God is speaking, but can we hear Him?
God is speaking! Our God is the great Communicator, unlimited in the ways he speaks to us. One of the joys of being a disciple of Jesus is learning to discern his voice and then respond to him. Over the six blogs in this series we are going to look at some of the ways we tune in and receive revelation from him. It’s important to recognize that we all hear God in different ways because he has made us as unique individuals.
Whenever we approach the subject of hearing God’s voice it’s vital that we start with an understanding of our covenant identity as children of God. We have an incredible heavenly Father who pours out his unconditional love upon us. We don’t earn the right to hear him; it’s not something we achieve through hard work or ‘super-spirituality’. Hearing the Father’s voice is about who we are, not what we do.
For all of us who embark on the wonderful journey of learning how to hear God and develop a prophetic lifestyle, there is a fundamental process by which we change the way we think (the New Testament uses the word metanoia, which we translate as ‘repent’). We have to put aside the tendency to think and react like a fatherless orphan – “If I try harder, God will be pleased with me and he might even speak to me” – and instead learn to think like a son or daughter of perfect heavenly Father – “Of course I can hear God speak to me: I’m his beloved child and he delights to speak to me!”
From this place of covenantal identity we can then start to explore the wonders of God’s revelation to us. God is a communicating God, the Bible makes this very clear. He speaks through creation, he speaks through the scriptures, he speaks through angels and all sorts of supernatural experiences, and he speaks through his voice. The clearest biblical picture of what hearing God’s voice is like is found in John chapter 10. Here Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep through his voice. The promise is clear: the followers of Jesus, his ‘sheep’, will know and listen to his voice; they will know his voice to such an extent that they will be able to follow it.
But what does God’s voice sound like? And how do we learn to recognize it?
The Holy Spirit is incredibly creative and brings revelation in many different ways, some of which we are going to explore over this series of blogs. But whatever means God uses to communicate with us, his voice will have certain characteristics that help us discern it from our own thoughts, emotions and imagination. His voice always reflects his nature and character, so listen for the voice that is kind, and full of love and wisdom. When I hear God speak to me the depth of content often awes me: his revelation is more radical, more pure, more profound than anything I could come up with. So as you start to practice listening, ask yourself, “Does this sound like Jesus?”
There is also a spontaneous nature to God’s voice that helps us distinguish it from our thoughts. As you set aside some time to listen to him, first of all find a place of internal stillness and rest, and then pay attention to anything that spontaneously lands in your head or heart that has no connection to your previous train of thoughts. If it comes with a sense of peace and life, that’s a good indication that it might be God speaking.
It’s good to remember that most of the time God speaks in fairly normal and everyday ways, to normal and everyday people. If you’re waiting for a 3-D Technicolor vision or a burning bush you may be waiting a very long time. Instead, practice giving thanks for all the little ways that God is communicating with you. Learning to tune in and recognize his voice may take a while, especially if it’s something we’re not used to doing. It requires active engagement and intentional pursuit. But Jesus promises us all that we can learn to hear him.