In my study I have come up with four stages of abiding in God and His word. These, I believe, are the stages that God takes us through when we abide in His word (when we seek to be connected to Him and draw nourishment from Him). I hope they will encourage you.
Stage 1 – Read, study and meditate on the Word of God. As you feed on the Word, listen to His voice and expect Him to speak to you. If you have any problems concentrating on what you read, if you can’t seem to block out all the noises around you, try fasting. Fasting will help to clean the body and soul from impurities. It will draw you closer to God, help you to listen, and keep you more willing and eager to obey.
Stage 2 – Hear God’s voice and believe Him. This stage obviously follows stage one because we don’t normally hear His voice until we read what He says to us in the Word; for the Bible tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
But hearing and believing doesn’t always come to us automatically. Sometimes we may think we hear and believe Him, but we really don’t. We hear and believe only with our head, not our heart. And so we are unknowingly trapped in stage one. So how can we move on to stage two? How can we be aided to hear and believe?
I suppose there are many things you can do, but what I would suggest is that you just stick with it; I mean just continue to study, pray and meditate more intently and with a greater desire to hear His voice—until you actually feel His presence. This will be a sign to you that you have really heard His voice. Andrew Murray
has said, “The presence of God Himself as the Promiser, not the knowledge of what He has promised awakens faith…” Therefore, when we hear Him with our heart then we will believe Him.
Stage 3 – Lovingly obey Him. If we have truly believed His Word to us we will lovingly obey Him (I say lovingly because there is no other way to obey; for when we love Him we will obey Him, and when we obey Him we show that we love Him, Jn. 14:15).
This step is easy, in fact it is automatic, because, when we truly believe from the heart, God changes us and we will love and obey Him. When Abraham believed God, God gave him the power to love and obey Him, even to sacrifice his own son Isaac (Heb. 11:17). Also, when Noah believed God when God told him that He was going to destroy the earth with a flood, he too, in power, was compelled to obey God; and so in reverence he prepared the ark for his family and all the animals (Heb. 11:7). Hence, in our quest to abide, it seems that this third stage of loving obedience is really a part of our faith. In fact, when we examine chapter eleven of Hebrews (the faith chapter), we find all through the chapter that obedience was empowered by faith—thus by faith they obeyed God.
Stage 4 – Understanding and enjoying the union we have with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we hear God’s words to us, and we obey Him in love, He rewards us by loving us and by disclosing Himself to us. John 14:21 says, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” Hence, we see that when we obey God’s Word, the Father and the Son together will love us. But it is the person of Jesus who discloses Himself to us. And I believe He does it by the operation of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Therefore, in John 14:16-18 we see that the Father has given us the Holy Spirit as a helper to be with us forever. He helps us by bringing the Father and the Son to us (Jn. 14:23); and He helps us to understand their love for each other, and their unity, and how we too are brought into this unity in Christ (Jn. 14:20).
Andrew Murray has written it this way: “Three times over He [Jesus] said, ‘If ye love me keep my commandments,’ promising a threefold blessing with which He would crown such obedient love: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of the Son, the Father and Son coming to make Their abode with us.”
Murray then goes on to explain how we come to understand and receive the love and union of the Father and Son. He says,
As our faith grows into obedience, and in obedience and love our whole being reaches out and clings to Christ, our inner life opens up. The capacity is formed within us of receiving the life and the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, through a distinct and conscious union with Christ and with the Father. The Word is fulfilled in us: ‘In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me, and I in you’ (Jn. 14:20). God and Christ exist in each other, not only in will and in love, but in identity of nature and life. We come to understand that because of this union between the Father and the Son, so we are in Christ and Christ is in us in exactly the same way.
In this final stage of abiding, then, the Holy Spirit helps us understand and enjoy the presence, the unity, and the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And He also helps us to enter into that same wonderful unity.