I’ve never heard God’s audible voice. Some people say they have – I don’t automatically doubt that, it wouldn’t be the first time. But there is absolutely nothing more critical than hearing God’s voice and knowing what he’s saying to you. If you follow Jesus and a disciple is one who, as I’ve learned from Eastern Christian “hears & obeys” – how do you hear his voice? Here are some ways I’ve come to recognize his voice, I wish I would have understood some of this when I started out my walk with Jesus.
First, I hear him in worship. Each day, early in the morning I begin by prayer, reading God’s Word, and coffee. Worship is an interactive activity and relationship between man and God. Worship involves adoring God, praising him and being sensitive to what I would call “divine impressions” that he gives you. Worship involves emptying yourself of you, opening yourself up to God – his ways of speaking to your heart in this context are innumerable – but you recognize him and his words and what he is saying to you.
Second, I hear him in his Word. This involves two components, one is the obvious clear written word that tells us who he is and how to live. There are times of decisions, and times when we get tired and often I’ll read a verse that is incredibly clear about what I should do or a reminder of what God expects right there in the Scripture. Each year I read through the Bible and write a prayer out over what I just read in the margin of my Bible – the Bible is interactive, not just information. But the other is where a verse jumps off the page and speaks to us. When I sensed God calling me to preach, I was young, I stuttered, and I happened to read Jeremiah 1:4-10, my call was “personalized” by that passage. When I started Northwood, one of the verses God gave me was Ps 2:8 – “Ask of me and I will give you the nations….” Once, when Northwood was going through a very difficult period, God gave me Acts [20:22]-25. In a past year in a very powerful way God gave me Job 42:2. . . I keep these verses and reflect on them throughout the year.
The third way I hear from God is my journal. I didn’t journal until my early 30’s. My excuse was, I wasn’t a writer. I’m still not – I try and I really write my own books – but my editors earn their keep, I assure you! Journaling is not about being a writer. It’s about your story day in and day out. It’s the events. It’s the lessons you learn. It’s the life you experience. Journaling during your time with God is the reflection you experience that helps gives clarity of direction. I use a journal a year-and at the end of each year I read it and write the lessons at the end of it, then I begin my journal from the previous year with the lessons I learned from the last year. This is huge, because you can see patterns, directions, all kinds of things that are evolving around you – but if you didn’t write them down, you wouldn’t be as aware or see the direction of things.Journaling during your time with God is the reflection you experience that helps gives clarity of direction. Click To Tweet
The fourth way I hear God’s voice is through “prophetic” words. These come from people generally, but not always, who are serious intercessors, or prayer warriors. Sometimes it’s a verse they give me. Sometimes they have an impression they share with me. Sometimes it’s a clear direction, and other times just a word to keep in mind that might apply. I pray over these, if I feel it’s from God, I save it – if I don’t I chunk it quickly. When someone tells me they have a word for me I make them write it out and give it to me – if they don’t, I don’t receive it. I view this as very serious, so it’s not to be flippant.
The fifth way I hear God is through the body of Christ or other believers. I have a cell group of men that meet in my home and we pray together and we share deeply together. Sometimes God will give us words for one another – I listen to those. The men and women I work with on staff are part of the body of Christ, and sometimes they’ll have a word or challenge – I listen to that. I also have some close confidants when I’m in a tough situation or having to make a tough decision, I call these people and have them pray. They don’t all go to my church, some of these are people I’ve known for years who are serious prayer warriors.
Sixth, I hear God’s voice in the moment. Sometimes I’m doing something, or involved in something and I get a strong impression from God to press forward, or back off, or be still, or whatever, I can’t tell you how many times this happens, increasingly more as I get older. Some people would call it intuition – but it’s more than that.
Seventh, I hear God through unexpected people, places, and situations. The other day, someone gave me a quote by Drucker and it was spot on for something I’d been thinking about doing – it was like a confirmation. I remember a Muslim man once telling me my name in Arabic meant “door” and that I should be a “door” to Muslims from Christians – in addition I stumbled on a verse speaking about being an “open door” to others. I’ve sensed God in books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve heard – not just Christian. . . .
There are more ways than this – but these are some. I guess the real question is – how can you not hear God speak? It’s as if a man would have to stick his fingers in his ears not to hear God or to stop God from speaking. Paul writes in Romans 1 that even nature speaks that there is God and man should hear him – just like Abraham and others who didn’t have the Bible, the church, or the history. The problem is, we make hearing God too complex, too specialized, and we see it as so divine that we fail to hear it in every other way.
Listen . . . God is speaking . . . . to you . . . . what’s he saying?