Hearing God’s voice

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Can you hear me now?

There is great irony in the fact that I am writing this post.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t profess to hear from God more than the next person. Of late, I certainly could not make that claim; people have shared with me dreams that they’ve had that have come to pass the following day. That’s just not my testimony.

I had a somewhat lengthy conversation with a friend of mine recently about this exact subject. She expressed to me her struggles to hear from God, positing that he may not be speaking or even have the desire. As tempted as I was to empathize with her (and to a degree I still do), I had to hold to the firm conviction that God does in fact speak to his people.

Well, what do I have to go by if I identify with her struggles?

I find comfort in the words of Christ, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

You see, in order to be able to follow the Good Shepherd, we have to be able to hear his voice. Of course, the call of Christ to all of his disciples is always, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9, 16:24). Now that Jesus is not with us in bodily form, but by his Spirit (John 14:16-18), we are called to be those that are led by that same Spirit (Romans 8:14).

What we need, then, is to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying (Revelation 2:7). This admonishment from Christ to the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation comes with a not-so-subtle implication.

Jesus is speaking! The challenge is not getting him to talk, but getting us to listen!

Think about it. The Lord wants to lead us, but we have to allow ourselves to be led. Would he not direct us into the good works that he has prepared in advance, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:11)?

For those of you who may still be skeptical, consider this additional biblical argument. The prophet Amos records, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD'” (8:11).

At this time in Israel’s history, the nation had backslidden and embraced a way of living that was contrary to God’s character and design. To warn them of the looming consequences of their behavior, he foreshadows that there will be a time when his people will not hear him.

The implications of this are twofold. First, “hearing the words of the LORD” should be as normal as eating bread or drinking water. It is going without food and water that is the abnormality, and so is the case with hearing from God. After all, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 8:4).

Secondly, to not be able to hear from the Lord is an indictment. Just as the Lord had offered famine throughout the land as a possible punishment to David for provoking him to anger (1 Chronicles 21:7-12), the Lord warns of a famine of his words through Amos. In both instances, this is a verdict that the Lord is rendering as a consequence of sin.

To be sure, our sins, if we allow them to pile up, can stop the flow of God in our lives. Isaiah 59:1-2 offers, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

We thank the Lord, though, because “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

What we glean from Amos’ words is that God’s people, under normal circumstances, should be hearing from God. Unlike apostate Israel, we are not under God’s punishment. We are called to be those who are perfected by love, which casts out every ounce of fear, as fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:17-18).

Ok, so God speaks. How do we hear?

Well, like anything else, I’d just say to listen and pay attention. Unfortunately, there are so many competing voices that hinder us from listening to him, and a great number of things that vie for our attention. There is no real substitute for silence and solitude. We need times where we are simply just posturing ourselves to hear from him.

While sitting still for any length of time is a challenge in its own right, I think what can be equally impactful is our own perception. As essential as times alone with him are to our spiritual walk, God has not called us to be hermits. In fact, it is not only in these times of solitude that the Lord speaks to us.

Let’s consider the case of Zerubabbel, governor of Judah after the exiles’ return from Babylon. We find the Lord speaking to him as part of a small group (Haggai 1:1), a congregation (2:1-2) and individually (2:20-21).

There’s not just one way that the Lord speaks. This often in happens community, as it did with Zerubabbel. After all, the manifestations of the Spirit, many of which are oriented towards speaking [Paul says to especially desire prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:10)], are given for the common good. We cannot set restraints on how God can speak to us.

Of course, the Lord certainly uses Scripture to speak to us. As Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” While we are charged to even test prophesy (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21), we know that God’s written word is a “sure word of prophesy” (2 Peter 1:19 KJV) that can be fully trusted. 

As we contemplate this discussion, pray this prayer with me in closing:

Lord, I thank you that you are a God who speaks. I acknowledge that the problem will never be your ability or desire to speak to me, but my ability to hear. Give me ears to hear what you want to say to me. In times when what you are saying is not what I want to hear, give me the grace to receive your word with meekness. May there be a greater desire in my life for Scripture, recognizing that blessing comes from meditating on your law both day and night. Also, Lord, help me to listen to the people around me. Let me not treat prophesy with contempt, but test everything and take the good. You are the Good Shepherd, and you are able to lead me in paths of righteousness for your namesake.

Amen.

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~ by christianballenger on January 31, 2015.

One Response to “Hearing God’s voice”

  1. […] Whether you are speaking to a relative, friend, co-worker or God himself, know that there is no pressure. If we are really following the advice of James, we should be cultivating the practice of being good listeners — especially when it comes to God. […]

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