As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2)
Whenever we are searching for the will of God, it is very important for us to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In each of His 7 Letters to the 7 Churches, Jesus said – ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (see Revelation 2-3) God’s Spirit speaks to God’s people and therefore we must be careful to hear what He has to say.
In reference to the Spirit’s speaking, scripture tells us that it was the Spirit who spoke and guided Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch. (see Acts 8:29) Scripture also tells us that it was the Spirit who spoke and thus encouraged Peter to not be afraid to go to the house of the Gentile named Cornelius. (Acts 10:19) From the examples of men like Philip and Peter, as well as Paul and Barnabas, we see that effective ministry requires a sensitive ear to the speaking of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Romans 8:14 that it is those who are ‘led by the Spirit of God’ who are ‘the children of God.’
In contrast, consider also the story of David who tried to serve God without hearing the Spirit’s voice.
‘After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.” That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?’ (2 Samuel 7:1-5)
It was not God’s will for David to build the temple. That task would be assigned to David’s son named Solomon. Therefore, it was a mistake for David to assume that his desire was automatically in agreement with God’s will. We learn also from Acts 16 that there was a time when Paul wanted to go into certain regions to preach the gospel; yet the Spirit prohibited him from doing so. It was God’s will for Paul to go into an entirely different region. (see Acts 16:6-10) God has a specific plan for how He wants to use each of us and often His plan is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
How does the Spirit speak to us? Sometimes the Spirit speaks by placing a particular desire within our heart. Sometimes the Spirit speaks through a still small voice that we can hear only in our inner man. Sometimes the Spirit speaks by bringing a verse of scripture to our thinking. Sometimes the Spirit speaks through the godly counsel of other people. And always the Spirit speaks through the prayerful study of God’s Word.
Jesus said – ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…’ I pray that this day you and I will be able to hear what the Spirit has to say and to obey Him.