My sheep know My voice: How do you know when God is speaking to you?
Discernment of God’s Spirit is developed over time. Like children, we grow to know our Father’s voice; but how do we learn to know what God “sounds” like in a sea of inaudible “voices”? We sharpen our “ears” when we practice listening. We practice listening when we practice seeking Him.
Seeking Him is how we begin and maintain a relationship with God. It is a task that most of us neglect to take on. Quite simply, the more you devote of your time and consideration to pursuing Him – to pursuing His truth and the awareness of His presence – the more He reveals Himself to us. He says that as we approach Him, He comes closer to us in return.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8
Though “seek and ye shall find” seems to be too simple of a solution, the realities of our human nature make seeking God profoundly challenging in today’s world. We have so much readily available to occupy our time, to indulge our senses, to think about, to hear about, to see, to taste, to dream of, to work on, and even to rest from! Ultimately, we wind up devoting very little time to seeking Him…and that’s if we have any remaining appetite to do so.
Knowing God Personally
Have you ever read the book of Hosea? In Hosea, God compares his relationship with His people to a marriage between a prophet and a prostitute. God expresses heartbreak about being rejected, disrespected, and disregarded. In Jeremiah, He says how He made His people to cling to Him (Jeremiah 13:11), that He thought His people would call Him Father, and be loyal, but that they turned away instead (Jeremiah 3:19).
At the heart of getting familiar with God’s Spirit, is the acknowledgment of His personification. Because of God’s incomprehensible greatness, it’s easy to accept Him as the Creator and judge of the world, yet harder to grasp emotionally that He is also family and a friend. I want you to ask yourself something: is there a disconnect for you between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New? Is it hard to reconcile that Yahweh and Christ are One? If so, I encourage you to read Hosea and Jeremiah with the intention of looking into God’s heart. For God so loved the world before Christ was born. Seek to understand just how much so and your love for Him will grow. Some of us have sought God intellectually, only to have encountered, by His grace, an understanding that far surpasses that which we could ever have expected to find. Through Christ, we are invited to seek Him through His love for us. May your heart be entangled with his.
While most of us will never hear an audible voice of God, all of us have access to His recorded communication. The Bible, inspired of His Holy Spirit, is more than a history book; it is alive and is in itself spirit. As we study and meditate on HIS-tory and His words, we become more and more familiar with who He is, how He is, and how He communicates. When we truly seek Him through the Bible, we invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding, to reveal who we are through God’s eyes, and to work in us to make us new. The experience of being examined and corrected and informed by His spirit is one of the ways God speaks to us.
Our pursuit of Him has to be founded in the scriptures. That’s where we start. If we don’t become familiar with the God of The Bible, then we will be misled. When uninformed, we fill in the gaps about who we believe God should be or with what we have heard from others. The end result is the worship of a self-made God.
Knowing what He said also equips us to distinguish between His voice, our own, and those of other spirits. That’s why Paul compares the word of God to a sword. It allows us to cut through ungodly opposition, exposing deceitfulness within and without.
I Said What I Said
At the moment I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being reassured by God. There’s no shortage of testimonies from those who ask for signs, but I still shy away from requesting them. I find His confirmations to be exquisitely placed and timed. Whether through the Bible, through other people, or through unique experiences between you and Him alone, God has ways of encouraging us along the right path. And just like with any other person, you grow more and more familiar with His “voice” the more and more you “hear” from Him.
One of the quickest way to develop spiritual discernment is through fasting – as in fasting with increased prayer and Bible study. Fasting isolates you and allows you to focus on the Spirit by reducing extraneous inputs and feasting on His Word. It helps you to develop the practice of listening for Him: of seeking and expectantly waiting on Him to respond.