"The Holy Spirit's voice was definitely still and small, but the message was messy and big."
Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 19:11-13 “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
From the age of five years old, I had always known I wanted to be a lawyer. Everything I did in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college pointed toward that end. The reason I wanted to be a lawyer was because I wanted to run for public office. I had the notion in my head that lawyers make good elected officials. Like a laser beam, I was focused on this goal. Nothing would stop me.
After I graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators!!!) College of Law, I began to work for a law firm in Orlando. One of the things that I admired most about the firm was that so many of the attorneys were committed Christians. Many people led Bible studies at various times during the week. It wasn’t uncommon to walk into a room and see people praying. I thought I had found the perfect place to work and eventually run for office.
During my third year with the firm, the Holy Spirit began to really speak to me. Scripture says that God has a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). The Holy Spirit’s voice was definitely still and small, but the message was messy and big. I began to have this overwhelming feeling that I was no longer supposed to practice law or run for office. Instead, the Holy Spirit was calling me to become a pastor. I was the lay leader at my local United Methodist Church and loved serving in that way, but I didn’t want to become a pastor. I knew that life. My dad and grandfather were pastors. I was friends with pastors. Pastors lead lives with high stress and live in a fishbowl with everyone watching and sometimes judging. They’re on call 24r hours a day, seven days a week. In the Methodist world, pastors get told where to serve and live by a bishop. Many pastors struggle financially. No sir. Not me. I didn’t want to hear what the Holy Spirit was telling me.
After several weeks of that “still, small voice” yelling in my ear, I finally ordered a catalog from Asbury Theological Seminary. I opened the mailbox when it arrived and walked right into the kitchen of our home and threw it in the garbage. I didn’t even open it. I did not want to do this!
Still, the Holy Spirit would not leave me alone. I had trouble sleeping. I didn’t have an appetite. I was restless. I knew all of this was because I was running from what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do. Finally, after about three weeks of the Holy Spirit yelling at me with His “still, small voice” I ordered a second catalog from Asbury. This time it arrived, and I opened it. My wife, Kendra, and I began to pray about what it would look like to start seminary.
I knew that starting seminary would mean that I would have to get a new job. Law firms don’t let attorneys work part-time. It’s unheard of. They need their lawyers billing hours every day. I was an associate for the president of our firm, Charlie Shuffield. Charlie was a brilliant barrister. He was known by more people in Orlando than anyone I knew. He was also a man of deep faith. I took my resignation letter to him and let him know that I felt the Holy Spirit was calling me to become a pastor and go to seminary.
To this day, I vividly remember what happened next. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence in Charlie’s office. He looked up at me after reading my letter and said, “Well, Jay, our law firm has sent six attorneys to seminary. I guess we’ll have to send a seventh.” Tears started welling in my eyes, and I felt like I was going to faint. I had never known that God had called six other lawyers from our firm to become pastors. The Holy Spirit’s “still, small voice” had completely taken my voice away.
Charlie photocopied my resignation letter and sent it to every attorney in the firm along with a note from him. The firm would allow me to work three days a week as I went to classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They never complained about my decrease in billable hours, and they paid me like I was a full-time lawyer. Because of their generosity and faith, I graduated from seminary without a single penny of student loans.
I learned many things from that time in my life, but one of them is that we can be so busy listening to our own wants and desires that we can drown out the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit. Once we start to listen to Him, however, it’s hard to stop hearing Him. The Holy Spirit’s voice may be still and small, but its impact is profound and life changing. That voice declares that nothing is impossible with God and that God equips the called. He doesn’t call the equipped. I think of that time in my life often and it always reminds me to ask myself how I’m letting my own desires and wants to drown out the powerful yet still and small voice of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit still speaks today. He speaks to me every day. In fact, the Holy Spirit has never stopped speaking since the time of Pentecost. The bigger issue is whether I’m truly listening.
Questions to ask yourself:
When is the last time you’ve taken time just for listening to the Holy Spirit’s “still, small voice” in your life?
Do you ever plan or set a goal and then ask God to bless it – perhaps justifying it – without listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice?
Consider praying this as you finish your devotional time: “Gracious God, you have blessed me beyond what I even realize. When I forget to see your blessings and hear your voice, gently remind me of your presence. I want your best for my life, God, and I know that requires me to follow you. Show me the way to follow your will in my life. Amen”