The dinner conversation had become rather awkward. A Murder Mystery party was well underway and that meant someone was about to die. Everyone knew it and everyone suspected everyone else of plotting it.
There was a lot of hint dropping and red-herrings, wink-wink nudge-nudge kind of thing. When the dastardly deed had finally happened as fantastically as possible, all talk revolved around whodunnit and whodidn't. There was plenty of suspicion and innuendo served up over dinner but I was completely LOST! I just couldn't get my head around it all. (I am also a useless actor and got so confused that for weeks after I was still calling people by their character name).
Sometimes hearing from God can feel like one big mystery to solve. There are times when we suspect He is speaking to us, or trying to get our attention, but we're not sure what it all means and how it fits together.
The good news is, God intends for us to know when He is speaking and understand what He is saying. Even a pagan king said:
“Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries." - Daniel 2:47
In order to solve the mystery at the party, we had to be alert to the clues or 'hints' that were dropped throughout the evening. We had to consider what was relevant, investigate leads and piece together the evidence we found to solve the mystery.
As we follow Jesus, He leads and directs us by speaking to us in everyday moments -- through the ordinary, the unusual, the Word and even the world. Often these are only hints or clues to a greater revelation He is making.
A hint or clue that God is speaking to you about something significant might look like:
something that captures your attention
a thought or phrase that won't go away
a reoccurring theme, song or word
an inkling or suspicion somethings up
a persistent nagging feeling you can't quite put your finger on
dreams, pictures, visions
Hearing the voice of God is learning to pay attention to these hints, identify what is relevant, investigate scriptural teachings and piece together the evidence we have to discern what God is saying to us. Like pieces of a puzzle with their own unique insights, put together they reveal the full picture of what God is doing.
A hint is an invitation to ask for more information. It is a clue to point you in the right direction.
A MYSTERY TO BE SOLVED
Jesus once hosted his own Murder Mystery party. This party happened to be the disciples very last dinner conversation together with Jesus and it had hardly begun before a murder plot was underway; 'The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.' John 13:2. Agatha Christie couldn't write a better scene.
Read for yourself: John Chapters 13 -16
For the past few years Jesus had been teaching the disciples about the kingdom of God and hinting that something significant was going to happen that would change the world. He gave them clues by speaking in parables and metaphors, quoting scripture, and even throwing in a few miracles. He made references to impossible things made possible, ancient promises that would be fulfilled, and a coming event that would be a catalyst of eternal consequence -- all clues and hints of a greater revelation of God to His people.
In spite of this, the disciples had yet to accept what Jesus had to say about how this Kingdom would be established and His role in it. Jesus figured the time had come to help them put all the pieces of the puzzle together. More than that, He wanted them to understand what God was doing and why.
'Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.' When He had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place."Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them.' (John 13:4-5&12)
Starting with this symbolic act of washing their feet, the conversation that followed gives us insight into how and why God speaks to us they way He does.
CHASING A LEAD
1. Pursuit of a personal relationship with God
God has always intended for, and made it possible to know Him, but He has never imposed that upon us. Instead He says, "seek me and you will find me".
While it is possible for Him to inform us of everything immediately, it lacks personal relevance. Passing on facts and figures don't require a relationship with a person, it simply becomes a transaction. It may give us an ego boost to be in possession of all knowledge, but it doesn't build us up in character or wisdom without the love of the One who can give us understanding in the first place.
'Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.' - 1 Corinth 8:1
If a hint is an invitation to find out more, then it is an invitation to an intimate conversation with God. It is the joy of discovering Him and that He has more to share with you. When Thomas did this, the answer He received was astounding:
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-6)
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT: Consider for a moment what Jesus has just revealed. What does it mean for you personally?
2. Purpose in the processing
When you sense God is hinting at something and you go to Him to find out more, it provides an opportunity to process what you are learning. It fosters an exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings with Him. They should raise questions that continue a deeper discussion as you turn to God for answers.
'So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things.' - Ecclesiastes 7:25
Rather than being anxious about having the right answers, knowing that these hints and clues somehow all fit together can reassure you that God is leading you intentionally and faithfully.
There may be things that you cannot comprehend fully now unless He gives you time to absorb and understand other factors, such as; the fears that hold you back, the expectations you already have about how and when things should happen, or the cultural and family filters you are perceiving things through.
Jesus said so to his disciples: "You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." (John 13:7 &16:12)
Sometimes I think God just lets me see glimpses of what He's doing because He knows I'll chicken out if He showed me what He was really up to!
God allows time and space for us process what He is saying so we can open our mind to the possibilities He is showing us. When we let Him explain further, we find He breaks down our insecurities and fears, has solutions to roadblocks, and teaches us what we need to know. This may happen quickly or it may takes weeks as you talk to Him and brainstorm together.
PAUSE TO TALK: Prayer is another word for verbally processing with God!
He is stirring our faith in the process. Sometimes we need to be ready to commit to a yes, before He will direct us any further.
3. Providing a little so you can prepare for a lot
It was conceivable that Jesus was about to be murdered by his enemies, and even that He would be betrayed by one of his friends, but it was inconceivable that Jesus wouldn't stop it and that God planned to raise Him from the dead instead. Jesus knew He had to prepare the disciples for the reality and trauma of what was about to happen so that when it did eventuate they would be OK.
'All this I have told you so that...you will not go astray.' John 16:1
'I have told you this so that... when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.' John 16:4
Some things just won't make sense until after other events have occurred to put it into context, but God makes sure we know what we need to know now, so we can understand it later.
Small everyday moments become one big "Ah-ha!" moment, and it usually brings a deeper revelation of who He is.
'I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.' John 13:19
And I think this might be my favourite explanation:
"I have told you these things so that... in me you may have peace." John 16:33
PAUSE TO PRAY: Ask for peace in the process (and if you're like me, some patience!)
4. A pause to ask for more
For a long time, Jesus had been hinting that He was going to be leaving his disciples. Now -- after Judas had run off to meet with the conspirators, as Peter was grappling with the revelation that he in fact, would leave Jesus first, and that no, they could not go with Him -- He was making it clear the time had come, but the disciples were so caught up in their grief, they didn't think to ask for more information, and what exactly that might mean.
Jesus: "Now, I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, "Where are you going?" (John 16:5)
Sometimes we can be so absorbed in our own feelings or ideas that we completely miss what the clue is directing us to do next. Thankfully, God is patient and persistent with us and He presents us with another opportunity to take another look and get some perspective. When we take the invitation to ask God for more information, we find Him eager and willing to explain himself.
'They kept asking, "What does He mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what He is saying. Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "I tell you the truth..." and went on to explain. (John 16:17-20)
Jesus makes things clear. He adds wisdom. He counters our insecurities. He provides answers to questions we haven't articulated yet. He reassures us it will all makes sense and that God is at work in our lives.
Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (John 16:29-33)
CLOSING THE CASE
What seemed to the disciples like obscure references at the time, were actually crucial for helping them recognise the significance of future events as the murder plot unraveled. Those clues and explanations made it possible for them to solve the mystery of the gospel and later announce it to the world in one great big plot twist!
As we follow Jesus and spend time with Him, we become accustomed to His voice and nuances of what He is saying. We become sharper in our ability to pick up on the hints and clues around us, and draw on previous conversations to be able to make sensible deductions. The mystery of the love of God starts to be revealed to us in deeper and more powerful ways. That is exactly what happened to the disciples -- and can for you too.
What are you processing with God right now? What questions could you ask to find out more information?
What is something you think God is asking you to do? What clues has He given you that you are going in the right direction?
Next time you sense God is dropping you a hint, try asking Him for more information.
Once, when I was a kid, I was actually given a Murder She Wrote puzzle to solve. All the clues were in the puzzle pieces and revealed the crime scene when finished. I remember not being clever enough to solve and read the cheat sheet to find out who did it. I wonder what I might have learned if I had enjoyed the process more and the thrill I would have had in solving it if I had persisted.
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