Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit

Probably one of the most difficult things in mission is to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from all other kinds of voices and sounds trying to influence your life. Yesterday I was preaching from Acts 21 where at two stages people claiming to speak in the Name of the Holy Spirit tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem (verses 4 & 11). Paul, however, disregards their advice and proceeds to Jerusalem where he is indeed captured, first by the Jews and then by the Romans. Granted, Paul did not say that the warning did not come from the Spirit. What he did say was that he was more than willing to suffer and even to die while proclaiming the Name of the Lord Jesus (verse 13).
A few days ago I was reading a post from one of the blogs I regularly follow. Josh and Lindsey Parks had received (what they considered to be) a calling from God to move to Ukraine and to become full-time missionaries there. But then they wrote a post in which they admitted that they had not heard God correctly. After only three months in Ukraine they now plan to return to the USA. And this of course brings up the question: When can we be sure that we have heard God correctly. (I’m not blaming Josh & Lindsay for their decision. It may even be that God wanted them in Ukraine for a shorter period of time for a reason which they still do not understand. But their situation just proves how difficult it is to always be 100% sure that we have heard God correctly.)
My dear friend, Tim Deller – who had spent eight months with us in Swaziland – and I often spoke about this issue, specifically regarding his coming to Swaziland. Although he had prayed about going to some area for a longer period of time, Swaziland wasn’t really on his spiritual map. And then this opportunity came along, he felt it was the Spirit leading him to Swaziland, I heard about him and felt at peace that it would be the right thing to do and shortly afterwards we were working together in Swaziland! I believe that this was truly from the Spirit. But what would have happened if we had both heard incorrectly?
I think when it comes to big issues such as going full-time into mission, it would not be inappropriate to ask God to confirm, even more than once, what you believe you hear He is telling you. And even more so when it is a husband and wife team going off to another country. Both of them need to be sure that they have heard God correctly. Invariably there will be challenges which the wife will have to face which may be much more difficult for her to handle than for the man. When we moved to Swaziland, we were both sure that God wanted us to be there. (Today we are more sure than ever before.) But this decision did not come without problems. To name only one: Our eldest son had tremendous health problems as a baby. Much later we found out that he had an allergy for gluten, but this we found out only after he had almost died and was hospitalised for ten days where we literally prayed him through every day. When he came home, we had to keep him off gluten to prevent him from getting sick again. How my wife coped, I still don’t know. In a modern city it would have been difficult enough. In Swaziland it was almost beyond imagination.
Why didn’t we leave? Probably because we had no other realistic option. But I think, somehow, we never doubted that God had indeed called us to Swaziland. God had convinced us that this is where He wanted us to be and up to today I’m still sure that we are where He wants us to be.
To be led by the Holy Spirit is one of the privileges of being a Christian. But then we need to make sure that we hear His voice correctly.


Monday, July 28, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Health, Mission, Short-term outreaches, Swaziland, Theology


  1. The subject of this post is near & dear to my heart. I have always hidden mission ambitions in my heart and now, at 45, God is making them true. He has spoken clearly to me all through my life, and now without ever having mentioned it to my husband until we had been married 18 years, He is bring us to the field! I have read of instances such as you write about where misionaries turn around in a short amount of time, often due to health reasons, relationship issues, etc. I pray that we will keep our focus wholly on His purpose and that nothing like that will occur to us.

    Comment by tandcand5kids | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for your comment. I hope that God leads you clearly in what he wants you and your husband to do.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. I appreciate this article especially since I have been doing my best to follow the Holy Spirit since I left my full-time position (with significant income) back in March 2005. One thing I can definitely say is that I’m convinced God is more interested in your “journey” with Him than you necessarily reaching what you think is your destination. The verse talking about giving us our “daily” bread comes to mind.

    Yes confirmation is great when we recognize it. Warning signs/signals He gives are good when we’re not blinded by our own zeal and ambition. I am forever grateful He knows us better than we know ourselves.

    Running His race,

    Pastor Andy Logan
    All Nations Word and Worship Center
    Corpus Christi, TX

    Comment by Andy | Monday, June 22, 2009 | Reply

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