Two Practical Ways for Man To Listen by Cecil Rose for The Oxford Group
I remember a man who complained to me that he did not get any guidance when he tried having a `quiet time.’ A few questions brought out the fact that, actually, the name of his sister kept coming into his mind, but he had not given it any attention. A few more questions showed plainly why the name kept recurring. God was telling him to remake a long-broken relationship. He had wanted other guidance. It is often so, but guidance must come along God’s lines, not ours.
We have certain decisions to make to-day in our business or our home. Let us quietly turn over in our minds all the factors we know which should influence our decision, setting on one side the thoughts that are prompted by fear or pride or self interest, letting the thought of what God would want penetrate deeper into our judgment, waiting for the growing conviction as to the right step to take. If we are prepared to do this patiently and thoroughly and to bring under review all areas of our life–our business, home, leisure, money, time, relationships, health–we shall be surprised at what comes to us, the new certainty in our decisions, the new sense of direction, and the growing assurance that God is in control. A very busy housewife with a husband, three children, and a martyr-complex previously found life complicated and wearying. She now says, `I found when I began to spend an hour daily in quiet, that far from taking- up precious time and adding to an already heavy program, that hour became the simplifying, unifying, time-saving key to the whole day.’
These are two practical ways in which we can experiment. The important thing is for us to make, each for himself, the thrilling discovery that God has spoken to us. Once we have made that discovery, God will shape our `quiet times’ and develop them until they express a full personal relationship with Him, and include our thanksgiving, worship, petition, intercession, as part of our life with Him. We are only talking now of how to begin.
What can we expect as we grow more experienced in this listening to God? Probably the first thing we realize will be that the whole level of our thinking has been altered. We shall see that what we took for sound reasoning before was just our human thinking, dictated by self-will, prejudice, fear, or limited by the fact that we were leaving God out of the reckoning. The judgment of a surrendered man who listens to God is something more than human reason. It may often seem, as Paul says, sheer folly to other people.
This does not mean that, when we have a `quiet time,’ we resign our reasoning powers. The idea that listening to God means making your mind a blank is a curious misconception which has hindered many people. It does mean that you leave room for God to lead you beyond your human thoughts, and tell you things you could never know yourself.
The next thing we shall find is that we are able better to interpret God’s other ways of speaking to us through circumstances, through other people, through the Bible. We arc learning to know His voice in our `quiet time,’ and we recognize it better elsewhere.
We shall probably find also that from time to time there come to us clear suggestions about something we should do, or somewhere we should go. Often they have a strong, impelling force about them, and if we neglect them they come back insistently. I remember one day, returning by car from a friend’s wedding, I found that I had two hours to spare. There is no doubt about the way in which they would have been spent before I discovered that God has a plan for every minute. The open moors were near by, and it was June. A `quiet time’ by the roadside, however, brought the clear guidance to call on the editor of a daily newspaper, whose house was a few miles away. The result, two months later, was a leading article which made a real contribution to preparing public opinion for a Christian solution to national problems. That God does guide us in this direct way has been proved far too often to be doubted.