“And God said”…God spoke the universe into existence. In Psalm 29 we are told that His voice is powerful, full of majesty, and that it breaks cedar trees. His voice thundered out of a mountain top to the people of Israel. He spoke from a burning bush to Moses, in a silent whisper to Elijah, and even through a donkey to the prophet Balaam. He spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the prophets and apostles, through foreign languages to Jesus followers on the day of Pentecost, and through the Holy Scriptures to all who read and believe it. God is speaking, he always has been. He speaks directly to individuals, to people groups, and to the entire world with supernatural power to transform them all. Question is…are we listening?
When we consider the topic of prayer, typically we think of our communication to God – which is only half of the subject. God is a great listener, and as our heavenly Father, he wants us to call upon him; make requests, intercede for others, give thanks, confess sin, share our hearts, etc. He also has something to say. Good communication is two-way, involving speaking and listening. Too often, we do all the talking without waiting to hear what God might say in response. God wants to speak into the events of our life. As we have seen throughout human history, he uses a multitude of ways to speak to us. Are we listening?
We are each uniquely purposed in this life to reflect God’s glory and to manifest his gospel. Each of us have a specific path for which God has equipped us to walk down. So…how do we discover our path? Is it just divine instinct or intuition? Do we simply fall into our purpose as we pursue a relationship with Jesus…or is there more to it?
The Bible teaches us that we are to “walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith is belief – the assurance of things hoped for in the evidence of things we can’t see. (Heb. 11:1) Our faith, based on God’s inspiration and revelation, should lead us down the path of life. One aspect of God’s revelation is the bible; written scriptures that we believe are the divinely inspired words of God. We believe they are God given principles that are universal and timeless, by which everyone can live their lives. But what about the details? What about the ‘grey areas’ of life that aren’t addressed in scripture? What about our specific path? “
Should I marry this person, should I take this job, what college should I attend and what should I major in, should my family move to another state, is God calling me to full time ministry or perhaps to the mission field? God wants to speak into all of these decisions…and so much more. That is the other aspect of God’s revelation – his voice, speaking directly into our lives.
There are countless examples in scripture of God speaking directly to individuals concerning specific things in their life. The definition of faith referenced in Hebrews 11:1 is followed by several examples of God speaking to individuals who then “walked by faith” in accordance to what they heard God say to them. Hebrews 11:2 says that “by faith, the people received a good report”. The examples listed for us in this chapter are people who got a report…heard God speak to them about something specific to their life…and then walked accordingly. Romans 10:17 tells us that “Faith comes through hearing the word of God”. We follow the specific path God has for us in this life as we listen for his voice guiding us.
So, how do we hear God speaking to us?
- Stop and listen
Not only does God want to guide us specifically, he wants to commune with us directly. He desires to speak into our hearts; encouraging us, shaping us, convicting us, inspiring us…are we listening? The first step in hearing God speak is to intentionally quiet ourselves and listen. We need to create uninterrupted space in our life to simply be still and quiet before God, listening for his voice speaking into our hearts. We build intimate connection with God by spending time in personal worship to him – and through that connection he speaks.
We must train our hearts to hear our Father’s voice, just as a child can discern their parent’s voice out of a crowd of other voices. (John 10:3-4) You will not hear an “audible voice” as Moses did. God speaks to us internally through his Holy Spirit; using a feeling, an impression, an image, a prompting, a single word or thought. (John 16:13) Along with it will come a clear sense of knowing that this is coming from the Lord. The more you seek God’s voice, the more easily you will recognize it when he speaks.
- Be aware
Often God speaks to us indirectly through other sources. We must practice awareness throughout our day, realizing God is with us and wanting to communicate with us. As we have seen, God has many ways in which he speaks to us. He may speak through a song, through a conversation with a friend, a counseling session, through scripture, in a sermon, through “coincidences”, an advertisement, through someone in your small group, etc.
Not only do we want to pay attention to external sources from which God may be trying to communicate, but to internal sources as well. “That little voice inside our head” may be the Holy Spirit trying to guide us. Also, pay attention to how things affect us emotionally. We must learn to explore the emotions we are feeling instead of running past them, ignoring them, or trying to ‘stuff’ them away. God uses our emotions like signals on the dashboard of a car. They indicate when something in our soul needs attention. Self awareness leads to God awareness. Our emotions should provoke a “why” question to God. “When that person said/did ______, why did it trigger anxiousness…or anger…or sadness in me Lord?” Ask why, and then listen for God to answer. Keep asking why until you get to the true heart of the issue. Going down this path may lead to a part of our soul that still needs to be surrendered, healed, or matured by God.
Am I sure this is God speaking? Is this just my own desire? Is this the voice of the enemy try to deceive me? Discerning the Lord’s voice can be tricky at times, especially in the early stages of developing our communion with him. It is a good practice to confirm what you are hearing through other sources.
- Confirmation through the Word. Is what you are hearing in direct violation or compromise of the principles found in God’s word? If so, you can know immediately that it is not the voice of your Father. God is not the author of confusion – he does not contradict himself. (1 Cor. 14:33)
- Confirmation through your circumstances. Is God lining up your life in a way that would reinforce what you are hearing?
- Confirmation in counsel. Have you sought the advice of others that are spiritually mature on this matter? (2 Cor. 13:1, Proverbs 24:6) If these people are all in agreement, then you are probably on the right track.
- Confirmation in your “wiring”. Does what you are hearing line up with the way God has built you? Not that God won’t call you to things that are “outside of the box” for you at times…but usually God guides us in ways that are consistent with how he has created us.
- Confirmation…again. Take what you are hearing and go back to the Lord in prayer. Ask him for elaboration, specification, and validation. He is not trying to trick us, or keep us guessing – he wants us to know his specific will for our lives.
- Walk by faith
Often, the problem isn’t hearing from God…but our willingness to trust what He is saying and actually do it. This has been the problem with mankind from the very beginning. Either we don’t believe him, or we chose not to obey him.
Remember, God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). When we hear him speak, it may not always make make sense…in fact, it may seem a little crazy. If it was always easy and understandable, it wouldn’t require faith.
Consider some of the things God spoke to those in Hebrews chapter 11 – “build and ark / take your family and leave your homeland not knowing where you are going / I will make your offspring like the stars of heaven (despite the fact you and your wife are extremely old) / hide your newborn son for three months and then place him in a tiny boat and float him down the Nile / kill a lamb and spread his blood on your doorposts so your firstborn child does not die / circle Jericho for six days and on the seventh, the walls of the city will fall down” / etc.
God is speaking to us…are we listening? As we learn to hear the voice of our Father in heaven, we can walk by faith and not by sight. We can move through life with confidence like those we read about in Hebrews 11. They moved in faith, even when it didn’t make sense, knowing they had received a word from God.
If we get close enough to the Lord, we will hear him whisper into our hearts. He will reveal hidden things within us, or mysteries about Himself. He will speak truth over the lies we have believed. He will speak healing into our brokenness. He will speak wisdom and grace for us to share with others concerning their lives.
God is speaking…are we listening?