In the brouhaha following Oral Roberts’s conversation with God about fund-raising techniques (CT, Feb. 20, 1987, p. 43), one important fact is being misrepresented. Of course we reject the claim that God would hold a man hostage as part of a fund-raising scheme. (Roberts said God told him he would take Roberts home if $4.5 million in contributions were not received by April 1). We also believe that some messages from God are intended for private consumption only, to be used as private spurs rather than public whips. However, we strongly endorse the idea that God can and does speak to Oral Roberts, or anyone else, for that matter.

Unfortunately, when a man claims to have heard directly from God, our secularism conditions us to think he has gone daft. Moreover, commentators and editorialists nurture that notion with clever guffaws aimed at religion in general. The natural reaction among believers is to distance themselves from anything sounding slightly outrageous—in this case, hearing God speak.

That is sad, for throughout history God has talked to countless human beings. Even by today’s loquacious standards, God has been a veritable blabbermouth. According to Scripture, God talked to kings and servants, freemen and slaves. He used an astonishing variety of communication methods. In addition to just plain talking, he spoke through whirlwinds, burning bushes, asses, doves, shining lights from heaven, and mysterious hands writing on the wall. (Many of his methods make Roberts’s 900-foot Jesus seem tame.) Sometimes God spoke ex cathedra; at other times, he was more interested in dialogue. He even let Abraham talk him out of destroying a wicked city. Today most Christians would be lost without frequent conversations with God through prayer.

Of course, conversation with God has its dangers. Because we are bombarded with messages from a legion of advisers—from advertisers to counselors to employers—it can be difficult to pick out God’s voice from all the rest. Satan has been known to disguise his ingratiating pap so the casual listener could mistake it for a signal from God. We can even be the victims of our own earnest desires to minister as faithfully and fully as possible. We trust the latter was the case with Roberts.

Yet hearing God’s pristine, calm voice above the din is possible. And in times when that voice may not be as clear as we would like, two safeguards will help: the wise counsel of trusted, spiritually mature friends, and an understanding of the nature of God. Even if Roberts’s advisers did not help him distinguish God’s voice from his own ambition, he should know that the God who has blessed his ministry would never bully him into soliciting more funds. God just does not work that way.

It would be a sad day, indeed, if we thought God were finished talking. So in our skepticism over Roberts’s understanding of this particular message, let us not deny the fact that God speaks clearly and frequently to us. In fact, the evidence of God’s desire to communicate with us is so overwhelming, it seems obvious the only thing that could silence his voice would be our unwillingness to listen.

By Terry Muck

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