Tune In, Tone Down, Sweeten Up


The memory is vivid, even though it was 30 years ago, of Evangeist Mark Cole preaching at our church camp in Illinois. His text was James 1:18-22 with the focus on verse 19. We were challenged to be “swift to hear” (Tune In), “slow to speak” (Tone Down), and “slow to wrath” (Sweeten Up).

The truths of those three commands from the word of God have stuck with me through the years and challenged me to think of how churches need to implement them into their culture. A healthy church is always careful to be listening to God’s will for their ministry.

The temptation will be ever present to run out and get the newest idea or program and then expect God to bless it. Have we humbled ourselves and submitted to what God would have us to do? Are we passionately desiring to hear God’s voice and how will we know when we have? With all the hustle and bustle of today how can we intentionally make sure we are listening to him?

In How to Listen to God Charles Stanley offers five ways to identify God’s voice. These principles will help to guide you and your church to make sure you are hearing from the Lord and following his steps. Isaiah 30:21 says “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.” Isn’t that what we all want; to hear a word from the Lord and know that He has spoken?

Here are the 5 principles shared by Dr. Stanley:

First, God’s voice is consistent with His word! He will never tell you or anyone else to do anything that is the opposite of His truth already given to us in the scriptures. For example many struggle with past guilt even though they have been forgiven from it but the memory continues to haunt them. They bear a lot of unnecessary guilt, shame, and reproach. The devil is a liar and the accuser of believers. The truth, however is found in Rom 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Second, God’s voice usually conflicts with human wisdom! This is not to say that God ignores human wisdom but Jesus quite often did the exact opposite of what people expected. Matthew 5:38-39 is a perfect example of where Jesus challenges us to do the opposite of what human wisdom might compel us to do. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Third, God’s voice is contrary to fleshly desires! When Jesus called for people to follow Him He did not say “Come and Get!” but rather “Come and Die!” In Luke 9:23-24 He said, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For  whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He does not lead us to fulfill our materialism and consumeristic ways. John 12:24 says, “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.

Fourth, God’s voice challenges our faith! When God speaks it will require us to trust Him enough to step out in faith. It will force us to take a risk by believing what He says more than what everyone else might be saying. He challenged the armies of Israel to do some pretty risky things at times so that they would know that He gave them the victory not the mightiness of their armies. Remember that Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him.”

Fifth, God’s voice will require you to be courageous! When the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land He tells Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous!” In Joshua 1:9 He says, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” When God speaks it will require faith, taking a risk, and having the courage to obey Him regardless of what others may say!

When God does speak to us it is not always to deliver us from a difficult situation. He speaks to give us wisdom on how to make it through that situation. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

His main objective is not always to give us comfort but when He speaks it does always give us confidence. I may not feel all goose bumpy and excited about what He says but I will have confidence that I am where He wants me to be faithfully following Him.

God does still speak today through His word and the Holy Spirit guides us and directs us. We must make sure we are leaning in to hear Him clearly and correctly. Press your ear up as close as you can to ensure you can hear His still small voice.

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