(History repeats itself – here is a stylized photo of my brother calling his small son. :-) I was trying to take their photo when the little guy started running in the wrong direction.)
Feb. 1, 2010
I remembered something the other day that made me think. It was a parable I saw in action years ago.
When my youngest brother, Dan, was about 5 or 6 years old we had some friends come and stay with us for a while. This other family had two kids. The father's method of raising his kids was quite different from my dad's in some ways. Some I would say were not bad, just different. However, this family had a bad habit of being late for things - quite late. Now I know a lot of families struggle with this at times, we certainly did, but in this case it was pretty predictable, and as this story will show, it was probably with good reason.
Some or all of us were going away on the particular day in question. My brother, then "Danny", was having some trouble getting ready on time. I have this distinct memory of him struggling down the stairs. My dad may have already hollered at him once to come - probably he had. Now somehow the fathers from both families had ended up standing at the bottom of the stairs at the same time - probably calling their respective sons, and at this point Danny started down. I don't remember if he was trying to get his shoes on or a jacket or what, but as he fiddled around making his way down my dad called out, "Hurry up!" At the same time, or slightly afterward, the other father called out, "Take your time. Take your time." Two totally different commands and two totally different perspectives. It was so striking that it stuck in my mind.
My brother wisely chose to listen to his own father. He knew what would happen if he didn't!
This makes me think, though, about the voices that call to us. So often when we are struggling along in life, striving to do the right thing, voices call out to us. So many of them are voices that should be "strange" to us. 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. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
The most difficult part is that the "stranger voices" are almost always saying something that is more appealing than the voice of our Shepherd, of our God and Father. They are telling us things that are more comfortable to the flesh or that will distract us into wasteful pursuits. For example, it would have been much more comfortable for my brother to "take his time" than to "hurry up". Sometimes they are calling us away to extra effort that is wasteful or unnecessary. Sometimes it is a call to spin our wheels in useless things that keep us from following the Shepherd and obeying our heavenly Father. How similar is the experience for all of us, and how important it is to ignore the strange voices and obey only the Father's voice!
These voices call to us from so many directions that sometimes it can be confusing. As with the case of my brother, sometimes the voice that should be strange to us comes from a friend and fellow Christian - someone we respect, even. Sometimes the voices come from people who are highly admired and acclaimed among our fellow believers - the "experts". Sometimes it is our own deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9) that is desiring us to do that which is not of God.
How do we tell the difference? The same way my young brother did at that time - the message contradicted the message of his father so it must be ignored! So simple, and yet how we do struggle with discerning it sometimes!
A simple question to ask ourselves, "What does the Bible, God's word to us, say?" Another might be, "How will this glorify God?"
Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father...
Proverbs 23:19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Ultimately we have to choose which voice we will listen to. Sometimes God's voice is loud and clear as it was to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6). Other times it is a still, small voice as it was for Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). But, the point is, it is our job to listen and to discern what God is saying to us, and to "tune out" the strange voices that are calling something else.
There are so many examples in scripture of people either ignoring or listening to stranger voices that I could write a considerable amount on it, but this is not my objective at the moment. I simply want us all, myself included and maybe especially, to think on this "sermon" that I saw and heard so long ago.
1Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.