Words have power. One word has the power to change a life. If you believe the Genesis account of creation as I do, all that we see began from one word: “light.”
There was a moment when one word changed my life. It was the mid-1990s, and life was going pretty well for me. I was a pastor, and ministry had been successful and fulfilling. Around that time, people kept telling me about a revival going on in Pensacola, Florida, and urging me to go check it out.
I don’t know what the word revival means to you, but I grew up around such events. To me, it brought a picture of super-excited people becoming super emotional and dancing around. I was not against that, but I had been there and done that— or so I thought. I was skeptical, but I decided to check it out anyway.
What I found in Pensacola was super-excited people becoming super emotional and dancing around, but they were also genuinely encountering God and genuinely happy. They were happy to line up at 6 A.M. in the Florida summer sun. They were happy to stand, worship, pray, and get to know one another until 6 P.M. when the doors opened. By that time, the line looked almost one mile long. I don’t know what you would call that. I think the word revival works.
The first night I stood in the back thinking, “These people are much too happy for church people.” Unfortunately, my perspective at the time was that serving God was hard work with little reward, and God was mostly disappointed with our efforts. On the second night, someone found out that I was a pastor and put me in front in the pastor’s section. I was telling myself this was a good thing until I realized I was right in the middle of the flag wavers.
I don’t know if you have ever been to a meeting like that— I had not. I enjoy exuberant worship now, but at the time it disturbed me a little. Nearly being hit by flailing arms and flopping flags was not my idea of church. Sometimes God has to disturb you in order to get your attention. He has to offend your old idea in order to give you a new one. I had picked an aisle seat for quick escape if necessary only to find that I was pinned in by an ocean of flying flags. No escape!
Trying my hardest to ignore the flag waving, I concentrated on worship. Just when I was really getting into the lyrics of one of the songs—“ Let your glory fall in this room, let it go forth from here to the nations”— the pastor interrupted the song.
“There’s a preacher here tonight,” the pastor began.
Inside my head, the thought occurred to me that there were many preachers there that night. There was a whole section of us sitting right there in front. Just as quickly as that cynical thought crossed my mind, another thought came from outside my head: “He’s talking to you.”
I listened as he continued. “You were standing in the back last night, criticizing this revival.” Well, maybe he was talking to me. “But God wants you to know that He brought you to the front tonight because He’s going to change you.”
His words shifted to a first-person perspective. “Son, I am going to use you to . . . ” There was a lot more that he said, but I missed the rest because something inside of me began to break open. I was no longer hearing the words of a preacher, but that of a Father. I began to weep, and I am not a weeper.
I cried so much that I walked out to gain my composure, and I sat down in the back hallway to get my wits back. I was telling myself, “I’m not the preacher he was talking about, and that word was not for me.”
Just then a woman approached. She looked intently at me and said, “You are the preacher. That word was for you!”
One word can change your life. It was not the vastness of the promises that impacted me, but the personal nature in which God spoke. He called me son.
I believe God’s sound, His roar, is not primarily to tell us what to do, or correct us from doing wrong. His voice comes to tell us who we are and to empower us to do what we were created to do. His sound sometimes has to be dramatic to get our attention when the raging noise of the world overcomes our ability to hear. The skeptical sounds in our heads and the chaotic sounds around us drown out His voice. I am glad God is not shy. If He has to, He will roar! All you have to hear is one word, and it will change your life.
I realized something that night that is true for all of us. God’s sound is not so much about a special calling or a great destiny to touch the nations. It is that we all carry a special identity. He called me son. When you hear God’s sound, it gives you permission and power to become who God says you are. He doesn’t just want to take you to your dream; He wants to teach you who you are. God knows that if you go to the nations but don’t know who you are, you can lose your identity out there. If you build a great business and base your identity on it, you gain nothing. If you go out on the streets and see lots of amazing healings and miracles but aren’t grounded in sonship, you miss the most important point.
When you realize that the greatest title you can possess is not prophet, performer, millionaire, or minister, you will embrace your greatest identity: to be a son or daughter of God.