John 21:4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
I personally think this sort of thing happens rather frequently. The Lord appears to us in a way we don’t expect, and we fail to recognize Him. This isn’t just a matter of disguise, as multiple pastors have tried, dressing as homeless to test their congregation’s response. Rather, it’s a failure of expectation; we aren’t looking for Him, so we fail to see Him. In our case it’s rarely a visual thing, but rather a matter of words. God speaks to us frequently, but far too much of it falls on deaf ears. I like the fact that this incident happened in the early morning. Countless saints down through the ages have had a practice of seeking to hear God first thing in the morning, and He has been faithful to speak. However, He certainly isn’t limited to that. When our hearts are sensitive and tuned to Him, we will recognize His voice in countless things throughout each day. Of course the most reliable is through the pages of the Bible, but He also speaks through the words of friends – or even enemies – or through some visual cue, such as natural beauty or perceived need. In this incident, John was the first to recognize Jesus, because he had perhaps been closest to Him emotionally, but when he said so, Peter wanted to get to Jesus as soon as possible. Both are good responses. Sometimes we may recognize the Lord speaking to us, but something makes us hold back in our response. That’s never good. Sometimes we may be slow to recognize it’s the Lord, but if we respond fully once we do catch on, that’s fine. Remember, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
I personally think my biggest problem is in the area of full obedience. I hear the Lord speaking to me (spiritually speaking) quite often, but the question is how well I follow through. James 1:22 needs to be engraved in my heart even more than it already is! As a pastor I seek to be an open channel for God to speak through me to others, but I must not be presumptive. I must not think or feel that because I said it, God said it! The other side of that is that even when God does speak through me, I am not to take people’s responses personally. If they receive what He says, to do it, I am to be grateful and rejoice, but not take any pride in it. If they reject what He says, or simply ignore it, I’m not to be personally offended. After all, they did that to Jesus in the flesh. I am to focus on my own hearing and obedience, expressing patience and grace toward others because God has poured so much of that out on me!
Lord, thank You for speaking to us and not giving up on us. Help me hear You more and more accurately and obey You more and more fully, so that the works of the devil may be destroyed (1 John 3:8) and Your plans fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!