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Larry Christenson, How to Speak in Tongues

Once a person has spoken in tongues, he may do so at will thereafter. Two “testings” of this gift seem almost universal, and a word concerning them may save those who are new in the gift some needless anxiety.

The first test usually comes almost at once: It is the temptation to think, “I am just making this up.” This is a natural thought, for the interaction between the believer and the Holy Spirit is so subtle that it is hard to draw a clear line between my speaking and His prompting. The temptation, when this thought comes, is to draw back and deny the gift, or to quit using it. Our ultimate confidence cannot be the experience itself, but God’s Word. He has spoken in the Scripture concerning this gift, and I have come to Him, my heavenly Father, to receive it. He has promised not to give me a stone when I ask for bread (Matt. 7:9). Therefore, I can be confident that what I am speaking is truly His gift of a new tongue. As you continue to use the gift, you will pass through this test and come to the confidence that this gift will become to you all that Scripture promises.

The second test usually comes after one has exercised the gift for a time—perhaps a few weeks or months. The initial joy and enthusiasm that one had in the use of the gift begins to fade. You can still speak in tongues as fluently as ever, but it doesn’t seem to be “doing” anything for you. It’s just a hollow shell, with no inner content. The temptation is to let the gift fall into disuse. This is a temptation one must resolutely resist. Every gift of God involves a stewardship of that gift. One who receives the gift of tongues must from the beginning take this stance: God has given me a gift that I shall use to worship Him all the rest of my life.

There is actually a good reason why God allows the initial enthusiasm to wane. He does not want our use of this gift to be grounded on the shifting sands of our own feelings, but upon the solid rock of His Word.

God wants us to grow to the point where we act according to faith rather than feelings. The great blessing of speaking in tongues is found in its regular and disciplined use over a long period of time—months and years—and not in the passing emotion of a few prayer sessions. It is a tool of prayer that is self-sharpening and improves with use!




This excerpt is from Larry Christenson, Answering Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©1968, 2005), pages 129-132. Used by permission.


Further Reading:

Six Ways the Holy Spirit Will Communicate With You” by Charles Carrin

The word Jesus used for “Helper” has a rich and wonderful meaning in its Greek equivalent, parakletos, and was used in the ancient Olympic Games to identify those who accompanied a marathon runner by shouting encouragement to him. This example of the Holy Spirit and the Christian with the marathon-runner to his paraklete is an excellent illustration. Para = “alongside of;” kaleo = “to call.” Here are six scriptural ways the Holy Spirit wants to accompany our race and shout encouragement.

Listening for God’s Voice and Heart in Scripture: A conversation with Craig S. Keener

In our Western culture we’re addicted to shortcuts; we want everything instant. So we settle for verses out of context because somebody we look up to quotes them. […]
God can speak to us in a lot of different ways. We should pray that we will hear Him, then read the Bible to see what we can learn about God and how He acts in real human situations. Some of those will surely relate to us and to the world we live in.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2018

About the Author: Larry Christenson, ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, is the former director of the International Lutheran Renewal Center in Minneapolis. He was a popular conference speaker and wrote more than fifteen books in his lifetime, including The Christian Family, Answering Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues, The Renewed Mind: Becoming the Person God Wants You to Be, and The Mantle of Esther: Discovering the Power of Intercession. He went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017.

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