Tag Archives: Hearing God

The Voice of the Lord

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.

1 Sam. 3:10 NLT

Principles of receiving God’s guidance in our lives:

First, God’s voice often sounds, whether spoken outwardly to the physical ear or inwardly to the human soul, like a human voice.

Second, God’s voice is hindered by unrepentant sin, unsurrendered goals, and self-centered ambitions.

Third, God’s voice can be corrective, or even a word of rebuke, but it will be seasoned with encouragement that is full of enabling grace.

Fourth, God’s voice speaks in silence and repose. Spend little or no time in God’s presence and you will not receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, God’s voice is precious to those whose hearts burn for more of Christ. They maintain yielded and surrendered hearts opening their lives to more and more of God’s presence.

Sixth, God’s voice is gracious, he will speak to us over and over again until we understand his direction.

Seventh, God’s voice is more concerned with developing our character than getting us to the next place in life.

Last, God’s voice always leads to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus and never contradicts Holy Scripture.

The servant’s open ear is a reason for the Lord’s open lips.

Alexander MacLaren

I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to GOD, which I may call an actual presence of GOD; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with GOD, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others.

Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

 

God’s Voice, George Washington Carver, and the Peanut

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.

Psalm 5:1-2 NLT

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue-a real and intimate conversation-between God, our Father, and us, his beloved children. Since prayer is a conversation between us and God, we can expect to be heard by the Holy Spirit and to be spoken to by God. Our conversation with God involves sharing, asking questions, clarifying, and responding. Prayer opens our hearts to God’s presence, our ears to his direction, our minds to his will, and our spirit to his great love. Prayer makes us great receivers of God’s most gracious grace. Prayer provides insights into our struggles, alignment with God’s will, and wisdom for life’s problems.

George Washington Carver wanted to help Southern sharecroppers: their soil was exhausted from years and years of growing cotton and the boil weevil had destroyed thousands of acres of new crops. Mr. Carver needed to find alternative crops to restore the soil and create new markets. Carver, the President of Tuskegee Institute, turned to the Lord for help:

George Washington Carver was one of our great scientists, and he often prayed, addressing God as “Mr. Creator.” One night he walked out into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make the universe?” He listened, and this is what he heard: “Little man, that question is too big for you. Try another!” The next night he walked into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make man [meaning, the human race]?” He listened and he heard this: “Little man, that question is still too big for you. Try another!”

The third night he went into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make the peanut?” This is what he heard: “Little man, that question is just your size. You listen and I will teach you.” And you may know that George Washington Carver invented some three hundred ways to use the peanut.

Richard J. Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer (Kindle Locations 578-583), Kindle Edition.

Common Mistakes in Hearing God

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Col. 3:15 ESV

As believers, we enjoy the God’s personal presence through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can and should experience an on-going conversational relationship with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and immersing us in his love. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being directed, guided, and led by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of everyday life is called hearing God (John 10:25-30).

God’s guidance rarely involves hearing an audible voice, the Holy Spirit mostly leads through a nudging, quiet, gnawing impression in our spirits. Often, the Holy Spirit uses “sanctified reasoning” and “the peace that passes all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7) to lead us. Not every word from the Lord need be dramatic or overtly supernatural.

We must be careful when we feel “leadings of the Spirit,” caution should be our watchword. Our moods can mislead, our emotions are fickle, and our impressions change with the weather. Our sense of guidance must be saturated with the Word, our direction needs to be affirmed by spiritual leadership, committed friends, and loving family members. Our prayer time needs to be focused, deliberate, and yielded. Laying our desires, wants, and ambitions at the foot of the cross will protect us self-deception.

In the late nineteenth century . . . it became common among evangelicals to expect something . . . startling . . . whenever far-reaching decisions had to be made, particularly with regard to career and marriage. People hoped and prayed for, and expected, some sort of supernatural indication from God as to what they should do, and in its absence they felt obliged to say, “Well, I haven’t received my guidance yet.” What kind of indication was being looked for?

At the very least, a powerful feeling of “rightness” in connection with one of the options, or possibilities, between which one was trying to decide. But was their expectation of guidance by distinctive feeling, or vision, or voice, in such cases really warranted? Moses, Paul, Gideon, and Amos were being directed to forms of service that they themselves never would have dreamed. Therefore, only through a conscious encounter could God communicate to them the task he had in store for them. Decisions about whether, or to whom, to commit oneself in marriage or whether to offer [oneself] for the pastorate, at home or abroad, hardly come in that category. Expecting special, supernatural direction for these and similar decisions was surely a mistake . . . .

Certainly, the fallout from the mistake, if mistake it was, has been decidedly unhappy: bewilderment, depression, guilt, inaction, desperate dependence on inner urges, random decisions at the end of the day—all because no supernatural indication of this kind of desire has been given. The root of the mistake, it appears, was twofold: (1) an underlying mistrust of Christian reasoning, as not in itself a sufficiently spiritual activity, and (2) an undue reliance on significant gusts of emotion, whether euphoric or gloomy, to show how one stood with God in relation to this or that particular problem. . . .

Yet the way to pray about these matters has not really changed. With regard to a career, the proper prayer is: “Give me clarity as to what line of work I can happily follow for life, should the form of employment with which I start last for life.” And with regard to marriage, the proper prayer is: “Give me clarity as to whom I can loyally and wholeheartedly love for life, assuming many years together before death brings a parting.” The answer to both prayers will be, precisely, the clarity that is asked for, and the sign of its attainment will be an inner peace that says in effect, “You need not churn over this matter in your mind any more; now you know, so you can proceed.”

J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012).

Get Still to Wait on God

Hearing God Through His Word

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Psalm 119:50 ESV

As believers, we enjoy the God’s personal presence through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can and should experience an on-going conversational relationship with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and guiding us by his love and care. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being led, guided, and directed by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of everyday life is called hearing God (John 10:25-30). God’s guidance does not usually involve an audible voice, but the Holy Spirit leading through a nudging, gnawing impression in our spirits.

It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts.

I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and All.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thrist for the Divine (Harrisburg, Penn.: Christian Publications, 1982), 76.

Sanctified Common Sense Decision Making

Everyday Hearing God

When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Cor 2:12-14

Hearing God is often relegated to only supernatural experiences: audible voices, angelic visitations, and divine encounters. However, hearing God could often be described in scripture as sanctified common sense. Over time, our thinking processes are transformed by scripture, our understanding grows in our knowledge of God’s ways, and our wills are conformed to God’s direction (Rom. 12:1-2). We begin to make wise and godly decisions without dramatic spiritual experiences. As we grow in Christ, our understanding of God’s will becomes an every day ordinary occurrence. As believers, we should form a level of sanctified common sense when making everyday life decisions.

Proverbs, and the wisdom literature in general, counter the idea that being spiritual means handing all decisions over to the leading of the Lord. The opposite is true. Proverbs reveals that God does not make all people’s decisions for them, but rather expects them to use his gift of reason to interpret the circumstances and events of life within the framework of revelation that he has given. Yet when they have exercised their responsibility in decision-making, they can look back and see that the sovereign God has guided.

Graeme Goldsworthy,  New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds., Brian S. Rosner, T. Desmond Alexander, Graeme Goldsworthy, D. A. Carson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 210.

 

Don’t Give Up So Easily

open_doors_0001

Opportunities and Opposition

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

1 Cor 16:9 KJV

God’s call may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

God’s call may lead us to a season of difficulty and opposition from the enemy (Matt. 4:1). Trials do not indicate that we missed God or somehow lost our way. The very thing that God most desires to accomplish in us and through us, intimacy with him, is the very thing that the kingdom of darkness wants to oppose. We should not allow difficulties and discouragements to prevent us from obeying the call of God. If we obey and trust God’s call, the Lord will be glorified by our obedience and our faith will grow exponentially.

There are open doors in every life, doors to high achievement and wide usefulness and spiritual discovery. Many of us, in moods which we allow too often, look upon our circumstances in life as barriers to attainment; but in our moments of truer perception we discern that the imagined prison bars are in reality open doors of opportunity. Our circumstances only look like barriers because the inward eye by which we recognize spiritual values is diseased.

But there are never open doors without opposition. . . . There is an opportunity in every difficulty and difficulty in every opportunity. That is why so many blessings are missed, so many heights left unscaled, so many chapters of service left unwritten. Some of the finest foreign missionaries are those who never went! They heard the call, they felt the urge, they were keen to go, they saw the open door and would had gone through; but there were adversaries, obstacles, discouragements; there was hesitation; the vision faded; and the grand vocation was never fulfilled.

J. Sidlow Baxter, Awake my Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations for the Year (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1960), 10.

It was precisely because the opportunities were so great that Paul had so many adversaries. The devil is always active when he risks losing his booty.

John Chrysostom cited in 1 & 2 Corinthians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 186.

Conversing With God

A Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:12 NLT

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue-a real and intimate conversation-between the Abba Father of Jesus and us, his beloved children. Since prayer is a conversation between us and God, we can expect to be heard by the Holy Spirit and to be spoken to by God. Our conversation with God involves sharing, asking questions, clarifying, and responding. Prayer opens our hearts to God’s presence, our ears to his direction, our minds to his will, and our spirit to his great love. Prayer makes us great receivers of God’s most gracious grace.

Prayer is standing before God transparent and open in a real on-going back-and-forth conversation. In that conversation, we share our hopes, fears, needs, and desires knowing that our Abba Father who cares for us will respond. He will hear our cry and answer: he will move on our behalf and provide what is best for us.

Does God, then, really tell us things when we pray? Yes. We shall probably not hear voices, nor feel sudden strong impressions of a message coming through (and we shall be wise to suspect such experiences should they come our way); but as we analyze and verbalize our problems before God’s throne, and tell him what we want and why we want it, and think our way through passages and principles of God’s written Word bearing on the matter in hand, we shall find many certainties crystallizing in our hearts as to God’s view of us and our prayers, and his will for us and others. If you ask, “Why is this or that happening?” no light may come, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29); but if you ask, “How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?” there will always be an answer.

J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994).

Are You a Mystic?

Mystics Hear God

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

John 10:4

A mystic is someone who has a deep internal hunger for the Lord Jesus Christ. A mystic’s life is ruled by seeking, loving, and worshiping Jesus Christ alone. He or she enjoys the peace that comes in resting in the arms of the Abba Father of Jesus. They are able to receive the mercy, forgiveness, grace and reconciliation granted them by the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Their hearts are surrendered to the Word made flesh and they will follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They accept the acceptance by which they have been accepted in Christ.

All mystics can hear God in real and personal way. According to John 10, all believers can hear God. Therefore, all believers who truly follow Christ are mystics. A Christian believer may not hear an audible voice, but they can and will sense an inner prompting of the Holy Spirit. All sincere believers are guided by the Spirit.

Do you hear God? Are you a mystic? Being a mystic is not bad, all true believers are mystics.

A mystic is one who . . .

1. Sees a real spiritual world beyond the world of sense.

2. Seeks to please God rather than the crowd.

3. Cultivates a close fellowship with God, sensing his presence everywhere.

4. Relates his or her experience to the practical things of life.

Warren Wiersbe, Listening to the Giants

Hearing God for the New Year (Part Two)

A Burning Heart to Hear God

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper (emphasis mine).

1 Kings 19:11-12

Yesterday, we discussed hearing God as an on-going conversational relationship. We determined that it was God’s heart to speak to us and be spoken to by us. God treats us as friends not slaves: he does not desire to order us around. The Lord draws us into his presence tenderly, leading us by his love. He wants a relationship with us, not a command/control robotic dynamic, but a moment-by-moment conversation.

Relationship

God’s voice rarely speaks in the midst of the noise and chaos of worldly distractions. Most often, the Holy Spirit leads in thoughtful silence, physical repose, and reflective prayer. He is not a “chatty Cathy;” he will not overwhelm us, but will speak to us in unguarded moments. Recognition of God’s voice is not automatic, but is developed over time in love relationship. Remember, God desires you; therefore, he will withhold information in order to keep you near. As we yearn for direction, he will lead us step-by-step to keep us dependent on his wisdom and fatherly care. Christ said that we are his friends, not his robots (John 15:13-15). He desires our love far more than we desire to love him.

The development of character must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but he won’t override us. That fact should make us use with caution the method of sitting down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper to write down instructions dictated by God. Suppose a parent would dictate to the child everything he is to do during the day. The child would be stunted. The parent must be guide in such a manner that character, capable of making right decisions for itself, is produced. God does the same.

E. Stanley Jones, Victorious Living cited in Dallas Willard, Hearing God through the Year (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 19.

Ways and Means

The Lord uses numerous means to communicate to us his will and his direction: sovereign circumstances, Holy Scripture, Christian biographies, dreams and visions, audible voice, faithful counsel (Prov. 15:22), church leadership, and even silence. These “lights” will operate by confirming one another, adding means upon means, making God’s will and desire clearly known (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

Common Sense

Oswald Chambers encourages obedient believers; God’s word is “yes” until we hear a “no.” Since, Christ is living in us by the Holy Spirit then he will be faithful to lead and guide us. Not all “words from the Lord” are dramatic and overtly supernatural; often God does use our sanctified common sense to direct our path.

In the life of a child of God, the human motive is the disguised Divine. Sanctification means that I become a child of God, consequently my common-sense decisions are God’s will unless He gives the check of His Spirit. I decide things in perfect fellowship with God, knowing that if my decisions are wrong, He will check. When He checks, I must stop at once. It is the inner check of the Spirit that prevents common sense being our god.

Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1996), 154.

Burning Hearts

God’s voice is precious to those who are members of the fellowship of the burning heart. This fellowship is made up of men and women who love God above all else. Broken and consecrated, they yield in simple surrender to God’s will.

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 14.

The “burning heart” ones passionately desire God’s glory over and against the world’s passing pleasures. God will repeat his guidance repeatedly to those who love him and long to do his will. The Holy Trinity’s goal in guiding us is not to bring us into a painless life of ease and comfort. The Father’s ultimate goal in speaking is to develop a deepening love relationship with us. He will lead us step-by-step to keep us dependent on his help and assistance in the midst of the surprises and difficulties of life.

The Basics

Basic truths about God’s guidance: if you are born from above, you hear God. The Father knows you by name and is personally concerned about your personal concerns (1 Peter 5:7). God speaks through a variety of means: each designed to act as a confirming agent of his direction. In addition, a believer instinctively knows the difference between God’s voice, the sinful nature, and Satan’s deception.

Let it be made known, God always leads us to be actively engaged in personal ministry, corporate worship, responsible relationships, and sacramental participation. We have an individual relationship with the Lord, but we are not individualists (1 Cor. 12:27). We value other believers for they see our blind spots: they assist us in hearing God by reminding us of our weaknesses. Last, the Holy Spirit will never contradict his own written Word, the Bible.

Summary

As believers, we should all expect to hear God. His speaking may be as low-key as a nudge in our spirits or as dramatic as a face-to-face encounter with Jesus himself. The expectation of the Christian life is a personal, intimate, communicative relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Hearing God for the New Year (Part One)

Hearing God

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:3

As believers, we enjoy the Blessed Trinity’s personal presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should experience an on-going conversation with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and guiding us by his love and through his Spirit. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being directed, guided, and led by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of everyday life is called hearing God (John 10:25-30).

Personal Presence

Dallas Willard affirms that as believers, we were meant to live in God’s presence and fellowship.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.

Aside from their obvious unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us. God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship. Given who we are by basic nature, we live—really live—only through God’s regular speaking in our souls and thus ‘by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Deut. 8:3).

Dallas Willard, Hearing God Through the Year (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 9.

Inward Call

God’s voice may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

Sin’s Dullness

God’s guidance is restricted and hindered by unrepentant sin. Many believers do not hear God because they are unwilling to do God’s will. If God is silent, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal hidden sin.He will be faithful to convict us by exposing our sin, so that, we might find forgiveness and mercy. Continual disobedience hardens our hearts, thereby inhibiting God’s personal and direct guidance.

If we desire intimacy, we need to open our spirits to Christ’s Lordship expressing to God our willingness to change. God’s direction may be correcting, even rebuking, but his voice always contains the enabling grace to obey. If sin is not the reason for God’s silence, then move forward, knowing that God has promised to be with us (Matt 28:20, Heb.13:5). God especially works through our sanctified reasoning as we grow in maturity and Christlikeness. Remember, the voice of God will not lead us to be disobedient to his Word, the Bible (Psa. 119:105).

To be continued: “Hearing God for the New Year: Part Two” will be posted tomorrow.