The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a remarkable sight. Whether in person or seeing a photograph, people contemplate how multiple forces of sun, wind, rain, snow and river formed such a spectacle. It’s a defining portrait of cause and effect.
Likewise, we are molded by elements that steadily create indelible impressions that, like this famous natural wonder, are on full display for those who experience us, from God above to those here below.
Unlike the Grand Canyon’s ongoing existence subject to nature’s elements, we as disciples of Jesus Christ have a choice upon accepting His call of “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19; 16:24) as to what ultimately shapes our minds—even as forces continually press to erode our time and shape us differently.
One unrelenting force God wants us to consider is that of “voices” coming at us every day throughout our lives. These voices have incredible impact on us, just as much as sun, wind and rain on the Grand Canyon. They affect us from “womb to tomb” and sculpt our view of God, of ourselves and of what God is performing in others.
Voices matter! The patriarch Job, when being chiseled away by his friends’ accusatory conclusions, cried out, “How long will you torment my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2).
My question to you is this: To what voices are you listening? Only one voice really matters, and we must hear that voice loud and clear.
The Shepherd’s sheep know His voice
There is a “prince of the power of the air,” Satan himself (Ephesians 2:2), who seeks to ensnare us in his self-seeking and self-destructive image. To use familiar jargon of today, it’s time to cut the cable and disconnect from him.
Unlike with the Grand Canyon, Psalm 90:10-12 (take a look!) tells us we do not have ages to be molded into the ultimate spiritual new creation our Heavenly Father intends that we become. The prophet Isaiah declares the ultimate voice that matters in molding us, praying, “You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
And Hebrews 13:20 tells us that our Heavenly Father has appointed Jesus Christ to be the “great Shepherd of the sheep.” He earlier declared of Himself: “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:2-4).
Jesus based this metaphor on a reality regarding shepherding in the Middle East. Flocks would intermingle as two shepherds shared time to break their occupational loneliness. When it came time to separate, each would summon their sheep by their unique vocal call or whistle, and the flocks would separate and follow their particular shepherd.
But such responsiveness doesn’t happen overnight. Newborn sheep instinctively follow the flock around them. It’s only later, by the steady attention of a loving shepherd and response by a maturing lamb, that the bond to a singular and caring voice develops.
David, who had served as a shepherd, referred to this reality in his personal claim: “The Lord is My shepherd . . .” (Psalm 23:1). All that follows in this beloved psalm—the Shepherd’s guidance and steadfast presence through green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness, shadowy valleys of dark times, and dwelling in the house of the Lord forever—is conditionally predicated on 1) the sheep hearing the voice of his particular Shepherd and 2) responding to His call above all other voices.
Resist the serpent by the still small voice of God
But be advised: The same voice of the serpent that spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden remains alive and active.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, the apostle Paul identifies the serpent (Satan) with his barrage of voices coming our way as “the god of this age”—this culture, this society. As we saw, he is further called “the prince of the power of the air.” He continues to seep into any provided crack to deter your focus from the only voice that matters.
We cannot stop Satan’s attempted intrusion coming at us in many venues, but we do have the choice to reject it and to listen and respond to the Shepherd’s voice. Psychologist Viktor Frankl, a World War II concentration camp survivor faced with a barrage of negative voices every day, is credited with having said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
One challenge faced by Jesus’ followers is that in the moment we too often figuratively stand by a disheartened Elijah who is trembling at the voice of Queen Jezebel, who threatened to kill him. He flees to Mt. Sinai, hoping to hear God’s voice in the passing wind, earthquake or fire, waiting for some kind of thunderous interruption by God rather than what he finally hears—“a still small voice.” God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (see 1 Kings 19:8-13). And He asks us the same. Why are we listening to other voices, including our own?
But make no mistake, our Heavenly Father through Christ does interrupt us today as much as in yesteryear. The risen Christ in His messages to the seven churches of Revelation concludes: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
But to hear His knock and voice, we have to cut the cable of other voices, pushing out the noise that hinders our ability to fully engage in responding to the awesome invitation of “Follow Me.”
Being filled with God’s Word
However, it’s not enough to just cut the cable! We need to replace it, connecting with the only voice that matters. Why? Empty spaces by nature fill up one way or another. Satan loves to operate in a vacuum and fill it in his time and way. Romans 12:21 tell us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Christ, the living Word, may be knocking on the door of your heart right now, the same voice that long ago taught us how to pray, saying in part, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Was Jesus speaking to something greater than sustenance for our physical well-being?
Author Bo Stern addresses this in her book Beautiful Battlefields in chapter 3, titled “Catching Manna.” I’ll summarize here with some additional thoughts. As Israel wandered in the wilderness, God provided manna to eat each day to fill their needs for survival in a hostile environment—with each Friday’s portion carrying over to the next-day Sabbath (Exodus 16). The Master Teacher was realigning their mindset. The God of the universe did not give them what they needed for weeks or months all at once. They had to rely on Him in faith that they would be supplied their “daily bread” for each day alone and extra for the Sabbath. Day by day, they had to return in total reliance on their God to shepherd them through the wilderness.
We should consider that God was effectively weaning them—cutting the cable!—of their dependence on Egypt and its alluring voices to go back, and instead helping them to connect to Him and develop total reliance on Him to meet their needs. Rather than offering them stockpiles of sustenance up front, He chose to feed them day by day, presenting before them each day for 40 years the need to trust in His loving provision. He showed that His guiding voice alone was worthy, loving and reliable.
Jesus, the living Word of God, the same “I Am” who led Israel through the Sinai wilderness (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), cut the cable from the tempting voice of Satan in His own wilderness experience in Matthew 4 by proclaiming, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (verse 4). He was quoting Scripture (here from Deuteronomy 8:3), which guided and nourished Him in time of need.
God’s Word will never direct us to something that goes against His nature or character. So although learning to discern and listen to His voice is a lifelong journey, you can count on this fact: The more you know God, the more clearly you can hear Him!