Talmadge Wilson, a friend of ours, returned from the African mission field and pastored a church in Bremerton, Washington. He called me up in1984 and said, “Jim, there are some very fine members of my church. Their names are Bob and Judy. He is a Navy captain, and his wife is a professional secretary, and they are moving to Los Angeles for his ship to be refitted. They need to find a church for the time they are going to be in Los Angeles. They’ve put their children in the school that your church operates and are planning to visit your church. Please welcome them and make them feel at home.”
Well, we did that, and the first Sunday they attended my Sunday school class for adults. After that, they went into the sanctuary where there was tremendous worship and wonderful praise. The church was moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There were tongues, interpretation, prophecy and singing in the Spirit.
Bob and Judy were unprepared for this, to them, unusual moving of the Spirit. This is not what they had experienced in their church, and they were wondering, after three Sundays, whether they should look for another church!
We were leading the Junior Children’s Church at the time.
We had over a hundred children, and we had seven to eight teachers on the floor. We had to make sure that we kept recruiting for staff all the time, so every now and then I’d go down to the sanctuary in order to keep the children’s ministry before the people, and let them know that there were ongoing needs for teachers. That third Sunday that Bob and Judy attended our church, I went in to speak for five minutes, to share with the congregation the opportunities in children’s church, that we needed teachers; that tremendously exciting things were happening with the kids. I got up and said, “We need teachers! If God is speaking to you, come and see us in children’s church, sit in on the meeting, and see what we do, and if you feel this is what you would like to do, we’ll ease you in gradually.”
Bob and Judy were sitting in the back of the church, and they saw a way to get out of those Pentecostal morning meetings. They looked at one another and gave a little ‘nod’ yes! They wanted ‘out’ from the Gifts of the Holy Ghost; they were scared. So they came up to children’s church thinking, “This is wonderful; now we can do something with the kids and don’t have to worry about all ‘that stuff.'”
They just didn’t know what was happening in children’s church!
We had been teaching the children how to worship, and led our kids into salvation; into the baptism in the Holy Spirit; and also into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We got to the place in worship time in children’s church where it was normal for the gifts to be in operation, and the children were being used in many of the Gifts.
People ask, “Can children hear from God?” Little Samuel did in the Bible. Our children had been taught to listen for His voice. That Sunday morning Bob and Judy came into children’s church and sat at the back. There must have been ten adults in the meeting.
A little girl of about 10 years old, who was usually as quiet as a mouse, was sitting halfway down children’s church, and as we worshiped she spoke up, quietly, and said, “The Lord is saying to you that there is sin amongst us, and the sin is not in the children; it’s an adult.” About that time, you could hear a pin drop. She said, “It’s not a man; it’s a woman.”
Now I’m the pastor of Children’s Church, and I’m standing there, thinking, “Lord, what do I do now?” I remembered the words of Edgar Pettenger, a veteran Assemblies of God missionary to Africa, when I was in Bible school.
He said to me one day, “Jim, when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything, because as sure as you do, you’ll do the wrong thing and do more damage than if you just wait.” So guess what I did? I didn’t do anything!
I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t say that this child was not moving in the Spirit, but I sure didn’t understand it. The prophecy was that the person must get right with God, and God would lay His hand of blessing on her life.
Tuesday morning my phone rang, and Judy was on the line. She said, “Pastor, we need to talk.” I asked, “What’s the problem, Judy?”
She explained, “Pastor, you remember on Sunday morning how that girl spoke in children’s church? Pastor, I’m the one she was speaking about. Before I married Bob, there was sin in my life that even Bob did not know about. I’ve hidden it for years, and when I came into your church, I thought these gifts of the Spirit were just a lot of nonsense, hyper-enthusiasm, but God spoke to me through that little girl, and I knew that it was me that He was speaking to. I got on my knees, and I made it right with God and with my husband. I want you to know that we’re coming back to children’s church and will help you all we know how, and pastor, would you and your wife come and pray with me? I want the baptism in the Holy Spirit!” A week later, Judy got the Baptism in the Holy Spirit! She and Bob were two of the best workers we ever had.
Two years later, I was down in San Diego, and visited with Bob and Judy. He had been promoted to full Captain, U.S. Navy and was then Commanding Officer of the Surface Tactical Warfare School at Coronado Island, with four years left in the service. They told me they were going to go into ministry amongst children after leaving the Navy. They were preparing themselves, for that girl’s prophecy was a turning point in their lives.
“How did that little girl know those things?” she asked. Well, you see, she was just worshiping and listening to God, and as she listened, God told her something. So she just told us what God was telling her. People can hear from God today, even children, if they know how to listen for His voice.
The Christian church has never before had the resources of knowledge available, that we have now, yet the church, worldwide, is more at a loss than at any time in its history.
Statistics indicate that the Christian Church is not coping with social problems, and interpersonal relationships.
The divorce rate is up. Child abuse is up. Substance abuse is up. We can go on naming one thing after another, and the church is at a loss to deal with the increasing problems. All this is in spite of the fact that we have outstanding seminars, films and counseling programs like we never had before. I believe that the church needs and must return to the Supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit if we are going to cope with these situations. If we are going to accomplish the task of changing lives and restoring people, we are going to have to move back into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we, the Church, are going to once again be all that we ought to be, we are going to have to hear from God directly and distinctly.
We in these ‘modern times’ tend to relegate the task of hearing from God to pastors. We’ve gotten to the place where we are skeptical when anybody, even the pastor, suggests he’s heard from God. We can’t believe that now. I know that there are people who have come along claiming they heard from God, and some weird things have been said. There are guidelines and cautions that must be observed, but it would be foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water.
We are learning! When you wash the baby, you keep the baby and throw out the dirty water. Because some people have done things that are not right and not in the Spirit, is no reason for us to reject the moving of the Spirit of God. God forbid that we should! The Bible abounds with examples of people who have heard from God, there are numerous lists of them.
Let me share something with you from the book of Galatians.
The law of sowing and reaping.
Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 6: 7, and says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting.”
Now, to go back to Genesis chapter 1. It is interesting to see that same Law in the very first chapter of Genesis, Vs.12. “And the earth brought forth vegetation and seed after its own kind.”
You put an apple seed in the ground, and you get what? An orange tree? No! You get an apple tree. If you sow squash, you get squash; you sow corn, and you get corn. Every seed after its kind. Now, does that sound complicated?
If you have weenie roasts in the church, you will have people who have learned how to eat weenies. If you have a baseball team, you’re going to have people who are probably going to get good enough to take the league pennant.
But if you want Spiritual Christians, if you want spiritual results, you’re going to have to sow to the Spirit. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Church socials and church entertainment have value. I’m not against that. But you need to understand that these things are the social life of the church. The entertainment, the good of fun, are byproducts of the church’s primary task. The church’s primary task is to produce people who are spiritual, who commune with God, who hear from God. These are the people who will help change this old world. And if we as the people of God can have some social times, with entertainment and fun, that’s great. We do not, however, produce Spiritual Christians by carnal means.
Look at how we learn to listen.
To produce spiritual fruit we have to sow some spiritual seed.
Let’s look at a couple of instances in the New Testament of people who heard from God.
In Acts 8, we have the story of Philip, the deacon.
Deacons, this is for you! He went down to Samaria, and he began to preach; that’s the first thing. It’s OK to preach, deacons, it’s all right. God wants you to proclaim the good news as much as anyone else in the church. Philip began to preach and do miracles. And then one day an angel spoke to him. So you see angels can speak to deacons. Sure they can! Some preachers don’t believe that deacons can hear from God. They can. Philip heard an angel speaking to him and saying, “Go down and get onto the road that leads down to Gaza.”
Philip could have answered, ‘Well, there’s a youth meeting tonight I have to attend, and there are people that want counseling!’ Did he say that in the Bible? No! He just got up and headed for the Gaza Road.
When you hear from an angel, it’s a good idea to do what the angel says to do. So he got on the Gaza road, and I think it was something like the Antelope Valley Freeway to Los Angeles. It was the main road leading to Egypt. There was a lot of traffic on it. I believe he was standing there saying, “Here I am, just looking up and down the road.” Then he saw a chariot coming down the road.
Probably a dozen chariots had passed already, but suddenly the Spirit of God instructed, “Join yourself to that chariot.” Now, if he had been an Englishman, he would have felt in need of an introduction. You don’t just join yourself with people you haven’t been introduced to; I would never do that. Fortunately, he was not an Englishman. He was spiritual, and so he joined himself to the chariot.
The man riding in that chariot happened to be the Queen’s Secretary of the Treasury, a Eunuch from Ethiopia. Philip heard him reading aloud from the book of Isaiah, and he asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
The Eunuch said he really needed someone to explain it to him, so Philip said, ‘I’ll tell you all about it,’ and he led him to Jesus. In that year the Gospel was planted in Ethiopia, and that land has had a Christian heritage for nearly 2000 years. Why? Because Philip heard God speak and obeyed.
Acts 5 gives an account of Peter meeting with a group of Christians.
They were bringing in gifts to help the needy in the Church, and Ananias came along and brought some money and said, “Peter, we sold that property down there and we just want to give all the money.”
Peter looked him straight in the eye and said, “The Holy Ghost is saying you’re lying to God.” How did Peter know that? Did the bank call?
No! The Spirit of God told him. Ananias fell down dead. When his wife came along, she didn’t know what had happened, she thought she could pass off the same thing . The Spirit of God is able to give us direction that supersedes all natural ability, we don’t have to reason through a situation. Folks, we need the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can’t figure out on our own what’s happening in people’s lives.
Paul was on a missionary journey.
He wanted to go into Asia, but no, the Spirit of God told him not to go. He said, “All right, we’ll go into the province of Bithynia,” but the Spirit told him not to go there either. In obedience, then, they went down to Troy on the west coast of Turkey and there, waiting before God, in the middle of the night God gave Paul a vision! God still uses visions to direct people.
In Paul’s vision God showed him a man from Macedonia, in Greece who said, “Come over and help us” (Acts 16). Thus began the saga of the great missionary journey that took Paul to Europe, and laid the foundation of the Christian Church there. God was moving by his Spirit in a supernatural way.
John, the beloved, didn’t start out as John the beloved.
Jesus looked at him, and called him the ‘Son of Thunder’ because he had just come from a village where he asked Jesus to strike the people dead. Later John became the Apostle of love and was arrested for his Christian testimony, imprisoned on the island of Patmos, in the salt mine.
You know what John said? “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.”
You can be in prison and still be in the Spirit. In Revelation 1 he said he was in the Spirit, and he heard a voice behind him. God began to speak to John. He heard God’s voice, and wrote seven letters to the seven churches, and in every one of them he instructed, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying.” John had learned to hear God speak.
Isaiah said in Isaiah 30:21, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee saying, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.'” This is the way. Isaiah 50:4-5 in the living Bible says, “. . . morning by morning. He wakens me and opens my understanding, to his will. The Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened.” In Isaiah 55:3, He continues, “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen for the life of your soul is at stake.” I think maybe sometimes God is saying we need to learn to listen.
In Hebrews 3:15 in the New Testament the writer says, “Today, if ye will hear God’s voice. . . .” We need to learn to listen for the voice of God! He wants to speak to us.
A visiting preacher said, “It is more important for us to hear from God than for God to hear from us.” I believe it.
I’m not saying it’s not important for us to pray; but it is important for us to hear from God.
Four things the Bible teaches about hearing God speak
Jesus is speaking and teaching in John 10: 4, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” Further in chapter 10:14 we read, “I am the good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known of mine.” Then in verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Now here are four things Jesus is talking about:
1) Required relationship.
Jesus said, “The people I’m talking about are my sheep.” Jesus is saying in effect, the people who hear and understand his voice are his sheep. Not some other people. It is the people of God who are going to hear the voice of God.
If you have a need in your life and you get into a crisis situation, the very first thing you have to do to handle it, is to get down on your knees with penitential tears to the son of God and say, “Jesus save me, and make me one of your sheep. Take away my sins. I want to come into a right relationship with you to be one of yours. I want to come into the fold. I want the care of God on my life.” My friend, if you haven’t yet done that and you haven’t yet given your whole life to Jesus Christ, that is the number one requirement before God is able to get you to hear His voice.
2) Required direction.
My sheep follow me, he says. They keep company with me. They walk where I walk. Those of you who have been on a trip to the Holy Land, perhaps you’ve had the privilege of seeing a shepherd somewhere, leading his sheep. He doesn’t drive the sheep, he walks ahead of them. You see, we’re so used to herding cattle, we drive them, but a shepherd in the Orient not only knows the sheep, but the sheep know him, and every day they are led out to pasture. So He walks ahead of us; and gives us direction.
3) Required proximity.
He will call them by name, one at a time, to himself. They keep close enough to hear him. The sheep will respond and come to the shepherd, and he will then look over the sheep to see if one has come to any harm or damage, and he will dress and bind the wounds. He’ll care for that sheep, and the sheep have learned to stay close to the shepherd. If another person calls that sheep, it won’t respond. It only responds to the shepherd.
4) Required familiarity.
My sheep hear my voice, he said, “My voice.” The sheep know His voice. Do your kids ever knock at the door and find it locked, perhaps? You ask, “Who’s there?” They answer, “It’s me!” What does “It’s me” mean? It means that when they speak, you recognize their voice. You know who it is, and you open the door because you know that familiar voice. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you listen to my voice long enough, you’re going to get to know it, to recognize it, when I speak to you.”
When Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me,” this was not just for the first hundred years of history. What is written is what it says. Did you read that it is just for a certain length of time, in the tenth chapter of John? Did you read it anywhere else in your Bible? I didn’t! There’s no time limit. Jesus did not say it was only to a few of his sheep. If you have a relationship with Him, you can learn to hear his voice.
There are people who try to tell us that we don’t need to hear the voice of God any more. They say, “We’ve gotten into modern times, we have progressed!” I believe we need to hear the voice of God more now than we have ever needed to in the history of this world.
What do I have to do to hear the Voice of God?
Well, you say, “What do I have to do? I haven’t heard the voice of God. I don’t know how to hear the voice of God. I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. What I don’t understand is, how do I get to hear the voice of God?”
Perhaps this illustration will help you to understand.
There was a cowboy from Texas visiting a friend in New York. He had never been to the big city before but had spent all his life out on the plains, out among the cattle, and when he arrived in New York, he was stunned. The buildings went straight up, and the noise of the traffic, the street sounds, and everything else nearly overwhelmed him as he walked down Broadway with his friend. Suddenly, the cowboy stopped. He turned to his friend and said, “I hear a cricket!” His friend responded, “Oh nonsense, how could you hear a cricket?” “Sure,” he said. “I can hear a cricket.” He stepped over to the nearby entrance of some apartments where there was a big earthen pot and looked inside and sure enough there was a little black cricket. His friend asked, “How in the world did you hear that cricket?” The cowboy answered, “Well, I spent all my life out on the plains, so I’m familiar with the voice of a cricket. I just couldn’t help recognizing it among all the other sounds.”
The first thing you have to do is to learn to recognize the voice of God. Then become familiar with it, and when you get into a busy situation with everything pressing around you, you’ll recognize that voice. You’ve got to start somewhere.
The best place you can start is in your private devotions.
Now, a lot of people think devotions old-fashioned, but God has something to say to us. “Morning by morning, he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will, and the Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened.” Isa. 50: 4. Where do you think Isaiah got that?
I wake up in the morning and I begin to listen to God. I take time every day to hear what God is saying to me, and if we’re going to get back to the power of the early church, we’re going to have to get back to the prayer times, and private devotions, of the early church.
It is my honest belief that the reason we saw tremendous growth in First Assembly of God, in Lancaster, CA, during the late ’80’s, was because they sowed spiritual seed, in increased devotions, both at the daily 6 a.m. early morning prayer meetings and in their homes. The more we do that, the more we will see God move within our churches.
You may say, “I’m a busy person, but I do pray at times. I tell God all my needs, my friend’s needs, my family’s needs, my situation at work.” We tell God all these things, and that’s OK. We grab our Bible and we read a little of that, and then we close the Bible and we say, “Time’s up; we’ve got to get to work.” There’s your problem; you left out one important item: listening time!
How did our Children’s Church get to the place where we had kids moving into the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
One of our teachers in children’s church woke up one Sunday, at first light. God said, “Get out of bed; I want to talk to you.” She went to the living room and sat on her recliner; she praised the Lord and worshiped, then closed her Bible and said, “Now, Lord, I believe I’m in tune with you, and I can just shut my mind to everything else, and Lord if you want to talk to me, I’m listening.”
She sat like that quite a while, and then God said to her, “This morning is Sunday, and you are going to minister in children’s church, and I want you to call out the children that are depressed, even to the point where they would commit suicide, and have other children pray for them.”
She said, “Lord, I’m a school teacher, and I know kids don’t get depressed like that; they are just fourth and fifth graders!” The Lord answered, “You do what I told you to!”
So, she came to church that Sunday morning and in worship time she immediately stood up and said, “God spoke to me this morning. I was listening, and he told me that there are kids here who are depressed, so depressed they would like to commit suicide. God wants to touch your life and meet your need.” She stood there amazed as nine or ten children came out of the audience. As they were walking forward, one little girl about ten years of age just burst into tears and said, “My daddy is out of work; there are fights going on at home, and I’m so miserable that sometimes I’ve seriously considered trying to take my life.” Then the teacher called out other kids who were filled with the Holy Ghost, and told them to minister to these children. We saw God do miracles in the lives of those kids that day. We learned that if you start listening, God will start talking.
From then on we taught the teachers, as well as the kids, to practice listening by getting really quiet before the Lord in their daily times with Him.
I don’t know about you, but when people start talking in a class that I’m teaching, I found a wonderful way to get them to be quiet. I just stop talking! When I stop talking long enough, they shut up. Then I can talk again. I sometimes wonder if that’s not what the Lord does with us. We get so busy; we talk, talk, and talk! To each other, and to the Lord. We need to stop and let God speak to us. Start practicing ‘listening’ during your devotions; make time for it.
When you are in church, tune in and listen to God during a worship service.
Perhaps you’ve been in a service where God moved by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Did you sense that there was going to be a Prophecy or a message in Tongues before it happened? You did! Why do you think you sensed it, and not just the person that brought that Gift? I’ll tell you what I think; I think it’s because God moves upon the whole congregation, and many of us, if we tune in, will sense there is going to be a ministry in the Spirit now, God is about to speak. We sense that familiar voice of God. We almost know it’s going to happen.
You can bring a radio in here and turn up the volume. We’ll not hear a thing if it’s not tuned to the right station, but if you tune that radio to the right station, you hear the voice you were listening for. We come into church and we sit and visit with each other, and talk, and wonder what’s going to happen next week and whether we are going to see somebody after the meeting, and sometimes we are not even tuned in when the worship is going on. You know, if we would get tuned in before the meeting began, we would be surprised what would happen in that meeting. You see, with practice, we become more and more familiar with the voice of God.
What are some of the ways God speaks to us?
God does sometimes speak to us with an audible voice. I’ve had that happen twice. Sometimes God speaks to us through the Word, the Bible. We are reading it and all of a sudden something just stands out. That’s why I’m here in Lancaster. I was praying about what I should be doing because I had resigned from my position in Wilmington, Los Angeles, and I picked up Deuteronomy 2: 3 and read, “You’ve been around here long enough, move north.” Since the only place I knew, north, was where our friends Lawrence and Joyce Brown lived in Lancaster, we started looking at Lancaster. We found out afterwards that God had led us here.
Sometimes God speaks to us through something the pastor says while he’s preaching. Sometimes God speaks to us in a vision or dream. Sometimes it’s a traumatic experience; at other times it’s the word of a friend. Sometimes it’s the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has many ways of speaking if we are listening.
There are some tests you can apply to keep within safe boundaries. When you feel that God is speaking to you either directly or through somebody else, you need to ask yourself these questions:
First, does this word conflict with what I know to be in the Bible? Friend, if you are moving into this, you had better start reading your Bible. You must get to know what the Bible teaches, what it says. Does this word conflict with what I understand the Bible to teach? You see, the Word of God and the Spirit of God will never disagree. God is one.
Second, will this glorify God or will it glorify me? If it glorifies me I must be careful, for God says He will not share His glory with another!
Third, is this the familiar voice of God? Am I hearing the familiar voice of God, or is this some other voice I’m hearing? Do I have peace in my own heart about this voice?
Fourth, is this for now, or for some future time? Sometimes God speaks to us about things that are for the future. For example, a call to the ministry now may need time, perhaps years, to prepare for that work.
Fifth, should I seek counsel from my spiritual leaders before I undertake to do this? The Bible says in Proverbs 11:14 “. . . but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” If you’re not sure and you don’t have peace in your heart that this is really what God wants, then it is wise to seek counsel. Don’t just rush into things.
Don’t get the Cart before the Horse!
The miracles that Jesus performed were usually preceded by a simple instruction to somebody to do something.
You know Jesus never got up and said, “Now, you know we are going to do a miracle today. Now let’s get it all together.” Jesus never did that. Jesus said to his disciples, “What’s the problem? I hear that there is a discussion going on.” They explained, “We’ve got 5,000 people here and everybody is hungry, and there is no food.” “Well,” Jesus asked, “what do we have?’ One said, “There is a young fellow here with a couple of fishes and a few bread rolls.” Jesus instructed, “OK, get the people to sit down.” They argued, “What is the use in sitting them down? They’ve nothing to eat.” He repeated, “Just get them to sit down.” You see, Jesus didn’t explain what He was going to do. He took the fish and the loaves, and when he had blessed them, he handed them to the disciples and said, “Go! Give it out.” Perhaps one of the disciples said, “Well, Lord, I guess I can feed the first five people anyway.” They took up bushels-full of the scraps. And then suddenly their eyes were opened and they exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!” Jesus didn’t announce ahead of time that there was going to be a miracle; He just gave instructions to the disciples to do a certain thing, and as they obeyed they saw results.
How did the miracle occur? They were listening to what Jesus told them to do. When you start learning to recognize the voice of God and begin to do what Jesus tells you to do, you will begin seeing the miraculous take place in your daily life. Only then will people comprehend what the church is all about. The Church is the people of God, doing what Jesus said for them to do, and the only way for us to do that is to learn to listen to God.
Jim’s Experience in hearing God Speak
I was starting my very first church. We had moved from the Brakpan Bible School to the neighboring town of Springs, South Africa, thirty miles east of Johannesburg. We rented a vacant vegetable store, painted the cement floor and the walls, put in chairs and a pulpit and started the ‘Ermelo Road Chapel.’ I made the mistake of painting that floor red. I had to wax it by hand every week and then polish it, and I didn’t have any deacons to help. I was it! This was a brand new church we were starting with only a handful of people.
One Saturday I was on my hands and knees waxing the floor when all of a sudden, a thought came into my mind as clearly as a voice speaking and said, “Go see Bill Watts.” Now, we had led the Watt’s kids to Jesus, and their father, Bill Watts, was an alcoholic. He’d had his last warning from the gold mine where he worked. They were about to fire him, the welfare was about to take his kids away, and his marriage was in a mess. His wife was at the point of leaving him.
Now, I was polishing that floor and I got this voice saying, “Go to Bill Watts.” I said in my thoughts, “Well, Lord, I’ll do that when I finish polishing this floor.” I polished a little longer and the voice of God spoke to my heart and mind again, and said, “Go to Bill Watts Now!” I got up, still wearing my coveralls, put the lid on the polish tin, and closed the door. I got into my car and drove to Bill Watts’ home.
When I got there, stuff was sailing out the front door. He was throwing the clothes and the belongings of his brother-in-law into the street. I counseled with him for hours, and then I went to fetch Rowena from work. We went back there, and continued into the evening talking to Bill. He would hold up his glass of liquor and defy and challenge God. This went on and on and on. We pleaded with Bill to give his life to Christ, to get right with God. All of a sudden Rowena had a flash; the Lord spoke to her, and she said, “Bill, one day you’re going to stand before God’s great judgment throne, and you’re not going to be able to challenge God.”
It was as if something hit Bill right between the eyes and he took his glass and put it down. He said, “I’ve had my last drink.” Just like that! We prayed the sinner’s prayer with him. His daughter said, “Daddy, let me pour that drink down the drain.” Bill answered, “No, you leave it right there. I’m going to show you that I don’t need it anymore.” And he did. The next morning, he threw it down the drain himself, and he came to church and God healed him of alcoholism and saved him and he went on for God, and we saw that family come together and we saw God do a miracle of grace in their lives. Oh, what a privilege it was for me to baptize the whole family in water and see them go on to serve God.
A few years later we moved to a different part of the country, and Bill came down into my area on an assignment. He was away from his family and away from his church. He had gotten cold spiritually, and one day he was standing at a bus stop outside a tavern. The thought came to him, “I’ll just go in and have a beer.” He went into the tavern, ordered a beer, and when he put it to his lips; he said to the bartender, “There’s something wrong with the taste of this.” The Bartender said, “Well, I just drew it fresh; I’ll get you another one.” He got him another one, fresh glass, fresh beer, and he tasted it, and he said, “Oh, no, this is terrible.” He paid for it and he walked out. He said he hardly made it to the sidewalk when he brought it all up! God had so healed him of alcoholism that even in a time when he got spiritually cold, he couldn’t go back to it. God had done a work of grace in Bill’s life.
That’s what listening to God is all about. When you respond to God, you can go out into this world and begin to minister to the needs of people.
Copyright 2006 © Jim Cole-Rous
To see more information on Jim Cole-Rous you may visit www.rousministry.org
(Originally delivered as an address to the First Assembly of God Lancaster, California in November 1986. Edited and revised 2006 with Part Three added from teaching given in 2005 at Bethany Assembly of God, San Diego.)