Hearing from God can feel like an elusive concept that leaves many wondering whether it’s God or their own brain they’re hearing. Here we’ll take a look at how the Bible says we can securely hear from God in our lives.
What if I told you that there’s a way to navigate your life that will bring you greater peace, greater adventure, and greater satisfaction? Personally, I believe there’s Someone speaking right now to every last one of us. Can you hear Him? Does that question make you think I might need psychiatric help? Hang with me, and hopefully, some simple tools I share will help you hear this voice. Maybe more clearly or maybe for the first time.
Let me start with a sincere question. How did we ever navigate getting anywhere prior to 2011? That’s when Siri was introduced, and she soothingly told us where to make a left to pick up that ½ gallon of double chocolate chip ice cream that we were dying for.
Now at the risk of sounding like an old-timer, I proudly found my way around long before Siri, with a good ol’ fashion paper map. Or just driving until I stumbled upon my destination (c’mon - no guy wants to ask for directions).
But let’s take this analogy to the next level. What about how we navigate our lives? Do we just motor down the metaphorical highway, hoping we find what we’re looking for? Do we listen to others for directions? Or consult a guidebook of some sort? I’m sure we’ve tried it many ways. And I’m sure we’ve had successes and failures. I know I have.
Like I said at the top, I believe there’s a voice wanting to speak to us. And it’s a million times more accurate than Siri. (bummer for you, Siri). And for sure, this is for much higher stakes than the quickest route to Chipotle.
I listen for this voice on a daily basis. And although I don’t do it perfectly, AND things aren’t always easy, my life runs WAY smoother and I experience greater joy because I try to listen and act on what this voice tells me to. I’ll even risk a step further; Dare I say— I obey what it tells me to do.
I know, I know— that word can be like lobbing a grenade in an oil refinery. But let me unpack what (and actually who) this voice is. How we can listen and what we do with what it says; I believe it will change your life in amazing ways.
So let’s unpack this…in stages.
First, with God (the Father). He said this to the prophet, Jeremiah, in the Old Testament.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3
Statements like this can be easily overlooked in the big picture of the story. God was revealing some heavy stuff to Jeremiah. We can look at the reason for that another time. But let’s not overlook the fact that the creator of the Universe was willing to tell Jeremiah “great and hidden things.” This means that God was going to speak truths that left to Jeremiah’s own abilities, he would never find or comprehend. God speaks like this to a bunch of folks at various times throughout the Bible. Regular folks just like you and me. So we can believe He’s willing to speak to us. He wants to tell us things about ourselves and our lives that we can’t find out any other way. Are we ready to listen?
Let’s unpack some more. Now to the New Testament, 100s of years after God and Jeremiah were chewin’ the fat.
Jesus (the Son of God) is teaching a crowd that’s gathered to hear Him. This entire chapter of the Book of John (an account of Jesus’ life) has imagery of sheep and shepherds, which would have had clear implications for the agrarian culture He was addressing. Jesus says,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
Folks would have known what Jesus was saying. Because they either personally knew or saw shepherds in the fields nearby. They knew that sheep recognized and followed the voice of their shepherd. Shepherds protected their sheep. They kept them sheltered, cared for them when sick, and led them to the best spots for food.
Jesus was saying, just like helpless sheep, we need all those things as well. And in order to get those things, we need to know His voice. To follow and trust it when we hear it.
So we see that God the Father, and the Son, want to speak to us. So to bring this to its culmination, let’s look at the 3rd person of God. The Holy Spirit. Jesus reveals the role of the Spirit in John 14. This is Jesus speaking,
“He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, 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 14:24-26
Here we go. All 3 persons of God rolled into one passage. Jesus (the Son) speaks the words of God (the Father). But Jesus is about to leave this earth after having conquered sin and death. But He’s not leaving us high and dry. God is sending His Counselor, The Holy Spirit, who will continue to teach you and me all that Jesus said (which as we remember, was from the heart of God the father).
The bottom line is this. God has, is, and will always be SPEAKING TO US. Are we willing to listen? If so, read on.
I have a friend who says she hears God’s audible voice. She’s a trustworthy sort so I take her at her word. But it’s pretty rare to find someone with this claim. Even in the Bible, the number who hear Him speak with audible words are in rare air. It can happen to be sure. Just not commonplace.
But, He is speaking every day. More to the point, He’s speaking to us every day. And if we’re attuned, that’s when our lives get kicked to the next level. Simply put, there are three primary ways for Him to speak.
Notice that all three start with “His”. It’s important to remember, without Him, it’s nothing. Let’s not become overly enamored with the vehicle. Let’s rejoice that there’s a person behind the voice. And that person is God
The Bible is recognized by Christian believers as the authoritative word of God. He used a variety of people over thousands of years to tell His story of rescue and redemption. They wrote it down into what eventually became a collection of all these books. It’s called The Bible. Those varied people had different experiences and personalities, as well as social and economic positions. But God spoke through all of these imperfect people to share His perfect message of hope for you and me.
Although the Bible is just made up of paper and ink (at least in my younger days), it is in no way comparable to any other book. There’s a power in what’s written that is unlike anything else ever penned.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
This verse tells us that these words are completely different than Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice or J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. These words are “living and active.” When read, they have the power to pierce us. To make us consider things (and potentially change things) in a way that no other book can.
Now you may be saying, “But Scott, people read all kinds of self-help books and make changes.” True. But I would argue the only changes that matter— Or, more to the point, the only changes that are for our good, are those orchestrated by God. The ones that bring you closer to Him. And the Bible is the primary source for that. It’s built to do that.
Does that mean you open it and poof! You’re instantly changed? I wish. Although it’s sometimes very easy to understand and apply, there are plenty of places where it can be confusing and even frustrating. Sometimes I read and reread chapter and verse, over and over.
But I believe God sees my desire to learn and He meets me there. In the middle of His words. He may give me an unexpected insight. Or I might hear a message at church on the weekend or have a conversation with a friend. And because I read something in the Bible, it connects a dot for me. I begin to understand something I hadn’t before. The Bible can’t help it. It drives us to Him. But it can’t work if we’re not willing to read it.
I encourage you to crack it open. Maybe start with the Crossroads’ app. Or another reading plan. Simply starting is half the battle. Opening ourselves up to the possibility of God speaking to us is what’s at stake. Maybe join a group with folks like you who are trying to make sense of what’s written. I know that when I can’t understand something I’ve read, it drives me to ask someone else who might understand a little more than me. It drives me toward community. And that’s the next way He speaks to us. Through His people.
This is a very natural (and at times, unsuspecting) way to hear His voice. I know we all are living in different circumstances. Maybe we’re married, maybe not. Maybe we have kids, maybe not. Maybe we have tons of friends or just a few. But I’ve found that if I surround myself with people who are trying their best to follow God— If I’ve found a community of folks trying to walk with God— He uses their voices to speak to me.
Maybe it’s in a challenge. Maybe in an encouragement. Furthermore, I feel He uses me to speak to others. It’s a lot of fun to be used by God to build someone else up. There’s a guy named Paul who was one of the biggest forces in getting faith in Jesus off the ground in the first century AD. He wrote a lot of the New Testament. In the below passage, he was teaching a young church how to build one another up.
“On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” 1 Corinthians 14:3
I realize there’s a real churchy word in there that you might have heard before - prophecy. That word has gotten a bit of a bad wrap that might get unpacked in another article. But for now, simply put— ‘prophecy’ is to speak words that tell someone God loves them. We are to do this by building them up, encouraging, and consoling (or comforting) them.
But as you can see, there’s a formula here. It takes two people. One encourages the other. I’ve been encouraged by God through those around me more than any other way. My wife, my daughters, my friends, and co-workers. They are all mouthpieces that God uses to speak to me. But I have to be listening.
It might be something seemingly off the cuff. My boss might say, “Thanks for bringing up that point in the meeting. It really helped the conversation.” From that, I hear God saying, “Scott, I put you on this team to share your unique perspective and ideas - well done!”
Or my wife may say, “Thanks for cutting the grass. It looks great”. I hear God saying, “I love that you serve your family through acts of service - way to go!”. So I believe God is saying something in those words. And I’ll chew on what it is and what God is saying. What He wants me to do. And who He wants me to become.
I’ve found that, just like reading the Bible, the more I listen and try to discern what’s being said, the more insight I get. And beyond that, I want to deliver His words as well. I love encouraging people toward God. I love telling folks how God sees and loves them. And the more I do it, the more opportunities to do it arise. Amazing.
And it’s not me saying, “God thus says thoust is a good person.” I wouldn’t have any friends if I talked like that. It might be more like, “Thanks for grabbing lunch with me and sharing what’s going in with your family. I really appreciate you hanging out with me.” God might say to them from my statement, “You’re willing to spend your time sharing with others. When you do that, you honor Me. Good job!” God just used me to encourage another. That feels really good.
You might be asking, sooo…I read the Bible, I look for folks to say things to me, but what about the voice? What is that and how do I listen for it? This leads us to the third way God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit.
Before you allow your mind to drift towards a scene from The Christmas Carol or Ghostbusters, let me set the tone by using— you guessed it— The Bible!
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
A huge promise is made by Jesus here. And let me be clear - this promise is for ANYONE who chooses to follow Jesus. Not just the scholarly, head pastors, or Bible study leaders. Everyone. And BTW - that includes you and me. And what’s the promise here, exactly? That God as Spirit will live inside us; instructing, inspiring, and spurring us on.
Ever had a deep insight that felt like it came out of thin air? - Holy Spirit
Ever had a hard conversation and the words just flowed that diffused the situation with wisdom? - Holy Spirit
Ever got a “gut” feeling about what someone needed to hear without them telling you? - Holy Spirit
The gift of His Spirit is something every believer has access to. You get it when you first confess believing in Jesus.
“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1: 13-14
So when you read your Bible, the Holy Spirit is right there, putting thoughts and ideas into your mind, or feelings into your heart. When you hang out with friends or family, the Spirit is reminding you what you’ve read or maybe gives you a prompting on what to say.
So All three ways - His Word, His people, and His Spirit, are speaking out from the very heart of God. And they can speak both to and through you. Are you willing to listen? If so, be prepared for a life of greater peace, greater adventure, and greater satisfaction.