Hearing the Voice of God

God reveals Himself to us in one of two primary ways. The first way is through Special Revelation, or the inspired and infallible Word of God. In its pages, we find promises, & learn about the nature of God, Who I believe is continually trying to speak into our lives concerning our pasts, our current situations, our futures, & ultimately our destiny.

The other way God chooses to reveal Himself to us is through General Revelation, meaning the wondrous creation of the world & everything that dwells within it.

Years ago, I read a book by Gary Thomas, called Sacred Pathways, which suggests that each of us has a primary way in which we grow closer to the Lord. Call it your love language with God. If you were wondering, God’s love language is obedience.

Now, this premise is not some Oprah doctrine that claims all roads lead to Jesus; instead, it highlights 9 various ways we can grow closer to the Lord. For me, worship is when I feel closest to the Lord and is why I am normally down in the very front during the worship portion of service. Our spiritual pathway to God helps us stay plugged into Him so we would not only come to know His will, but also feel His presence in our lives.

Each of us are vessels meant to be poured out, so as we pour ourselves into the lives of others, we must replenish ourselves from the Source.

Today, I want to focus on identifying the various voices in our life, what to do with them, and how to tap into a permanent connection to God. The question is not always about hearing God speak; instead, it is being able to recognize His voice when He does speak to us and then our choices thereafter.

God is continually trying to speak to us through: His Word, His Son – Jesus Christ, Creation & Nature, Praise, Fellow Believers, Our Circumstances, His Holy Spirit, & Prayer.

The Lord conversed with Adam in the garden. He told Noah to build an ark. He spoke to Moses in the form of a burning bush.

He promised Abraham a son. Paul heard His voice on the road to Damascus. However, despite all these occurrences, as Christians today, many of us still question whether God still speaks to us and if so, we question: How? When? Where? & Why?

Hearing from God is one of those topics that can easily stir up frustration and confusion. Maybe you’re already asking some of these questions today:

How do I know if God is speaking to me?

How do I discern whether it is His voice speaking or just thoughts in my own head?

How can I make sense of what God’s calling me to do?

One of the first things we must acknowledge is how busy our lives have become. Life is full of distractions & the more we become advanced as a society, the more our time and the way we spend it becomes a precious & often wasted commodity.

When we wish or fantasize about the possibility of having more time, if we are being honest with ourselves, any gained time would just be filled with the same things we are currently filling it with.

The real problems in our life begin to arise when we are too busy to listen for the voice of God or when we choose to ignore that still small voice. Some of us may be new to the faith and have not had much experience dealing with hearing God’s voice, while others have become quite proficient in tuning that voice out.

Being able to hear and discern the voice of God is crucial to our walk as followers of Christ and the more we seek to hear from God, the more we allow ourselves to be used by Him.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NIV)

Gordon Fee explains, “Being spiritual does not lead to elitism; it leads to a deeper understanding of God’s profound mystery—redemption through a crucified Messiah. In other words, the person lacking the Spirit cannot discern what God is doing; while the one with the Spirit is able to do so because of the Spirit.”[1]

God wants to speak into each of our lives and for many of us, He already has, but what He said or what answer He gave us was not what we were looking to hear, so we have instead chosen to ignore Him.

I’m here to tell you that God is not going to speak something new into your life until you obey and acknowledge what He’s already said to you!

Before a race, I like to familiarize myself with the course, but I especially like to see the finish line, because when things get tough and the notion of quitting begins to enter my mind, I can focus on crossing the finish line and also how far I’ve already come.

In some cases, we embark on certain journeys in life because of what others have promised is waiting on the other side, while others we have taken because we know if we stay where we are, we will perish.

If we make the choice to walk through whatever we are facing in life, we will eventually see the miracle at the end, and in many cases, we will become the miracle at the end!

Throughout my walk with God, I have come to know that being able to hear the voice of God was the single greatest advantage I could ever have. I know this truth because I have personally lived (if you can call it living) a life where it felt like God and me were just like two ships passing in the dark or sometime two ships on a collision path.

The one constant I have learned is that our surrender is the first key to hearing His voice, which then leads to greater intimacy in our relationship with Him. However, the very concept of surrender leading to victory in any form is contrary to our way of thinking.

It’s not some form of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but sometimes, we get so focused on the destinations, milestones & outcomes of life that we lose sight of what God might want to be doing in and through us and our daily circumstances. In hindsight, I can look back over instances in my life and see God’s hand at work, but in the midst of the trials and afflictions, it sometimes felt like God was a million miles away and that I didn’t matter to Him.

Clearly, this was not the case but it’s what the enemy wanted me to believe. As Henri Nouwen said, “The greatest temptation is to not believe that you are who God says you are.” Satan will always attempt to destroy or counterfeit anything God stands for or loves. If the enemy can’t have you, he would rather see you forsake your calling & birthright as a child of the Most High God.

As I’ve mentioned, I love to run partly because it gives me the opportunity to empty my mind of everything that has been weighing heavy on me and when I run, I listen to praise music so that when my mind is empty, it is then filled with godly things and not worldly things.

There are 3 voices in life:

  • Secular voice: very subtle in its attempt to contradict the nature of God. It’s not antichrist, but it’s the complete lack of God.
  • Spiritual voice: aligns itself with God’s Word & His nature. Confirms what Scripture says.
  • Satanic voice: condemning and in direct contradiction to God’s Word.

So what does this mean? It’s very important that we begin to differentiate which of these voices we are hearing and allowing to take root in our lives.

When God speaks to me about a particular issue, I cannot escape it. Around every corner there’s a sermon or Bible study or speaker’s topic or conversation with a friend that’s consistent with what I’ve been hearing from God. When we invest in spending time alone with God, He will speak to us and the message we are hearing will be confirmed.

There are 3 key practices to recognizing the voices in our lives:

  • Silence & Solitude
  • Reading God’s Word
  • Obedience

I love the passage found in I Samuel 3:1-10 where we see God calling out to Samuel on three separate occasions, but he was not familiar with the Lord’s voice yet, so he missed it:

“The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night, Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again, the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So, Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So, Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (NIV)

This demonstrates how we must be intentional about being acquainted & willing to listen when the Lord is trying to speak to us. In the same vein, I want God to be familiar with my voice when I call out to Him!

When God speaks to us, we must do what Eli instructed Samuel to say in verse 3: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

  • “Our silence is the putting away of our outside distractions, while our solitude is the quieting of our soul and any chaos that is attempting to stop us from pressing in.” Ruth Haley Barton

Our thoughts are actions of the mind so hearing God and then trying to delay what has been revealed or asking for additional signs is disobedience.

This is important to recognize because the thoughts of our minds are easily turned to satisfying the desires of the flesh, & when we feed the flesh, we starve the Spirit, so we must feed the Spirit to starve the flesh.

  • Reading God’s Word is crucial in every believer’s life because we will never be able to recognize God’s voice if we have never read what it has said, or it has been so long that we have forgotten.

John 14:26 shows us that if we will commit to get into the Word, the Word will get into us. Its promises are eternal & the Lord’s Word never returns void without first accomplishing the task for which it was sent!

Psalms 37:23 shows, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, when he delights in His way.”

We must acknowledge & invite the Lord into every facet of our lives: family, finances, emotions, work & He will direct our way!

God will never speak to us or tell us to do something that’s contrary to His Word. But unless we know the Scripture, we won’t be able to discern whether what we are hearing is consistent or not with the Word. Knowing the will of God comes only when we read & pray the Word of God.

  • Obedience is lining up God’s truth with our thoughts & actions. Disobedience doesn’t keep God from speaking; it just keeps us from hearing.

Our Obedience is the natural outgrowth of a life that is bound to serving God; meaning, if we are truly in love with God, we will obey His laws.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

Many of us have already received a word from God we are either too afraid to obey, or we have chosen to ignore the initial calling/instruction and have moved on.

When we ignore the instruction after God clearly speaks, He will not speak again until we obey. I ran from my calling for over a decade, so I know this is a liberating truth for someone reading this.

The distance between our belief and action is directly proportional to the distance between our hearts & our minds. God speaks things so clearly to our hearts, but we have become so good at ignoring or doubting His voice, choosing instead to do things our own way or waiting for Him to speak something else. We must obey the Lord, if we want to continue hearing from Him!

Last month, I was awoken at 3:30am and for those that know me, you know this is not completely out of the norm. On most days, I would just get up and go for a run, but this particular day I woke up with the Spirit speaking to me that I was supposed to go to work at Parkway Veterinary Hospital. Even though the work I needed to do was outside and it was still dark, I’ve just learned to trust the Lord in these matters. You see, the year prior, during a run on a below freezing morning in January at 3:00am, the Spirit prompted me to cross the road in a location I had never done so on any previous runs. The impulse to cross was unlike anything I had ever felt before. As I crossed the road and looked into the wooded area with my headlamp, I could just barely make out the silhouette out of a body. Upon closer examination, as I passed several hypodermic needles and then discovered a lifeless body. I immediately called 911 and they arrived in less than two minutes and began to work on the gentleman. I’ll never forget that encounter, it was a Sunday morning and I can still remember coming onto church after that early morning encounter and just wondering what had happened, so after church, I called the hospital and explained I was the person who found the body and had called it in and while I didn’t want to violate any HIPPA laws, I just wanted to know if the individual had lived. The nurse I spoke with said, if I had not found him, he would have either died from an overdose, exposure to the cold, or a combination of both. Ever since then, I now cross at this junction on all my morning runs and have dubbed it the Good Samaritan Crossing. I later found out the drug they administered to the individual is being carried by all first responders and is called the Lazarus drug because of its ability to neutralize the opioid effect on the respiratory system and bring patients back from certain death.

I tell you these stories, so you can understand that when God speaks to me about someone or something, I can’t afford to spend time doubting or wondering what to do.

All right, so, back to what happened last month. I arrived at Parkway, and no sooner than coming out the front door at around 4am, I see a woman frantically coming down the road in obvious distress. I attempt to calm her down and ask what I can do to help. Long story short is that her three children were not only lost, but also in a very unsafe environment and she was desperate to find them and distraught in her inability not to be able to do so. Once again, I immediately called the police and prayed with her while we were waiting. The local law enforcement officers then took over and I went about my normal routine, not knowing if I would ever see her again, but I already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt God had sent me there at that very moment. So, the weekend goes by and I continue to pray for her and the family. On Monday, I receive a call from a gentleman that was being evicted and was looking for some help in acquiring a storage unit and moving their belongings into it, so I tell him I can meet him the following morning to help out. So, on Tuesday morning, I drive to the address he provided and as soon as I get out of my truck, and from around the corner, who do I see but the young woman I had crossed paths with on Friday night. She came up to me crying, hugging me, and thanking me for everything I had done. She said she had lost all hope and in a final ditch effort she had called out to God asking Him to send help if He truly cared about her. As a result of being obedient to the Spirit’s prompting, I was able to spend the rest of the day with this young couple, who through the series of some unfortunate circumstances had found themselves on very hard times, but had I not had the profound encounter with her on Friday night, there is no way I would have been able to present the gospel message & been able to talk to them about Jesus & Celebrate Recovery. We truly serve an amazing God!

I want to close with one final story we find in Scripture. King David is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. He was a man after the Lord’s own heart, but he was also someone who knew firsthand what ignoring or desperately wanting to hear the voice of God led to.

Mephibosheth is another interesting person mentioned in Scripture. He was the grandson of King Saul and the son of Jonathan. In fact, one day, he was destined to sit on the throne as royalty.

However, through a series of unfortunate events, the course for the future was changed in an instant when both King Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle on Mt. Gilboa by the Philistines.

In ancient times, and in some regimes even to this day, when a leader falls in battle or passes away, there is an effort by the new ruler to wipe out the entire family’s lineage so that there is no legitimate heir or someone able to claim the throne or lead a future coup d’état.

When word of King Saul’s and Jonathan’s death reached the capital, there was an effort to get Mephibosheth out of the city. In their haste, to save the little boy’s life, he was accidentally dropped resulting in both of his legs being broken, so as he grew up, he became crippled and was no longer able to walk.

He didn’t do anything wrong and he certainly didn’t do anything to deserve this life-altering moment. In fact, he went from being a future king to living in one of the poorest, most run-down slums of a city call Lo Debar.

Now this place sounds like something out of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and the name literally means, “land of nothing.” It’s amazing what God can do with nothing! Can anything good come from Nazareth… It was here the spirit of loneliness and thoughts about how unfair life was surely encompassed his very being.

I want you to know each one of us has been crippled by something in our past & its effects have not gone unnoticed by God. We all have hurts, habits, hang ups in life & when we surrender them to the Lord, he brings purpose out of our pain; they are our testimony.

All of us have felt alone and forgotten, but something interesting happens in II Samuel 9:1, as King David asks, “Is there anyone left from the house of Saul, that I might show kindness to?”

The word kindness: ḥesed “or” חֶסֶד‎  is an interesting word that means: lovingkindness, mercy, & goodness.

Thankfully, we serve a God of justice & while you may have been dropped, or hurt in the past, don’t be down or discouraged because justice, restoration, promotion, favor, and a new beginning is coming in your future when His perfect will and His perfect timing intersect.

The King of kings is summoning each of us, regardless of where we have been hiding or what exile we’ve found ourselves in. Due to the pain & hurt we have endured, it may feel like we can’t go on any further on our own strength and that’s ok because:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

I can only imagine what Mephibosheth thought when the king’s soldiers found him and said, “Come with us right now. The king is summoning you.”

What happens next is profound!

King David’s motives were rooted out of his covenant promise and lovingkindness to his best friend Jonathan & King David would restore to Mephibosheth all his family’s wealth, land, and King David even told him that he would always have a seat at the king’s table.

What’s interesting is that Mephibosheth never received a physical healing for his legs, but God made the rest of his life so fulfilling & rewarding the pain & reality of being a cripple was removed.

Each of us, no matter what has happened in our past or what we are currently struggling with has a ticket to the palace, a seat at the king’s table, and a way out!

So, I believe the problem isn’t that God no longer speaks to us; it’s that we don’t listen or can’t recognize His voice & until we do, we’ll never know peace. God spoke to King David’s heart & He can use anyone and anything to accomplish His plans!

In Jeremiah 29:13, God promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The amazing thing about being able to hear the voice of God is the profound realization of how God’s grace is continually pursuing us. C.S. Lewis uses the analogy of God being like a hunter and we are the deer He continually pursues & shoots with arrows of grace. There is nothing in us to deserve it and we certainly can’t earn it; instead, it stems from God’s love for us.

God’s grace seeks us where we are at, it brings us into the king’s presence, & it keeps us safe for His return. With broken legs we chase perfection, while all we need to do is call out and listen for the voice of God because when we do, we will never be the same again.

“Speak LORD, for your Servants are listening.”

Let us be known as a generation that seeks your face and calls out after your name. Let us see the world through your eyes and may our hearts break for what breaks yours. Lord, I pray when the world sees us, may we be a reflection of the love, mercy, grace, and compassion you have shown each of us. Speak Lord, to all of us who have been saved by Your name, the name above all names. Amen!

[1] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 118-120.

 

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