Veteran TV and radio presenter Chris Evans swears it happened. God spoke to him.
"Five years ago, I was driving back from London to Berkshire. As I was approaching Windsor Great Park, a voice from somewhere (definitely not mine and I think from up above) instructed me to pull into the car park and try to run around the lake. Which I duly did, no arguments”.
Evans says he felt a “universal force” had taken him over.
Prior to this, the popular DJ was not a runner or jogger of any description, but since then he has trained daily and completed an impressive list of events - from park runs to marathons. He's also become an advocate for healthier lifestyles and jogging.
But that leaves us with a few questions, most importantly - did God really say this? And if so, why?!
How God speaks
God's primary way of speaking is through his word - offer a welcome to strangers, don’t obsess over money, love each other so people know you are my followers. Scripture is full of God’s word speaking instructions to us on how to live. The instructions might not be easy to follow, but they are usually straightforward to understand – we know what we are supposed to do. It's important to remember that no matter how God speaks to us, his instructions will never contradict scripture.
Secondly, God can speak to us through circumstances and people we trust. This one is a bit more difficult, but God can use circumstances or things he has allowed to happen to us, to guide us or draw us closer. Whether it’s a unique talent, an illness, a desire to do something new, or a Christian friend advising us, God speaks.
Third, and most difficult, is the voice out of the blue. Have you ever had a thought that pops into your head and you know it’s the right thing to do, but it feels counter intuitive and not the sort of thing you would ever have thought of? God speaks through the still small voice of his Holy Spirit, most often a thought which we somehow know has not come from us. Whether it’s "give that sandwich you just bought to that guy begging in the street,” or a solution to a thorny problem at work, or to call someone and it turns out to be just moment they needed your call. This way is hard because we are not accustomed to being still, being quiet, or listening. And it’s an audible version of the still small voice that Evans seems to be claiming.
The still small voice
Many of us have experienced the quiet voice of God at some time. But, apart from a thought that appears in our heads, how else does this happen?
I know people who, intriguingly, claim that we are especially receptive to the voice of God when we are sleeping – or almost sleeping. This amounts to dreams and visions. Can they be from God? Certainly, there are many examples in the Bible from Jacob’s ladder to Paul’s “man from Macedonia” to pretty much the whole of Revelation. A retired minister friend of mine speaks of the period just before we awake in the morning when we are open to hearing from God: “The half-asleep, half-awake period before rising is a time we can be receptive” he says.
On one such morning he had a dream. He saw the living room belonging to two elderly sisters in his parish. The strange thing was that their usual furniture was gone. Instead, the room was crowded with beds. He had the feeling that something was not right, so much so, he arranged to call in. They showed him into their living room – no beds. He dutifully provided polite conversation over a cup of tea, and made to leave. But just before he left the sisters told him their sick brother had come to stay with them. He was in the next room but every evening they made up a bed for him in the living room. The minister spent time talking and praying with their brother in the next room as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He died before the day was out. Was this minister briefed through his half-remembered dream?
But Evans wasn’t asleep and dreaming. As far as we know, he was awake at the time (at least I hope he was - as he was driving!).
Very rarely do Christians hear an audible voice. I once did hear what I believe was the voice of God, but only ever once. It was on a night 30 years ago when I gave up my faith. I felt I just couldn’t be a Christian anymore because of my many weaknesses and failures to withstand temptation and a complete lack of self-worth.
I prayed a “final prayer” – something like “I can’t do this Jesus, so let’s just leave it” kind of thing. I don’t remember my words, but I vividly remember the reply – because it was entirely audible: “You may let go of me - but will never let go of you”, is what I heard. It was shocking, and it was enough for me to hold on to.
So, having gone around the houses, we're back to our central question: Did God really speak to Chris Evans?
Well, God knows, and maybe Evans knows, but I am not sure anyone else can know. Evans now has a much healthier body and lifestyle and is an advocate for running which is all good. But is he getting to know God any better? If he is he hasn’t written about it yet.
But here’s an even more important question: What if God was trying to get through to you – what means could he use?
Do you think it would work?
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