I remember like yesterday the exact location where I was able to ask a question to my pastor and stump him. I was 16 years old and had just turned my life over to Jesus Christ. I was full of enthusiasm, questions, and passion for God. But I had a question that had been bothering me for quite a while and wanted to get my answer. So naturally, I turned to my pastor. He was someone that had been in the ministry longer than I had been alive and whom I was sure could help me solve my dilemma.
So at the Waffle House in Byron, on a hot and steamy summer day, I worked up the courage to ask my question to my pastor. As I cut up my chocolate chip waffle (still a favorite I might add) I asked:
“Pastor, how do you know when God is speaking to you?”
He thought for a moment. He started to speak and then stopped. He thought some more. Then finally said nervously:
“I don’t know. You just do. When God speaks to you, you just know. I can’t describe it, and I can’t tell you what the voice of God sounds like, but when He speaks you just know.”
That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. As a young Christian, I was expecting my pastor to tell me exactly how God speaks and what He sounds like. I was sure I would be given an answer that talked about the pitch and tone God uses when He speaks and how it’s possible to know through signs and wonders that God was speaking. But he gave me none of those answers. He just told me, “When God speaks, you’ll know it.”
At the time that was a hard lesson for me. Even at a young age I was convinced that hearing and knowing the voice of God was key to me growing in my relationship with Him and for fulfilling the purpose He had for me. What I wanted from my pastor was a step by step checklist of knowing the voice of God and at the time was frustrated when he couldn’t provide that for me.
I wish I could say that things have changed for me since that question almost 20 years ago. As much as I’d like to think I’ve grown since then I still find myself at times wrestling with hearing the voice of God.
Have there been times that I have heard God speak in such an unmistakable way that it was impossible to miss it? Yes.
Have there also been times that I “think” I hear the voice of God and wrestle with if it’s Him or if it’s just the burrito I ate for lunch? Yes again.
Which got me thinking……..
Maybe I’m not alone.
Maybe there are people just like me who wonder what the voice of God sounds like.
Who wrestle with if God is truly speaking to them.
Who desire to know when God is leading them.
Who want to be able to tell the difference between their own human nature and what the spirit of God says.
If, like me, you have ever asked yourself any of these questions you’re in luck because the rest of this blog is dedicated to knowing and understanding the voice of God. I’m going to attempt for the next couple of paragraphs to write about the lessons I have learned over the last 20 years about hearing and understanding God’s voice.
Will I have every answer? Absolutely not!
Have I learned some things? Yes.
Am I still learning? Again, yes.
My goal for the next couple of minutes isn’t to tell you step by step what God’s voice and leading sounds like. I don’t have that ability. What I aim to do is to navigate you through some lessons learned (all backed up with scripture or biblical pattern) to encourage anyone reading who may be struggling with how to hear God’s voice. I won’t have all the answers but maybe together we can learn and continue to develop a sensitivity to what God is trying to say to us.
There won’t be a particular order to these lessons I ‘ve learned, so I’ll just start. Again, my prayer is that this will be an encouragement to you as you walk this journey of faith like I am.
So away we go…….
GOD STILL SPEAKS TO US TODAY
Every now and then I will run into someone who doesn’t believe that God would actually speak to them. They have a hard time accepting the fact that the God of the Bible would still want to lead and guide us today. As I study God’s word, however, I see multiple scriptures that talk about God speaking to us. Scriptures such as:
Isaiah 30:21 – And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”
Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
What I’ve noticed about these scriptures is that the verbs are in present tense. Meaning that the promises of these scriptures doesn’t just apply to 2000 plus years ago but still applies today. For some reason that I cannot fathom God still wants to speak to me today and to have that dynamic relationship where I can talk to my creator, savior, and friend.
God didn’t just speak to people long ago and leave us without a voice today. God longs to speak to us NOW and allow us to hear his voice today!
SENSITIVITY TO GODS VOICE IS DEVELOPED THROUGH RELATIONSHIP
John 10:27 – My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
I’ve learned over time that the key to knowing the voice of God is walking closely with Jesus. From this scripture, I gather that the voice of Jesus is clearly heard from those who know him. That as I take time from each day and make it a point to slow myself down and spend time either in prayer, worship, reading God’s word, or quiet reflection I slowly develop a sensitivity to His voice and leading. Does it happen overnight? Nope. Are there time where I pick up my bible to read or begin to pray and hear absolutely nothing? Absolutely!
What I have found, even in those times of silence, is that as I continue to seek him through spiritual disciplines I develop a closeness with Jesus that grows into a sensitivity in hearing His voice.
I remember when God taught me this lesson so clearly. When Kim and I had been dating for about 5 months I dropped her off at the airport to leave for a family vacation. The airport was extremely busy at the time and there was constant noise and commotion as people were scurrying to and fro to get to their flight. I had helped Kim carry her bags to the check in counter, said goodbye, and was walking away back to my car. I was probably some 100 feet away from where Kim was checking in when I heard her distinct voice call my name. “Drew!” I turned around and saw her walking to me because she had forgotten to get some cash from my wallet that I was holding on to for her. I gave her the cash, we said goodbye again, and she walked away.
As soon as I began to walk again to my car I heard the spirit of God say to me, “The reason why you could hear her voice in all this noise is because you spend time with her.” And it was true! I was amazed that out of all the noise, all the hundreds of voices rushing to their various flights, that I could still hear her voice above all others. I knew her voice because of the time we had spent together while dating.
God spoke to me in the middle of an airport to remind me that as I spend time with Him I begin to cultivate a sensitivity to His voice so I can hear Him above all the other noise in my life. The same is true with you. Could it be that the reason you struggle to hear God’s voice and leading is because of a lack of time spent together?
GOD’S VOICE WILL ALWAYS LINE UP WITH HIS WORD
2nd Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
I’m amazed at some of the conversations I have with people who believe that God spoke to them but that what He apparently spoke contradicts His word. While that statement may sound close minded or harsh, one of my core beliefs is that God isn’t God if He changes His mind. I can’t follow a God who says one thing and then apparently contradicts himself.
The primary way God speaks to us is through His word.
Any personal leadings or direction He gives us must match up to what He says in His written word. If they do not match up to His written word, then unfortunately He didn’t speak it. But there are still people who will make decisions for their lives based on their feelings, and assume that what they feel must be from God when unfortunately it contradicts His word. God is not double minded. He doesn’t say one thing and then say another. Circumstances don’t change him.
If I’m honest, I have to admit that at times that is a tough pill to swallow. I’ll admit that it’s not easy to have a book written thousands of years ago, by flawed people apparently under the influence of a Holy God, be THE guide for my life and my decisions. But what I have found is that as I build my life around the truths and principles of His word, even when my feelings tell me otherwise, a peace fills my life and my spirit comes alive and I walk closer and closer with God! It’s not easy but it’s always worth it.
If you find yourself today struggling to hear the voice of God for your life, maybe He has already spoken through His word. You can never go wrong with hearing from God through what He has already said.
THERE IS NO SET PATTERN TO HOW GOD WILL SPEAK TO YOU
For me, this is probably the hardest aspect of learning to hear God’s voice because I want God to be a formula where He will always speak to me in a certain pattern, in a certain way, and in a certain time frame. Unfortunately God doesn’t work that way. Just look at the bible and how God spoke to the variety of characters in it:
God spoke to Abraham through nature when he told him to “Look at the stars” in Genesis 15:4
God spoke to Moses through the dramatic signs and wonders of a burning bush and a staff that turned into a snake in Exodus chapter 3.
God spoke through a gentle whisper to Elijah in 1st Kings 19:12.
God spoke through powerful prophets all throughout the old Testament.
God used a dream to speak to the Apostle Paul in Acts 16:9.
God directed the organization of the early church through highlighting a need in Acts 6:1.
Simeon was “led by the spirit” to see Jesus Christ as he was being brought to the temple as a baby in Luke 2:27. There was not a recording of God “speaking”, just a knowing in Simeon of where to go and when.
In Luke chapter 1, God used an Angel to speak to Mary about the birth of Jesus.
In 1st Samuel 14, God didn’t even speak to Jonathan fighting the Philistines. Jonathan just took hold of the promises of God and acted.
My point in showing the variety of God’s speaking methods is to simply say that there is no formula to knowing how and when God will speak to you. If you’re anything like me, I want to know how, when, and where God will speak to me so I can put God in a box and always know the details of Him speaking to me.
In my selfishness I want to be able to predict God.
God never asked me to predict Him, He asked me to follow and trust Him. His ways are higher than mine. He knows when and how to speak to me in such a way that will stretch my faith and make sure I know His voice. It isn’t always easy but God wants me to know His voice just as much as I want to know it!
So if you find yourself frustrated with how God is speaking to you, can I encourage you to stop trying to figure out His methods and start trusting His motives?
I’m sure there is a lot more that could be said and written about this topic but my blog is getting pretty lengthy. Again, my goal in this post was to encourage you and hopefully bring a little clarity to a subject that I am still learning so much about.
The most important thing to remember is that hearing God’s voice is more about getting to know Him and less about wondering if you can hear Him. As we continue on this journey of faith, my prayer for us is that our ears and hearts would be opened to His voice, His leading, and His direction.