This has to be one of the most popular questions in the Christian circle. Many are the times that people who are young in the faith wonder how to hear from God. Those who are also older in the faith might ask the same question if or when God’s voice no longer seems as clear. How do you discern His voice? How do you tell it apart from every other voice? So now that we are to hear and heed, how do we hear?
Romans 10:17 (KJV)
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
There is a reason why I have never liked cramming formulas. To me, this gives me one and only one way of solving or approaching a problem. It also largely robs me of the opportunity to analyze the problem for understanding. I have always preferred mathematics over theory for this reason. With math, I can derive and understand the process that led to the formula. Most people find this tedious and unnecessary. However, with such an understanding, I can still get to the correct answer whether the problem is rephrased or adjusted.
When it comes to the question about hearing God, most some people are looking for a formula-like answer. In the age of YouTube tutorials, you can learn almost anything as long as you have a reliable internet connection. It follows that we often want the same instructional, step-by-step, foolproof solutions when it comes to our Christian walk; hearing Him is no different. Unfortunately, we cannot apply the same attitude to the things of God. We can, however, note or learn a few things:
- There is No Formula
God isn’t limited by anything or anyone. His thoughts are higher than ours and so are His ways (Isaiah 55). No matter how many years we have walked with Him, we can never have perfect knowledge or understanding of who He is. In the book of Revelation, He is revealed as the Alpha and Omega. That means that He was not just there in the beginning, rather, He IS the beginning and the end. When we carefully consider how infinite He is, our finite minds can never fully grasp His majesty and His ways. It’s therefore dangerous to have a formula for how He speaks. That doesn’t mean that there is no pattern, order or point of reference because there is. The bible clearly shows that. However, it’s limiting to cling to one ‘way’ of hearing God because it has worked for so-and-so.
That said, there are some undeniable characteristics whenever He speaks:
- Holiness: God is perfect and holy. He doesn’t speak anything that goes against this. In other words, any voice that promotes unholiness isn’t His.
- Confirmation: When God speaks, He confirms it.
- How He Has Spoken Before
The bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. In the epistles, Paul also states that what is written is supposed to serve as an example for us. It’s therefore wise to look at some of the ways that God talks to other people in the bible, if we are to know how He speaks so we can discern His voice. Some of these ways are:
- Scripture: Every word is breathed of God (2nd Timothy 3:16). There’s no better way to hear Him than through His infallible Word which is Spirit and life.
- People: He spoke through His prophets in the Old Testament. Think of Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the rest. They relayed to the people what God had instructed them to. Therefore, the people heard from God, through the prophets.
- Audibly: The prophets in the Old Testament had to hear God before they relayed the message. For some, it was through interaction. Think about Moses: the burning bush, the trips to the mountain, to name but a few. Go a step further and think about the interaction that the disciples had with Jesus. They literally heard His voice.
- Dreams and Visions: Again, in the Old Testament, some prophets and kings heard through God in visions and dreams. In the New Testament, God spoke to Peter in the same manner before He sent him to Cornelius, the centurion. (Acts 10)
- Angels: God also speaks to people through His ministering spirits/ messengers. Take a look at Mary (the mother of Jesus), Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father), and Cornelius the Centurion in the previous reference.
This doesn’t exhaust the ways in which God can speak, but it certainly points to how He has done it before in the bible and to others in this day and age.
- It’s Cultivated: Relationship
We live in the confines of time and so we’re subject to processes.
Think of a baby. Once it’s conceived, it doesn’t know any voice. With time, when the mother starts talking, singing or reading to it, it starts learning her voice. By the time it’s a few days, weeks or months old, as long as it’s been in constant contact with the mother, it knows her voice. The same thing applies to hearing God. Just like the baby, it’s through continued communion and fellowship that you learn to distinguish His voice. With time, it becomes clearer.
In John 10, Jesus presents Himself as a gate and a shepherd. He says that His sheep know His voice and don’t follow that of another. He also talks about sheep from another fold, in reference to the Gentiles. He will bring them in so they can also know His voice and follow Him. I believe sheep also take time in the early stages to learn the shepherd’s voice.
John 10:4 (KJV)
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
These things don’t cover everything that there is to know about hearing God. Even with such guidelines and examples, it isn’t guaranteed that we will always clearly hear from God. However, with continued communion, we can keep learning and growing in discerning His voice. It’s ultimately a result of relationship.