Principles to Hear God’s Voice, Part 3
I began a series three weeks ago about hearing the voice of God. 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?” Today, 42 years later, I can tell you without hesitation, “Yes! God still communicates today to His people!”
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?
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 manna, for “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3)
But hearing God’s voice is also learning how He communicates by the Holy Spirit to us, through both the Bible and His gifts (1 Cor. 12).
Learning to recognize the “language of the Spirit” is vital. The language of the Spirit includes what we read in the Bible, thoughts, words, impressions, visions, 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 differently.
As I shared in part two, there is God’s voice, our voice, and the voice of the enemy. But our voice 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 our conscience, 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! This 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 living in God’s peace, joy, and the abundant life He promised us.
By the way, 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 God’s 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:
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.” NIV
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.
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 later 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! Ever doubt God?
While walking one afternoon in Jerusalem discussing our situation and what should we 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?” Ouch! We knew immediately this was God speaking to us through a stranger. She smiled and walked on; we began to rearrange our thinking!
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.
There are three primary principles to hearing God’s voice:
1) If you follow Jesus, you know His voice
2) The Holy Spirit was given; you know Him and hear Him and
3) Obey the Holy Spirit’s leading
Today I will recap principle one from part two of this series and discuss principle two, the Holy Spirit was given, and as a follower of Jesus you know Him and hear Him!
Principle #1, if you follow Jesus, you know His voice and are known by Him!
Jesus, who was in constant communication with His heavenly Father, expected that His followers would recognize His voice. Using the illustration of a shepherd and gatekeeper, and speaking of Himself, Jesus said,
He walks ahead of them; and they follow Him, for they recognize His voice… they won’t follow a stranger but will run from Him, for they don’t recognize his voice. I am the good shepherd and know My own sheep, and they know Me… My sheep recognize My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:4-5, 14-15, 27
Jesus is our shepherd and knows us by name. He explains in John 10, that the sheep know His voice and they won’t follow the voice of a stranger.
Jesus expects those who are His followers to recognize His voice and walk with Him. His voice becomes so familiar that if they hear another voice calling them aside, they immediately know not to follow it, for it is not the voice of their shepherd. They follow the shepherd by recognition of His voice.
Settle this: you hear His voice! You might be new in Christ or maturing in your ability to discern His voice, but you do hear His voice!
Permit yourself to have more faith to believe you can hear His voice than to be deceived by the enemy.
Often, when I am praying for someone for healing, God shows me or impresses upon me something about their condition. How did this start? By believing God wants to communicate and then positioning myself to hear from the time I was a young Christian. You can do the same. Next week I’ll develop more detail on how to do this.
Principle #2: The Holy Spirit has been given…
The Holy Spirit dwells with us and is in us; we know Him, and we hear Him. Young and old, everyone can hear His voice.
From Genesis to Revelation God continually revealed Himself to His covenant people. God communicates to us through words, impressions, others, dreams, visions, angels, and encounters.
God said we should expect to receive a continuing flow of dreams and visions because the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, (see Acts 2:1-4,17).
I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.” Acts 2:17 NKJV
Visions and dreams are important pieces of God’s communication to us. Understand that the sum of every reference to dreams and visions and prophecy in the Bible approximately equals the size of the entire New Testament!
When the Chinese Communist Party took over China in the 1940s, many Christians and missionaries were persecuted, some imprisoned. American missionary Isobel Kuhn experienced supernatural guidance from God to get out of that nation and avoid capture by the communists.
As a foreigner, she was stranded in the interior, and escape was her only way out, but all routes seemed closed. But God! As she cried out to the Lord, He showed her which routes to take, often on foot. He even showed her which villages were safe to stay in, and when to go as the communists neared. Sometimes with her pursuers right behind her, and she escaped with only minutes to spare. By listening to the voice of God as He spoke to her each day and hour by hour, she was able to cross enemy lines to the coast and then back to the USA.
Jesus spoke specifically about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives:
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you anotherHelper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18 NKJV
The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to the disciples that He would send another comforter, the Spirit of Truth who would abide with us forever (John 14:16).
The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our friend, our helper in times of need. He teaches us, leads us, and empowers us to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel of the Kingdom.
Jesus is the Rock, our source, and the Holy Spirit is God’s River that never runs dry, never wearies, never quits, never stops flowing!
In John 14:16, the word “another” is the Greek word allos, meaning: One besides, another of the same kind. Jesus’ use of allos for sending another Helper equals “one besides Me and in addition to Me but one just like Me. He will do in My absence what I would do if I were physically present with you.” Continuity with what Jesus did and taught.
The word “helper” is the Greek word parakletos, is a word derived from para “beside” and kaleo “to call”; meaning “called to one’s side.” The word signifies an intercessor, comforter, helper, advocate, and counselor.
In nonbiblical literature parakletos had the meaning of “an attorney who appears in court on another’s behalf”.
The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father, who comes alongside us to help us, who is just like Jesus! He reveals the Father and Son to us, He leads us into truth, He guides and directs us, He communicates with 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.
Most of us desire to live a victorious Christian life. But without daily communion with the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to attain that goal. Communion with the Holy Spirit is the launching pad for a life of supernatural power and consistency.
I’ll continue next week with Part 4 of this important series! Spend time with the Lord this week, He has some amazing things to communicate to you about!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Principles to Hear God’s Voice, Part 3”