Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hearing God’s Voice

Our world has many competing voices. Whether the sides are chosen politically, artistically, or related to entertainment people have opinions of the right or best approach/understanding/type on all kinds of matters. The problem is that in many cultures the “winner” in these discussions (debates) is the one who yells the loudest and/or the longest.

Ironically, God can be louder than anyone, and His message and existence is certainly longer than anyone can fathom. However, although God could be louder and longer than others, His typical modus operandi is to speak to people personally, and often softly. And since the coming of the Holy Spirit, God often speaks to us internally rather than audibly. (Some do not believe that God speaks audibly any longer, but if He wants to do so, He can!) The question is do we hear what He is saying? Do we know how?

I am convinced that for all who are born again, God speaks to us continually. A good father will speak to his children, and as God’s children, our perfect Father will speak to us. But as we choose to listen to the other voices in our lives, God’s voice gets drowned out. Over time, we become more and more skeptical when we hear others say that God spoke to them. Of course, we should be discerning to ensure that what others claim to have heard from God fits with God’s character and Word (1 John 4.1-3). But just because we may be skeptical of God speaking to others does not mean He does not. For how can the Spirit lead us into all truth if He is not speaking to us (John 14.25-26).

So, how can we answer the two questions above? Books and studies have been written on this topic (a search on Google can keep you busy for awhile), but very simply I believe our hearing from God requires two things – an openness to hear from Him and taking the time to do so. Let me briefly explain.

As I mentioned above, many are skeptical that God speaks today. Because we cannot see God, many believe we cannot hear from Him. But it only takes a little bit of faith to change that. As the father said to Jesus in Mark 9.24, “I believe; help my unbelief.” A statement like this man’s is perfectly honest and can be helpful in overcoming our doubts. But it may not be quite enough. If we have ignored the voice of God, we need to seek forgiveness as we repent. God may have stopped communicating because you or I did not show interest in communicating with Him. As we sense this might be the case, we need to ask for forgiveness, then show our intent and willingness to listen.

That willingness means we must take time to do listen and hear. Jesus repeatedly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The idea is that our ears pick up many sounds throughout the day. Our ears are always listening, but much of what enters our ears is never fully processed as sound. It is simply background noise. For instance, as I type this, the soundwaves entering my ear include paper being wadded up, my keyboard, a low hum from my pc, a few internal noises from the pc, and the heat being blown from the furnace. Before I typed that sentence, I had not considered any of those noises. I had ears to hear, but I had not “heard.” So, Jesus words are an encouragement to pay attention to what we may actually hear. So, we must pay attention, but we must also take the time.

Psalm 46.10 reminds us to be still and know that God is God. Being still is not common in today’s western world. My recent trip to Kenya reminds me that once removed from the hustle and bustle of life, we can find a different type of peace. As our team said, there is time and then there is Kenyan time. Many in the world can relate to this idea, but not the western world. As such, we do not know how to take time to be still. We may pray to God, but we do not take time to hear from God. Prayer is communicating with God, but communication is meant to be two-way. When we only unload our requests, and don’t take time to hear God’s response or desires for us, then we miss an invaluable opportunity to become more like the individuals He wants us to be. So, we must take time. Maybe it is only one minute this week, then five next week, and over time, we take fifteen minutes or even an hour. But if we do not start somewhere, we will never hear Him, and we will be no different than we are now.

Finally, when we do hear from Him, we must respond. God doesn’t need to talk to us to hear His voice. He talks to us for us to respond in obedience. John 14 repeatedly says that those who love Jesus will obey His commandments. If we hear God leading us to do something and we do not respond, then we cannot say we love Him. And, over time, like I mentioned above, we will likely stop hearing from Him again. So, listen, hear, and respond. When we do, we are showing God that we truly wish to honor Him.

Hearing from God should be natural for any Christian (John 10.3-4). But we must be intentional about our listening – whether audibly or internally. To do so will likely require us to stop listening so intently to all the voices that fill our days. As we take the time to begin to listen to God, we will learn to distinguish His voice, and over time, we will desire to hear more from Him. It will take time. And it will take discernment, but what a gift it is to have the Creator want to communicate with us. Let us receive what He wants to share, and respond for His glory.

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