Probably one of the most asked questions I get as a pastor is “How do you hear God’s voice and how can you tell if it’s Him really speaking to you?” Well, to begin with, I believe God speaks in four primary ways:
- Circumstances (we call these open doors)
- People (family, friends, teachers, pastors, etc.)
- Word of God (The Bible)
The problem for most believers is that we typically only focus on the first two and quite honestly, that’s what the world does as well. They are looking for “open doors” and to the advice of their “friends.”
We must realize God wants to speak to us individually. Just like He spoke to Moses at the burning bush, Paul on the Road to Damascus and to the Woman at the Well. But, we ask, “Can God…Would God really speak to me?” Well why not? We are His children right? Does God shun any of His children? Of course not. But, He won’t speak into the life of one of His children if there is sin in that life, “known sin,” that we choose not to deal with.
For most of us, we quite simply don’t we to deal with the sin in our lives or even recognize it. The Bible says, if we hold sin in our lives, then God will not hear us. (Psalm 66:18). It would go against His nature to speak to us if we are living in known sin. We are called to be holy, sanctified and set apart. When we are “clean” before God (in other words, we have repented…I mean truly repented and forsaken all sin that has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit), then we can and will hear from God. Why?
Because as believers, there is something that is fantastically wonderful for us to understand as a child of God, a joint-heir with Christ. It’s that we have access to God. That’s right…to the God of the universe. The Bible says we can come boldly to God:
16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16
We have access to God because of our position in Christ. When we were saved, we gained access to God through the shed blood of Christ. He bought our access, if you will, to the Father. This is called in theological terms, the “priesthood of the believer.” We don’t have to go through a priest or a preacher to talk to God. We can talk to Him at any time at any place, without an appointment. Isn’t that wonderful? Boy, you sure can’t do that at the doctor’s office can you. Just walk right in and see the doctor with no waiting. But, that’s the case with God…we get to talk to Him without going through a waiting room. Yet, we spend so little time doing so.
Yet for many, and yes, at times for me, I must admit, it’s hard to discern the voice of God. People ask me often. “How can I tell if what I’m hearing is the voice of God, the voice of Satan or my own desires or motives, or that of what I’ve been told or heard from someone else?” Well, it’s quite simple. Just as a mother recognizes the voice of her child and a child recognizes the voice of his father, so will we recognize the voice of God. The Bible records Jesus’ own words in explaining this principle using the analogy of the shepherd and his sheep in John 10:1-5:
1“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:1-5
The more time you and I spend with the Father, the more we will recognize and be able to discern His voice. How do we spend time with the Father? Well, I know many will quickly answer “We spend time with God in prayer.” That is a true statement, but there is more. There is the Word of God. See number four at the beginning of this discussion? The Word of God is our guide. So we must be a student of the Word of God in order to be a student of God and understand His will. (Romans 12:1-2) However, many of us come to the proverbial “fork in the road” in our lives and we do this. We look for open doors, we talk to friends and family and then we say a little prayer and then “go with our gut.” How spiritual is that. Remember, God’s ways aren’t our ways and His thoughts aren’t our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8) So, what seems reasonable to us is often times absolutely counter to what God wants you to do.
Many times in my life and that of my family, He is called us to do the most irrational, illogical thing imaginable. Yet, that’s true in Scripture is it not? God told Abraham to leave His home country and go to a place that He didn’t even tell him before He left. God told Moses to go and deliver His people, but didn’t even tell him how. God told Mary that she would bear the Son of God, even though she didn’t understand how. What about you? What do you sense that He is telling you?
You may say, “Well, Kevin…that’s the whole point of this…is it not…how do I tell if what I’m hearing is the voice of God?” Ok…ok…I hear ya! Let me say this. Remember how we saw Jesus’ words when He said, the sheep will follow the shepherd because “they know his voice?” That’s the key. We must know His voice. Remember we are spirit beings. Our bodies will die one day, but our spirit will go to heaven (if we have repented of our sins and made Jesus the Lord and boss of our lives and bear evidence of that). This is important to understand, because the Holy Spirit of God will “bear witness” or “speak” to our spirit. Romans 8:16 says:
16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16
You see, God will speak to us through His spirit, to our spirit and the longer we walk with God, the more we will be able to discern the voice of God and the more quickly we will do so. In fact, there will be times you don’t even have to guess about it. You’ll just know and recognize God’s voice so clearly, it would be as if your were a child again and your mother or father were calling your name. It’s that clear and perceptible.
Remember God’s original intent was to walk with man. Remember the Garden of Eden when Jesus walked in the “cool of the day” with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). Remember He will live with mankind in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3).
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Revelation 21:1-3
How do we sense the presence of God and Him speaking to us? For most new believers, they sense the presence of God in worship services or in settings with other believers. Collectively, they sense the presence of God. We did this past Sunday, when we talked about “The Suddenly of Prayer.” What a tremendous time basking in the glory and presence of God.
But, ultimately, we want to grow to the point that we hear from God individually. That’s what God wants. He knows the number of hairs on our heads and He wants to commune with us. Take a look at this prime example from an email from BeckyLynn Black in her efforts to communicate with folks in Ethiopia who desperately needed to talk to her.
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:57 AM
Incidentally, I woke at 4am, and tied to call both Oshe (who is in Addis, Ethiopia) and Ephrem….I called repeatedly, but the calls would not go thru. Finally I gave up, sensing it just wasn’t the Lord’s timing for me to call. Just now (10am) I called Ephrem….and guess who was with him?? Oshe! I asked to talk to Oshe after talking with Ephrem…and he was so amazed. He said “I was just thinking to myself, ‘How can I tell Becky to call me?'” All of this to say….it is amazing to me how the Lord arranges things!!!
Poor Oshe is there trying to buy medical supplies that he doesn’t understand. He needs to talk to me, and the Lord causes me to call at exactly the right moment! We serve a wonderful God….He knows how to arrange His work. We don’t need to be anxious about it! Incidentally, you might have seen on the website our article about the need for houses for 2 evangelists in Alaba. The cost is $5,050 for each house. About a week after that article, we received a check for $7,000 from someone in Texas. And 2 days ago, I got a call. “What projects are you working on in Ethiopia?” “Well, the greatest need we have now is for houses for 2 evangelists.” “How much do they cost?” “$5,050 for each house. We need 2 houses. One has been funded, but we still need money for the other one.” “I’m sending you a check today for $5,000 to cover the cost of the other one.” Out of the clear blue, God sends us the funds….some from Texas, and some from Virginia. He knows what He is doing. We can trust Him. Only let us be faithful & obedient to our part in His work.
Love yall bunches! And so happy that we are serving Him together!
Amazing story huh? We serve an amazing God indeed. He prompts us and motivates us through His spirit to be able to discern His voice. The key is spending time with Him so that we become accustomed to what His voice sounds like. But, please understand, when I say “spending time” with Him, I’m talking about a “walk along, talk along” conversation with Him. Not a “once and done” in the morning prayer or bedtime prayer. You and I are equipped to talk to the Father at any time, at any place, at any moment. Cleanse yourself and get into the mindset of prayer and watch what the Lord will do and be listening for the Great Shepherd’s voice.