This past year I’ve been doing extensive two-way journaling. For a committed left-brain, analytical person, it’s been an eye opener. Two-way journaling has addressed a long-standing desire of mine to hear the Lord’s voice, so I could not only have a deeper relationship with Him but also receive wisdom and guidance for the work He’s called me to do. It’s helped me not only get in touch with the Lord’s heart, His love and compassion, but also better understand the desires and purposes God has placed in my heart; the good works He has called me to do.
I LOVE hearing but... obedience has been hard
Two-way journaling has helped me distinguish my thoughts from His thoughts. It’s reaffirmed to me that the Lord is always speaking to me and providing encouragement and wisdom for the work and important relationships He’s placed in my life.
I’ve noticed, though, that while I’m receiving godly wisdom and direction for different areas and relationships in my life, I’m not always following up on the things He’s asked me to do or work on. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman (Rom. 8:26; Jn. 14:26) and doesn’t condemn or shame me for not be following up on His counsel. Yet I’m aware I need to be not just a hearer of the Word but also a doer as James says (Jas. 1:22). Failure to obey means I’m limiting the Lord’s ability to work in and through my life.
Reflecting on obedience
As I’ve journaled about hearing and then acting on His counsel and talking with others, several things have come to mind to help me better walk in obedience.
First, the importance of hearing His voice and getting His wisdom and direction is foundational. His sheep hear His voice and follow him (Jn. 10:27). Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father doing (Jn. 5:19). He regularly prayed for guidance and direction throughout His time of ministry (Matt. 14:23). There are a lot of things, even good works, I can spend my time doing, but what’s really important is doing the work the Father has prepared for me to do (Eph. 2:10). That’s what will last, not what I dream up on my own (I Cor. 3:15).
Second, I need to faithfully pray and seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction and then act on what I hear Him saying to me. I need to include the Lord in the follow-up process. With the Lord, regularly journal on what I need to be doing, how things are going and asking Him for ongoing counsel and direction. I realize I’ll make mistakes, but that’s OK. It’s part of the training process. I didn’t expect my children when they were young to do everything perfectly, and I don’t think the Father views me any differently.
Third, I need other people I regularly, weekly share with about what’s happening, how things are going. For those married, our spouse should be one of these persons. But other believers are also important to interact with either one on one or in a small group setting. I need to share what I’m hearing from the Lord and what I’m doing to follow up on His counsel and direction. These relationships can be important sources of encouragement, counsel, and accountability.
I find these principles of support, accountability, and encouragement throughout the Scriptures. Jesus sent out His twelve disciples in pairs as He later did with the 72 disciples (Mk. 6:7; Lk. 10:1). Paul traveled on his missionary trips with at least one other person and at times with larger groups of people (Lk. 13:2). Jesus, of course, did the same (Mk. 9:2). Moses had Aaron (Ex. 4:14). David had trusted advisors in his life (2 Sam. 7:17).
Fourth, I need to report back to others about what’s happening with the work the Lord has given to me to do. When the 72 returned, they shared with the group how things went (Lk. 10:17). Paul shared with others about his work and experiences (Acts 15:4). Letting others see and hear about how the Lord is working through me builds everybody up (I Thess. 5:11).
Fifth, write down and keep a chart on what I’ve done and how the Lord used it. It will be a reminder and encouragement of the Lord’s faithfulness.
Sixth, when I’m tempted to give up or procrastinate, memorize and use Scriptures to speak truth to my heart and mind. I need to remember that the enemy will do everything he can to discourage or distract me from doing the work the Lord has given me to do.
And finally, I need to remember that if I come up short and haven’t followed through or made mistakes, I can acknowledge it and commit to doing things better or differently next time. The Lord is with me to encourage and strengthen me, not condemn or shame me.
This is a lengthy list which I shouldn’t apply legalistically. Rather, as with all things, I need to ask the Lord how He wants me to move ahead in this area. What specifically He wants me to do and who are the people I should do it with.
Yes, learning to the hear the Lord’s voice is foundational for our walk with Him. It provides us with direction and encouragement. But we also need people who through their presence and prayers are providing us with the encouragement and accountability we need to be not only hearers of the Word but also doers.
Journaling about obedience by Tom P.
Lord, what do You want to tell me about hearing Your voice and obeying it?
Tom, yes, you need to hear My voice first and foremost. Only then can you do what I am doing and see what I am seeing. Otherwise you are doing things, however good in and of themselves, but they aren’t in the area I’m asking you to work; they become your plans not Mine. I will still use them, but they aren’t My perfect, ideal area of work, the things I have specifically called you to.
Lord, you’ve been telling me a lot of things to do or giving me a lot of counsel, however, I’m challenged in following through on it or fully discerning what it is You’re telling me to do. How can I better obey you?
Tom, it’s My heart’s desire that you would hear My voice and then work on the things I’ve called you to under the wisdom and guidance of My Spirit.
It’s important for you to not only hear My voice initially but then continue to consult with Me on what I have said.
It’s also helpful to have your wife or other followers of Mine be with you in the process. Share what you are hearing with Me. It will help confirm that it was from Me. If you’re unsure then ask them. However, if it’s clear to you, consistent with My Word, and they agree, then that’s a good basis for moving ahead with your actions.
They can also help you make sure you take the next steps. If fear and doubt enter in, then the enemy can divert you from the task I’ve called you to. Yes, it’s important to have other believers walk with you along the way, to provide encouragement and exhortation. Yes, invite others into your life and the process of hearing, discerning and then following through on what I have asked you to do.
You can do this a number of ways. Meet with them regularly. At your regular meeting share what you sense I am telling you to do and then purpose to act on it before the next meeting.
If you come up short and don’t act on it then simply acknowledge it and realize My Spirit is still with you to provide counsel and wisdom and encouragement.
What are examples of this in Scripture?
Paul and Barnabas, walked and worked together. When My Son sent out the 12 and then the 72 disciples, they went together. So having a friend to encourage and motivate you is important.
Working in the context of the body and when the church is sending you out, it’s good to share with them what you are doing and report back to them on your results.
Paul regularly reported to others what he did and how things went.
Specific steps of action which help in establishing obedience - by Mark Virkler
- I ask the Lord to circumcise my heart, removing evil desires and replacing them with godly desires.
- When tempted to fail, I purpose to seal my lips from speaking negatives about myself, life or God. Instead I memorize and speak God's truth over myself strengthening myself in the Lord.
- Any time I fail, I repent immediately and ask for and receive a cleansing of Jesus' blood and then I put on Christ's robe of righteousness.
- I ask the Lord to explain why I failed and what I could do differently in the future so I don’t continue failing.
- I journal out a detailed description of the blessings of living righteously in this area and the devastation of living unrighteously. Reviewing these pictures provides powerful emotional energy for change.
- I ask my spouse (or accountability partner) to hold me accountable through some mutually agreed upon signal, that will not be shaming, but a simple reminder.
- If the above is not sufficient, I engage an accountability partner whom I connect with weekly.
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