There is much to criticize those who have “no fear of God before their eyes.” Simply put, if you have no fear of eternal consequences you are likely to do any foul thing and excuse yourself for doing so under the rubric that you were “born this way.” Jeffrey Dahmer, Joseph Stalin and Hanibal Lecter would applaud your life motto. Those who had no fear of God or consequence gave us a past century of unspeakable brutality and inhumanity. Those with no fear of God have given us thirty years of rapacious greed and monetary irresponsibility that has brought the economies of the world to the brink of collapse. There is little to admire in such people, regardless of one’s religious convictions.

But my distaste for the spiritually scornful is tempered by a sympathy for their loss, particularly in the daily communion with Christ that I find so comforting and so instructive as I make my way through these distressing times. Pam and I were discussing, as is natural for those who have returned from the bosom of their dear friends and loving family, how much longer we will stay in our present ministry. The answer for me is as clear and untroubled as the tropical sky above us: just as long as God wants us to. It is as simple as that.

So how will we know when God wants us to move on? Well, those who study these things will give you a lengthy list of useful touchstones: read the Bible and study God’s revealed will so you will better understand what He has not yet revealed, speak to those who have walked with the Lord faithfully over the years and listen to their advice, seek to understand the ‘signs’ all around you, the circumstances that speak of God working things out in one way or another, pray and ask the Lord for guidance. And all of these things are worthy and good, and all of these things I have employed in one way or another over the years.

But as I have read God’s word and prayed, as I have seen Him at work in my life and in the lives of those I love, one thing has come to mean more to me than all of those things combined: God speaking to my heart. The Bible refers to it as “God’s still, small voice.” It is my increasing conviction that God will use the ‘two-by-four’ of circumstance only when He has been unable to get our attention through speaking quietly to our hearts. Want to avoid that nasty face plant on the sidewalk, or that investment that went south the moment you threw your retirement savings at it? Learn to listen for His voice, for that is what He promised us when He gave us the Holy Spirit.

This advice comes with no guarantees, for this is one thing that you just can’t fake. Your daily walk with God has got to be imbued with His Word and His Presence in order for you to discern what is His quiet will for you is. And you can’t ask to know His will if you are not fully committed to following it – whatever it is – through whatever circumstances it takes you. His will and His way must be more important to you than anything else on earth. Given the loving nature of God and His desire that “all thing work together for good to those that love the Lord” (Romans 8: 28) this is no hardship, but rather an exciting and deeply rewarding journey.

Age and experience are wonderful teachers, but they are no substitute for the discipline of listening to God speak to the heart in the quiet moments following the reading of His word, or singing psalms of praise, or offering prayers of petition. These things are not meant to be dry and lifeless one way communications, but rather a way of opening up our own dull sensitivities to what the Lord would have us hear from Him. Don’t rush away from His Presence. Linger awhile and meditate upon His eternal nature and learn to listen with your heart, for it is in such times that God will speak. This is how you can come over time to discern His voice amidst the babble of our daily lives. For this year, and as long as He gives me strength, I will follow that “still, small voice” with which the Lord directs my path.