Learning to identify and get past the roadblock of fear is key to helping us stay on God’s course instead of being led astray.
Over the weekend of Dec. 7 to 8, renowned Texan author and teacher of Biblical economics, Dr. John Avanzini ministered to the City Harvest congregation about discerning the various voices that we allow to speak into our lives. There’s the “first voice”—the voice of God or of godly mentors that direct our steps and decisions in accordance with God’s will for our lives—and there’s the “second voice”, which seeks to distract us or lead us away from it.
City News sat down with the preacher to find out exactly how a believer should separate the two, as well as his personal journey on the road to debt-free living.
You preached about being cautious against listening to the “second voice” but as you pointed out, it can come even from a person with good intentions. How do you differentiate the first voice from the second?
You know, the Bible says “let the peace of God rule in your heart.” And the word “rule” is the Greek word “umpire.” Let the peace of God be the umpire in your life. And if there’s no peace, it’s not the first voice—it’s the second. Peace comes with the first voice.
Now be careful, because many times, with the first voice, there can also be fear—you have to put fear down and let faith move, and the peace will come over you. But you’ll never have peace doing what the second voice says; unrest will become standard in your life.
So how do we tell if it’s fear that we just need to stamp out or if it’s unrest that comes with following the wrong voice?
Fear, in the child of God, is not a way of life; it’s a reaction—it’s the soul jumping in to say, “Let me handle this,” and the spirit says, “No, no, I’ll handle it. We’re goin’ with the first voice.” Fear is a reflex. It’s like when I get on a balcony, I can stand only so far out, but if I get too close to the edge I have to push through and put my hands on the rail and just face the thing.
Catch this again now: fear is a reflex. It’s kinda like a knee-jerk, like when your doctor bumps your knee and your leg pops out, but it don’t stay out there, it comes back down. The child of God is also subject to a little fear when they’re gonna move in God, because God has said, “I’m gonna give you some marvelous things to do, and these are things the world can’t do.” So there may be a little fear, but it’s just for a moment, if you just put your spirit on top of it. Then you’ll have the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Has there been a time in your life when you listened to what was in hindsight the second voice? How did you deal with it and what did God reveal to you through that experience?
I made a terrible decision early on in my ministry, and it led me further and further from God’s will. It took me out of ministry for two and a half years.
And then my wife and I together, we said, no, we’re gonna do what God said, and within hours, there was a door open for me to serve God, and it just seemed like God didn’t even notice. You know, He throws our sins into the sea of forgetfulness, never to be remembered again. Sometimes, when we bring our sins up, He says, “I don’t know, what are you talking about? I must have forgotten it.”
So, just know that if you’re on the second voice road, there are “off” ramps everywhere and you can just swerve back and get with the first voice.
The Bible says “give and it shall be given to you.” What does a Christian do who’s been giving and giving but yet to see the harvest?
I would check my life and see that I was in agreement with God, and then I would also look at what I do with the money when God puts it in my hands. The miracle is not God giving the money; the miracle is in you doing what you’re supposed to do with it. Will you do what God said to do with it? And that’s the thing that’s usually hard to do.
And then also, sometimes we don’t believe it’ll happen. See, unbelief is the second voice, because you can tithe, and you can double tithe. [But] if you don’t believe it’s working, it won’t work. It’s just like if you’re ill, and someone prays for you, you can say, it didn’t work. Just give it a little time. Healing can also be a process, it’s not just a boom event—it can be that, but it’s a process, usually. Don’t go destroying it with a negative confession.
You have such unshakeable faith. How do you deal with doubt?
One of the apostles said, “I don’t need help with my belief. I need help with my unbelief.” You have to identify and realize what’s going on. You can’t say, oh well, I’ll just have to act like a Christian. I mean, just face it. Just like if you go to the doctor, and he asks, “How are you?” and you say, “Fine.” You’re not fine, there’s something wrong with you! And if you’re specific—“I have a pain here, this is where it hurts …” you can get the help you need.
So if you’re specific—“God, I can’t break fear”—He says, “Yes, you can.” He says, “I’ll see to it. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.”
And then you have to crack into that. It doesn’t always pop up. If it doesn’t come today, it’ll come tomorrow. If it doesn’t come tomorrow, it’ll come the day after. Just believe that fear leaves you, and it will. You’ll have what you say.
How did you get started on that journey of faith yourself?
My, my, my … I started believing God to be debt-free. And you know, you don’t get debt-free in an hour. But I started a progression to get out of debt. I remember preaching this to another preacher at Trinity Broadcasting, when I saw him I said to him, “You’ll be out of debt by next year.” And he said, “I believe that, I receive that.” And he was out of debt by next year.
But for me, I became more in debt! See, the person that’s an addict usually gets to minister to addicts, and I was debt-ridden, and I had a ministry to people that are in debt. That was a wrestling match for me to watch—people around me getting out of debt, and I was getting deeper in debt.
But it was the second voice that was messing me up. And then I said to myself, “Look, I’m gonna be debt-free, it’s gonna happen—doesn’t happen today, it’ll happen tomorrow, doesn’t happen this year, it’ll happen next year.” And when I got positive like that, bam bam bam! (claps hands) It came.
And so the practical steps you had to take were …
You know, as a man thinks, so is he. If you’re thinking that tithing is not working for you, it won’t work, even if you tithe. You gotta give it and believe it, and it says, “Heaven will be open”, so you have to walk like a person walking under an open heaven. You know what I’m sayin’?
So the steps are: if you don’t believe it, stay on it till you believe it. It’s like getting saved—I didn’t believe it when I first heard it. But then I kept hearin’ it and hearin’ it, and I got saved.
(chuckles) I went a while without getting married, until I met the gal, and I married her. So, and by the way, I was 19 when I got married and Pat was 18. So several ladies before that, I thought I was gonna marry, but then I saw the one, and I say to my friend, “I’m comin’ back to marry that girl.” And I did.