Perhaps I should direct my writing time to t-shirt slogans. It would certainly be at least as profitable as my current efforts. Today I saw TWO different t-shirts about hearing voices. One shirt said “I hear voices and they don’t like you”. Another one said “Even if the voices in my head aren’t real they do have some good ideas”. I got a chuckle out of that one.
But after further thought I think that the voices in my head rarely, if ever, have good ideas. I am talking about the voices that were programmed from childhood. Negative parents, teachers, coaches, siblings, friends (?), other Christians (?) and assorted others have laid down tracks to my negative thoughts life soundtrack mix. Favorite cuts like these are always cued and ready to be played. You will never change. You always do that. I can’t believe you did that again. What is wrong with you?
I get letters and emails and stories nearly every day from heartbroken people in the church. It almost always starts out the same way. I was serving Jesus and it was going great. Then I could almost list a column of bad things and have them check all that apply.
___ Another churchgoer did or said something.
___ Someone took my rightful place or took me out of my rightful place.
___ I didn’t get appreciated or honored.
___ I was disappointed by someone in leadership.
___ No one cared about my hurt.
That is when the voices jump in and I read them in their letters. The voice starts telling them what they want to hear. That they should never have said that to you or did that to you if they were really a Christian. That you deserved that spot, not them. How dare they take you from that position? Maybe the voice reminds you of how hard you work and they don’t care. Or how they don’t do anything and you have to do it all and they still don’t care. That they play favorites and you are not getting the respect and honor you deserve.
Those voices rob you of your joy in serving Jesus. Let’s be honest. If we are serving Christ out of grateful appreciation of His saving grace then we should be serving without expectation. Have I done that really well? No. Am I getting better? A little bit. Baby steps.
There is another voice. It is much softer and requires a lot more effort to hear. You have to slow down and be quiet and spend time in prayer and God’s Word. Casting Crowns has a great song called the “Voice of Truth” that describes this spiritual battle.
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand
But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
The song goes on to describe that other voice.
But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the Voice of Truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth
Jesus had to deal with that voice. Three times He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4). The very men who Jesus invested His life into heard that voice and made ungodly suggestions. James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a town that did not welcome them. Jesus rebuked them. And Peter got his hair parted when he tried to explain to Jesus that the events the Lord had just outlined really couldn’t happen.
But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matt 16 NLT)
All of us hear those voices. The voices from bad experiences in our past may require help to erase. Here is a little tip that I have learned. The voice we tend to hear first in the spiritual battle is the loud one. Listen for the quiet voice. Be still. Pray. Read His Word. The Voice of Truth says, “This is for my glory.” That is a plumbline for righteous action. Is it for His glory? That is what the Voice of Truth tells you. The Voice of Truth tells you that you are righteous because of Christ. My friends at Truefaced ministries say it well. Those voices of past sin and failures and hurt are no longer who you are. God is no longer interested in changing you. You have already been changed into a new person because of Christ. You are a Saint. Imputed with righteousness. God is now interested in each one of us maturing into what is already true about us. And that requires learning which voices to listen to and believe.