Sometimes it is a challenge to discern the difference between God's voice, our own, and the world's. When I came into my relationship with God I wondered how anyone could really tell if God was instructing them or not, but as I spent time in His Word, began my awkward journey of new believer prayers, and tried to navigate what on earth I'd committed myself to I began to recognize God in the world around me. As I read, learned and prayed I also began to listen, and to hear Him. I could feel God with me. It started out feeling small, uncertain, and confusing but over the years I have grown in my familiarity of God's presence and voice in my life.
'Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord , take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.' 1 Kings 19:4-8
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is seeking God out, afraid and feeling very alone. Elijah received instruction from an angel of the Lord, but in his anxiety he missed it. The angel came back again, though, and continued to instruct him until eventually reminding him, as we so often need the same reminder, that sometimes the journey will be too much to do alone but God is with us always, providing what we need for the journey.
'And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”' 1 Kings 19:9-10
When the Lord had filled Elijah with His strength, Elijah set out to seek God even more. When Elijah came to the Mountain of God and God asked him what he was doing there, He seems to be reminding Elijah that no matter where he goes, God is still there with Elijah - even when he doesn’t recognize it, even when he feels alone. This question is a heart-check question for me. When I am anxious, running around my life like I have any control, like I’m facing it alone, I hear God ask me “what are you doing here? Do you know I’m with you wherever you go? Do you trust me to provide and protect you?”
'Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord .” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord , but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. ' 1 Kings 19:11-15
This is my favorite part of the story because it feels like a test to see if we can tell the difference between God, the world, or ourselves. Sometimes it is easy to think something is a sign from God and rush to run with it, but as we become more disciplined in our relationship with God we will be able to tell, like Elijah, where God is, what He is saying to you and calling you to.
This entire story is a reminder that sometimes we need to be still and rest, and when the time is right God will give us the strength we need to carry on and do the next thing. We cannot rely on our own strength, but instead need to be disciplined in seeking the Lord and His Word in all things. Elijah was seeking and through his anxiety missed God’s reply a few of times, but he kept seeking and finally began to recognize God’s presence with him. God will keep on guiding and providing, and when we continue to seek Him out we will become more familiar with His presence and His voice and be filled with the strength, peace and perseverance we need that can only be found in Him.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
Training ourselves to diligently spend time in scripture on a regular basis and constantly lift our entire life up to Him takes discipline and practice, but reaps incredible rewards as our relationships with Him grow and become more comfortable and familiar. We must make a choice to change our priorities, putting God as our top priority, and place our trust in Him above anything else. Be disciplined in prayer and His Word. Through this discipline we recognize God better all the time, and will be better equipped to bear the fruit of the Spirit and spread God’s love and truth in this broken, hurting world.
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12
'He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ' Titus 1:9
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27