Principles for Hearing God’s Voice, Part 3
I began a series three weeks ago about learning to hear God’s voice. This week I will continue with part three of the series.
The entire Bible is full of examples of God communicating to His people. In addition to having the completed canon of scripture, or the Bible, God still speaks and communicates to His people today—both through His written Word, thoughts, impressions, dreams, and visions, to name a few. Jesus simply said we hear His voice: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 NKJV)
While many in the body of Christ have legitimate concerns about believers adding to the scripture due to extra-biblical revelation (for example Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon), we should embrace God’s voice and revelation to us today through the use of proper biblical standards to judge and weigh prophecy and revelation.
However, many in the body of Christ take a cessationist position regarding the gifts of the Spirit and God speaking to His people today. In other words, they believe these gifts ceased with the completion of the Bible and the death of the original apostles. As a result, many in the Church are weak in faith and lack the zeal of God to impact our world. Faith becomes mere religious formalism for many in the Church, much like we see with the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
Yet, from a young age, we desire to know, understand, and hear God’s voice. For the follower of Jesus, learning to hear His voice is an invitation to abundant living. His voice calms the heart, builds courage, and gives faith to move mountains. Without ongoing communication with God through communion with the Holy Spirit, who lives in and with us, we begin to “dry up” in our faith.
Fifteen years ago, I heard a teaching from Dr. Mark Virkler. Mark was a discouraged pastor ready to leave the ministry. He, along with many in his denomination, believed that the gifts of the Spirit that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 12 ceased to operate in the Church after the Bible was completed.
However, Mark discovered that this is untrue, that God still speaks to His people today and that God never stopped communicating with us. He then derived four keys to hearing God’s voice from the book of Habakkuk. I covered the first two keys in part two of this series (I’ll briefly recap them today but go to Part 2 for the entire teaching on them), and I’ll cover the last two principles today. Over time, I’ve added my own twist to his four principles to enhance the teaching.
Four Keys To Hearing God’s Voice
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. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Hab. 2:1-4 NKJV
Key #1: God’s voice in our hearts sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.
Therefore, when we tune to God, we tune to spontaneity. Habakkuk knew the sound of God’s voice, “the Lord answered me and said…” (Hab. 2:2 NKJV) 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, visions, feelings, or impressions.
Have you ever experienced driving down the road and having a thought come to mind to pray for a certain person? It is God’s voice inviting you 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 as a spontaneous thought or impression.
Therefore, when we listen for God’s voice, we should be listening for a flow of spontaneous thoughts and impressions. Most spirit-level communication is received as spontaneous thoughts, impressions, feelings, and visions from the Holy Spirit.
Key #2: I must learn to still my own thoughts and emotions, so that I can sense God’s flow of thoughts, impressions and visions within me.
Habakkuk knew that in order to hear and see God’s spontaneous thoughts and visions, he had to first go to a quiet place and still his own thoughts and emotions. “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart…” (Hab. 2:1 NKJV)
Jesus went to quiet places to hear from the Father:
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Mark 1:35 NKJV
So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Luke 5:16 NKJV
…He was alone praying…” Luke 9:18 NKJV
The book of Psalms encourages us to “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV) The English word know is from the Hebrew word yada, and is the same word used in describing Adam knowing Eve intimately. To yada with God is to commune with Him in close fashion. To yada with God is to have heart-to-heart communication with Him. When we quiet our flesh and our minds, we position our spirit to tune to Holy Spirit’s spontaneous flow—God’s thoughts, impressions, and visions.
Key #3: As you pray, and fix the eyes of your heart upon Jesus, expect to hear & see in the spirit the thoughts, impressions, dreams & visions of God.
It is very interesting that Habakkuk was going to start looking for vision as he prayed. He was going to open the eyes of his heart and look into the Spirit to see what God wanted to show him. “I will keep watch to see,” and God said, “Record the vision.” (Hab. 2:1-2 NKJV)
You should expect visionary encounters with the Lord!
It’s very important that you fix your gaze and attention upon Jesus. Likewise, it is very important to become still and properly focused to receive a pure word of God. If you are not still and focused on Jesus, you will simply be receiving your own thoughts. If we are “looking” through a soulish desire in our hearts, we may be led astray. Also, what you hear and see from the Lord will align with God’s nature and written Word.
The writer of Hebrews says we should be, “…Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus…,” (Heb. 12:2 AMPCE) Become quiet in His presence, focus on Jesus, and share with Him what is on your heart, then the two-way dialogue begins to flow.
Have you ever considered that your spirit or heart has eyes? Your spiritual eyes are to be used to see in the spirit world the vision and movement of Almighty God. In Ephesians, Paul prayed for believers to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and for the eyes of our hearts to be illuminated about Christ and what He has done for us:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Eph. 1:17-18 NASB)
When Paul refers to your heart, he means the center of your spiritual being that knows and relates to God. Through faith in Christ, you have now been given spiritual eyes to see—you have the capacity to know Jesus intimately and understand revelation from God. What you experience with your natural senses is real, but the unseen spiritual world around you is just as real; even more than that, it’s eternal. What you see with the eyes of your heart should be as real to you as what you see with your natural eyes.
There is an active spirit world functioning all around us. This world is full of angels, demons, the Holy Spirit, the omnipresent God, and His omnipresent Son, Jesus. There is no reason for you not to see it, other than your rational culture, which may tell you not to believe it is there.
The most obvious prerequisite to seeing is that we need to look.
I love the book of Daniel. It is full of examples of leaning into vision that God has given. Consider Daniel 7:2,9,13, Daniel was seeing a vision in his mind and he said, “I was looking…I kept looking… ” Daniel positioned himself to see what God was revealing, and as God began to reveal vision he kept looking, or as I like to call it, leaning into the vision to see if there was more. Therefore, position yourself to see what God is revealing, then as vision begins to unfold, press in for more revelation and clarity of what is being revealed.
As you pray, look for Jesus to be present with you, and watch Him as He speaks to you. Many Christians will find that if they will only look, they will see. Remember, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23). It is that simple.
As you practice this, you will see a spontaneous inner vision in a manner similar to receiving spontaneous inner thoughts. You can see Christ present with you in a comfortable setting, because Christ is present with you in a comfortable setting. You may discover that inner vision comes so easily you will tend to reject it, thinking that it is just you.
Keep in mind that doubt is one of Satan’s most effective weapons against the Church. However, if you persist in “leaning into” the visions, your doubt will soon be overcome by faith as you recognize that the content of them could only be birthed in God. This may seem unusual to a rational, twenty-first-century culture; yet, it is demonstrated and described as being a central biblical teaching and experience (see for example Deut. 29:29, Isaiah 59:21, Jer. 33:3). It’s time to restore to the Church all that belongs to the Church!
Elihu explains to Job that we can hear God speaking if only we will listen:
God speaks in one way, in two ways, but no one perceives it. In the dream, a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon humans, during their slumber on a bed, then he opens people’s ears, scares them with warnings, to turn them from a deed and to smother human pride. He keeps one from the pit, a life from perishing by the sword.” Job 33:14-18 CEB
This passage primarily teaches how God often warns us in dreams because we are often not listening to what He is communicating during our waking hours. However, the passage also instructs us to be attuned to God’s voice and the significance of God-given dreams. There are times God reveals prophetic promise and hope in dreams, that for various reasons, are communicated through the symbology of a dream. Perception is needed!
Write down your dreams and ask God for understanding. Most of the time the dream has to do with you and your situation, even though others may be in the dream. Be careful of trying to interpret a dream based on what others say the symbols mean—go to God directly and ask Him what the symbols mean for you.
A major purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection was that the veil be torn from top to bottom, giving us access into the immediate presence of God, and we are commanded to draw near (Lk. 23:45; Heb. 10:19-22). We can hear and see what God is revealing and live from the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As I shared in part two, we can live from divine initiative as Jesus did. Jesus declared, “I assure you that the Son can’t do anything by himself except what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19 CEB) Paul stated how as believers we should be following the Holy Spirit’s leading, “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters.”(Rom. 8:14 CEB)
Key #4: Journaling, the writing out of our prayers and God’s answers, provides a useful tool in hearing God’s voice.
The Lord said to Habakkuk, “record the vision and inscribe it on tablets…” (Hab. 2:2 NKJV) If you begin to search Scripture for this idea, you will find hundreds of chapters demonstrating it. For example, in Psalms, many of the prophets, and the book of Revelation. We call the process “journaling.”
It is a great tool to record the impressions, visions and words that God is giving you—as well as prayers and answers to them. The journal helps you better discern God’s spontaneous flow and communication to you. You write in faith freely, and then go back and weigh and judge what you have received lines up with scripture and God’s nature.
Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.” 1 Thess. 5:19-21 CEB
I would caution you not to make major life decisions without submitting what you are hearing from the Lord with others who are mature in the faith. Scripture tells us, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14 NKJV)
Doubt may hinder you at first as you begin to journal, but throw it off, and remind yourself that it is a biblical concept. Remind yourself that God is present, speaking to His children. Stay relaxed, rest in Christ and avoid striving or taking yourself too seriously. When you do, you become tense and get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s movement. It is when we cease our labors and enter His rest that God is free to flow (Heb. 4:10). Therefore, get comfortable, get out your pen and paper, and turn your attention toward God in praise and worship, seeking His face.
As you write out your question to God and become still, fixing your gaze on Jesus, Who is present with you, you will suddenly have a very good thoughts in response to your question. Don’t doubt them, simply write down the thoughts, impressions and visions that God is giving you. Later, as you read your journaling, you, too, will be blessed to discover that you are indeed dialoguing with God.
If you are born again, are walking in right relationship with God, you can have confidence that God will speak to you. You can hear His voice! It’s a matter of learning how to recognize the language of the Spirit that can come in many ways and can be different for each of us.
In fact, this past Sunday during our worship service, I heard the Lord say, “I’m turning the bitter waters sweet!”
I picked up my Bible and turned to Exodus 15, where God told Moses to throw a tree into the bitter waters of Marah so the children of Israel could drink. As he did, the waters were made sweet (see Exodus 15:22-27). As I leaned into this word, I sensed God telling me to encourage the congregation to believe for breakthrough. God will turn situations, which have been bitter and impossible to overcome, into sweet waters! He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our Healer (Ex. 15:26), He will heal, restore, and make all things new—trust Him!
For a more in-depth look, watch the Passion Church message, “Principles to Hearing God’s Voice, Part 3”