Several years ago I sat in a class in which the teacher was expounding on the story of Gideon in Judges. As his talk went on, I found myself more and more perplexed with the interpretation of the story. Gideon was humble, the speaker said, that’s why he didn’t believe God when God called him a mighty warrior. Gideon asked God for proof of His voice, which was definitely not what we should do today. In fact, we should not try to hear God’s voice on our own, since it only comes to us through the brotherhood.
“What is he saying?” the student sitting next to Will asked. He didn’t get it, either. But the teaching continued, about how faulty it was to try to get an answer from God yourself, and how you must rely only on the Bible and what your church people say.
I sat there, stunned. How in the world were we supposed to get wisdom from the brotherhood if people were not hearing from God individually?
Looking back, I see that as a defining moment when I realized just how strong the current of thought ran that God does not speak to us personally, that His words must only come through our minds interpreting the Bible or other people giving their opinions. A relationship with God was not a communicative relationship, but one of learning about Him in an abstract sense and submitting to that. Yes, the heart and emotions were still involved; and to be fair, I don’t think most dedicated Christians were and are that extreme in real life. But still, that kind of teaching felt oppressive to me.
This plunged me into a sort of desperation. Does God speak? Am I wrong in thinking He’s been talking to me all these years? I began reading more intensively, both in the Bible and in other spiritual books. As I read, I felt my faith growing. The Bible is packed with God’s words to individuals. Several books I can recommend: Hearing God by Dallas Willard, Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, Growing in the Prophetic by Mike Bickle. I started being more intentional about my spiritual life. I asked questions. I sought advice from people I trusted to be spiritual leaders. Through all of this, my journey confirmed a stronger sense of His presence, a closeness to God that I had not experienced before.
Around this time Will and I received some counseling from some godly older people. Our lives had taken a sharp turn toward disaster—it seemed that almost everything that could go wrong, did. Through seeking God’s face in counseling, we received some life-changing messages from God. Instead of living as “failures,” we began living out of what we heard God say about us. Living out of our identity in Christ was incredibly freeing for us, and we began regularly asking God things about our lives instead of trying to figure out everything ourselves.
I found myself caught in the tension between the freedom in Christ we were experiencing, and the expectations of our culture. Our Mennonite culture is hugely focused on “brotherhood,” which is a priceless gift. I love the closeness of living in community. But a downside of that is that sometimes a person receiving a personal message from God is seen as a threat.
That’s why I was surprised at a church service during this time when the preacher announced the title of his sermon as “My Sheep Hear My Voice.” What?! I thought. I was almost scared to hear what he was going to say. This man proceeded to deliver a solid message using many Scriptures to show us clearly that yes, God speaks and His sheep do know His voice. The sermon was like rain after a Kansas drought. And how can we deny it? His sheep KNOW His voice!
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
John 10:2-4 (ESV)
Sadly, after this man of God sat down, four preachers got up in turn and tore his message to bits with their solemn warnings. Hearing God is dangerous! People do crazy things in the name of hearing God! We must be very, very careful! The faith in the room fizzled like a pricked balloon.
The pain in my chest was palpable. More than anything, I wanted people to know the kind of life that exists in Christ. And this is what I believe about God:
1. God wants a conversational relationship with His people. This is the reason He created us—He wanted to share the love He had within Himself with others. From cover to cover, the Bible is full of stories of God speaking to His people, from Adam and Eve in Genesis all the way through John in Revelation. The Holy Spirit pleads with us to hear Him, to not let our hearts harden.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
(Hebrews 3:7-10 ESV)
2. God the Spirit talks to us, helping and teaching us. At no point does He say that He will no longer talk to His children, that we have to rely only on common sense or other sources to know how to live.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26 (ESV)
3. God’s longing for friendship with His children bleeds through the pages of Scripture, and that friendship transforms our inner lives.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15 (ESV)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20 (ESV)
I can testify of my deep wounds that were healed by His voice. Years of baggage can drop with one word from Him, one touch of His presence.
4. God wants us to ask Him things, even about simple aspects of daily life.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7 (ESV)
My sister-in-law tells of how God helps her plan her days. Having eight children, she always has way too much to do. She makes a list of what needs to be done, then she asks Jesus what is most important. And Jesus tells her. She lives her full life in peace, because of that simple communication with Him every morning.
God communicates…why then are we so scared to listen to Him? I think it comes down to the fact that hearing involves risk. We are not perfect, and sometimes we hear wrong. (This can be very painful—I plan to discuss this more in a later post on Learning to Listen.)We are deathly scared to make a mistake, so we try to control the situation to prevent making mistakes. In doing that, we make the worst mistake of all. Do we want to have these startling words by Jeremiah said of us?
For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.
Jeremiah 10:21 (ESV)
Sometimes we try to control things by saying that we will depend on the Bible only. As important as the Bible is, we must have the Holy Spirit to help us understand it. This is what Jesus told the Pharisees about their dependence on the Scripture without God’s light:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 (ESV) emphasis added
God is a communicator—the best one ever. And the exciting part is that he wants to talk to us! He is always knocking, always wanting to come in and talk with us as friends. How can anyone resist?
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:4-5 (ESV)
How has God’s voice changed your life? Do you believe that He communicates with you?
12 thoughts on “Hearing God’s Voice (Part 2 of 7): A God Who Communicates”
This brings tears to my eyes, Rosina. It resonates deeply with me. I once heard an older, Christian lady say that in all her years of following Jesus, she has never heard His voice. The sad part was, she was pretty sure that was the norm for Christians. How it must break God’s heart to see so many people lacking the abundant life, in Him alone.
Oh, that is so incredibly sad! Tears. Maybe she actually did hear God but didn’t recognize it? I think that’s possible…
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. Somehow I just ran upon your blog (maybe God wanted me here)! I am moving on to part 3 tomorrow or maybe tonight. This has certainly resonated with me. I have found myself wrestling with trying to find answer to a few doctrinal beliefs that I grew up being taught. If I take anything away from this it is to commune with Him, rest in Him, and allowing Him to lead me. All the while I will be listening for Him!
Wow. This stirs so many thoughts in my mind and underlines what I’ve been discovering – that it’s my relationship (the friendship, the camaraderie) with God that is the important thing, not doing a list of certain things.
The camaraderie, yes!! Thanks for your encouragement!
Thank you for doing this series. It is rare in our culture to meet people who understand how it is possible to hear God speak. But our culture also has a fear of Holy Spirit teaching. We are afraid He will ask is to do something outside of our comfort zone or we will appear strange to others.
But our people are hungry for teaching. When I tell people about times I heard the voice of God telling me some very direct words, and what followed afterwards, there is no mistaking the desire in their questions that follow. God created us for this relationship with Him. But how can we get past our fear?
Keep writing…and listening.. 🙂
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My cousin recently posted on Facebook that when people will not accept a change in their theology, they will still listen to beautiful stories of God speaking. Even though theology is important, stories are irresistible; and like you said, the hidden desire shows up at those times. (If I did not think that hunger was there, I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to write this series.) Maybe sharing our stories is a step toward breaking down the fear. And I’d love to hear your stories, someday, too! 🙂
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Such good stuff here, Rosina! I’m thinking a variety of things after reading this post. I love #4 about God wanting us to ask him about simple daily life. One of the disciplines I want to keep developing is talking to God in those moments (whether I’m in the classroom or elsewhere) and I’m faced with a situation where I’m not quite sure what the best thing is to do. As a teacher, I’ve got to make plenty of “on-the-spot” decisions =) and it’s reassuring to know that God can help me “think on my feet”….or give me direction in the moment. Looking forward to hearing more!
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Yes, that’s an area in which I want to grow, too! Moms also make lots of on-the-spot decisions! And we all face big decisions from time to time. It takes discipline to slow down and try to listen to God instead of rushing ahead on our own. I’ll be talking more about listening throughout daily life in a post on cultivating a hearing lifestyle. God bless!
About 5 years ago when I first moved into a new community and lived by myself for the first time, I missed my many intense discussions with my family and former young adults group/church friends. My new friends were interested in different topics, and I wished I had people to go to. It was incredibly exciting to me when God reminded me that He wanted to talk to me in the silence of my new home.
That is precious. Thanks for sharing!
I just found your blog, so I’m reading a lot of different posts, and leaving comments here and there–hope that’s not annoying, since many of these posts are years old. It sounds like some in your community don’t understand the biblical principles which should accompany any teaching about hearing from God, so they just get freaked out and yell, “Danger!”
1) Because God is unchanging (picture relevant Bible verses here), what we hear from God should NEVER contradict the written word of God. As one example, I knew a woman who said it was okay to marry her unbelieving first cousin who was involved in the occult because she had a vision from God and heard his voice say, “It will be okay.” She described a vision of a Jesus that can only be described as demonic — very creepy in appearance. That alone should have alarmed her, but her lack of maturity in recognizing her rebellious motives should have alarmed her even more. She asked for a supernatural sign from God that she should proceed with a relationship she should have never been in to begin with. We are not to be yoked with unbelievers. She didn’t like what she read in God’s word, so she thought her view of God was broader and more loving and tolerant and prayed for supernatural confirmation of what she wanted, and Satan was more than happy to deceive her. She was blind to her refusal to die to herself and carry her cross daily, and blind to her idolatrous preference to the God of her own fashioning. She and her children have suffered much for her rebellion.
2) God’s word says we should test the spirits (1John 4). Many people want to shout about danger without quoting this passage, because they prefer to say we’re not to experience anything supernatural in our relationship with God, and John’s words make clear the supernatural is a reality. Testing is obedience, not an insult to God. Many have tried to say that obedience to John’s instructions “quenches” the Holy Spirit and offends him, and we should just be thankful and follow whatever revelation we’ve received. What wickedness. John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write those words, and obeying them is our command. God knows Satan can appear as an angel of light and mislead us. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the body, and one of them is the gift of discerning of spirits, because sometimes the body of Christ needs this gift among us for discernment in addition to the discernment we all should already be exercising according to the word of God. We’re children dependent upon our Father, and sheep dependent upon our Shepherd. What’s dangerous is acting like the predator and father of lies isn’t real or able to deceive. We should obey God’s word and test, especially now in the last days when the reality of the supernatural signs of the antichrist seem only a hair’s breath away. Not everything which is supernatural is of God.
3) Turning to others in the body of Christ for help in discernment. This is the most difficult, since what they say is only as good as their maturity and integrity in their view and submission to the word of God. Having godly, mature believers in our lives is invaluable, and knowing whom to seek out and whom to avoid in a congregation is something we can only learn over time.
Be careful about materials from IHOP and Mike Bickle. Materials I’ve been given from them frequently contradicted the word of God, and abuses from that ministry have been chronicled online if you choose to read them. Many these days are being led astray in their desire for supernatural experiences and validation of their own hearts’ desires, rather than God’s. I’ve been hearing from God since I was young, and the decades since have only demonstrated the truth of his word and necessity to cling to him and abide in Him in obedience.