The following is an excerpt from Matt’s talk on “Voices and Choices” ( part of the current”Thrive” series) at a Friday Night Coffeehouse gathering.   

How many have ever gone shopping on Black Friday? It’s, crazy, right? There’s people everywhere. Not only are they everywhere, but you’re super packed in these stores, and you quickly find out how long a person has been waiting in line just based on their body odor. Yummy! OK…take that thought of Black Friday and go on a field trip with me. A few years back I was living overseas and I remember going through the downtown market of the town I lived in. Talk about crazy: more people than Black Friday, and closer proximity. I remember that there were tons of people yelling. You had vendors, butchers, moms rounding up children, beggars, and plenty more. I think if you spent enough time down there you might go crazy because of all the voices coming at multiple directions.

What about your life? Ever walk through your school day and think there are so many choices? From who to date, asking girls out, should I join that team or club, and so on. There are a lot of choices that come our way.

Odds are most of us probably have had experiences where we feel like there are million voices trying to tell us what to do. And, you might feel a little crazy as a result.

I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone, nor are you crazy.  God doesn’t want you to feel like there are a million voices that influence what choices you make. God wants you to listen to his voice because his is the one that leads where you need to go.

But, there is a character called Satan who does not want us to listen to God’s voice.  Satan is the dude against God. He wants you to do anything but listen to God’s voice.

As crazy as it seems that we might feel like there is an angel and devil on our shoulders isn’t that weird. Wherever you go, you’re faced with choices that show if you’re listening to God’s voice, or Satan’s.  Jesus describes Satan this way: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Satan doesn’t exactly have your best interests at mind, though his voice and way seem way easier and inviting.

But..there is another way.

Here’s what I think, and you can disagree: Listening to Jesus’ voice will help you make the right choices in life. The second part of the verse that I just read says this: I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly

What I’m about to say might sound strange to you. The way Jesus talks about how to know His voice is compared to how sheep know a shepherd’s voice.

This is what Jesus says: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice…. ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me’”

You see. Because God created us, we have been wired to know God’s voice- or the shepherd as God is described. You will see also that there are other voices that the sheep won’t follow. It says “But they will never follow a stranger.” This means that in order for us to make the right decisions, we have to know which voice to listen to.

Jesus gives us some direction. He says “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  This means that we have to learn what God’s voice sounds like, which might cause you to scratch your head and say “I’m outta here. I think you’re the only crazy one.” Well, be honest though: wouldn’t it be easier if you knew there was one voice you were listening for? I’m not saying there won’t be other voices trying to distract you, but it sure would be easier if you knew there was a voice that you could always know and trust.

There is one other thing Jesus says, and you might be in this position. He says: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

You might be in those same shoes tonight. You might not have any idea what we’re talking about, but you like the idea of listening for one voice to help you make choices, rather than a million.

In order to know the Jesus, the good shepherd whose voice we can trust in this world, we have to get to know him. We have to spend time understanding his voice. One way you can do that is to come HERE Sunday mornings at 9:45. I know, you’re thinking church. Nope. This is not an invitation to church. But, it’s an invitation to learn more about Jesus and how to know his voice.

So, you might wonder how you can “thrive” this week when there are choices you have to make.  So, here are a couple ideas:

1) Take a step back…literally. (When you need to take a step back, get away by yourself so you can think)

2) Ask yourself…where is God’s voice in this? (I challenge you to read this passage of the Bible (John 10) that I read from tonight so that you can better understand God’s voice…especially when there are a million others around you.)