Messages on the Sidewalk – Are They Really Words From God?

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By Bethany Riehl 

“You got this.” 

I smiled as I marched over the words swirled in chalk on the pathway. Just a few more paces led to another, “You go girl.” My morning walk had gone from exercise and fresh air to my very own motivational conference. 

I’ve heard stories of believers, dejected and overwhelmed, having similar experiences. One well-known author tells of finding the words, “You are beautiful,” scrolled before her in a time of doubt. She laughed and grabbed on to the message as one straight from God. She suddenly found herself uplifted and encouraged because God went to the trouble to set this sign right in her path in the moment she needed it. Who needed the man who broke her heart when God Himself told her she was beautiful? 

I thought of this story on my walk, but I wasn’t drinking in the inspirational messages or giving credit to the Lord for them. See, I happened to know that just days before, the elementary school close by had hosted a “Girls on the Run” 5K race. The messages were for them, not for me, and no amount of digging deep in my imagination could change that. Fortunately, I wasn’t in need of the pick-me-up anyway. I had read my Bible that morning and was mulling over the truths I gleaned from that precious book while I enjoyed the fresh air. 

As I walked, I also thought about the popular author and her “word from the Lord.” That story is one of hundreds out there of ways people feel the Lord is speaking to them. This time of year, I see posts and hear friends say that they’ve prayed for a “word of the year” from God and He always gives them one. A word they need to pursue and think about so they can be aligned with Him in a more intimate way. The word might be “love” or “forgive,” “Sabbath” or “perseverance.” 

It’s wonderful to seek the Lord at the beginning of a new year and anticipate that He will answer, but I wonder if it’s wise or even biblical to make God such a chatterbox in so many small and ordinary ways. 

Is this the way He speaks? 

It’s something I’ve been researching, pondering, and praying through for the last six months. I have heard numerous speakers, teachers, and pastors talk about hearing from God and I’ve begun to notice something: He certainly sounds different in these interactions than He does in the Bible. Typically, a common theme among the most outspoken of these modern day “prophets” is a lot of improperly interpreted Scripture. That isn’t to say that everyone who follows this trend isn’t solid. I just wonder, when did the God of all creation dying on a cross for the sins of mankind stop being enough of an “I love you,” message? 

I heard Justin Peters say, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear Him audibly, read your Bible out loud.” Folks, that’s all we need. Hebrews 1:1,2 tells us, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” 

He told us from the beginning that Messiah was coming. John tells us that when He did, He was “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). We’ve just come through a season of rejoicing in that beautiful birth. The birth foretold from the time that sin entered our world. The birth of a fully-God, fully-man Savior. He was, “Pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) 

He looked upon the creation of the world and called it good; with the addition of man, He declared it “very good.” Jesus calls us brother, and friend. For His glory. We should be confident in this all-powerful God. Do we need fluffy messages of, “You are beautiful,” “You got this,” and “You’re a rock star”? When did His Word, which proclaims His death and resurrection for the salvation of our very souls, become not enough? 

I read a startling statistic recently. Only 11 percent of Christians have read the Bible in its entirety. Is it any wonder that we’re seeking affirmation from Him through messages on the sidewalk? My friends, it is so much simpler — and more concrete (pun intended) — than that. 

If you want to hear Him this year, read your Bible. Find a reading program if you like; they are numerous and varied. The Bible Recap is an app I listen to often that recaps a reading program you can find on the Blue Letter Bible site. I pinned to the top of my Facebook author page (Bethany Riehl, Author) a link to the “Keep the Feast” reading program that takes you through the Bible twice in one year, reading just six chapters a day. 

There is nothing more important for the church today than to be nourished in the Word on a daily basis. And not just the highlights. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17) 

I know there are some difficult books, but I once heard a teacher explain them this way, “Some parts of Scripture are like fiber.” It might not be the most appetizing, and we might not understand why we need it, but it’s necessary just the same. 

This year, instead of seeking for a word from the Lord, what if we as the Church sought after His Word? And if you want to find messages from God on the sidewalk, that’s easy: buy some chalk and write out a highlight from your reading each day. Happy New Year, friends! If we seek after the Lord, laying ourselves down, we will be found in Him. Safe, secure, and whole. 

Bethany Riehl loves to write stories and articles that explore the complexities of relationships and encourage readers in their relationship with Jesus. She joyfully serves in the children’s ministry at her church, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and drinks more coffee than necessary to keep up with her only-slightly-crazy life. She is the author of four Christian fiction novels and now lives in Meridian with her spunky kids and very handsome hubby. 

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