Hearing God, Pt. 4

So, how does one recognize the voice of God and distinguish it from all the other voices that we hear? Is it audible or does God communicate differently?

From the time I was a new Christian, I began to ask the questions, “Does God still speak today? If so, how does God speak and provide comfort, inspiration, and guidance?” Forty-four years later, I can tell you without hesitation, “Yes! God still communicates today to His people!”

No where in the New Testament (NT) can we read that God stopped speaking and communicating with His people. In fact, it is just the opposite!

As I shared last week, Jesus is our shepherd, and he makes it clear, if you believe in Him, you are a sheep who hears His voice (John 10:27). He wants us to know His voice and follow Him.

Hearing God’s voice is more than just reading the Bible, although Bible reading is foundational to learning how to hear God’s voice, learning about Him, and growing in faith.

God’s Word from the Bible should be our daily mana, for “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3 NKJV)

The Holy Spirit’s Importance

But hearing God’s voice is also learning how He communicates by the Holy Spirit to us, through both the Bible, communion with Him, and the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12).

God indeed speaks to us through the scriptures, but He does so by His Spirit and not simply the record of things written there. Many have taught the scriptures, even memorizing large portions of it, apart from a reliance on the Spirit’s power and revelation only He can give.

Consider Paul’s emphasis on relying on the Spirit as much as on the written word:

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Rom. 7:6 NIV

Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:6 NKJV

For it is the Spirit who interprets the scriptures, and beyond them we see Jesus. Learning to recognize the “language of the Spirit” is vital to hearing God’s voice.

A major teaching of the NT is that God the Holy Spirit lives in the believer now, to be to the believer all that Jesus was to the disciples.

This was also one of Jesus’ greatest promises to them, when they were sad at the news of His imminent departure:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. John 14:16 NKJV

The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father, who comes along side of us to help us, who is just like Jesus!  He reveals the Father and the Son to us, He leads us into truth, He guides and directs us, He gives us strength, and He comforts us.

The Holy Spirit wants to envelop you in His presence. He really cares for you and wants to be your best friend. Our Christian life was meant to be an ongoing experience of fellowship with the Holy Spirit, individually and corporately. From that place, we learn of His voice and leading.

The language of the Spirit includes what we read in the Bible, thoughts, words, impressions, vision, dreams, and encounters—all comprise the language of the Spirit. There is no formula to hearing the voice of God—I can give principles, but each of us will hear and communicate with God slightly different.

Many Voices to Discern

As I shared last week, there is God’s voice, our voice, the voice of others, and the voice of the enemy.

But our voice, the voice of others, and the voice of the enemy can be more nuanced. For example, there is the voice of public opinion, the voice of authority (from the time we are children), the voice of our own desires, the voice of consciousness, and the many voices of the tempter (which can be varied).

Properly discerning these other “voices” is important. We need to weigh them and judge them relative to God’s Word and character. For example, some have been wounded by people or situations from the past. Unless healed, these wounds and negative thought patterns can replay in our minds and hearts.

Keep in mind that each of us has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day! Roughly 35-48 thoughts a minute. Some studies suggest that 80% of these thoughts are negative! Which means a large percentage of our minute-by-minute thinking is negative. These thoughts affect our attitudes, feelings and at times our actions. They also impair our ability to clearly hear what God is attempting to communicate to us.

Therefore, learning how to discern God’s voice among all these voices is vital to live in God’s peace, joy, and in the abundant life He promised us.

Living in God’s peace and abundant life does not mean the cessation of suffering or hardship. Rather, it means being at rest despite the circumstances because we know the Shepherd’s voice.

It may also mean trusting God when He is clearly directing, even though you may initially lack peace about Gods leading. Learn to trust Jesus, our Shepherd, He knows where to lead His people!

There is nothing more basic to the church’s ministry than to know what God is saying to us today.

Perhaps one of the most significant differences between the results of the early church and that of many of our traditional churches today lies in how we receive direction for ministry.

The church of the book of Acts first heard God speak and then called a meeting to decide how to carry out God’s Word. For example, in:

Acts 13:2 NIV, While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Notice, worship, prayer, and then the Holy Spirit said…

In contrast, in many of our churches today we have business meetings to make up our strategy and then ask God to bless it, which He is often unable to do.

But many also do this in their own lives and families. Don’t rely on human reasoning to make major decisions, rather seek, and wait upon the Lord to reveal His direction and strategy.

God Speaks through a Stranger in Jerusalem

Carolyn and I were in Jerusalem in 1992 for seven weeks. It was a God inspired trip and He was preparing us for future missionary work and latter to church plant and pastor. But at the time, we were struggling with trusting God for the finances we needed to do this work. We had sold our home and a business prior to the trip, paid off all our debts, and had several thousand dollars in the bank to begin the work He was leading us to. But we doubted God’s voice and leading! Ever doubt God?

While walking one afternoon in Jerusalem discussing our situation and what we should do, a lady approached us from the opposite direction. She couldn’t have heard what we were discussing. She suddenly stopped in front of us and said, “God is not interested in how much money you have, but He wants to know if you are available?” We knew immediately this was God speaking to us through a stranger. She smiled and walked on; we began to rearrange our thinking!

Most of the major decisions you and I make are not specifically covered in the Bible:

Whom should I marry? Should I take this job? Should I buy this house? What type of vacation should I take this summer? Should I serve in this ministry? Etc.

We need to learn to hear God’s voice to discern God’s purpose among the many schemes of the world and to find God’s strategy in our fight against the enemy.

Keep in mind that the voice of the Lord is not only heard; it is also seen. I’ll develop this more over the next couple of weeks, but consider these verses:

The burden (oracle, prophecy) which the prophet Habakkuk saw. Hab. 1:1 NKJV

God asked Jeremiah, “What did you see?” Jer. 1:11 NKJV

Ezekiel says, “as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” Ezek. 1:1 NKJV

The voice of the Lord then can be visionary. In the NT, we are promised:

‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.’ Acts 2:17 NKJV

Four Keys To Hearing God’s Voice

I heard Dr. Mark Virkler teach 20 years ago about four keys to hearing God’s voice. I’ve adapted his teaching into my own over the years, but the principles are excellent.

Mark was a discouraged Baptist pastor ready to leave the ministry because he was taught one could not hear God’s voice today. He was drying up without a relationship with the Holy Spirit and hearing God’s voice to guide, strengthen, and sustain him. Then he discovered that God does speak today!

I’ll cover the first of four keys today and finish next week with the other three.

He used two verses in Habakkuk for the teaching:

1 I will stand my watch, And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision, And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.” Hab 2:1-2 NKJV

Key #1 – God’s voice in our heart sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.  Therefore, when we tune to God, we tune to spontaneity.

Hab. 2:2 “the Lord answered me and said…” Habakkuk knew the sound of God’s voice.

Elijah described it as a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Many listen for that inner audible voice, and surely God can and does speak that way at times.

However, for most of us, most of the time, God’s inner voice comes to us as spontaneous thoughts, impressions, feelings, visions, or dreams.

For example, perhaps you’ve had the experience of driving down the road and having a thought come to pray for a certain person? This is God’s voice calling us to pray for that person.

The question to you is, “What did God’s voice sound like as you drove in your car? Was it an inner, audible voice, or was it a spontaneous thought that lit upon your mind?” Most of us would say that God’s voice came to us as a spontaneous thought.

Therefore, when we listen for God’s voice, we should be listening for a flow of spontaneous thoughts. Dr. Virkler discovered that most spirit-level communication is received as spontaneous thoughts, impressions, feelings, and visions.

The Hebrew word for intercession is paga and one meaning is “a chance encounter or an accidental intersecting.”  It also means “to pressure or urge someone strongly, to assail with urgent petitions.” A meeting!

When God lays people on our hearts for intercession, He does it through paga, a chance-encounter thought, accidentally intersecting our thought processes. Therefore, when we tune to God, we tune to chance-encounter thoughts or spontaneous thoughts.

Have a great week and be intentional with spending time with the Lord. Endeavor to “tune to” God’s impressions and spontaneous thoughts. I’ll share more next week on how then to process what you are receiving from the Lord.

Bob Sawvelle

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