Book Review: Hearing God, by Dallas Willard

Hearing God: Developing A Conversational Relationship With God

Dallas Willard

Publisher: Intervarsity Press

Hearing God

Communication: the buzzword for healthy relationships. If faith is a personal relationship with God, why is communication with him such a mystery? This updated and expanded book seeks to clarify what it means to hear God and addressing many misunderstandings of this fundamental piece of the life of faith. This is a comprehensive, level-headed, and challenging book on divine guidance.

While believers around the world soundly establish communication towards God, Willard seeks to illuminate the missing piece: communication from God; that is, hearing and understanding what God has to say about us. With marvellous insight, Willard challenges the reader cognitively and calls forth reflection. Using plain language yet brilliant analogies in everything from quantum mechanics to human anatomy, revealing the indications and implications of God’s interaction with us.

The book’s second interest is answering whether it is more dangerous to risk trying to hear God or not trying to hear God at all. Willard is adamant about the importance as well as the reality of Christians being able to hear from God personally.

Ultimately, Willard’s point is that the Christian person needs to be able to hear God, or they will forever be paddling in the shallow end of the spiritual life. Willard restores the individual relationship with God amongst the other pillars of a healthy spiritual walk – community, Bible reading, and so on – so that people do not become dependent on imperfect human advice for every little thing.

More than ever, Christians are seeking ‘God’s will’ for their life. As a result, many groups devise seminars, strategies, and steps to do this. Willard’s thesis revolves around developing a relationship with God in all kinds of ways, the Bible being one. This updated and expanded version includes six Lectio Divina exercises to guide readers into hearing God through reflective reading of Scripture – while readers also train themselves to hear the ways in which God communicates. At the end of each chapter are reflection questions that may help the reader further unpack meaning for his or her own life.

Reflections: Perseverant Faith

“The testing of your faith produces patience” – James 1:3

In March, in the tiny community of Esperanza on the west side of Vancouver Island, our group was chopping wood when a hailstorm descended upon us with force, stinging the skin despite our jackets. We took cover until it lessened, then returned to our mauls. Our task was to serve the community by splitting enough wood to stock all the woodsheds. Having no alternative really streamlined our workdays: labour four hours in the morning, break for lunch, resume until dinnertime. Chopping was arduous but simple, as there’s one way to do it: hit the round in the right spot over and over again until it gives.

Many victories are possible through perseverance, and great harvests take time and work. Seeing results is encouraging, but we are tempted to live expecting rapid gratification. We rejoice over answers to heartfelt prayer and a return from seed we’ve sown. But when we don’t see them, faith is tested, sometimes in the company of frustration.

Faith is confident expectation. It involves waiting for something promised. Faith requires patience because everything doesn’t arrive at once, and we need a guard against anxiety about that. Patience allows the fruit of peace to grow.

Jesus declared we would receive the things we believe for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). Sometimes we ask amiss, praying our will be done rather than God’s. God, in his mercy, does not always conform the world to our desires! Yet despite that, God ardently desires for us to pray: “surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Christ championed the virtue of perseverance in prayer. Perhaps we have not seen the wood split because we need to hit it a few more times. That’s one way to cultivate perseverance. God may be emphasizing work he wants to do in us to prepare the work he will do through us afterward. Though our prayers may be for the transformation of our situation, our prayers are simultaneously transforming us. Though it’s confusing and counter-intuitive, while you are interested in your destination, He is interested in your heart; entrust that to Him and he will prove trustworthy in it all. It is impossible for us to pray and for absolutely nothing to happen.

Risk & Paradox

Published at Converge Magazine online:

The kingdom Jesus preached is an environment that does not fear looking upside-down to others. It involves risks; sometimes very small ones, sometimes great leaps of faith, standing upon nothing except the promises of the Bible, what some call “blind faith”, or, disparagingly, “foolishness”.

In this universe He created, God has set forth many paradoxes. Jesus and others through history have blazed their trails, proving, incredulously, the validity of these paradoxes as lives and indeed kingdoms and institutions have been revolutionized through the proactive love and demonstration of the Spirit’s power by a servant-king’s empowered disciples. To be first, one must become last. To become great, one must be humble. To become rich, one must realize one’s poverty. To live, one must die to oneself, taking up the cross daily. Remember that though paradoxes appear at first not to be true, they prove true through experience.

In the struggle of the early morning wake-up routine after a night of interrupted sleep, today’s dark, frosty dawn presented me with a choice testing my faith in one such paradox: do I go with the feelings, emotions and desires of my body, which would have been quite happy to sleep in (just 10 more minutes . . . ) or do I trust God when he says that if I put His kingdom first (how applicable that verse is in the ‘first’ light of the day), that all other things shall be added, supernaturally and generously, to me by my loving Father.

Too often I allow the outside world to dictate what I feel on the inside. This might sound very normal; indeed, it is the normal experience of many people to be bombarded and bullied each day by externals. We find ourselves affirming things we don’t believe, agreeing to things we don’t want, and failing to do things we should. However in the Bible I see a different way of living: one where our internal atmosphere has authority over external circumstances, starting with God’s initial creative act. Elijah’s prayer changes the weather. Jesus’ confidence could not be swayed by governors. Peter’s command heals the cripple.

So rolling out of bed, I grabbed my Bible and Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and under the reading light I began to ingest words that would nourish me, as I am promised in the Proverbs. Indeed, if I eat no other food today, I am blessed by God. I am empowered by a sterling strength superior to my own variable energy level. I have what I really need.

By God’s grace and his gifts, I can stand and win against the pangs of hunger, loneliness, failure, and even death, for Jesus has conquered them all for us.

Though the spiritual life holds much in tension with human perception, the securities we are given are plentiful. Great and numerous are the promises of God’s Word. His heart is set towards us with a consuming and exultant love. I am His beloved. Here’s another paradox: His power is made perfect in our weakness. May our minds be utterly renewed.