If you read the Old Testament you don’t have to look far for an example of God speaking to His people. Not only did God speak to His people, He spoke to them in very unique ways. He guided the Israelites out of Egypt through fire and a cloud. He spoke to Moses through a burning bush. He even once spoke through a donkey. If you continue on into the New Testament, he did something even more radical – he sent His son to speak directly to his people. But as we all know, Jesus no longer walks amongst us. So how does He speak to us today?
The first time I heard God’s voice
I vividly remember the first time God spoke to me. I was a junior in high school and I was in the midst of teaching a swimming lesson. As I waited for one of the young swimmers to dive into my arms, I heard an almost audible voice say to me “You need to apply to work in Los Angeles this summer.” The summer prior, I had been on a mission trip to Los Angeles and it was amazing. “Of course you want to go to Los Angeles for the summer “ I told myself as I tried to dismiss the nagging voice. But this voice felt different, it didn’t seem to be coming within me – it seemed to be moving through me. Long story short, after a lot of processing and questioning, I did end up moving to Los Angeles for the summer. It was that moment, that feeling, that gave birth to my journey to learn how to hear and discern God’s voice.
Prior to that encounter during my swimming lessons, I had an abnormally strong faith for my age. I felt a strong calling on my life from a young age to be in full-time ministry. I was bold in sharing my faith. In spite of having such a deep faith, I struggled with fully understanding and believing that I could hear God’s voice. I still have a lot to learn and I know that I am not alone. I have known many long-term Christians that wrestle with hearing God’s voice and discerning His plan for their life.
How do we know when God is speaking to us?
It often times starts with a nudge.
Have you ever felt a “nudge”? Or had a “feeling”? That feeling of something new moving within you and through you?
When you did, did you dismiss those feelings?
Have you wondered if maybe it was God speaking to you?
I have found that God often speaks to me through a nudge, a feeling, or a still small voice.
When you find yourself experiencing those “nudges“, here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are trying to discern if you are indeed hearing the voice of God.
Questions to ask yourself
Does what I’m sensing align with God’s word?
God will never tell you to do something that does not align with God’s word. For example, say someone told you something private and you just really want to tell someone.You pray about it and you feel like God is telling you to go ahead and tell a friend. Before you go and tell your friend, stop and think. “What does God’s word say about this?” Believe it or not, God’s word has a lot of say about our words. Ephesians 4:29 says “ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Is sharing private information about a friend to another friend building someone else up? No. Because of that, you can be sure that God is not giving you permission to share the private information. I don’t want to belabor this point, there is a lot of information out there about God speaking to people through His word. But it is an important question to address.This should be the first question we ask ourselves when we are trying to discern if God is truly speaking to us.
What do my godly mentors and friends think?
It is important that we surround ourselves with godly friends and mentors. We need people in our life that fully know us, love us and are committed to our spiritual journey. When it comes to discerning the voice of God, we need other people praying for us. We don’t just need people praying for us, we need other people hearing from God on our behalf! I find great comfort in knowing that I am not the only one that God speaks to. When I am making big decisions, I have a handful of people I talk to about it. They are people that know me, love me and most importantly want me to flourish in my walk with Christ. If I know they have truly been praying about a decision and they come to a different conclusion than I do, I take a step back. Ultimately I am accountable to my decisions, but if my godly mentors and friends disagree, it is important that I take note.
Are my emotions clouding my judgement?
Let’s circle back to the example above about wanting to share private information about a friend. I can picture myself in that situation. I’m not proud to say this, but I have a hard time keeping secrets.There have been times when someone has shared very private information with me and I have found myself passing that information along. I justify it afterwards in my head with something that sounds a lot like this “I just couldn’t help it. I had to tell someone!” Here is the truth, I did not have to tell anyone -I felt like I had to tell someone. Emotions have an important role in our lives, but you know what role they do not play – decision maker. Being a long term Christian I have seen a lot of people make decisions based on “God told me to…” I have been guilty of saying those same words.But as I have gotten older, my language has changed from “God told me to” to “I feel really compelled by God to do this, what do you think?” We have to have enough humility to recognize that even when we feel confident that God is speaking to us, we could be wrong. Our decisions are tainted by our emotions, experiences and worldviews.
Am I being met with peace or chaos?
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace..” 1 Corinthians 14:33. As I mentioned earlier, I encounter a lot of people struggling to discern if God is speaking to them. I don’t know about you, but I have great ideas about what my life should look like. I become so obsessed with my great ideas that I have a hard time discerning what are my good ideas and what are God ideas. When that has been the case, I have found it helpful to follow peace. There are going to be times when it is not clear what the next steps are. When that happens, we have to take a step of faith. When you take those first few steps, are you met with peace or chaos? Several years ago I had the opportunity to apply for my dream job. I was sure that God made that position just for me. Every time I stepped forward towards that role, I was met with chaos. I continued to push forward hoping that was God’s plan for me, the more I pushed, the more I was met with chaos. As you can imagine it didn’t end well.
I have some bad news.
Even after you ask yourself all of those questions, you still may not have a clear answer. There have been times in my life when I have desperately wanted to hear from God, but He seemed silent. There will be times that no matter how much you pray, plead and beg – you may not get a clear answer.
Don’t lose hope! Stay tuned as we continue this conversation. God desperately wants to speak to us! Next week let’s talk more about the fact that maybe, just maybe, it’s us that is getting in the way.
Because there is more,