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The Voice

March 22, 2010

In 2001 I had been serving as president for one of the older, more established labels in the industry for a couple of years. In January of that year, its owner made the decision to close it down without notice to me, the staff or the roster. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those “the industry is in terrible shape and everyone is getting laid off” blogs. (as true as that might be!). In fact, looking back, it was probably the right business decision for the corporation that owned the label at that time.

The point is that it was an incredibly tough, emotional thing for me to experience. By God’s grace, it was the first time something like that had ever happened to me, and as much support as I’m sure there was around me, I felt very alone, ashamed and afraid.

About a week after the announcement, I was on my way home from somewhere when Dianne called and asked if I would pick something up at the grocery store. As I was standing in the isle searching for the item, I heard a voice from out of nowhere. It was clear and convincing. “You’re not going to be able to afford food for your kids”. I felt my stomach turn and my knees weaken. Then again… “you don’t have a job and your kids are going to go hungry”.

So what was this voice and where did it come from? The source of “the voice” is attributed to many different areas by many different people. Author Seth Godin calls it “the lizard brain”. Some call it “the resistance”. Some don’t call it anything other than their own mind… in other words, their own internal voice.

Personally, in so many instances throughout my life, I attribute the voice to that of the enemy of my soul… call him whatever you will… satan, the devil, or as Christians often refer to him… “the enemy”. Regardless of where you come down theologically, one would be hard pressed to read the Bible and deny that the voice has been plaguing God’s people since the garden.

So was I possessed by the devil for a moment in the grocery store that day? I don’t believe so. But I do believe that the entire agenda of my spiritual enemy is to deceive and tempt me away from faith in my loving creator, and in whatever way he can, to keep me from being all that God is calling me to do and be. To be disobedient. To make my own way. To sin.

In this particular case, I believe he was taking advantage of a very vulnerable time in my life to create a new level of distrust and disbelief in a Heavenly Father who had promised He would never leave me nor forsake me.

The voice has been particularly hard to deal with in my creative life, and the areas of my life where I have had opportunities to lead and influence. I have rarely finished a song, a recording, a presentation, or even a prayer, that I wasn’t beaten up by the voice’s indictment of my motive and the awful result of my shameful attempt.

I don’t like to think about the creative areas or places of leadership opportunity that I never stepped into, or never completed, simply because the voice won the battle for it.

In my work with Christian artists over the years, I don’t know that I’ve seen any more single destructive force in their lives and work than their buying in to whatever the voice was saying to them. And of course, most of them (most of us) aren’t aware enough in the moment to attribute the voice to it’s rightful source, which I believe, rewards the enemy all the more and sucks us in deeper and deeper into the deception.

The voice says a lot of the same things to most of us.
“You don’t have what it takes”.
“You are inadequate and unworthy. You’re a hypocrite”.
“You can’t do it because someone could find out who you really are”.
“You should be ashamed that you ever tried”.
“This isn’t worth the emotional pain”.
“He/she/they are already doing this much better than you ever could”.
Or in general, as in the grocery isle that day, “you can’t trust God to keep His promises’.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about some of the ways I’ve learned to better deal with the voice in my life. But for this one, I’d love to hear some of your stories. Please comment. What are the places in your life where the voice is keeping you from walking into your gifts and calling?

What song isn’t being finished?
What initiative isn’t being taken?
What difficult conversation should have happened a long time ago?
What work that only you can create is going unexposed to the world?
Why can’t you risk trusting? Loving? Forgiving?

How is the voice stopping you?

42 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 4:19 PM

    Your experience with the former label resonates with my experience this past summer in my former role. It does leave you feeling “alone, ashamed and afraid” in spite of the support around you.

    But it’s been equally challenging to start something new. If I didn’t feel specifically called to the Hope Shows prison ministry events, I’m not sure I could function much longer in the uncertainty and past-life struggles this ministry carries with it. As it is I find myself relying on God to work out the vision, since it was His to start with, and just keep moving forward with what each day holds.

    There are lots of reasons not to do this, and those voices are daily companions. I just have to answer back with, “but this is where I’m supposed to be, so this is where I will continue to function,” regardless of the other voices, both real and in my head.

    I believe Satan seeks to defeat, disarm, disengage, disable, disenfranchise, deter … and I’m tempted to give in to all the above at times. But, in this case, I believe it’s His calling for me, and life has brought me to the point where obedience trumps giving up.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:23 PM

      Hey Robyn-

      Thanks for being so transparent in your reply. Just the courage you’re displaying as you walk in to where you believe the Spirit is leading, will inspire and encourage others. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work!


  2. March 23, 2010 10:16 AM

    Holy cow… this hits home. I am coming (thank God) to the end of about 18 months of FINALLY recognizing the voice for who it was and hopefully dealing with it in a more healthy manner. Sadly, I’ve spent about 16 years in ministry leadership giving far too much credence and attention to satan’s lies about myself, and my relationship to Him.

    For me, it was the sin of perfectionism. That somehow, doing things perfect will please God more. Only problem with that is, as humans, we can never do things perfectly, which is the moment satan steps in to capitalize on that struggle- reminding us of how worthless we seem to be, and “how can you be that much of a screw-up and stand in front of a crowd to lead other people to Christ? Clearly, you CAN’T be for real…”, and on and on.

    Your words bring comfort to me, because quite honestly, your career and body of work in this industry are something I’ve looked up to, albeit from a distance, and allowed the voice to tell me “I’ll never have that kind of impact…”

    For this moment right now? I’m facing what is potentially the largest faith step I’ve ever taken… throwing EVERYTHING, from career to job security to family, to a paycheck and health insurance (whatever that looks like now!) at the feet of Jesus… because I have this nagging feeling that as illogical as it sounds, it’s what He wants us to do- venturing into territory that is foreign for our whole family. Today my struggle is not so much that I’ll fail, but that He’ll take care of me like I know He says He will… The words I write at 12 noon are a bit more challenging to trust in in the darkness of the middle of the night, when I’m up questioning the seeming absurdity of it all. I’d appreciate your prayers.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:35 PM

      Hey Matt-

      Man… I’ve been there with you. My perfectionism has been such a great playground for the voice to mess around in. In trying to help me wrestle with it all, a friend asked me to imagine myself before Jesus, in eternity, as I give an account for what I did with the gifts He gave me. Did I want to be able to say “I did my best with what you gave me”, or “I couldn’t do it perfectly so I did nothing”. Helped me, hope it helps you.

      I’ll try to pray for you during this transitional season. You are walking in to some huge life change. I would only encourage you to make sure you have Godly men and women in your life that you are allowing to speak in to these decisions. People who know and love you. Often, I’ve found, these voices are the ones God is using to communicate his direction for me.

      Stay encouraged. Stay pliable, keep your nose in the word and your eyes on Jesus.

      “I’m careful to remember the difference between excellence and perfection. Excellence I can reach for, perfection is God’s business.” – Michael J. Fox


  3. March 23, 2010 10:26 AM

    Right now? I can’t properly comment, because I’m speechless. I needed to be reminded of this today. (Reminded that I do have an opponent in this life.) I’ll be back to read more. (I followed a link from Shaun Groves, so this is the first time I’m here.) Thank you again for reminding me to quiet the voice and listen to the Truth.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:36 PM

      Hey Lindsay-

      Thank YOU for reminding the rest of us!


  4. March 23, 2010 10:37 AM

    Thanks so much for posting this! Can totally relate. It comes back to believing God is who He says He is. I love it.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:40 PM

      Hey Nathan-

      Amen! “I believe… help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)


  5. Phil Sillas permalink
    March 23, 2010 11:45 AM

    Thanks John for a very inspiring and comforting post. After I take this to heart, I’m passing this along to my songwriting buddies who I know will be blessed by your insights. Looking forward to part two,three…

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:42 PM

      Hey Phil! Great to see you on here. Thanks so much for the encouragement. It appears this topic has struck a nerve. Hope it brings some help to your writers. Come see us in TN soon.


  6. March 23, 2010 1:26 PM

    Thanks for posting this. It’s something that I deal with as a Christian way too often. The sad part is – that too often I fail to recognize the source of the “voice”. God’s made all kinds of promises. Yet I still worry – I still listen.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:45 PM

      Hey Jason-

      You’re in good company. I rarely talk with anyone about this topic that they don’t agree with dealing with it on some level. For some creatives, it becomes completely debilitating… especially in the area of comparison to others.

      Thanks for your reply on this. Stay encouraged and continue learning, by His mercy, to know the voice of your Shepherd.


  7. March 23, 2010 2:01 PM

    “You don’t have what it takes.”

    That statement from the “voice” kept me down for so long and it’s still a battle today.

    I love to write. I’ve written stories since I was a kid. Then, I hit high school and peer pressure was the tool of the voice to make me think I didn’t have the skill to become a writer. Years later I tried again only to have the voice use someone who was supposed to be my biggest support. Then the voice used several people in the area I lived to poison writer’s groups against someone who wanted to work with Christian writing. The voice often bounced into my head on it’s own…but it was doubly effective when it was using other people to bring it’s voice to an audible level.

    I still fight it every day. I’ve finished my first novel & am working on a re-write and every single step of the way I hear the voice telling me “it’s not good enough. Look at the published authors in your genre. You don’t have what it takes.”

    I’m pushing on and for the first time really telling that voice to go to hell. (That is, after all, where it comes from…)

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:55 PM

      Hey Jason-

      Funny! Sometimes talking right back to the voice is the best way to deal with it. Just be careful about doing it in public!

      Write on Jason.

      “If you hear a voice within saying ‘you can’t paint’, then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced”. Vincent Van Gogh

  8. Derek permalink
    March 23, 2010 2:19 PM

    All I want to say is Thanks so much for posting this. God bless.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:56 PM

      Hey Derek-

      You’re welcome. Hope there is some encouragement for you there.


  9. March 23, 2010 3:00 PM

    The Lord brought to mind immediately His truth in Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (ESV)

    It’s so easy to forget what a battle we are in and that we are NOT to be strong in OUR strength but in God’s. We also have to PUT ON the armor that Paul talks about later in the passage. We must live in the reality of who we are in Christ and not listen to the voice.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 4:58 PM

      Hey Jon-

      That pretty much wraps it up doesn’t it?! Oh that our Heavenly Father will empower us to live those words. Thanks so much for the reminder.


  10. Brian permalink
    March 23, 2010 4:57 PM

    Wow! That really blessed me! It’s amazing how God can use someone’s experience to remind you that He is there!! My wife has a little clip of paper on the fridge and it says”You didn’t let Peter sink”. When Peter got out on the water and was walking,he did sink b/c he took his eye’s off Jesus.But Jesus grabbed him. Even when we think we’re about to sink He(Father)will supply,open,shut what we need. He cares for us more than we do!! Sorry for the long reply!! Thanks for putting this up!! Brian

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:00 PM

      No apology necessary Brian-

      Tell your bride that we’re all grateful for her refrigerator adornment!


  11. March 24, 2010 8:10 AM

    I needed to hear this. We’ve been circling around this issue in my men’s group. That voice is really loud some days. Thanks for your wisdom. I’m gonna make Kara read this when she gets home from work this evening.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:01 PM

      Hey Stephen-

      Great hearing from you. Thanks for responding and glad to hear that it was something you were needing for today.

      Looking forward to getting back in to the studio together.


  12. March 24, 2010 8:24 AM

    That Voice. The thing that I hate most about That Voice is its relentless efforts to drown out the still small voice that I so desperately want (and need) to hear. That Voice has the uncanny ability to interrupt at critical moments – kind of like when someone talks to you at the most important point of a movie or when you are really trying to concentrate on something very important.

    The source of That Voice is really good at his job. I need to be better at tuning him out.

    Thanks for the great post, John.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:03 PM


      I’m honored (sincerely) that you could take the time to read the post, but then to reply was especially generous. Thank you. Hope to reconnect with you next time you’re in town.


  13. March 24, 2010 8:24 AM

    I’m sixteen years old and I have a tremendous love and gift for music. About a year ago,I felt God calling me into a career in music. Thinking about colleges and everything really caused music to fall heavy on my heart. However my dad feels I should go into a medical field. Also,sometimes I think I won’t be good enough. My dad has told me several times that Im not going to be good enough. Will I be able to support myself financially in a music career? My parents have struggled with money all their lives and want their children to prosper. I’m so confused but Im holding on to God even when it’s hard because I know he has the bigger plan.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:18 PM

      Hey Natalie-

      Thanks so much for writing. I know exactly where you are and I’m betting many who read this blog can empathize with you. I want to remind you of a couple of things.

      Your parents want nothing but the best for you. I know it doesn’t feel this way so much now, but you’re still so young, and your folks have the wisdom to see things in a perspective that you may not yet have. You have the exact parents that God wanted you to have. Stay open to their loving care over you.

      Second, God usually brings his work to you rather than you going to it. Your job is to be faithful where you can with what God has given you. If that’s music, then make music where you can (hospitals, nursing homes, your church, wherever) and leave what happens with it up to God. You put the seed in the ground, and He will bring up the fruit according to His purposes and plan.

      That’s good news! Cast the care of this burden on to Christ… He cares FOR you. (1st Pet. 5:7) Make your music and leave everything else up to Him. That’s all He’s requiring of you.

      “Life is found when we fully trust God, not when we fully understand Him.” – Lloyd Shadrach


  14. Karen permalink
    March 24, 2010 10:06 AM

    The last words my mom said to me before she died came from God’s voice…”don’t let the devil puts words and thoughts in your head…” How wise and true…In a Bible study recently I read Ecc. 12:10-11 and realized that God’s Word will help keep His words in my mind and block out the “enemy.” Thanks for your amazing insight. God is using you for His will.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:21 PM

      Thank you Karen. And thanks for sharing your Mom’s words to us… even though she’s home now, you’re helping her life to be a great gift to the rest of us.


  15. Amanda permalink
    March 24, 2010 11:28 AM

    Glory story….
    Obedience reaps rewards. In my life recently, God has been conducting excersises in obedience, measuring my repsonses. Needless to say…this voice you speak of makes it difficult to differentiate the two. And it seems that the closer you become with HaShem…through study and just plain ole conversation, the more the other voice works on its ventriloquist act…because that’s all it is, an act. There is no power in those words, until we give it power…even still the power isn’t real. Deciphering the truth from the distortion…that is the goal. To know Him for who He is, not what you’ve been told He is. He invites us all come to know His Kingdom, His ways…I could go into a bunch of detail, I won’t. But He took care of something for me today and I knew He would take care of it, I didn’t even discuss it with anyone else, just Him…the other voice tried to manipulate me to get in the way…to “take control” of the situation, but throughout the excersises in obedience preceding this situation, I have learned to tune out that other voice….my situation was taken care of today, and I didn’t have to do anything, I just opened an envelope at work. Praise Him…He is good! Yahoshua, Jesus ain’t a bad deal either..Thanks for the post.

    • March 24, 2010 11:31 AM

      Amanda thanks for that. I needed to hear that.

      “…..because that’s all it is, an act. There is no power in those words, until we give it power”

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:24 PM

      Hey Amanda-

      Thanks for giving us a chance to celebrate His goodness along with you today.

      “Deciphering the truth from the distortion”… I like that!


  16. March 24, 2010 5:13 PM


    Thanks for writing this! I have been walking this for about two years…business about failed (economy woes)…Lost my Mother and several other family members…got news today that another has about 6 weeks to live…and my husband fell off a roof about 15-20 ft. on his head…there were times when I found myself questioning God. At times I actually wondered where he was while all this was going on in my life. Looking back over the past few months, since my husband fell I know more than anything he has been there all the time. We look back now and see things in a whole new way. God was there alright…I felt unexplained peace in the midst of tears and desperation…we experienced his love through the kindness of His people who extended their prayers and their hands to us in a way we would have never known. I know beyond a doubt God was and is still with us and my faith seems stronger than it’s ever been. (By the way…My husband took several months to fully recover but has no permanent damage and is back to doing some work) God has been and will always be God to us!

    • John Mays permalink
      March 24, 2010 5:27 PM

      Hey Karen-

      Wow. What a story. Thank you for letting the rest of us in on it a little of it. I love hearing of how God, in His mercy, is continuing to make all things new.


  17. March 24, 2010 5:32 PM

    John…Sue Smith posted the link for this on fb….I am so glad she did! I have missed the way you put things…it hits right where I live. I loved this “why can’t you risk trusting?”. Wow..bullseye. I have had this struggle so much in my face lately- it’s the voice that’s says “you can’t lean, he’ll let you fall” It’s the voice I hear when I dare to step out a little on to the water…It’s the voice that says “that’s a dumb idea” before I’ve written one word! I’ve spent a lot of my life listening to the voice but I want to change that…..

    • John Mays permalink
      March 25, 2010 10:21 AM

      Ru! So good to hear from you! Thanks for contributing to the conversation here. I know I’m not the only one that would agree that that pull toward trusting ourselves rather than our creator is one of the strongest we wrestle with. Let’s pray for each other, and all those that are posting here, that as we are weak, He will grow stronger and stronger in us.

      Appreciate you.


  18. Bruce Stillwagon permalink
    March 24, 2010 8:07 PM

    “If you build it, he will come” , wish the voice I hear was as clear, creative or illuminating as Ray Kinsella’s. It is hard at times to distinguish who is actually talking to you, is it God or Satan. As my pastor always says, God will never tell you to do something that is against His written word. He challenges us to read scripture for our selves to make sure he is telling us exactly what the Bible says, don’t take his word for it. I know that by the blood of Jesus, my sins are forgotten, thrown into the deep sea, as far as the east is from the west, but I let the deceiver remind me of things I’ve done 30 years ago or even yesterday, just to remind me what a sinner I was and still am. This leads me to not rely what I know is true, perfect and written in His word. The deceiver voice seems knows us better than we know our selves, he knows our hot buttons and he knows when we are most vulnerable. But, God in Three is always there to comfort and love us.

    • John Mays permalink
      March 25, 2010 10:22 AM

      Hey Bruce-

      Yes… I know that feeling. Thanks for affirming what we all know to be true, but all have difficulty putting our weight down on!


  19. March 24, 2010 8:16 PM

    Thank you for sharing this…..I have been fighting that voice since I gave my heart to Christ. I too cringe when I think about the opportunities and blessing I have missed out on because I chose to believe his destructive and deadly lies. I am forever grateful that because of Christ, I am more than a conqueror every day, no matter how I feel, or what seems to be! Thank you for sharing your heart, mine has been blessed as a result. God bless you for your transparency, and may He be glorified more and more in each of our lives with each passing day! 🙂 Love in Christ’s matchless name, ~ Melody Joy

    • John Mays permalink
      March 25, 2010 10:25 AM

      Hey Melody Joy- (what a great name!)

      I’m sorry to hear of your struggle, but encouraged to hear how you are finding strength and courage to keep moving forward to His glory. Hopefully, this conversation can help us all to try and focus on all that’s ahead for us, rather than what we’ve missed in the past. There is no condemnation.


  20. March 25, 2010 2:53 AM

    It’s 4:30am and I can’t sleep because of that “voice” (again). I wrestle and fight with this voice constantly – second guessing myself and my gifts. From leading worship to songwriting to parenting or just reaching out to a neighbor – it’s all same question “who am I to even think I can do this?”

    Romans 15:13 says ” I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    I want to walk in that CONFIDENT HOPE, and it’s only by trusting HIM my source of hope I can do that.

    Thank you for blog!

    • John Mays permalink
      March 25, 2010 3:17 PM

      Hey Andrea-

      Thanks so much for your transparency.

      I love this thought from James Houston… “I think one would need to speak more transparently, from one’s own heart, of the things one is struggling with within oneself. What I find is that I may apologize by saying, ‘Well, this is very personal, this is me.’ Yet what is most universal is what is most intimately ‘me.’ It is there that we touch the hearts of everybody. It’s a great paradox: that which is most intimately ‘me’ is also most universally ‘you’.”

      The deeper we go in being open about how the voice holds us back, the more we find those same struggles in everyone. Your story will resonate with so many of us. Even by simply responding in the way you did, you are defeating the voice.



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