Listening to God
It is difficult to say how God told Jonah to go and preach against Nineveh. We suspect that God spoke to the prophets of old the same way God speaks to us. If that is true, we have all the more reason to pay close attention to Jonah’s plight. We have all experienced some sense of call to respond to injustice, unfairness, or particular needs—some inner constraint which bids our attention and intervention.
Some might call such inner constraint “conscience,” but we understand it to be the leading of God’s Spirit. It is likely that Jonahs’ struggle to escape God was a struggle to escape the responsibilities of discerning what his “conscience” (read voice of God) was saying. He fled from Nineveh, perhaps thinking if he could get away from there, God’s voice would no longer trouble him. “Maybe,” he may have reasoned, “it wasn’t God’s voice at all!” So he ran.
God’s call requires stewardship which prayerfully considers the source of the call: “Is this God’s voice, or something else?” Christians are entrusted with the care of God’s call, to themselves as well as to others.
—Rev. Tim Suenram
- If God speaks to humankind through our “conscience,” as God surely spoke to Biblical figures, what other implications are suggested about the ways in which we address or dismiss the pangs of our own consciences?
- What is the church’s role in the stewardship of God’s call? How is it exercised in the church’s government? The worship and devotional lives of believers? How is it formed by the body of Christ?
- What are some other ways in which individuals can expect God to call them to certain actions and ministries?
How Do I Act?
- Brainstorm and create a chart listing ways to discern God’s call. Recall ways in which the church and individuals have been led to respond to needs. Place each term in one or more of the following categories: individuals, small groups (ie-classes, circles, etc.), congregation-wide, presbytery-wide, denomination-wide (ie-The call to pray for the Liberian people during their civil war was denomination- wide. It is assumed that this was God’s call through recognizing particular needs.)
- Using the internet or a concordance, look for various Biblical examples of men and women who were led to respond to the call of God. Note differences and similarities.
- Take a needs inventory of your community, noting especially those needs which are not being met. Determine what steps your congregation or you can take to respond to those needs. Decide how to determine whether God is calling you to respond, and covenant to listen for God’s call in particular instances.