I find it interesting (and annoying) how frequently strangers give unsolicited advice. I was entering a store recently when a guy on the sidewalk told me that I should not shop at that store, but should go to a different one. Another day, I was sitting at the pattern book table in the fabric store with several pages side by side, making my comparisons and trying to determine which I would choose. A lady walks up, looks over my shoulder, points to one and tells me that’s the one I should choose. Really? (I’m very often tempted to respond to them in my second language: sarcasm.) Why would I follow the advice of a stranger?
When friends offer unsolicited opinions or advice, it’s a little easier to take because I know them. Even if I disagree with their position on a matter, I can listen and consider what they are saying if I know they care about me. I’ve learned to smile and just say thank you. When I need help, when I want good counsel, I will seek out those I trust the most, people who I know truly love me and will not give me “fluff” answers. I will seek out those that seek God.
Jesus said “…the sheep follow him because they know his voice…they will never follow a stranger…I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me….The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10: 4-5, 14, 27
When life presents its challenges, we need to know where to go for answers. We need to know that we are listening to the right voices and not following the voice of a stranger. When the pressure is on there are many voices speaking to us – friends, family, teachers, books, television, radio….and of course, the enemy. I spent much of my life following the wrong voices. I lacked confidence in my own decision-making abilities so it was easy to believe that others were smarter and surely they knew better than I did. I followed the voices that told me who I should be and what I should do – voices that preyed on my desperation to be loved – voices of the enemy.
When a thought comes telling us who we are or what we ought to do, we need to ask “Who said that?” Do we recognize the voice? Is it the voice of our Shepherd? Or is it the voice of a stranger? The most important question is – can we tell the difference?
As Christians, we often struggle with our efforts and desire to hear God. But the question must be asked – are we in position to hear? When we need answers, are we willing to remove ourselves from all the noise, get the other voices out of our head, and be ready to listen? He is our Shepherd – He is leading and He promises to speak to us. We get to know and recognize His voice by spending time with Him. His voice is never going to give us instructions that go against His word. His word is where we go to “test” the thoughts we have, and the advice others give.
When we give Him first place and seek Him before any other voice, He is faithful and speaks to us clearly. He has so much He wants to say – let’s get still and listen!