn’t Jesus way of leading, because I was feeling ‘driven’. That fearful condemning voice challenging me to prove myself and my faith, was not God. So there it is again, the wonderful truth that we are called to ‘follow’ Jesus, as He goes ahead and leads us. His voice is a beckoning, “Let’s, Me and you, have an adventure” kind of voice, not a “Do this or you’re a failure” kind of voice. And I suspect that when Jesus called those first disciples to follow Him, they heard that beckoning in His voice and saw it on His face too.
One time when the disciples were in a tight spot, trying to get across Lake Galilee on a very windy night, they see what they think is a ghost coming across to them on the water. Jesus calls to them “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” And Peter responds with the famous statement, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you”.
I have often wondered about that, because if this wasn’t Jesus how would Peter know if this ‘water walking being’ was encouraging him to come, imitating Jesus, in order to cause him trouble? I love it that Jesus just said “Come”. No persuasion, reassurance or long explanation about how to walk on water, He just said “Come”. What was it in that word ‘Come’ that gave Peter the faith to do the impossible and get out of the boat? Matthew 14:22-30.
I think it was that Peter knew his Master’s voice. He had heard Jesus say that word ‘Come’ many times in many different contexts to many different people. Something in that voice put faith in his heart that enabled him to do what no one else has ever done. Jesus beckoned him and he followed.
We know that there are many checks that will help us in discerning the Lord’s voice. The scriptures of course, and wise counsel from friends, family and pastors. There is also the ‘peace’ that the Holy Spirit brings when we ‘follow’ His promptings and leadings. Paul encouraged the Colossians with the advice to ‘let the peace of God rule in your hearts’ Colossians 3:15. When Jesus is calling us to follow Him in some way, even if we feel nervous about it, deep inside there will be that peace.
So if we are ever in a bit of turmoil and not knowing if the Lord is leading us in a situation, big or small, turning to Him with thanksgiving in our hearts that He is our ‘the Good Shepherd’, will help us to tune in to His voice. We will hear His ‘Come’, even if it does feel like He is asking us to walk on the water. We will learn to know His voice because He leads, He doesn’t drive, He doesn’t use guilt and fear, but he does invite and beckon, showing us the way with joy in His heart that we are following His lead.
At those times we can say to Him, “I want to thank you Lord that I can and do hear you voice, and I thank you that it is recognisable because your voice beckons, it releases grace to me and it gives me peace. Amen.