the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching… (Luke 3:2-3)
Just a few words here at the beginning of Luke’s gospel describe the essence of the Christian life and are worth reflecting on. John the Baptist is described in the Bible as “great in the sight of the Lord,” and here is one of the reasons for his greatness. It is simple and yet profound: the word of God came to John… and he responded by doing something.
It is not recorded exactly what the word of God that came to John was. Nor is the process of hearing God’s word described. In my own life these questions have occupied a lot of time and thought. How do I know when God is speaking, since he doesn’t usually speak to me in an audible voice? How can I be sure that what I believe are God’s words really are? When the word of the Lord came to John, how did it come? Was it an audible voice? Was it a dream? Was it simply a thought that developed in his mind? Was it a holy man (or woman), a prophet, who spoke God’s word into his life? Was it the result of studying the Jewish Scriptures?
These questions are not answered in this short verse, but one thing is clear, John was a person who listened to what God was saying, and then acted on it. Having been challenged by God, he “went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching…” Did he preach a message that he had been given by God? Where otherwise would he have got his message? It is clear from the description that follows that it was a message of power. It was a confronting, challenging message. Such a powerful message must have been from God. So we see that what God said to John – what he heard – produced both action – he went out and began preaching – and words – the words he spoke were inspired by God.
This is the challenge for me today and everyday. My primary calling in life may not be preacher or prophet, but it doesn’t change the pattern by which I should live, as a servant of God. My life should be shaped by the guidance and direction of God, and the words that I speak should be inspired by God. Do I give God the time to speak into my life? Do I listen? Am I focussed? Do I respond to the words of God in my actions and words?
I am a doctor, a general practitioner, a family physician. I, like John, have the opportunity every day to speak into the lives of individuals who I don’t even know, people I have never met. And they listen. People come to me for advice, for wisdom. As a Christian doctor, if my words are inspired and directed by God, then they will be a more effective healing tool in the lives of the people I meet than any other experience, education or wisdom can give me. How well will I use this incredible gift in my work today?