The bible is fairly clear about how our faith comes to us.
And so right out of the gate, many hear this above scripture and think, “I grow my faith by reading my bible.” At it’s core, this is well and true but…I believe, seriously lacks nuance… It simply isn’t doing it for most of us…and I think it’s because there’s more to it.
Allow me to explain…
Faith comes by hearing…
The Hebrew idea for hearing wasn’t just listening. It was a listening with an intent to understand, and then act on that understanding. Hebrew people collapsed “hear” and “obey” into their concept of hearing. A close analogy could be when a parent asks their child if they “heard” the command to, say, clean up their toys. When the parent says “Did you hear what I said ?” They are not asking if the child physically heard their instruction, rather they are asking if the child has sought to understand…and are thus participating with the parent in their reasoning and action.
And hearing by the Word of God…
I’m going to *carefully* attempt to navigate through this idea that the Bible is not the only form of the Word of God. (Clearly it’s one of the most primary forms…I’m not denying that.) But the Bible itself with all of its authority, doesn’t refer to the phrase ‘Word of God’ always as the scriptures.
First off, creation speaks forth the Word of God to a very real and thorough degree, so that people without law could still be held accountable to knowing God.
Second, Jesus in relation to the Trinity, is referred to as the Word of God. So His whole person and character, timeless throughout the ages…functions as what God is always saying to us.
Third, the Body of Christ and its speaking ministries is referred to as the Word of God. Our lives of love and our testimonies speak a form of the word of God, powerful enough as to overcome end times/enemies when paired with the blood of the Lamb.
Fourth, the Gospel is referred to as the Word of God which, I think is most important. The gospel gives us the proper context for hearing God. We always hear God within a context of our calling as His image bearers. We are to express His character and divine nature in and through us – so that everything we touch, is touched with His glory and love. Namely the self sacrificial love of Christ on the Cross. Jesus showed His sacrificial love as the Way of Salvation and the Way of Life. So it’s in this gospel context, that we are in dialogue with Him. Without this gospel context, we revert to hearing God not in love, but in the flesh…which ends up looking like this:
Fleshly attempts at hearing God will cause us to shove off personal responsibility for our lives…(Since if God tells us what to do, then we don’t have to own up to our decisions, which are to be endeavored with Him, rather than caused by Him.) Also, fleshly attempts at hearing God will cause us to go after our own selfish desires…for our own individual lives…(rather than surrendering our lives to find the greater good which is found in the communal Kingdom of God/ follower’s of Christ’s Way.) Maybe the most deadly, yet common way we attempt to hear God from the flesh, is in that we really do not believe He is good. In the flesh, we find Him mean and tricky, and so we have to compulsively hear from Him about everything in order to feel safe and vindicated. This is difficult, since in the flesh, the underlying obsession is how righteous we look (to our own peril)..rather than peacefully content in being about the good of God and others, simply for their own sake…thus putting to rest the spiritual narcissism which masquerades as zeal, which often drives our Christian life.
And so, the land is full of well meaning Christians who constantly swear by the ‘still small voice’ as the main way they hear God…(maybe outside of a some scripture reading.) Perhaps, they reduce things down a little too much, by stating that “It’s simple, you just become Spirit lead about everything.” But one can attempt to hear God from the flesh, outside of a Gospel context, and they risk shipwrecking their life and faith. (Not to mention causing tension to those around them.) (I honestly think God honors this view the best He can, speaking to them in this limited capacity the best He can…but I believe He’s hopeful that they may hear Him in a more rich and manifold way…having more forms of the Word of God come together for a clearer safeguard against fleshly mis-hearing.)
Interestingly, the same Hebrew word for ‘still small voice’ which is used in the Elijah story…is also used when the scriptures say Cain’s murdered brother’s blood cries out from the ground. And so the idea here again, similar to that of Hebrew “hearing,” is that the ‘still small voice’ is this profound and reverent reasoning to action, that comes to us, always in a context of a receiver/sharer of the kindness of the Lord, for the whole of life.
To conclude, maybe the idea of increasing our faith through hearing the word of God, isn’t a matter of how God is speaking to us…but rather asking “How is He not speaking to us?”
The Spirit is using every means He can to reach us. And the mature know this. They don’t merely walk around being lead command after command, like a toddler, at least not for long. God is not their moral text messenger service, merely telling them what to do all the time. They converse, as if with a Spouse, in a deep sense of understanding. Often through a sheer sharing of presence. They share presence with Him in the created order of things, in the community of believers and in the scriptures. They are experienced in the life of Christ, His person, and the Gospel, so that all forms of the Word of God come together, in this profound and reverent reasoning…the fruit of which is a mindset that’s of life and peace, tasting good the soul, like that of walking with a friend in the coolness of the evening.
So remember…God’s word to you is in the bible, (with all its precious and rightfully Holy authority) and we are absolutely lead by the Spirit, but these may point you to a Word of God beyond that which you may realize as God speaking to you. For there is yet another who’s blood cries out from the ground.