I was driving in my car at about 10:30 pm. I prayed and prayed the whole drive home (and almost ran a red light in the process). I asked God, “If the gift of tongues is something you want for me, I’m open, I’m willing.”
And in that moment, I felt like I “heard” God. It wasn’t an audible voice per se. It was more like one of those times when you’re having an internal dialogue. And the answer was simple:
“No. This isn’t what I have for you. Stop asking.”
Why did I have this moment? Why did I feel compelled to plead with God about a particular spiritual gift, one that Paul calls a lesser gift in 1 Corinthians?
At the time, I was part of a Pentecostal church here in London, Ontario. And frequently, the idea was floated out there that you didn’t want to miss out on all that God has for you. Fundamentally, that meant speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized in the Spirit. Now, I was a pretty new believer at this stage. I’d been a Christian for maybe a year and a half. But I’d debated with men in the church over and over about whether or not this was a necessity.
I kept pointing to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 12:27-30:
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
It seemed pretty cut and dry to me. “No” is the answer Paul was expecting to each of these questions. Gifts are given according to God’s purposes, simple as that. And yet, it didn’t seem so simple when I would argue my point with these older men. And so I would continue to pray and pray and pray and nothing would happen. No whammy moment. No magical being caught up in a euphoric “in the Spirit” kind of experience.
And then I was given an answer:
And you know what? It felt pretty good. I didn’t have any sense of disappointment, only relief and a sense of gratefulness toward God for reminding me of the truth of Scripture.
When we say we “heard” from God, more often than not, we mean something like this. It’s not a moment of new, authoritative revelation. It’s a moment where God the Holy Spirit is illuminating—helping us see and apply clearly—the truth of Scripture.
Illumination is how the Lord gives you understanding in everything (2 Tim 2:7). He doesn’t need to tell you anything He hasn’t already said—all we will ever need for life and godliness is found in the Scriptures. They are more than sufficient for their task of making the person of God complete and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). What the Holy Spirit does, though, is helps you to understand clearly what He has already said. And when God “speaks” in this sense, it’s wise to listen.