A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words

One of the most frequently asked questions a pastor gets is: “How can I know for sure I’m hearing God’s voice?”

In well over 30 years of walking with God, I feel I know less now than ever of His mysteries, yet, through experience, I have noticed patterns that can help to discern and distinguish His voice. Here’s one . . .

When we communicate with each other, because both our verbal and written words are linear, meaning they come out one at a time and in a sequence, we must hear or read an entire message for the full understanding.

If I say to you, “Do you want?” you will be left wondering, “What? What do I want?” If I continue, “Do you want to go to?” you now know what, but you still don’t know where. But if at the end of my words, I finally say, “Do you want to go to Starbucks?” you know what I’m asking. But you had to wait for the sequence to end for the thought to be conveyed.

I have found in my own experience with God, aside from reading His Word, of course, that when He speaks directly to me, it is not in a linear fashion, but more like unveiling and viewing a painting.

If you are at a museum and walk up to a classic Monet on the wall, your eyes view the entire painting. Sure, you might begin to scope on details, but you are viewing the entire picture. You get the complete image of a painting in one look. And, months, maybe even years later, you can often close your eyes and picture the painting, as if you were standing there.

It makes sense that God doesn’t have to communicate inside the limits that we do. He is not captured in time and space as we are.

The Biblical connection to this concept is how Jesus most often taught by painting word pictures, such as a city set on a hill; the father at the end of the road embracing his son; the landowner distributing his wealth; a lady searching her house for a coin; a camel trying to go through a needle’s eye; a shepherd calling his sheep. And of course, the simple vision of the cross that tells the entire story with a single image. Throughout Scripture, we have pictures in our mind imaging the messages of God. Wouldn’t it make sense that Jesus would still talk to us in this manner today?

Understanding and watching for this communication from God might help distinguish more clearly between our thoughts and His message. It might help discern the difference between other’s advice and His answer. The next time you’re asking God to speak to you, maybe listen a little less for the right words and watch for the unveiling picture.

The followers of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in picture-stories?” “This is why I speak to them in picture-stories. They have eyes but they do not see. They have ears but they do not hear and they do not understand.  —Matthew 10:10, 13 NLV

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