How do you recognize God's voice? Whew...now that's one to tackle; isn't it? And yet, if I had a dollar for every time I've been asked that particular question...I'd be a very wealthy woman. :) So, though I don't pretend to know all the answers, I'd like to try to share some helpful hints to hearing God's voice that I've discovered along my life's journey. I hope they help you engage in a deeper communication with our Heavenly Father.
First and foremost, Hint #1: The Key to Hearing God's Voice is Relationship
The more intimate our relationship with God is, the more certain we discern His voice from our own. Just like any relationship, learning one another’s language and communication style takes time. Thus, it's our relationship with God that makes the difference. We can’t formulate a method to hear God’s voice. We either share a relationship with him or we don’t. The more time we spend with God, the easier we recognize his voice. The more time we spend in His Word the easier we recognize His character and voice. At first it may be difficult to tell his voice apart from our own, but the closer our relationship with God grows the easier it gets. There are no short cuts! Time spent in His presence, reading His Word, and listening for His voice is vital to recognizing Him when He speaks.
Second, Hint #2: The key to Hearing God's Voice is discovered in listening to the message's tone.
- God’s voice is Redemptive—Not Condemning. God's voice always point to Christ's character. 1John 4:1-3 reminds us to "not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."(NIV)
Thus, a simple rule to follow is that if our thoughts, words, or messages don’t acknowledge Jesus then they are not from God. If they can’t clearly point back to reflect Who He is and what He did for us on the cross, then they fail the test. Could we imagine Jesus saying the message that plays within our mind? Would Jesus’ nature promote such a thought? Does it line up with Who Jesus is and what He taught? Are our thoughts filled with humility, surrender, and honoring to God's Word...or are they selfish, limited by our abilities or reasoning, and dishonoring to God's commands?
- God’s voice encourages— It Doesn’t Tear Down: Our voice tends to criticize or find fault with ourselves or others; God's voice nurtures and fosters growth. Our voice whispers, "You'll never achieve that..." God's voice says, "Trust me and I will make you ruler over much." Our voice says “It’s too big” God’s voice whispers, “All things are possible to those who believe.” Even in a rebuke God points toward growth and grace. His voice is specific and certain not general and confused.
- God’s Voice Directs—It Doesn’t Confuse: God always gives us direction. James 1:5 promises: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault." (NIV) God's voice is certain NOT confused. He prompts our thoughts to bring us clarity and conviction. The important thing is to NOT make a knee-jerk reaction out of frustration or to take matters into our own hands. We must wait for the Lord and pray for His direction. When it seems like He’s silent, we need to ask for another way of thinking about our situation. God clears up our murky thoughts and point us in the right direction with His peace.
- God’s Voice Communicates Peace—It Doesn’t Leave us Fearful. Isaiah 55:12, "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace." (NIV) If you're like me, it's easy to begin to pick up the weight of God's call and feel like: I have to make this happen. It's my fault if this fails. I have to do something. It's all up to me...But God calls us to stewardship, not ownership. We may initially be filled with fear and respond like Moses, Gideon, or Mary...Who me? But God always communicates that what will be accomplished is because HE WILL DO IT. His WORD will accomplish it. He will send forth HIS spirit. And...Strangely...as we simply submit to HIS PLAN...our fears vanquish and peace reigns.
Third, Hint #3: If we want to hear God speak, we have to position ourselves to hear Him.
- Be silent and wait. Ask God to speak. Ask Him to help you discern His will for your life.
- Silence distractions. Shut off the TV, radio, and other noises. Find a quiet place and avoid places that remind you of what you need to do or that divert your focus from the Lord.
- Intentionally interact with God. If your mind wanders when you pray try writing down your prayer to God and then listen for His response. Write down verses any thoughts that align with the character of His voice that are listed above.
- Commit to reading God's word. (5 or 10 minutes a day is a great place to begin.)
- Finally, persevere. Don't stop seeking. You may not hear God every day...but you will eventually hear Him. The more you spend time with Him and hear His voice, the easier it becomes to recognize Him
For more in-depth thoughts on hearing God's voice, here are a few blogs I've written on the topic: