Hearing God’s Voice

During my many years as a Pastor and a Counselor, I have had a number of people tell me about conversations they had with God. Some of the stories were as bizarre as a Twilight Zone movie. Others were less dramatic but included some sort of verbal conversation with God.

Early on in my Christian life I would have thought “what’s wrong with me, why don’t I hear those voices”? But as I matured in my walk with God,and my knowledge of Scripture, I came to realize that probably most of those stories were not really an encounter with God, but were more than likely some desperate, and failed attempt to hear from God.

Could God verbally speak to us, absolutely? But more often than not, God uses our natural senses and our daily lifestyle to speak to us. He normally communicates to us quietly in our spirit. Throughout scripture we see a pattern of the “still small voice” as His primary means of speaking to His children.

This principle is illustrated in the story of Elijah when he was running from Jezebel. He had fled to the mountains of Mount Horeb and was hiding in a cave. God wanted to get Elijah’s attention so He sent a great wind that caused the rocks to fall and bust. He then sent an earthquake and fire. But the scripture tells us that none of those elements were instruments of His revelation. In contrast to all that noise, God then sent a still small voice to speak to Elijah. (2 Kings 19)

God was making a point to Elijah. the lesson is that he shouldn’t depend on miraculous signs for revelation, but he should be still and listen for God’s still, small voice.

Learning to hear God’s voice is key to a successful walk with God. He wants to continually speak to and through us, but we must learn to take time to stop, be quiet and listen. He wants us to learn to recognize His voice and to distinguish His voice from the many other voices around us.

After all these years, I am still learning how to hear God’s voice. I must confess, sometimes, I would like to see a little wind, fire and earthquake when I am waiting on an answer to prayer. However, every time I get anxious about waiting on God, I miss what He is saying in that “still small voice”. Often, what He says while I am waiting is more profound than the eventual answer to my prayer. Could it be that our journey of waiting has as much value as the destination?

Bottom Line
Hearing God speak is not something reserved just for the super spiritual, but it’s for every child of God who is willing to learn how God speaks. He wants us to become intentional in our listening, and learn to watch and wait for His voice. Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be to spend as much time quietly waiting and listening as we spend praying?

In the next post I will expand on this subject and write about the practical aspects of hearing God’s voice.

Waiting on God

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He cut off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly soon emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man expected that the wings would enlarge and expand to support the body, which would contract in time, but neither happened. Instead the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never flew. In his kindness and haste the man didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon was God’s way of forcing fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings, so that it could fly once free from the cocoon.

Sometimes our struggles are exactly what we need. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong and we could never fly! With our flesh we fight life’s struggles. We are impatient during the learning curves. We fail to understand that our obstacles are the very thing that allows us to soar. Jesus said, “If you reign with me you will suffer with me”. The context of this verse has to do with becoming a true disciple. That means suffering, by way of life’s struggles, is necessary to be called a legitimate disciple of Jesus Christ.

I like to refer to our daily struggles as God’s way of bringing a little brokenness. Sometimes that means a sense of “momentarily being out of control.” Being out of control gives us a feeling of having no place to turn but God. That’s exactly where God wants us to be – acting on our faith and trust in Him. Besides, even if the struggle and discomfort is a direct attack from the enemy, God always means it for good.

Joseph had the proper perspective when he explained to his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” So next time you get in a jam – don’t try to exit from the cocoon too soon, more struggle may be necessary. Wait on God’s natural timing so you can fly.

“Consider it all joy, my brother, when you encounter various trials, know that the testing’s of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

When God is Not Speaking

“And yet it is true that this God who desires to give Himself to you, will often conceal himself from you – from you the very one who seeks Him.” (Guyon)

If you have been a “God Seeker” very long you have experienced the above statement on at least a few occasions.  Why does a God who loves us so intensely seem to close a deaf ear to our prayers, especially in times of great need? There are at least three reasons.

First, God wants us to be on a track of continually pursuing Him.  If you are the typical Christian then you, like me, have a tendency to get spiritually lazy when things are going great.  We may have our daily devotions and shoot up a few prayers during the day, but we lack passion in our pursuit of Him.  We may not say it, but we sometimes live like, “God I am ok now, but I will be sure to get really serious about prayer if I hit a snag I can’t fix. You will be the first one I call on.”
Every committed follower of Jesus is quick to call upon the Lord when things begin to get out of control, and it should be that way.  However, God’s higher desire for us is to pursue Him even when times are good. God created us for fellowship with Him. It is the instinctive nature of a child of God to pursue a deeper and richer fellowship with the Father.  So when we sense those times when God seems to turn a deaf ear to our prayers it is a sign that we need to examine our passion of pursuit.
Secondly, it is a test of our faith.  Do you really believe, even in the absence of a manifest presence? As a faithful follower of Jesus our faith is continually tested in numerous ways.  The deeper your walk the greater the test.  It’s like the old story about the man who was chased by a bear. In his attempt to out-run the bear he ran over a cliff and on the way down latched onto a limb. While hanging there in midair, hundreds of feet from the valley floor he called out to God to help him.  God said do you trust me, the man quickly declared, yes, I believe and fully trust you.  Then God said let go of the limb.
Sometimes trusting God when we don’t see a logical way out is like the above story.  We must trust God and be willing to let go of the limb because of who He is and because of His proven faithfulness in the past. Each time we come to one of those moments and we trust God even though our emotions are all over the place, our faith is increased. How does our faith increase?   Because in the end God gives us what we really needed even though it is not what we prayed for.   Faith must be tested in order to grow and have real value.  Now you know why Paul said, “I thank God for various temptations.”  He knew that faith produces endurance.
Thirdly, during times of dryness we learn something about ourselves.  There is a point in my conference presentation when I ask the audience who is the person that gives you the greatest problem in life? A few may answer the “devil”,  and one time a man said it was his wife, but the overwhelming majority of people answer, “ It’s me”.  During times of spiritual dryness as when we turn toward pursuing God we begin to see ourselves as we really are.  We quickly realize how our whole world is revolving around ourselves. We see our unforgiveness, our quickness to set someone straight, our self-protection and all those things that point to a lack of brokenness.
I vividly remember military boot camp.  The best way to describe it was they took all my rights away. I couldn’t go and come as I pleased. I couldn’t talk unless spoken to and I had to go to bed and get up when they said, even when it meant getting up in the middle of the night marching for hours. I had to march in the rain, crawl through the mud with my rifle under barbed wire with machine gun fire above my head.  It wasn’t fair, why was I treated so badly, and subjected to such dangerous circumstances. I didn’t sign up for this! I just wanted to join the military.  And to top it all off, they wouldn’t let me do things my way.
It wasn’t until the end of boot camp that I realized their overall purpose.  They were breaking down my self-sufficient, undisciplined will. Their goal was to make me a good soldier, one who followed orders without question and was ready for conflict in a moment’s notice. Wow, what a proud moment when our barracks came together as a unit.
In a similar manner, that’s what God is doing in our life. He allows us to experience trouble we can’t escape, people we love that we can’t fix, and failures and disappointments we think we don’t deserve. In addition to all of that there are bouts of loneliness and despair.  All because He wants to break our stubborn self-will, give up on our own self-sufficiency and fully cast ourselves on Him and Him alone.
Life in the Lord’s army is paradoxical   To receive you must first give. To save your life you must give it away to others.  But the rewards are heavenly – rest, joy (inner peace), and daily fellowship with the Creator of the universe.
Next time you feel God has withdrawn from you remember these three things: (1) God is testing your faith: (2) He is showing you your self-sufficiency and: (3) it is His cue for you to readjust your priorities and pursue Him like never before.  Gaze on Him and be transformed.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:18)