One of the greatest benefits of our salvation has to be that of hearing God speak to us personally. There can be no intimate relationship with our heavenly Father without it. But, as easy as it is for us to speak to Him, the average Christian has a hard time hearing His voice. This is not the way God intended it to be.
The Lord constantly speaks to us and gives us His direction. It’s never God who is not speaking, but it’s us who are not listening. Jesus made some radical statements about hearing His voice in John 10:3-5. He was speaking about Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep and the only way to enter the sheepfold.
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
Notice that He said His sheep listen His voice. He didn’t say His sheep CAN hear His voice or SHOULD hear His voice. He made the emphatic statement that His sheep DO hear His voice. Most Christians would question the accuracy of that statement since their experiences don’t line up. But it’s not what Jesus said that is wrong; all true believers can and do hear the voice of God; they just don’t recognize what they are hearing as being God’s voice.
In fact, there are three voices that we can hear — the voice of God, the voice of our own fleshly desires, and the voice of the Devil.
So God will speak, and you can hear His voice, but you must be careful that you objectively confirm that you are following the Holy Spirit and not another voice. Our own flesh can scream pretty loud (especially when we are under pressure, or we want something very badly). And, of course, the Devil is the father of lies — he is the great deceiver.
Ever since becoming a believer, there have been times I thought at best I was only hearing God whisper. And, other times, I was hearing God loud and clear … sometimes really loud …and with a bit of a tone! In the most random places and most random circumstances, God would yell at me. Ok – maybe not yell, but you know that tone of voice that sounds like yelling but is really just a tone and the decibel count doesn’t actually go up? Yeah, that’s the one.
Do you hear His voice? Do you hear Him guiding you, coaxing you, helping you find your path?
Yeah me neither. At least, not audibly. I don’t actually hear His voice, though that would be cool – also incredibly terrifying! I don’t see burning bushes, snakes crawling or angels descending. It’s more a knowing. A knowing that this message is for me. An awareness when I see or hear a scripture, or story, or circumstance over and over in a 4-5 day span – then, “ah got it! – this one’s for me.” It’s like being in church and thinking, wow the pastor is speaking directly to me! For me, that’s God.
From the age of 12 to the age of 30, the Word of God is silent about the life of Jesus. All we know is that He grew into manhood as the son of Mary and Joseph. Around the age of 30, as Jesus began His public ministry, He went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. As He came up from the water, the voice of God was heard, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Just hanging in the air.
I do firmly and unequivocally believe that if you listen, really listen, you can hear His Will for your life. Maybe it’s a whisper or maybe it’s a shout but it’s there. And, every day, each and every day, He says to you, “You are my beloved son or daughter, in whom I am well pleased.” He may not always like what you are doing or what you have done, but He loves you.
But sometimes it seems like God is quiet. I say He is whispering and I believe it’s during these times that we are distracted, running our own show, not asking or listening for guidance – then He whispers. Why? It’s so we lean in. It forces us to redirect our focus, to lean in and to listen to what He has to say. The quieter He gets, the more we are required to lean in.
Want to get someone’s attention? Whisper.
Of course, the simplest way to hear God is to:
- Read the Bible
Read the Bible
Now you are thinking, that is just too obvious. The Bible is God’s Word, so of course, if you read the Bible you will hear from God. It’s easy to read the Bible somewhat by rote, see the words, read the words, and get the point but not hear from God. The truth is you have to slow down, read and listen. As you read you have to think, how does this apply to you and where you are in your life? You have to ask God, does He have a message for you here. Is there something specific that you should be pulling out from this passage or verse?
It’s easy to fall into a rut when reading the Bible. Maybe you are in a habit of reading through the Bible every year and your reading time has just become a ritual of rushing through the next passage. Or, like me, you have tried one of those Bible reading plans and fallen behind and now feel guilty. Or you’re the Bible study type and you keep gathering more and more knowledge, but it isn’t really bringing you any closer to God on a personal level.
First and foremost, we have to remember to not treat scripture as texts to be studied, but as the living word. The Bible is God-breathed, a living word, therefore it is not just for us to understand but can speak to us.
Volumes and volumes have been written on prayer as we, broken humans that we are, struggle to talk with the Almighty. Here is the short version. God seeks us like the shepherd searching, searching, searching for one lost sheep. God is seeking us.
God invites us to come home: home to where we belong; home to serenity and peace and joy; home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation. Home to Him.
God welcomes us into the living room of his heart where we can put on old slippers and share freely. It is where we can be vulnerable and free. It is also the place of deepest intimacy where we can know and be known to the fullest.
And it doesn’t matter if we have little faith, or none. It doesn’t matter if we have been bruised and broken by the pressures of life. It doesn’t matter if our prayers have grown cold and brittle. It doesn’t matter if God seems remote and inaccessible.
God accepts us just the way we are, and He accepts our prayers just the way they are. So just talk to Him. No need to be scripted or fancy. You’re in your old slippers, just chat with Him. He’ll listen.
Then sit quietly and listen back, even if you don’t hear anything.
So how can we know whether we’re hearing the voice of God?
The Bible gives us some clear keys to filter any promptings through to help discern the voice of God. We are to carefully examine the thoughts and intentions of our hearts — and the words of godly people who may have influence on us by their words and actions.
Scripture: “ 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17).[Any prompting you receive should correlate with scripture]
The Holy Spirit speaking to our heart: “ 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:10-11).[Any message you receive should come with the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit]
Godly counsel: “ 14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” (Proverbs 11:14).[Take your question and promptings to others that you trust for wise counsel.]
Bottom line is, as with any relationship, the best way to hear God is to talk to Him and then listen. Dialoging is the most powerful tool, whether written down, in your head or verbally. Don’t just talk, but dialog with God, expecting Him to respond. Just remember, prayer is actually just a conversation with God.
My prayer for you is that these thoughts today begin to open new doors to expand and enhance your conversations with God and help you discern the voice of God as He speaks into your life.
For God and you,