Hearing the Voice of God – Part Four

We are looking at the dominate voices we hear on a regular basis…

1> Your own inner voice

2> Other people’s voices

3> The devil’s voice

4> God’s voice…

As a Christian, the voice that you strive to learn to hear and obey is the voice of God speaking to your spirit. He wants to speak to you!

Psalm 46:10 invites us to “be still and know that I am God.” It is so important to take the time to be quiet and listen to the Lord speak. If we meet with a close friend and do all the talking without listening, the relationship is one-sided. In our prayers to the Lord, we should talk, but we must also learn to listen.

God is constantly speaking to us, but like listening to the radio, we must tune in to the right frequency to hear Him. Radio, television, and cell phone signals are around us in the atmosphere continually, but we need the proper receiver to hear these signals or see the pictures projected properly to our TV set. We must place ourselves in a listening posture to hear God’s voice.

Samuel, a young boy who later became a mighty prophet in the Bible, learned as a small boy to hear and recognize the Lord’s voice; but it was a process (1 Samuel 3:1-12). He didn’t even recognize it was the Lord when God first spoke to him.

In the beginning, the voice sounded like Eli’s (the priest in the temple of that time). Perhaps God first spoke to Samuel in a voice that was familiar to him so that he would not be frightened. I believe God often speaks through a voice that we will recognize. Sometimes it may sound like a voice that you will recognize. Sometimes it may sound like your own voice or even your own thoughts, while at other times God may speak through someone you know. If it is God’s voice, even if it is unclear at first, it will always lead to His peace inside you. 

Just like Samuel, you too have to learn to discern if you are hearing the Lord’s voice to another voice. Don’t worry if you feel like a modern-day Samuel who does not recognize God’s voice right away; you will learn in time! Listening and hearing His voice accurately takes time and requires discernment.

Discernment comes with practice. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we can train ourselves to recognize the voice of God above all the various other voices. “Solid food is for the mature people who have been trained to know right from wrong” (Hebrews 5:14 CEV). It is by practicing that we are able to discern whether what we hear is of God, our own voice, the voice of others, or the devil.

Discernment comes with practice. You have to constantly evaluate beliefs, feelings, other people, the media and your own inner life in light of God’s Word. Over time, you train your senses to do it almost by reflex.

Ask God to communicate to you during your prayer times with Him and throughout the day. You will learn more and more to discern the difference between your voice, others’ voices, the voice of the enemy, and the voice of the Holy Spirit. You will learn to hear the voice of God and obey Him. Remember, listening is an art. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Three

Listening is a complex art. Listening for God’s voice and hearing clearly is the most important communications we will ever have. When we listen attentively for God’s voice, He will reward us by speaking to us. The Bible says God rewards rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). He wants us to take time to seek Him and especially the time to listen for His voice.

As soon as you earnestly desire to hear His voice you will become aware of the many other voices that you also hear on a regular basis. Some of them include:

      • Voice of religion
      • Voice of tradition
      • Voice of your parents (family)
      • Voice of your heritage (ethnic group, language group)
      • Your friends have a voice in your life
      • Your music has a voice
      • Your emotions have a voice
      • Your thoughts have a voice
      • Your education has a voice
      • You age group (generation) have a voice
      • The voice of the devil

There are at least four major voices that a Christian will hear within: their own voice, the voice of others, the devil’s voice, and God’s voice.

1> Your own inner voice…

What happens when you hear your own voice instead of God’s? The decisions that we often make originate from our belief systems. Mixed into our belief systems are our personal feelings. This is our own voice which includes our personal preferences and desires, such as whether or not we like pizza, or if we prefer shopping, motorcycles or cherry pie. These things are not wrong, but they are personal preferences, not necessarily the voice of God.

Sometimes we confuse our own desires with the voice of the Lord. Often our soul (thoughts and emotions) can feel under pressure if want something so badly that we confuse it with hearing from God. We must be very careful if we are hearing something that primarily caters to our own creature comforts and desires. God speaks in order to accomplish His will, not ours. 

We quiet our own voice by dying to self. As Christians, we take up our cross and follow Christ. As we daily sacrifice a life of self-centredness for the sake of our Lord who laid down His life for us, we will be able to hear the voice of God more clearly.

2> Other people’s voices… 

Rather than  hearing God’s voice, we may also hear other people’s voices vying for our attention. These voices are not to be confused with those people who give us godly counsel. Instead, there are the voices we hear deep inside which have been placed there by persons who try to sell us their products or philosophies. These are the subconscious voices we have collected over time — the things we have been taught or experienced through life. Whenever these thoughts and opinions are hostile to the Word of God or distort the Word of God, we are told to demolish them (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The truth is that our histories (life stories) mold us, sometimes detrimentally. A middle-aged man told me that he felt he would never amount to anything because he had heard his father speak those words to him as a child. He had allowed this voice spoken years before to influence his life, rather than the voice of His heavenly Father who says, “I love you and I am pleased with you. I have a purpose for your life.”

What we have been told about ourselves and our world (what was reflected back to us even at a very early age) will become those things we believe about ourselves. If these beliefs are in disagreement with God’s truth, they are misbeliefs and distort our ability to hear from God clearly.

3> The voice of the enemy… 

Contrary to popular opinion, the devil does not appear to us in a red jumpsuit with a long tail. He most often comes very slyly as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He may place thoughts into our minds that are contrary to God’s Word, or use well-meaning people to speak words that could water down our faith. The devil often quotes scripture and uses spiritual-sounding language. His goal is to confuse, entrap, and derail. He wants to get people to question God’s character and turn away from Him. He aims to confuse us and get us off track.

How often have you decided to get serious about studying the scriptures and a voice reminds you that you are hungry, or that there is a TV program you really want to watch, or chores that need to be completely immediately? Tell the devil the same thing that Jesus told him, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks’” (Matthew 4:4 TEV). “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7-8).

But you can also hear God’s voice … more next time

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Two

God’s distinct voice stands out!

Jesus told His disciples one day that sheep follow the shepherd, “because they know his voice” (John 10:4). How did they know his voice? Because they learned from experience to trust the voice of their shepherd.

To hear God’s voice clearly, we must have a growing love relationship with God and trust Him. It’s that simple. The better we get to know God, the better we will recognize His voice.

The Bible is filled with examples of common and ordinary people who heard the voice of a mighty God who spoke to them. The end result was lives that were changed.

Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. The Lord startled Moses at a flaming bush in the desert when He called him to deliver the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt. God advised Joshua to be strong and courageous, and gave David fresh strategies for each battle against his enemies. The Lord told Mary she would be the mother of Jesus. God affirmed Jesus at His baptism through a voice from heaven, and Paul was totally transformed by the Lord’s voice on the Damascus Road.

God delights in revealing Himself to us. He promises to answer if we call on Him. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). When we pray, we engage ourselves in conversation with God, and God responds.

These are only the major highlights of God interacting with people in the Bible. And throughout history God has guided and directed His people by speaking to them. The same is still true today as we relate to Him on a personal level. God has made Himself known to me countless times over the years. He has spoken to me in thousands of occasions in a variety of ways. 

Learning to discern God’s voice takes effort on our part. We can get so involved in the affairs of the natural world that we forget to listen. It would be easy if the Lord spoke to us in a deep echo effect, like in the movie, “The Ten Commandments,” where the Lord spoke to Moses in a booming voice! That would certainly get our attention.

The Lord wants us to take the time to listen as we open our hearts to hear. He wants us to become increasingly familiar with His voice as our relationship deepens with Him. The more often we meet with God in prayer and talk to Him, the clearer His voice becomes.

The Bible instructs us to make a concerted effort to meet with the Lord. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). We can’t make demands on God, but we can ask, seek, and knock, and the Bible promises that God will open the door (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; Revelation 3:20). God will reveal Himself to those who humbly seek Him.

God wants us to acknowledge Him in our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6). If we acknowledge a friend, we talk to him, express our appreciation for him, and recognize his presence in our lives. 

Imagine your friends not acknowledging your presence when you are together. You try to talk to them, and they completely ignore you. In fact, they talk right over you as if you were not even there. That is how we treat the Lord if we are not acknowledging Him moment by moment in our lives. If we are not recognizing God’s presence in our daily lives, it is little wonder we are having trouble hearing Him.

The truth is, even when we diligently seek God for an answer, we sometimes find ourselves struggling to hear. We really want to do what the Lord want us to do. We know that we serve a living God who speaks to us, and yet we struggle with the fact that we do not hear as clearly as we would like to.

Other times we think we have heard the Lord’s voice and respond to it, only to find out that we were wrong. Instead of pressing in to find out why we “missed it,” we hesitate to step out in faith the next time. 

Frequently it may seem as if we are trying to tune in to a weak radio signal with a lot of static. In this series of blogs I want you to discover that God wants to speak to you even more than your desire to hear from Him, and He has many different ways to communicate with you. We cannot put Him in a box. 

Although we may wish that God would send a ten foot angel dressed in white so have no doubt it is His voice we are hearing, I believe He often teaches us through our stumbling attempts of trial and error.

Even Jesus’ disciples did not always recognize His voice.

When Jesus joined two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus and began to talk to them, they didn’t recognize Him even though they had walked with Him, talked with Him, and eaten meals with Him for the past three years (Luke 24:13-32). Perhaps they were so immersed in the details of the dark events of the past few days that they couldn’t hear clearly.

I think there is a good chance, however, that they did not see Jesus because they simply did not expect to see Jesus. He appeared to them in an unfamiliar form, at an unexpected time, and their ears remained closed.

Before we criticize these disciples, we must ask ourselves, :How often do we experience the same loss of hearing today”? Could it be that the Lord sometimes speaks to us in ways that are unfamiliar to us, and we don’t recognize His voice? We lament that we can’t hear Him speak, but in reality He has been speaking all along. Could it be that our understanding of hearing His voice is limited? Maybe we have preconceived ideas how God will speak or not speak to us, and they limit us from hearing from God when He speaks. 

I’m convinced we should not get too selective about the method in which the Lord speaks to us. Instead we should stay open for the Lord to speak to us any way He desires. 

God desires to build a relationship with us. One way our relationship is built is by having ongoing dialogue with Him. It is talking and listening to each other. From the very beginning of time, God desired a two-way communication between Him and humankind. Adam and Eve were tuned to God as they “… heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day….”

This is how God wants to relate to us today as well. It is God’s desire to walk with and to communicate with His children. He yearns for you to hear His loving, distinct voice.

Hearing the Voice of God – Part One

If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that God is a God of surprises. We can never limit God in any way, including the way He will speak to us. He created us to communicate with Him and He longs for those times when we do. What we’ll explore in this series of blogs is that we can expect God to speak, but He may speak in unexpected ways.

It would be easier if we could just dial a number on a spiritual cell phone and hear the reassuring voice of God answering, “Hello, this is God speaking!” Yet, in reality, He is speaking to us every day in ways we may often miss. The Bible says, “For God does speak — now one way, now another — though man may not perceive it” (Job 33:14).

The Bible gives us many clues to hearing God’s voice. We’ll discover that are our ears must be tuned to hear Him. The Lord has an enormous range of options for speaking to us. He may use the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, His Word, prayer, circumstances, or other people. The Lord may speak to us in dreams, visions, or even by His audible voice; however, don’t expect God’s audible voice to be the common way He will speak! God’s voice often blends into a melodic harmony to which we have to tune in.

Jesus promised that if we listen to Him closely we will receive more and more from Him. He said, “Be careful what you are hearing. The measure you give will be the measure that comes back to you, and more will be given to you who hear” (Mark 4:24 Amplified Version)

When we take the time to listen carefully, we can know the difference between His voice and other voices that do not match the character of God, His nature and the history of how He has led others before us. Jesus urges us to learn to listen like sheep, “They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognize their call” (John 10:5 Amplified Version).

As His children, His voice becomes familiar to us as we develop a relationship with Him. The Bible says that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are given a deposit of the Holy Spirit as a promise of what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5). With the presence of the Holy Spirit within, we receive the help we need to pray and discern what our heavenly Father is saying to us (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Although we will consider 32 ways the Lord speaks to us in this series of blogs, it is not the final word on how He will choose to communicate. God is sovereign. He speaks in different ways at different times. Our faith must always be in God and not in a certain method.

Among the myriad of ways God speaks, we may not consider some to be particularly spiritual. For example, in the list below you will see that one of the ways God speaks is through common sense. If you want to buy a new house and cannot afford it, God is probably telling you to wait until you can afford to make the down payment as well as the monthly mortgage payments. . That would be common sense.

I believe even those who have experienced divine intervention or amazing angelic visitation will tell you that most often the Lord speaks through the Word of God (Bible), the peace of God (see Colossians 3:15), circumstances, His still small voice, other Christians, and through common sense wisdom.

Even with that said, our God is infinitely amazing and wise and creative that He does not limit Himself to speaking in the same way all of the time. God thinks outside the box! He is a little unpredictable. 

If you want to hear from God, you must trust Him even if you can’t use one safe method or formula to hear from Him. Allow God to surprise you! Trust Him to speak to you. Cultivate your friendship with God. You are in a lifetime walk with the Creator of the universe, and hearing His voice is a skill to be learned over time. 

Thirty-two of the many ways God speaks today…

1> The Bible ….. John 6:63

2> His peace ….. Colossians 3:15

3> Circumstances ….. 1 Corinthians 16:9

4> His Still Small Voice ….. 1 Kings 19:12

5> People ….. Proverbs 24:6

6> Common Sense Wisdom ….. Proverbs 16:21

7> Conviction ….. John 16:8

8> Worship ….. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

9> Authorities ….. Romans 13:1

10> Natural Things ….. Psalm 19:1

11> The Church ….. Hebrews 13:17

12> His Character ….. 1 John 1:9; 4:8

13> Visions ….. Acts 2:17

14> Dreams ….. Acts 2:17

15> A Word of Wisdom ….. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

16> A Word of Knowledge ….. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

17> Discerning of Spirits ….. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

18> Speaking in (Public) Tongues ….. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

19> Prophecy ….. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

20> A Daily Encounter ….. Proverbs 8:34

21> Journaling ….. Habakkuk 2:2-3

22> Prayer ….. Daniel 10:2-3, 10-14

23> Fasting ….. Matthew 6:16-18

24> Angels …. Hebrews 1:14

25> Surprises ….. Numbers 22:28-30

26> The Unique Way He Made Us …..    Proverbs 22:6

27> Signs ….. Judges 6:36-40

28> Practicing His Presence ….. Genesis 5:24

29> His Silence ….. Psalm 139:7-8

30> Partial Revelation ….. 1 Corinthians 13:9

31> Audible …. Mark 1:9-10; Exodus 33:12-14

32> Whisper …. 1 Kings 19:12

Hearing the Voice of God – Part 10

God speaks, as well, through COMMON SENSE.

“O Lord, listen to my prayers; give me the common sense you promised” (Psalm 119:169 LB)

The first time you go hiking and camping in the snow, you are told that certain things you do out in the wilderness are “simply common sense.” You may not be sure what this means the first time you go winter camping, but you will soon realize that keeping your socks dry is “common sense.” After one experience of wet socks and the consequences of frozen socks, the next time, your experience tells you that it is just common sense to keep your feet dry!

It I amazing to me that so many people seem to think that all their common sense must vanish in order for them to be really spiritual. It is often just the opposite. God gave us common sense as a gift from Him. I like to call it “common sense wisdom.”  

Common sense is an ability to look at things straightforwardly. This kind of common sense is mostly based on our experiences and not on our knowledge. In other words, our previous experiences add up to knowing intuitively what makes sense in a certain situation. As we accumulate more wisdom throughout life, we can automatically sense what to do in a certain situation because it is based on our past experiences. We can use our own sound judgment to make a decision.

Wisdom goes hand-in-hand with common sense. Straight thinking is the result of both experience and wisdom. The Bible emphasizes that we should ask for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Our God desires to give us wisdom if we only ask and believe; He will give it to us.

The book of Proverbs is a great source for common sense. I encourage you to read at least a few verses of Proverbs or Psalms regularly. The book of Psalms encourages us, builds us up, and helps us express our innermost feelings. Proverbs, with its common sense wisdom, shows us how to stay out of trouble. 

Slowly read through the following Scriptures on common sense from the books of Psalms and Proverbs. These verses tell us it is possible for you and me to accumulate godly common sense wisdom.

The man who knows right from wrong and has good judgment and common sense is happier than the man who is immensely rich! For such wisdom is far more valuable than precious jewels. Nothing else compares with it. (Proverbs 3:13 LB)

Have two goals: wisdom—that is, knowing and doing right—and common sense. Don’t let them slip away, for they fill you with living energy and bring you honour and respect. (Proverbs 3:21-22 LB)

“Learn to be wise,” he said, “and develop good judgment and common sense! I cannot overemphasize this point” (Proverbs 4:5 LB)

Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And with your wisdom, develop common sense and good judgment. (Proverbs 4:7 LB)

Men with common sense are admired as counsellors (Proverbs 10:13a)

A godly man gives good advice, but a rebel is destroyed by lack of common sense (Proverbs 10:21 LB)

A mocker never finds the wisdom he claims he is looking for, yet it comes easily to the man with common sense. (Proverbs 14:6 LB)

Wisdom is enshrined in the hearts of men of common sense, but it must shout loudly before fools will hear it. (Proverbs 14:33 LB)

The wise man is known by his common sense, and a pleasant teacher is the best. (Proverbs 16:21 LB)

Lord, deal with me in loving-kindness, and teach me, your servant, to obey; for I am your servant; therefore give me common sense to apply your rules to everything I do. (Psalm 119:124-125 LB)

Never tire of loyalty and kindness. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart. If you want favour with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. (Proverbs 3:3-4 LB)

A rebuke to a man of common sense is more effective than a hundred lashes on the back of a rebel. (Proverbs 17:10 LB)

The man who strays away from common sense will end up dead! (Proverbs 21:16 LB)

Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts. (Proverbs 24:3 LB)

If people would listen to the common sense wisdom that comes from God, they could spare themselves a lot of trouble. Common sense has a remarkable capacity to interpret our current situation in light of our history and God’s Word. As we hear God speak to us, we can make a godly decision rather than a bad one. 

Paul, the apostle, told the Corinthians Christians that they should learn to judge the small matters among themselves now, because at the end of this age, the resurrected saints will help to judge the world and even angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). As Christians, we can learn to exercise good and wise judgment or common sense right now, in this life. Common sense allows us to make evaluations and assessments according to God’s wisdom. God has given us a sound mind.

When we walk in the Spirit, we are in tune with God’s voice and can make common sense decisions according to God’s will and wisdom. In Acts, the Jerusalem church leaders made a decision by saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28). God entrusts us as His children to use our common sense as we seek the Spirit’s guidance. The audible voice of God or a prophecy or a dream or a vision is not needed when common sense wisdom is already telling us what to do.

Not everything that seems like common sense will be the voice of God speaking, however. We need to use wisdom and discernment as well the wisdom that comes from a multitude of counsellors (see Part 9). 

There are times when God speaks and it will go against what you think is common sense. I am sure the widow in 1 Kings 17 had second thoughts about giving her last flour and oil to Elijah. It just did not make sense to make a meal for Elijah when she and her sons were about to starve. But Elijah told the widow that God had spoken, and the flour and the oil would not run dry. Their obedience to the Lord’s voice caused a supernatural miracle of abundance.

God’s voice seemed the opposite of common sense in another biblical story in 2 Kings 5. The prophet Elisha told Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan river seven times and he would be healed of leprosy. Common sense might tell you that washing yourself in a dirty river would not be good for your health. Additionally, common sense would tell you that if you dipped in one time and were not cured, six more times wouldn’t do it either. But Naaman chose to trust that God was speaking through the prophet even though bit did not make sense. He kept dipping himself seven times until he was healed.

When we do get a “rhema” message from God, we need to use common sense wisdom in the choices we make to walk that ‘rhema” into reality. I have also found that if God doesn’t speak to me specifically it does not mean He is not leading me. There are some issues about which God already trusts me and you to know what is right or wrong and the way we should go. We don’t need a “specific word” from God; however, we must always stay open to waiting on Him to see if there is a need for Him to intervene in the way we are planning to go or in the choices we are making.

God tells us to do the seeking, and He does the speaking. We can be assured that He is the Spirit of wisdom and He will not lead us to do things or make decisions that are unwise.