22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.-James 1:22-25 NIV
There are so many situations we face on a daily basis. Some of those situations may be over with in a second and some last months. I find the most taxing situations involve having to make critical decisions. Anyone can pride themself on being an efficient decision maker, but even the most sound-minded individual must go through a processes before reaching a finite conclusion.
In my own life, I have faced some very challenging decisions; most recently was whether or not I should return to Binghamton University in the Fall of 2011 to finish up the remainder of my senior credits. I had been away from the institution for a total of four school years and was no longer the young 21 year old who had left in 2007. Instead, I was 25 years old and without a group of friends to lean on if I chose to return. However, knowing that my time to get back in the “game” had surely arrived, a decision needed to be made.
I asked family members and outsiders for their feedback and there was no shortage of opinions given. Some expressed concern over me perhaps falling into a depression if I went back to school without a support system physically present. Some expressed how they didn’t want me to be so far away all over again; Binghamton University is about three hours from NYC. Needless to say, I felt confused and perhaps even more frustrated because an answer didn’t just fall into my lap. Going back to Binghamton was painful on the surface, but I needed my diploma.
One night, completely confused and in need of some clarity, I decided to pray. I find it quite funny how this wasn’t something I chose to do first as opposed to a last resort; I suppose many of us do this often. While praying, my heart felt a leading or urging to read a particular scripture. At this point in my life, I wasn’t a regular bible reader, but I knew I felt like I was being led to read something. My passage of clarity came in the form of Zechariah, chapter eight.
In this particular passage, Zechariah is receiving a word from the Lord about the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. The Lord is telling him of the marvelous things that will take place; that even though the city has suffered tragedy in the past, it will again be blessed, “3 This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”
What particularly struck me, was the instruction God gave to Zechariah. He instructed them to not be afraid and to let their hands be strong for the rebuilding process. I realized my fear was keeping me from being strong and returning to finish what I’d started. I identified with the city of Jerusalem in that I had suffered tragedy and was afraid of what awaited me in the process of rebuilding my life. I felt as though God had abandoned me and was angry, but here he spoke to me with love. He was also guaranteeing his restoration of my life; that despite how much time had passed, my parents, friends and family would again rejoice with me once the process was complete. “4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” 9 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’
All I had to do was receive the word, believe in it and apply it.
Sometimes we receive a word, but don’t really believe God for such big promises. Other times when we do believe it, we’re too afraid or even lazy to take on the responsibility he imparts on us. We think our miracles are always supposed to fall in our laps. In my case and in the case of the people of Jerusalem, action was required. This also relates to the intro verse I chose, in that when God reveals a word to us, we ought to receive it, believe it and then apply it. When we fail to do so, we miss our blessing. I had to make phone calls, get paperwork in order and “march” myself back to my old stomping grounds of Binghamton, NY. And guess what? God was right. On December 11th, 2011, my mom and dad along with other family and close friends made the journey to watch me walk across the stage to receive my diploma!
Here are 3 tips that might help you receive, believe and apply should you find yourself hearing from God:
1. Pray before reading : This helps to clear your mind and allow the Holy Spirit to communicate with you. How can you hear God speak if you’re listening to the music of your own mind, ie, thoughts, doubts, fears?
2. Read and Re-read: Many times we might read something, not understand it and altogether give up on the process. Some words come easy and some may not, but the key to evading confusion is to read the word several times. Meditate on it. Examine how it may be in response to what you’re praying about. It may also help to cross-reference with other translations (CEV, The Message, etc.) and grabbing a dictionary can also be helpful to decipher the meanings of individual words.
3. Don’t be afraid: I’ve stressed the applicational aspect of reading the word, but I can’t stress it enough. Even when you receive a “positive” word, one that seems simple, the enemy can come and steal it from you with feelings of doubt or rejection. There are also times when the instruction given seems impossible, but you can’t let fear rob you of your destined victory. If God brings you to it, his strength will always bring you through it.