HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD

 

 

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HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD

by Dr. Alex Tang

 

Our God delights in revealing Himself to us. He revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush. He revealed Himself to Abraham, Jacob, Samuel and Paul. God talks to us. Yet often, in our busy lifestyle we do not listen and when we do, we do know how to distinguish God’s voice from other voices.

Esther de Waal wrote of the need to listen, “ If I am also true to my calling, my vocation, I must go on listening for this voice. There is such a danger that I talk about God, and enjoy talking about God, and do not stop and in the silence of my heart listen to Him speaking”.[1]

 

1.         Sources of voices

We are constantly bombarded by many voices demanding our attention. What are the sources of these voices?

1.1       God

God speaks to us. He is the still, small voice amidst the storms of life. His voice calls us to communion with Him and to co-operate with Him. He calls us to His Will.

 

1.2       Satan

Satan also speaks to us. He tempts us with the fame, wealth and power. He confuses us with the tyranny of time and the busyness of life. We wants to keep us moving so fast that we do not have time to reflect and do not have time for God. We need to recognize Satan’s voice so that we can resist him and make him flee from us (1 Peter 5:9; Eph 6:11).

1.3        Self

Our own self  talk to us. Persuading us to meet our own carnal needs. Our heart is so deceitful that we can be convinced that doing a wrong can make a right.

 

1.4       The World

People are always talking to us and trying to influence us consciously or subconsciously. Everyone has his/her own agenda to fulfill. We need to recognize this and to find God’s Will for us in the short time we have left.

 

2.         Ways in which God speaks to us[2]

 

Throughout human history, God has been communicating with us. He speaks to us by the following means:

 

2.1       Through the Bible

Apostle Paul wrote that “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16,17). We, evangelicals believe strongly that God speaks to us through the Bible. But we must not limit God by insisting that He only speaks to us through the Bible and nothing else.

 

2.2       Through Experience

God speaks to us through our lived experience but we need His help to see the experience through ‘spiritual’ eyes.

 

2.1.1          Our Trials (Mal. 3:6-12)

The prophets Haggai, Malachi and Joel  teach us an important principle: God may speak to us through our trials, unpleasant circumstances or situations.

 

2.2.2          Common Events

At times God will speak to us through common events, like watching an eagle fly.

 

2.2.3.         Miracles

God speaks to us through miracles. Miracles break through our limited understanding of the physical. Miracles point us towards God.

 

2.3        Through Supernatural Means

 

2.3.1          Audible voice (Ex. 20:18029; Deut. 4:36;5:23-29)

God speaks through an audible voice, as in giving of the ten commandments.

 

2.3.2          Voice audible to you alone (Acts 10:19)

Peter heard the voice of the Spirit.

 

2.3.3          Internal audible voice

God spoke to Ezekiel  when he was with the elders. The elders could not hear God while Ezekiel is hearing God’s voice in his mind. (Ezek. 14:2-4)

 

2.3.4          Voice of angels (Acts 27:23-26; Rev 1:1)

Scriptures has often recorded the words spoken  by angels.

 

2.4        Through Natural Means

 

2.4.1    Dreams, Visions and Trance (Num 12:6; Acts 2:17-18)

Dreams are images accompanied by sound and emotions that we ‘see’ when we are asleep. Visions are dreams that we experience when we are awake. In trance, there is a loss of consciousness of our surroundings.

 

2.4.2    Sentence Fragments and single words

Gods speaks to us by giving to our mind part of a sentence or single words. It is to get our attention.

 

2.4.3    Impressions

God sometimes speak to us by giving us impressions in our feelings, our physical senses or our minds.

 

2.4.4    Human messengers ( Acts 21:10,11)

He also speaks to us through other people – Christians or non-Christians.

 

            From the list above, it is obvious that God is speaking to us today. Jack Deere wrote, “Unless we know how God speaks, we will never understand His voice. But knowing how God speaks doesn’t guarantee he will speak to us or if he does we will recognize His voice.”[3]

 

3.                  Who can hear the Voice of God?

There are certain prerequisites before we can hear the voice of God. God may be speaking to us in his ‘small, still voice’ but we cannot hear if we are not listening. What are the characteristics of those who can hear the voice of God. I would suggest availability, willingness and humility.

3.1              Availability

If we look at the life of Jesus, we find that He is available to God at all times. Jesus did not find time in His busy schedule to ‘make time for God’. Instead, His time is God’s time. He is never hurried, never fixed to a certain way of doing things, never get frustrated because people do not behave in the way He expected but is always open to God. We can only hear the voice of God if we are available to Him. If we have too many agenda, too many plans and deadlines, we would not be able to hear Him. He may speak to us but we will not hear.

 

3.2              Willing to do God’s Will

Those who are willing to do God’s will be able to hear God. Those who want to follow their own will cannot hear God. Jesus said, “  By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30 NIV)  Jesus is able to hear the voice of God because he is willing to do His will. Moses is another person who is willing to do God’s will and God spoke to him.  With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles;” (Num 12: 8b)

   

3.3              Humility

Humility is another characteristic of one who can hear the voice of God. Pride is saying we can do it ourselves and we do not need God. So what need is there to hear His voice? Moses was described as the most humble man on earth (Num 12:3). Daniel was another who spoke to God because of his humility (Dan. 10:12).

 

Jack Deere wrote, “ Humble people know that nether physical strength (Prov 21:31), nor intelligence (Prov 16:9), nor luck (Prov.16:23) is decisive – instead, it is the Lord who will determine the outcome. Humility is a profound confidence in the mercy of God rather than in man’s intentions or efforts (Rom 9:15-16). A truly humble person knows that no matter how great their abilities or their character, they can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:6). So humble people put their confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak, not in their ability to hear, and in Christ’s ability to lead, not in their ability to follow.”[4]  Only the humble can hear the voice of God.

4.                  How do we hear the Voice of God.

4.1              Be still enough to listen

The Psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God”. (Ps 46:10) How true it is that we need to be still in our fast moving hectic lifestyle. And life will continue to move faster and faster in the coming year. A Christian who is serious about wanting to listen and to hear the voice of God must evaluate his or her lifestyle. We need to make time to be still and to slow down. We need to practice the discipline of solitude. It is only when we are quiet, can we hear God.

 

4.2              Lectio divina

 

4.3              Prayer

Prayer is the main avenue for us to hear God. Prayer is a conversational relationship with God. As we pray, we learn the language of prayer which is love. We become familiar with our Lord.

“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10:1-5) We are like the sheep in Jesus’ parable. In deepening our prayer life, we come to know our Shepherd and recognize His voice.

 

4.4              Examen of consciousness

We need to continually examine our lives to see what God is doing in our lives. Keeping a spiritual journal is a good idea. Then we can have a record of what God has done for us. And we can see the times when God has spoken to us. In examining our life, our feelings , our circumstances we will discover that God has been speaking to us all the time.

We need to examine ourselves daily. Ignatius of Loyola called it examen of consciousness. He also called for a periodic examination, maybe once every six months or yearly.

 

4.5              Be open

To hear the voice of God, we need to keep an open mind. We must be aware that our Lord is not limited by Church traditions. The God who performed miracles in the Biblical times is the same God we worship today. We must be open to God’s working. Only when we let our perception of God out of a box can we truly appreciate how  great our God is.

 

5.                  Conclusion

 

God does speak and is speaking to us in this time and age. The problem is that we are not listening and we do not hear. There are many voices demanding our attention. God speaks to us through the Bible, through experience, though natural and supernatural means. Often we cannot hear Him because we are not available to Him, not willing to do His will and because of our pride. We need to learn the art of  how to listen to His voice.

 

                                                                                                                        Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

Recommended reading

 

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996)

Willard, Dallas Hearing God. Downers grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984,1993,1999 )

 

Barrister, Roger Listening to the Voice of God. The Pastor’s Soul Series (Minneapolis MN: Bethany House, 1998)

 


 

[1] de Waal, Esther A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant 1992  p. 44

[2] Deere, Jack gave a comprehensive summary of how God speaks to us in Chapter 7-10. This section is based on his work, Surprised by the Voice of God. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996)  p. 97-156

[3] Ibid p. 156

[4] Ibid, p. 319

 

 

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