Hearing an “inner voice” – that was a new concept for me.
But that was how evangelist E. Stanley Jones described his life as a Christian. I seized the idea as a young man, and for 60 years, I have been blessed by listening in my mind to the inner voice of Christ.
What I have heard has been wise counsel. When I obeyed, I was blessed. When I chose my way instead of his, I learned the hard way that his way is the way. The more I have listened, the more my soul has cried to hear more.
I have found the guidance of the inner voice consistent with the New Testament teachings of Jesus because the inner voice is the living Christ. Other inner voices do clamor for my attention, but I find they are false voices when I test their counsel against the teachings of the scriptures.
What false voices? The ones that say, “Get revenge,” or “Get even,” or “Do not forgive,” or “Build bigger barns for your stuff.” You know what I mean because you hear those voices too.
My decision to listen to the inner voice was reinforced by another mentor of my faith, Elton Trueblood. The brilliant Quaker writer gave me a profound definition of a Christian. A Christian, he said, is someone who “hears many voices” amidst the noise of the world but hears “One Voice” that wins his attention – the voice of Jesus Christ. Listening to that voice, the Christian “begins to know the joy of being used for a mighty purpose by which his little life is dignified.” Hearing that, I felt my heart pounding “Yes, Yes!”
Eminent theologian N. T. Wright urges Christians to listen to the voice of God and obey it. The Bible, of course, is the “Word” of God but Wright wisely advises us that the one place where we can be sure to hear the voice of God is “in the cry of those in need.”
Again, I am stirred to say yes! So often I have heard the inner voice speaking to me through the plight of the poor. And when I help the poor, I hear the inner voice affirming any small acts of love.
What do I hear the inner voice saying? The same things you hear when you listen carefully: “You were wrong; repent and apologize, and ask forgiveness from those you have offended.” Or, “That’s good! I am pleased when you offer kindness to others, even those who mistreated you.” I love it when he affirms me and reminds me that he loves me.
Often I hear him whispering, “I am with you. I love you. Lean on me and I will help you. Look every day for ways to help others in need.” Hearing such a voice makes me glad to be alive! So every day I pray for the courage to keep saying, “Yes, Lord, whatever you say!”
Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a weekly column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at email@example.com.