Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twenty

Daily time set aside to meet with God should be like a visit with your closest friend. We make time for close friends and look forward to their visits with us. The Lord cherishes time with us too. He is a God of relationship. He created use with a desire to have close and intimate relationships. First and foremost, we were created to have a relationship with Him and then with one another.

Why is it so vitally important for every believer to have a daily time with God? Although we “pray without ceasing” and walk with the Lord minute by minute, setting a special time of day to be alone with the Lord is vital to relating heart-to-heart with God. It helps to give a divine rhythm to our daily routine as we place ourselves in a position to hear from God.

Yet so frequently, as Christians we find it hard to commit to a daily time with God. Often, we fall into a rut of allowing our time to become a drudgery or an obligation.

Max Lacado writes that because some of us have tried and not been successful, we practice a type of surrogate spirituality where we rely on others to spend time with God and try to benefit from their experience.

Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? Isn’t that why we read Christian books? These folks are good at daily devotions. I’ll just learn from them. If that is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? I don’t think so.

You don’t do that with vacations. You don’t say, “Vacations are such a hassle, packing bags and travelling. I’m going to send someone on vacation for me. When he returns, I’ll hear all about it and be spared all the inconvenience.” Would you do that? No! You want the experience firsthand. You want the sights firsthand, and you want to rest firsthand. Certain things no one can do for you. 

The simple fact remains — if you truly want an intimate, grace-filled relationship with God, we have to spend time alone with Him on a regular basis.Listening to God is a firsthand experience. 

Ralph Neighbour suggests that our meeting time with God would involve so much more than a one-way conversation in which we speak to God. He says, “It also involves listening to Him, and everyone needs a listening room where we can hear the directions of God for our own life and needs, the needs of others, and for His assignment to us.

A Japanese pastor invited an American pastor to visit his home. The Japanese pastor took his guest to a lovely garden behind the house, where a one-room cottage stood. The pastor explained. “This is my listening room.”

Our listening room is more an attitude, a value of our lives, than a special room built for that purpose. It is a condition in which we not only speak to Him, but also hear from Him. God does speak.

When we spend time listening for God to speak, He will! Our daily alone time with God gives us the opportunity to hear Him speak so that we can be encouraged. 

Avoiding legalistic approaches to spending time with the Lord will help to keep the time fresh and inviting. First of all, we should never allow others’ expectations to manipulate our emotions and make us feel guilty for not devoting an hour or two alone with God each day. Although some people will easily spend an hour or more each day with God, others may have to start at five, ten, or fifteen minutes, and increase it over time. Allow the peace of God to rule in your heart about the time you believe God wants you to spend with Him. The best length of time spent with God is the time you will actually practice! Start with a realistic goal.

If you want your encounters to stay fresh, you cannot do it out of legalism but instead because you hear God calling you each day saying, “Arise, my love … and come away…” (Song of Solomon 2:10). If you miss a day or two, God is not disappointed in you. He always welcomes you back with open arms. He is thrilled when you seek a friendship with Him.

You should pick the time of day that works for you. It works best for me to spend time alone with the Lord in the morning. I find that I am most alert and can give God my peak concentration in the morning; but everyone is different. So find the time, readjust your priorities, and plan for it.

Two main activities of spending time with God are reading the Bible and prayer. The Bible is God speaking to humanity. Reading the Bible opens the door to communication from God. 

Trying to listen for God’s voice without being dedicated to spending time in God’s Word on a regular basis will open us up to hearing voices that are not from the Lord. Knowing the written Word of God protects us from deception. There are many evil spirits ready to whisper lies to us if we are not prepared spiritually by reading and studying the Word of God regularly.

Knowledge of the Word is of vital importance to us in discerning the voice of God. If we don’t know the Word, we won’t have anything with which to compare the ideas and arguments that war against God’s perfect will for our lives. The devil can give us ideas that may make sense to us, but just because something seems logical does not necessarily mean it is from God. We may hear what we want to hear, but it doesn’t mean we have heard from God. Any idea can feel  good to our emotions but fail to give us lasting peace when it isn’t in line with God’s Word. 

Prayer is, of course, simply talking with God from our heart. It is a two-way conversation between you and God. When you spend time alone with a friend you start to understand your friend’s hopes, dreams, needs, and wants. You do this by speaking and taking the time to listen to your friend. Communication is incomplete if all you do is talk.

The more listening time you spend with your heavenly Father, the better you will understand His heart for you. Do not expect God to function simply as a drive-through fast food restaurant. While we may place our order (heart’s desire), we must take time to hear His heart’s desire on the matter. God always knows what is best and always has the timing exact. 

God seeks to quiet the noise in order to make way for His voice to be heard. When is the last time you got away for an extended period of time without technology at your fingertips, where you just sat and quieted yourself by the beach, or simply closed the door and sat in silence waiting on God? Too often life is such a rush that we rush up to God, say a few hurried prayers and rush away again.

To hear God’s voice, we must learn to find ways to be quiet and listen for the Lord to speak. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and worship Him and Him only without distractions. The Bible says that Jesus departed to a lonely place to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35), and after a day’s ministry, He went to a mountain to pray and be alone with God (Luke 5:16).

As you talk to God and spend a quiet time listening, you can draw on His presence and power to give your spiritual life energy and vitality. You will begin to understand Him better and know what He want you to do. 

God desires our closeness. He wants our unwavering love. Developing a love relationship with the Lord changes us from the depths of our beings. We will learn to hear His voice more clearly when we spend time with Him. Let God have all of you as you develop a listening heart that is open to hear His whispers. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Nineteen

God speaks to His people (plural) through the gift of prophecy. Prophecy is always to a corporate group – a household, a family, a church, a town, a region or province, a country. His prophetic words will speak about the present and the future so as to impart vision and declare what He sees as the potential the people have and the opportunities He is offering to them. When God speaks prophetically over a single person it is because this person is a leader of a group (a church, a city, a country) and the vast majority of the prophetic word will really be dealing with the group and the work that will be accomplished or the direction taken by the group under the leadership of that leader.

The key purpose of the prophetic words is to build up, cheer up, and stir up. 1 Corinthians 14:3 states, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” In the Old Testament only the prophets could prophesy. In the New Testament Church-era everyone who is Baptized in the Holy Spirit can prophecy. We see this in Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth

2 Corinthians 14:31, 39 “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged … So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

In the Old Testament prophecy was used to bring judgment, but in the New Testament, it is to bring direction and create vision for God’s people. It speaks of the group’s potential and the opportunities God is placing before the group. It most often deals with the future such as when Agabus the prophet gave a prophetic word in the book of Acts when he predicted a famine, while at other times it can be a message of encouragement for God’s people. 

God is a God of the “now.” He wants Hs people to receive a current word from Him so we know what He is saying and doing today. We describe God’s Word as both logos and rhema. Prophecy is a rhema word that sometimes clarifies and emphasizes God’s already revealed heart, mind, and His plans in His logos Word – the Bible. A rhema word will never conflict with the written Word; in fact, it often makes the Bible come alive to us.

When God says something prophetically to us, He is speaking out and releasing our potential. God is supernatural, and as Christians, we must, by definition, be supernatural as well. People today are hungry for the supernatural as we can see by the themes of many of the books people are reading and the menu of television shows we have placed before us day after day. I believe God places this desire for the supernatural in us, yet the enemy is quick to take advantage and produces a counterfeit that draws people away from God, rather than closer to Him.

True prophetic words come from God and draw us closer to Him. They are edifying words that God speaks so we can hear Him as His people. When God’s rhema word becomes a reality to us, we realize that God is taking notice and is interested in our situation and circumstances. He has heard us and spoken to us. 

Dr. Bill Hamon defines prophecy as: “…simply God communicating His thoughts and intents to mankind. When a true prophecy is given, the Holy Spirit inspires someone to communicate God’s pure and exact words to a group for whom they are intended. It is delivered without any additions or subtractions by the one prophesying, including any applications or interpretations suggested by the one speaking. To be most effective, it must also be delivered in God’s timing and with the proper spirit or attitude.”

The New Testament prophets revealed Jesus through their words of encouragement and insights on coming events, and it the model for the church today. The Bible gives many examples of prophecies that were spoken to give direction to the people of God.

Agabus the prophet prophesied that if Paul went up to Jerusalem he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles. It happened just as it was prophesied — Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts, Chapters 21 and 22). Timothy received a spiritual gift through a prophetic word when the elders laid hands on him and prayed for him (1 Timothy 4:14). Paul’s word over Timothy referenced his actions on behalf of the church he was leading.

Many times prophecies are confirmations of those things the Lord has already spoken to us in our hearts. At other times the Lord may use prophecy to give us clear direction for our lives. Either way, the prophecy must be in line with the Word of God and our spirits must affirm it.

All prophecy needs to be tested, according to the Scriptures. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 states: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” We should always, of course, test the words received to the written Word of God. If it does not line up with the Bible, do not receive it.

We must especially test a prophetic word for timing. It may be for today or it may be for ten years down the road. We must be careful not to assume we know what every prophecy means immediately. Timing is always a critical part of seeing a prophetic word come to pass. Getting the wrong timing for prophetic words is the most common error made in processing prophecy. 

If the prophecy received doesn’t bear witness and agreement in your heart, you often know it by a lack of peace in your spirit. Something tells you things are not quite right. There are a lot of well-meaning people who think they are hearing from God for others, but the truth is they are not. If someone prophecies something to you that is not already in your heart, then I suggest you write down the words that are spoken and wait for the Lord to reveal to you whether or not the words are from Him. If it is from God, He will clearly show you. 

The Lord desires to place His words in our mouths and speak through us prophetically to others. Jesus promises to “…give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15).

I believe God wants us to be encouraged with prophecies that help us to know Him better. We can trust that, as His sheep, we will learn to recognize His voice (see: John 10:3-4), all the while remembering that prophecy is just one of the ways God speaks to us and should not be used exclusively to hear from God. Nevertheless, let’s continue to seek Him and keep our hearts open as He speaks prophetic words that help refresh and encourage our walk with Him. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Eighteen

Because God longs for a close relationship with us, He freely gives us spiritual gifts that serve as a means of communication — a divine link between us and God. Spiritual gifts are not meant to be mysterious. We are to use spiritual gifts to communicate with the Lord and with others. We can hear God through spiritual gifts! The Lord will often use these gifts to speak directly to us as well as to speak to others, especially non-believers, through us. 

God wants us to understand and use spiritual gifts so we can be both strengthen and involved in service and ministry to others. Paul understood this encouragement that comes through gifts when he wrote to the believes in the capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome. He writes, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). 

The Lord gave to His church at least nine different supernatural spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

These gifts are deposited in a believer when he or she is Baptized in the Holy Spirit (see: Acts 1:5, 8 and Acts 2:1-4)

The first detail we notice about these gifts is that they come from the Holy Spirit. Each of these gifts is supernatural in nature. And, they function in our lives better when we are in good, solid “fellowship” with the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

The word “fellowship means:

    • To socially interact with
    • The partner with
    • To participate with

These gifts allow us to see, know, and do things what we are naturally incapable of accomplishing on our own. God gives us these abilities or gifts that we would have no way of achieving with our natural abilities. For example, although every Christian should be able to pray for healing for those who are ill, some individuals have the healing touch of God flowing through them. This is the supernatural gift of healing. If we use these spiritual gifts in God’s way and in His power, not only will we benefit but others will as well. 

As we are working with the topic “Hearing the Voice of God” we will look directly at the three key gifts by which God communicates with us and allows us to minister to others.

A Word of Wisdom is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to know something about a person or a situation that you could not have known if God had not revealed it to you. This gift always deals with information about the person’s future. Jesus flowed in this gift when speaking of Peter’s future and the way he would die as seen in John 21:18-19)

A Word of Knowledge is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to know something about a person or a situation that you could not have known if God had not revealed it to you. This gift always deals with information about the person’s past or present. Jesus flowed in this gift when speaking to the woman at the well in John, chapter 4. He knew about the woman’s past 5 husbands and the fact that she was presently living with a man she was not married to.

The Discerning of Spirits is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to see into the spirit realm and see light and darkness, angels and demons, good and even, as well as the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts. Jesus used this gift in Matthew 9:4 and Matthew 24:1-2.

God also uses the other information gifts to minister to people … Speaking in (public) tongues, Interpretation of (public) tongues, and prophecy. And, He touches lives with His power gifts: Gifts of Healings, Special faith, and the Working of Miracles. However, the key gifts used to speak to us and to others are a Word Of Wisdom, a Word of Knowledge, and the Discerning of Spirits.

One other gift that He uses to communicate with us is the gift of prophecy. He uses this gift to speak to corporate groups such as a family, a city, a region, a country. 

We will look at prophecy next time.

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Seventeen

God uses visions and dreams to proclaim and reveal His loving guidance to us.

Throughout the Bible, God sometimes spoke to His people through visions and dreams. They had the various purposes of directing, consoling, confirming, clarifying, instructing, warning, or encouraging God’s people. The Bible reveals that visions and dreams are an important part of the Latter Day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17)

Down through the ages, including the church today, God gives people visions and dreams that clarify their calling or deepen their faith, while giving them a deep assurance from the Lord. Because visions and dreams can be symbolic and thus misinterpreted, many in Western Christianity do not take their visions or dreams seriously. 

Just because visions and dreams have caused confusion for some in the Body of Christ today does not mean we should dismiss them. We see countless examples in both the Old and New Testaments of people receiving guidance from God through visions and dreams. The Bible tells us that God still speaks through visions and dreams and we must be aware of these “whispers in our ears.”

Job 33:14-17 NLT “For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.”

Visions and dreams from the Lord give us important information that should not be ignored.

How can we discern and recognize God’s voice in visions and dreams? First of all, it is important for Christians to be rooted and grounded in the Bible and evaluate every supernatural experience by the Word. We want to be confident that visions and dreams are given for the purpose of guidance or protection, that they glorify our Lord Jesus Christ and are in line with the truths of Scripture.

In addition, we need to be in communication with other believers in our local church so we can receive spiritual discernment for our visions and dreams. Consequently, if you have a dram that you believe is God is using to speak to you but you don’t understand it, look for someone who is more mature in the Lord and ask for their advice.

Paul the apostle was speaking of his own experience when he revealed to his fellow believers an amazing vision the Lord gave to him.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”

Some believe the Lord gave Paul this vision of heaven that could not be described adequately in human language to strengthen him for his special mission and the exceptional suffering he would endure.

Unlike dreams which occur during our sleep, visions are experiences of intense imagery, sound, and feeling occurring during the waking state. There are at least two kinds of visions. One is often referred to as an open vision, which happens when our eyes are open, but you see only the spirit realm instead of your natural surroundings. This is the kind of vision Paul had when he had the vision of heaven. He was so caught up in the vision, he was unaware of his natural surroundings. It almost seemed to him as if he was in heaven itself; it was so real.

These open visions are external views that are like watching a movie. As with dreams, God may or may not give you the interpretation. Never presume to know the meaning. Always allow God to reveal it.

Another kind of vision you can experience is when you see things “in the spirit.” This is a type of impression that the Lord places in your mind and spirit. This is often referred to as a closed vision. These impressions or pictures in your mind are a type of vision the Lord can give to you.

There have been times when I was looking at someone, but in my spirit, I was seeing something concerning that person that my natural eyes did not perceive. Sometimes, the Lord may want us to reveal that information to the person, and other times the information was revealed so that we can pray specifically for the individual and we do not need to share what we saw.

Visions are definitely used by God, but we must be cautious and use wisdom and test the spirits as the Bible instructs us to.

1 John 4:1-3 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Let me encourage you to always examine both the messenger and the message of a vision. There is a counterfeit for everything, but if you walk in awe of His greatness and power and stay in fellowship with fellow believers, you will know the difference. 

When God speaks to us through visions, we are awake. When He speaks to us through dreams, they occur while we are asleep. While our body is at rest, our spirit and mind are quite active. We are “thinking” while sleeping. That’s why we can wake up with a song on our lips or wake up with feelings of anger.

Dreams are one of the valid ways God can speak to us, but this is also an area in which people can easily get off balance. Most people dream nightly, and their dreams are not all spiritual dreams. Did you ever wake up from a dream and wonder about its meaning, purpose, and origin? Sometimes it seems so vivid and real but you are not sure if it was the pizza speaking from a late night snack or if God is trying to speak to you.

The Bible has valued the content of dreams for divine revelation down through the ages. Sometimes they were dreams of warning or consolation or guidance. In the Old Testament, God spoke to Joseph in a dream, and Joseph interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, as well as for Pharaoh’s servants with whom he was in prison (Genesis, Chapters 40 and 41). The Lord spoke to Jospeh, the step-father of Jesus, through a dream, telling him to marry Mary, go to Egypt and then to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew, Chapters 1 and 2). Another time, God warned the wise men to go home a different way in a dream. 

These dreams had a specific purpose and the message was clear. Those who received the dreams acted in obedience to God. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the infanticide ordered by King Herod (Matthew 2:19-23). The wise men went home on a different route, thus avoiding Herod.

Sometimes dreams are a confirmation of what the Lord has already spoken to the person.

God sometimes gives dreams to people to console them in life’s difficulties. The mother of the early church father, Augustine, was distressed over her then pre-Christian son’s immoral lifestyle and begged God for his salvation. The Holy Spirit gave her a dream that showed her worshipping in heaven and to her great joy, there beside her was her son Augustine. She accepted the dream as a promise that Augustine would come to faith in Jesus, which of course he did later.

God promised that we would receive dreams in these last days. For most people they are not daily occurrences, although it seems that there are some people who are more prone to opening their spiritual eyes and receiving visions and dreams from the Lord than others.

So how can we tell if it is God’s voice in a dream, the enemy’s voice in a dream, or the voice of eating dinner too late in the evening. Some dreams are straightforward and clear. We know that they are revealed to clarify something, instruct us, or warn or encourage us in our lives. Some dreams are given to us from the Lord only to alert us to pray and intercede.

We must use caution, however, if dreams confuse us. We should not leap to false conclusions about dream meanings if they are not clear. Some dreams are abstract and cannot be interpreted concretely. 

If a dream troubles you, you should discuss it with a trusted mentor or pastor who may be able to give you further insights. There are times when Satan will try to deceive us or cause fear through a dream. If a dream contradicts Scripture, it is clearly not of God. 

Dreams from God are given to us when God chooses. Simply put, God will speak to us in dreams to reveal Himself to us in a personal way, and the dreams will confirm Scripture, not contradict it.

Some believers write their dreams down to see if they come to pass. If you are prone to dreams, may I suggest that you maintain a “dream log” placed near your bed so that when awakening in the morning, you can record what you remember. Most of us tend to let a dream escape us if we do not write it down.

Once it is recalled and written, we can then begin to pray over it. Counsel with a trusted friend spiritual overseer, and await its fulfillment. Often these written journals become needed words of encouragement sometime in the future, and often you many come across someone who reminds you of the dream and suddenly realize it may be a word of encouragement to them.

In conclusion, I encourage you to use discernment, wisdom, and balance in hearing God through visions and dreams If it is God speaking to you, you will have confirmation in your heart and from others that the Lord is truly speaking to you or trying to show you something. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Sixteen

God speaks to us through His character. God’s basic character is love and so He speaks to us and responds to us from within His loving and compassionate character.

How we see the character of God affects our relationship with Him. Since God will never tell us to do anything that is outside His character, we must get to know the very nature of God so we can be sure we are truly hearing from Him. We must understand His compassionate nature and how He longs for our intimacy and trust.

One of the most familiar verse in the Bible states, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God’s nature is revealed in this revelation of God as the Lover of humankind. God is love (1 John 4:7-8) and He loves us. We are precious in His sight and He yearns for us. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He is passionately pursuing us!  

The familiar scripture verse goes on to say that God so loved the world that “He gave…” He not only wants us to be lovers of people as He is, He wants us to be givers. He wants us to act like He does — to live by His character. For example, He always tells the truth. He sets the example for us to do the same and be truthful people, true to our word.

The Bible tells us that God “…make known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7 NKJV). Because Moses was in relationship with the Lord, he had learned to know the character of the Lord; however, the children of Israel only saw the things that God did because they did not have a personal relationship with Him. The saw His actions – the what God did – without knowing the ‘why’ behind the actions. When we get to know God and develop a love relationship with Him, we will know what God wants us to do and why He wants us to do it. He will “make known” His ways to us and we will hear His voice clearly.

So, God reveals His character through His love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 offers us a description of what love is. When we substitute the word “God” for “love” in these verses, we get an accurate picture of God’s character. 

Love (God) is patient and kind; love (God) does not envy or boast; it (He) is not arrogant or rude. It (He) does not insist on its own way; it (He) is not irritable or resentful; it (He) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love (God) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love (God) never fails.

Another version reads (substituting God for the word ‘love’):

“God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud, God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs, God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres, God never fails.”

God’s love is revealed so that mankind can be liberated. The Scriptures tell us the Lord is one “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…” (Psalm 103:3-4 NKJV). This is who our God is! This is His basic character. He is a God who is forgiving and a God of healing who wants to redeem our lives from destruction. 

What does it mean for God to redeem us?

The word ‘redeem’ means ‘to buy back.’ I’ve heard the story of a young boy, who after spending many hours constructing a little boat, took it to the lake to sail. With a long string attached to the boat, the boy was having a great time as the boat floated and bobbed. Suddenly, the string tore. In an instant, he lost his prized possession and could only watch as the boat headed down stream where it eventually exited into the river. He thought it was gone forever.

Several years later, this lad entered a pawn shop in a town downstream from where he grew up. He spotted the boat that he had built years before. The young man approached the storekeeper and said, “This is my boat. My initials are carved on the bottom.”

The owner said, “Well, I’m sorry, but someone brought that boat into my store and I bought it from him. You’ll ned to pay me for it.” The young man immediately paid the shopkeeper so he could buy back his cherished boat.

This is a picture of what God did for us. God made you and me. As we went our own way, He loved us so much He redeemed us and bought us back again at great cost – the cost of His Son’s life.

When you responded to God’s offer of reconciliation that is possible because of Jesus’ death on the cross, a marvellous transformation occurred. You became a brand new person. You are a new creation in Christ. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” And, you now have the supernatural ability to actually hear the voice of God (John 10:3-4)

An elephant becoming a butterfly would be no greater miracle! Yes, there is an indescribable miracle that happens inside of us as we live by faith in Jesus. Faith is believing and trusting in God and God alone. It’s not a matter of “turning over a new leaf” or just changing some of our old ways of doing things. No, a miracle has happened inside. We know by faith in the Word of God that we are new creations in Jesus Christ. Christianity is walking by faith, not by sight! We know we can hear God speak to us because Christ now lives in us (Galatians 2:20).

One of the basic markers of God’s voice is that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God (John 1:1). We know we are hearing God’s voice when we compare what we are hearing with the character, words, spirit and acts of Christ. The resurrection of Jesus – the fact that He is alive –  is central to hearing from God. Because He is alive He still speaks to us today. The Holy Spirit speaks to our born again spirit and we can know His voice and accurately hear what He is speaking to us. 

Hebrews 1:2 asserts that God has spoken through His Son. If we want to hear from God, we will follow Jesus and observe His words. We know we are hearing God’s voice when it matches the character and words of Jesus. Listen to Him!

Sometimes we feel we cannot hear from God because we are not righteous enough. There is sin in our currently life situation. But the truth is that Jesus has made us righteous by faith in Him. When God looks at us He sees Jesus first!

In the Chinese language, the word for “righteousness” is the combination of two pictures. On top is the figure of a lamb; directly beneath is that of a person. What a perfect image of the righteousness that Christ alone provides! Whenever the Father looks at you, He first sees the perfect Lamb of God, ‘hiding’ you. Certainly God is aware of any sin in our lives, but that isn’t what He’s primarily aware of in any believer. What He sees first and foremost is the beauty of His Son enveloping us.

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey with Christ, God sees the beauty of Jesus in you. 

You can have a full life! Christ wants to give us a full, abundant life, and He tells us so when He says, “I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

The word ‘life’ is translated from the Greek word “Zoe” which means the very nature of God and source of life. The abundant life, then, is life filled with the very nature of God inside of us. This life is abundant in quantity and quality — overflowing life. That is the kind of life that God has prepared for us as His children. 

As we learn to walk and talk with God over the years, we get to know His heart, His character, and His ways. If we are committed to following His character and His ways, He can give us a greater liberty because we become “one with Him.” As our spirit becomes filled with His Spirit, and our desires begin to merge with His, we walk in His ways. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one (John 10:30) and “I do nothing win my own but speak just what the Father has taught Me” (John 8:28). Jesus was one with His Father and was given freedom by His Father on the earth. He knew His heavenly Father so well that He modeled His Father’s character and only did what He saw His Father doing. 

The Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 20:4, 37:4). This means He puts His desires into our hearts as we follow Him. This means He slowly changes our desires to come into line with His plan and purpose for our life – His desires for us. This means God speaks to us by slowly adjusting the desires of our hearts even when we are not aware that He is doing so. 

Let’s hear Him speak to us by what He reveals through His character that extends to each of us His unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and righteousness. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Fifteen

God can and does speak to us through His Church. God’s assignments are usually too big for you to accomplish on your own so you need the help and input of others.

With this in mind, He provides other believers with whom you can have regular fellowship who can also help you hear from God. Although we live in a large global planet that links us with others halfway around the world with the click of an internet connection, communication alone does not give us the authentic fellowship we need with other people. What people are looking for today are real relationships that offer genuine connection with others that gives them a real sense of being understood and loved. We can find this bona fide fellowship and connection in the church — the body of Christ where a community of believers interact to encourage each other to hear from God.

The Bible says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). It is extremely difficult to live the Christian life alone. Believers need to fellowship together and encourage one another daily. We also need other believers to enable us to hear God more frequently and more accurately. 

The church is not a building or a meeting or a program. The church of Jesus Christ is simply people. As believers, we are the church. The word ‘church’ literally means called out ones. The church then, is a group of people who have been called out of spiritual darkness into the light of God’s Kingdom.

When we come to Christ, we are immediately a part of the universal church of Christ which includes every believer who has ever named the Name of Christ from every nation of the world. Jesus talked about His universal church in the gospels. “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gats of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

But the word ‘church’ also refers to the local church — the local body of Christ, Within God’s universal church family are local churches in each community which provide the support and love each believer needs. Whether you are a part of a local community church, a megachurch, or a small house church, the Lord wants to speak to you through the leadership there and through fellow believers.

Every believer needs a “support system” to survive. We get that support system from being committed to other believers in a local church and having regular fellowship with them. We are part of a spiritual family — a family of the redeemed. This spiritual family gives us a place to grow and learn from other believers how to live our Christian lives. We need this input from others. God will often speak through these members.

Sometimes, through disillusionment, disappointment, or spiritual pride, believers find themselves uninvolved in a local church.This leaves them very vulnerable. The Bible tells us that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The local church is often “the way out” the Lord has prepared for His people during an onslaught of the devil. When we fellowship with other believers, we realize that we are not alone in the temptations that we face. We receive spiritual protection, strength, and oversight from the spiritual leaders the Lord has placed in our lives. The Lord’s plan is to use the local church to protect us, help us grow, and equip us to be all that we can be in Jesus Christ.

D.L. Moody, an evangelist from the late 1800’s, was used of the Lord to lead a million people to Christ. Many times when he preached, he had a choir that included singers from many churches in the community in which he was preaching. A lady came to him one day and said, “Mr. Moody, I would like to sing in your choir.” When Moody asked her which local church she represented, she said, “I am involved in the universal church.”

Moody said to her, “Then find the pastor of the universal church and sing in his choir.” In other words, Moody was concerned about this lady’s lack of involvement in a local church. He recognized the need to be committed to a local church for spiritual protection and accountability. Though the church is not perfect, God designed the church to be a blessing to believers. The church might have a few spots and wrinkles, but she is still engaged to the bridegroom and He is committed to make her beautiful.

Spiritual leaders as well as other believers in the local church are there to exhort you, comfort you, and uphold you in prayer. God places spiritual leaders in our lives who are accountable to God and to other spiritual leaders to watch out for us. 

Hebrews 13:7, 17 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith … Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Spiritual leaders in our lives give us spiritual protection, and we need to follow their example as they place their faith in Jesus Christ. We should remember them, receive the Word of God from them, obey them, be submissive to them, and do all that we can so their responsibility is joyful and not a burden. God often uses them as His mouthpiece to speak to us. The Bible tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Lions prey on strays, those who are isolated from the herd. That’s why we need church leaders — to protect us and encourage us. The Lord has called us to recognize and honour those He has placed in our lives as spiritual leaders.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

I spend much of my time travelling locally, nationally, and internationally and I have been blesses over and over again by the spiritual leaders that the Lord has placed in my life.

I am grateful to the Lord for using spiritual leaders  in my life to speak to me again and again over the past years because I know I cannot do it on my own.

Because you cannot accomplish all you want on your own, God will be faithful to speak to you through the believers and spiritual leaders He has placed in your life in the local church. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Fourteen

Another way that God speaks to us is through natural things. Creation shouts out God’s glory continuously, completely, and clearly.

I love it when I am in Kazakhstan, especially in the southern part of the nation. There I live right in a major valley surrounded by magnificent mountains. My view every morning when I get up are these mountain peaks standing majestically waiting to greet the rising sun. In the mountains (I have been to the top several times) I experience God’s majesty in the breathtaking views across a valley to the snow-capped peaks in the distance. God speaks to me through the nature that He has created. 

The Bible confirms that God reveals Himself through nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands …” 

Psalm 29:3-9 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

In nature, we discover a nonstop manifestation of God. Nature sends a clear signal that everyone can receive.

God told Abraham to look at the stars to get a vision of his future family. The vast starry sky symbolized the countless ancestors that God promised He would give Abraham (Genesis 15:5).

From the beginning of creation, God has shown what His eternal power and character are like by all He has made (Romans 1:20). Even those who are not living in the will of God can perceive right from wrong and instinctively know that God exists because nature itself testifies of His existence. That’s why people cannot claim ignorance of God as an excuse for refusing to honour Him. Atheists will some day stand before the Lord and realize that God spoke through His handiwork and they ignored this revelation in nature (Romans 1:21).

It was through the very intricate design of God’s handiwork — a child — that God spoke to the American writer, Whittaker Chambers, when he was still an atheist. He was observing his infant daughter and was struck by the fact that such an exquisite creature was not an accident or a freak of nature. He recalls in his autobiography:

“I was sitting in our apartment … my daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life … My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear — those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature. They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind … I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.”

God revealed Himself clearly in the design of a child. Mr. Chambers could not ignore God’s voice speaking to him.

While on this earth, Jesus often used natural things to teach spiritual lessons so we could more clearly understand how God communicated with mankind. Jesus told us to consider the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28) and the ravens of the air (Luke 12:24). Meditating on how God adorns the fields and provides for the birds will remind us that if He cares so completely for nature, He cares even more deeply for mankind whom He made in His own image.

In the parable of the farmer and the seed, Jesus used a natural phenomenon like a seed sprouting and growing to teach us the spiritual truth that when the message of the Gospel is sown in our hearts, it produces growth and fruitfulness spontaneously (Mark 4:26-29).

The Pharisees pretended they wanted to see evidence that Jesus was the Messiah by asking Him to show them a great demonstration in the skies (Matthew 16:2-3). Although Jesus could have caused lightening to strike at their feet or thunder to roll, He chose not to show a natural sign to speak to them because their hearts were wicked and obstinate. They would not have believed anyway.

Another time, Jesus told a parable of a budding fig tree, giving proof that summer is near, to speak symbolically of the proof that one day Israel would return to the Promised Land and form a sovereign state once again (Matthew 24:32-33). Again, God was speaking to mankind through a natural sign to make it easier to understand.

Many times God revealed His presence in the form of a cloud. A cloud led God’s people out of Egypt as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). A cloud settled down on the tabernacle, filling it with God’s glory (Exodus 40:34-35). The same thing happened when Solomon finished building the temple ( 1 Kings 8:11-13). The cloud symbolized the glory of God’s majesty and presence that filled the temple.  God was speaking His blessing as He took up residence in the temple. 

Through the observation of life situations and natural phenomena, the Lord often speaks a lesson or insight. Learning to observe and listen for God to speak through nature is a very fruitful way to learn from God. 

Along with the many other ways God speaks, look for God to speak through His creation to send a clear signal to you that He cares and that He is in control. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Thirteen

Honouring and respecting authority releases you to hear from God. Because, God speaks through authorities.

Since mankind’s fall had its source in rebellion, and rebellion disrupts authority, we will have trouble hearing God’s voice is we rebel against the authorities God has set in place for us. If we respect and honour these authorities, we open the channel for communication with God. Authorities help us with the timing of the Lord’s direction, and God uses them to help build character in our lives. And, God is very interested in building and maturing our character.

All authority comes from God. Since the beginning of time, God has ruled and upheld the universe with His authority. God delegated authority to His Son. “All authority has been given to Me is heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and under the authority of Jesus are levels of earthly authority.

God carries out His authority through four God-ordained human institutions: government, parents, employers, and church leaders. When we honour and respect teachers, employers, police officers, our church leadership, and our parents, we are honouring Christ.

Submitting to the authorities actually protects us. For example, if we disobey the speed limit, we could be killed or kill someone else. If a parent tells a child not to play with matches and he disobeys, there could be the loss of a home or the loss of life. It would not be the parents’ fault or God’s fault; the child simply disobeyed the authority that was placed in his life. He moved out from under the umbrella of God’s established protection.

We will have trouble hearing the voice of God if we rebel against authority. Peter urged the Christian believers to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…” (1 Peter 2:13 RSV). If we rebel against any of these established human institutions, we violate God’s divine authority. We are going to have trouble hearing God’s voice if rebellion and disrespect cloud our lives.

This is not to say that we cannot question authority in our lives. We should raise some questions: “Is this a legitimate use of authority?” “Should this be done this way?” If the questions are asked in a spirit of humility and respect, it is not wrong to ask them

The Bible says that the powers that be are ordained of God. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2)

This Scripture does not mean that God endorses everything that civil governments do, but since God brings government to pass, we should submit to those in charge out of respect for God. Although this Scripture is talking about submitting to governing authorities, it applies to all authorities in our lives. If I am careless in obeying earthly authority, I place myself in a position of disobedience to the ultimate authority that stands behind the earthly — God’s authority. We apply this when we remind our children that if they do not learn to respect their parents they will have trouble respecting anyone or anything else later in life.

Hearing God through authority actually protects us. Having an attitude of submission towards the authorities God has placed in our lives will protect us from many mistakes. An attitude of submission is also a protection against the influence of the devil. The nature of the devil is rebellion and deceit. Lucifer fell from heaven because he said, “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14 NKJV). He refused to submit to God’s authority. Whenever we allow an attitude of rebellion into our lives, we are beginning to be motivated by the enemy, which leads us to sin against God.

Hearing God through authorities also trains us in character. This is yet another blessing we receive from learning to submit to the authorities in our lives – that it trains us in the whole area of our character.

The Lord uses leadership in the Church to speak the Word of God to us. His Word chips away from our lives anything that is not from Him. Just as a blacksmith takes a piece of iron, makes it hot so that it becomes pliable and chips the impurities away with his hammer, God’s Word purifies. “‘Is not My Word like fire,’ declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 23:29) It destroys all that is false in our lives and leaves only the genuine metal. In the same way, our character is strengthened as we become conformed into the image of Christ. 

God places authorities in our lives to make us pliable. When we react to authority in anger and bitterness because we do not get our own way, it is probably a sign that there are still impurities the Lord wants to chip away from our lives. The Word of God is a purifying fire that changes us more into His likeness.

Hearing God through those in authority also provides us with guidance and direction. Submitting to the authority the Lord has placed in our lives often provides guidance for us to know His will. Joseph, in the Old Testament, submitted to the authority of the jailer, even though he was falsely imprisoned. The Lord later raised him up as prime minister of the nation.

Jesus Himself submitted to His heavenly Father every day. Jesus said, “…for I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). Jesus was committed to walking in submission to His heavenly Father’s authority. Jesus did nothing of His own initiative, but only that which was initiated by His heavenly Father. He also spent the early years of His life submitting to His earthly father in the carpentry shop.

But, we must also know that we can appeal to authority if we think they are wrong. It is an important question. “What should I do if the authority in my life is wrong?” The Bible makes it clear that if any person in authority in our lives requires us to sin, we must obey God and not man (Acts 5:29). If the authorities in our lives are asking us to cheat, steal, lie, or sin in any way, we must obey the living Christ first! The early church leaders were told by the religious leaders of their day to stop proclaiming Jesus as Lord. They could not obey these orders; however, they still maintained a spirit and attitude of honouring the religious leaders.

What if we believe the godly authority in our lives is not sinning, but making a mistake? Philippians 4:6 tells us to make an appeal. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

First of all, we need to appeal to God, We should pray, making known our requests and concerns, as we appeal to Him as our ultimate authority. In the same way, this sets a precedent for us to appeal to the delegated authorities in our lives.

Appealing to authorities with an attitude of submission will open the doors for us to hear God speak clearly into our lives.

Instead of having a submissive spirit and appealing to authority, Aaron and Miriam accused Moses regarding the leadership decisions that he was making. They did not fear God or respect God’s prophet and leader, and this allowed a spirit of rebellion to come into their lives. Moses, who had learned his lesson about authority in the desert while herding sheep, did not defend himself. Instead he went to God, and God defended him.

Daniel and his friends, in the Old Testament, appealed to the authority in their lives and asked only to eat certain foods (Daniel 1:8, 12-13). The Lord honoured their appeal to authority and blessed them with health, wisdom, literary skills, and supernatural revelation.

Nehemiah appealed to the king to take a trip to Jerusalem (Nehemiah, Chapter 1). His appeal to the authority in his life in an attitude of submission caused the king to grant his request. Nehemiah’s attitude and obedience made it possible for the wall to be rebuilt around Jerusalem. 

An attitude of love and submission toward those who God has placed in authority in our lives releases us to hear Him speak. This is quite the opposite of what our selfish nature wants — to be right in our own eyes and “do our own thing.”

God’s intention is to use the authorities He has placed in our lives to help mold and structure our lives for good. In many cases, the Lord is actually speaking through these individuals. Listening to these authorities opens the door for us to hear His voice. 

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Twelve

God also speaks through worship. Remember: You exist to bring pleasure to God through worship.

You were made for God’s fellowship, and your heart will never be satisfied without it. God wants you to love Him deeply and bring pleasure to Him through your worship and devotion. The Bible says, “The Lord is pleased only with those who worship Him and trust His love” (Psalm 147”11 CEV).

Jesus responds to your worship. One day a sinful woman came to Jesus, weeping. Her heart was deeply stirred with her love for Jesus, and she stood crying beside Him with her tears wetting His feet. She then knelt down and kissed His feet as she poured an expensive perfume on them, revealing her lavish love for her Lord. This woman had tried to fulfill her longing for love from men, but now she had found the Lover of her soul. She was not ashamed to express that love openly and freely. She knew she could trust the Lord.

Indeed, upon receiving her act of worship. Jesus spoke to her. He responded to her worship by telling her that her sins were forgiven and she should go in peace (Luke 7:36-50). 

Worship is a lifelong conversation and love affair between you and God as you surrender your life to Him. Worship is often mistakenly relegated to our participation in a church service, when we “praise and worship the Lord.” Of course, when we surrender our hearts to the Lord and worship Him with music and singing in a church service, we will hear God’s voice, but worship involves so much more.

Worship is a life-style of bringing pleasure to God by the way you live your life. Rick Warren wrote, “Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God.” The Bible says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Martin Luther observed, “A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God.”

Olympic runner Eric Liddel maintained, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Running was an act of worship for him. 

There really are no formulas for worship because worship is a function of the heart. If you do everything as if you are doing it for Jesus, even everyday chores are an act of worship.

Jesus said that all worship must take place “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). You communicate with God through your spirit. Your spirit intuitively senses God’s presence and receives revelation from Him especially when you worship.

Sometimes the lyrics of a song suddenly become personal, giving insight or direction in a timely way. You may be listening to worship music, participating in a worship service or singing as you are mowing your lawn, and the Lord speaks clearly to you. Because you are focusing on Him and giving Him your undivided attention and love, you are in a position to hear clearly what the Lord is speaking to you.

God says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). When you live a life of praise to your God, God is in your midst. The devil, who dwells in darkness, hates it when we praise and worship God because it reminds him of his past when he was overseeing the choirs of heaven.

Amy Carmichael said, “I believe truly that Satan cannot endure it and so slips out of the room — more or less! — when there is a true song. Prayer rises more easily, more spontaneously, after one has let those wings, words, and music, carry one out of oneself into the upper air.”

When we are “carried into that upper air,” joyfully basking in the presence of God, we will hear God speak. I often received messages from the Lord while I am worshipping in His presence.

If you are worshiping the Lord and He speaks something to you, write down what He says. It might be for today, next week, next month, or a year from now or a decade from now. Write it down so you do not forget what the Lord has spoken. Later, often many years later, you will be wonderfully surprised at what you have written.

Thankfulness is also an act of worship. God’s general will for you is to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 RSV). When you have learned to obey His will right where you are by being thankful, you don’t have to worry about what God will speak to you. You will be ready today to hear His voice in the future.

Thankfulness keeps your ears and mind open to hearing God speak to you. The Bible says you are to thank God IN everything, not FOR everything. That means that no matter what is going on in your life, you are not to complain, murmur, grumble, or find fault. God doesn’t want to hear you grumbling because grumbling is evidence that you have no faith in His ability to make things better.

After telling us to thank God in everything, the very next verse says, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We can quench the Holy Spirit through complaining. Grumblers have a very hard time hearing from God. The Bible says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14-15). It’s our natural tendency to complain. Anyone can do it. But it is supernatural to give thanks amidst life’s tests and trials.

Worship has the ability to help us get our eyes off of our problems or situation and onto the Lord Jesus. It is self-correcting, like a clock that resets itself to the right time every 24 hours. We should choose to worship every day. Giving thanks is the will of God for all of us. Unthankful people quickly enter into deception and find it very hard to hear the clear, pure Word of the Lord.

Jesus said, “If you live in Me and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 AMP). God wants our hearts. Jesus did not fail to respond to the woman who anointed His feet with perfume as her act of worship and adoration. And He will respond to you too. He is eager to speak to you. Just love Him!

Hearing the Voice of God – Part Eleven

God speaks to us through CONVICTION brought into our lives by the Holy Spirit. And conviction moves us to hunger for more of God so that we can hear God even more clearly and accurately.

God speaks to us by giving-us an ever-deepening conviction and awareness of His presence in our daily lives. He not only wants us to listen so that He can tell us what to do, but He also wants us to  listen so we know what NOT to do. This is His conviction.

Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin (John 16:7-10). When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we see just how desperately we need God. God doesn’t convict us of our sins to expose us, embarrass us, or make us feel bad. Instead, He wants to make us feel desperate for Him, realizing wee have no confidence in ourselves. 

Oswald Chambers once said,

“Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin. And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings them into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God.”

Conviction moves us to look at what God offers and challenges us to know this infinite, loving and almighty heavenly Father.

The Holy Spirit speaks to our conscience to convict us of any sin and gives us a disposition (a shove) toward righteousness. The Holy Spirit’s conviction is intended to convince us to repent, which means to turn and go in the right direction rather than to continue moving in the wrong direction.

In other words, if we are behaving in a way that is not pleasing to God, we must be willing to make an adjustment in our lives. If we don’t, our hearts become hardened. Hardened hearts are the result of ignoring the Holy Spirit’s conviction of right and wrong. The more hard-hearted we become, the more difficult it is for us to quickly hear and promptly obey the Lord.

If I am angry with someone, bitterness can grow in my heart. If, however, I allow the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to quickly prompt me to forgive, I can receive grace to move on and hear the Lord speak accurately. I can depend on God to convict me to do what is right. But, of course, there is the need to respond to His conviction.

God loves to transform people. It is a promise in His Word. He said that He would take our unnaturally hardened hearts out and instead give us a heart of flesh, a heart that is sensitive to the touch of our God (Ezekiel 36:26). So, God convicts us so that we can make an adjustment in our lives with His help and this will then allow us to hear His voice more accurately and more often because we are listening with a clear conscience. 

Conviction vs. Condemnation

True conviction is entirely different from condemnation. God’s voice will bring conviction over sin and a way out. The enemy’s voice will bring condemnation and no way out. For example, Satan may say to you, “You know, you never pray enough” or “If you would read your Bible more, God would love you more.” Condemnation is shame-based and accuses us on our character.

Conviction arouses hope. It moves us beyond failure and causes us to want to know God more fully and deeply. It is about a specific sin, rather than a general accusation of character.

The devil condemns us, but God connects us. Condemnation brings doubt, fear, unbelief, and hopelessness. God convicts us to restore us to righteousness and faith. He always corrects us to build us up, and His conviction always brings hope and a way to escape. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

It is so important to discern the truth and know the difference between conviction and condemnation. If you respond to the Lord’s conviction, you will be lifted up and out of sin; however, condemnation only makes you feel bad about yourself. It is healthy and normal to feel guilty when we are initially convicted of sin; however, if we keep feeling guilty after we have repented, it is spiritually unhealthy.

We could sum it up this way — conviction is our friend. It is God speaking to us about His limits, providing protection for us. Satan’s goal through condemnation is to bring us into bondage — bondage to shame and false guilt. 

It is good to know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t spring everything on us at once. He usually convicts us to change or make adjustments in our lives when He knows we are ready. If it is not the right time to face something, then the Lord usually will not convict us of it.

The Lord invites us to approach Him without fear. The Bible says He wants to help us in our time of need. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). If we have sins in our lives, our heavenly Father still loves us. He wants us to come boldly to His throne and receive His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy!

There is one other understanding of the Holy Spirit’s conviction I would like to add here. He will, at times, convict us that there is something He wants us to do or become involved in.

God’s conviction fell on a bakery owner in Bristol, England, while George Mueller was praying for food for his orphanages which relied solely on contributions to feed the children. The children were in dire need of food, and George was praying for this need. God awakened a bakery owner across town who felt God’s conviction to get up, call an employee, and ask him to go to the shop to bake a day’s bread for the orphans. Then on second thought, he told the employee, “Bake enough for a month so I can get some sleep.”

God is speaking to us when He convicts us. This conviction might come from an inner prompting of God’s still, small voice, reading in the Word of God or from hearing a sermon preached or in some other way. God convicts us so we can be released to move forward in His grace and mercy as we continue to develop a sensitivity to hear His voice.