Rev. Robert E. Haynes, PhD
Director of Education and Leadership
World Methodist Evangelism
I don’t always have the best sense of direction. That is one reason why I was particularly thankful when GPS systems became available for your car. I no longer had to pull over to look at a map, rather I could just obediently listen to the voice traveling with me, telling me where to turn. When I strayed from the best path, the voice in the GPS gently reminded me that the device is “recalculating,” and told me where I needed to go.
Some years ago, I was in visiting family in another city. We had to run an errand in a part of the city that was unfamiliar to me, so I got out my GPS. Our eight-year-old son with us and, to have a bit of fun with him, I set the voice on the GPS to “Yeti.” Yep, Yeti. I’m just weird that way. (I have no idea how the programmers “knew” what a Yeti sounded like.) Well, Joshua loved to hear the funny sounds that the “Yeti” made when it gave you directions in its “Yeti” language.
To have even more fun with our son, we intentionally disobeyed the GPS’s directions so that the “Yeti” would have to correct us. The more we drove, the more it yelled at us in its unintelligible, nonsense language. The more he yelled, the more Joshua laughed at the funny voice. I drove blissfully along, not really knowing where I was going, while we all laughed at Joshua laughing at the funny voice. You see, I had the form and function to accomplish what I needed to do. But rather than listen to the voice that would get me where I needed to go, I decided to listen to the voice that was cute and novel.
The Bible tells us that, in life, we have a guide who reminds us of what we should be doing and where we should be going: the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit only affirms what is written in God’s Word to us and is to be our source of direction in all things. This means that individuals and communities will flourish under the Spirit’s guidance. But I’m not so sure we are always listening as we should.
I have an evangelism mentor who tells me, “In order to share your faith, show up in someone else’s life and pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing.” Discerning the many competing voices in our lives and the lives of others can seem difficult. We can face pressures to follow the voices around us, though they may be in direct conflict with God’s desires for us. For those who want to share with faith with others, trying to be winsome when the world’s novel voices contradict Jesus’ commands can be exhausting.
However, we do not have to navigate this alone. This is a key reason why John Wesley instructed the early Methodists to “attend upon all the Ordinances of God.” These, he said, included, but are not limited to: The public worship of God, the study of Scriptures, celebrating Holy Communion, private prayer, and fasting/abstinence. These are ways in which the Holy Spirit speaks to us so that we can discern the Lord’s voice from all the competing voices in world. We best recognize the voices of those with whom we spend the most time. Simply put: To recognize God’s voice, spend time with Him.
I might still be lost on the errand with my son if it had not been for the fact that I took along a brother-in-law who lived nearby. He knew the way we were to go and guided me over the “noise” of the Yeti and my son’s laughter. All I had to do was to discern which voice was just for fun and which one would get me where I needed to go. So it is in our spiritual journeys. We could all use some “recalculating” to make sure we are listening, and obeying, the Holy Spirit’s perfect directions.