“I can’t say that I’ve ever heard God speaking to me.”
The comment came from a lady who has been a sincere, and committed church-goer for many years – and not just on a casual basis. She is serious about her faith. So this was not a time for shooting her down and saying “of course God speaks.”
It’s not “of course”, it’s “of discovery” – those who know it found it out by experience.
I didn’t start this conversation myself; I was a spectator. But my experience is much closer to that of the other lady, whose talk about her awareness of hearing God’s voice sparked this response. To her, and to me, hearing God is a normal part of the Christian life.
When someone comes out with statements that contradict our experience, it is easy to respond ungraciously, dismissively, or even proudly. I certainly didn’t want to invalidate the lifetime experience of someone who believes in the Lord Jesus, but experiences him differently. But I know without a doubt that I hear God’s voice in many different ways. And I know that I’m neither a special, nor an unusual Christian. Why is it that some believers have little or no consciousness of this fundamental part of Christian experience?
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NLT) or, as the King James version puts it, “My sheep hear my voice…”. Listen? Hear? Whichever way we read it, Jesus was saying that he communicates with his followers. And, in case you think that he was just talking about his earthly ministry, Jesus later said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13 NIV). Hearing God is a normal Christian experience – then and now.
If it’s normal for Christians to hear God’s voice, what can we say to those who don’t recognise that experience? Are we counting them out of the faith? Not necessarily. Anyone who is in the faith has heard God speak, because revelation is the only way into the faith.
This is what I mean:
when Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 NIV), Jesus replied, “…this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17 NIV). In other words, Jesus was saying that God had spoken to Peter. Let’s move that thought on –
Believing that God appeared on earth in human flesh (not just pretending to be human) goes against logic. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead is unscientific. We can’t argue for these truths with logic. They are items of faith. And where does faith come from? “…faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NLT). Faith, in other words, is a matter of revelation. If we believe that Christ came in the flesh, and that he rose from the dead, we have heard God’s voice.
By declaring these truths of the faith, we become children of God.
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” (1 John 4:2 NIV)
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NLT)
– and, as children of God, we are entitled to hear our Father’s voice.
There are many ways of hearing God speak, and most of them don’t involve hearing an audible sound. This is where evangelical language can confuse people. We may sometimes receive unexpected and remarkable verbal insights; we may occasionally experience revelatory dreams or visions; but, most times, God speaks to us in less dramatic ways. Sometimes, when we read the Bible, we find that a passage or verse seems to come alive as if it was written just for us. Another time, a thought may come into our mind, prompting us to pray for someone, or to do some act of kindness or generosity. Gradually, we learn that these promptings use the same voice that once called us to make our first commitment to the Lord.
But I’ve used that word ‘voice’ again – sorry! Let me make matters clearer:
The message God ‘speaks’ to us more that any other is, “I love you”, and he communicates it in the quietest possible way – by a sense of peace.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:5, 15).
While we feel that peace, we know that we are in tune with the Lord. If we sense an unease, or lack of peace, it may be a warning that we’re stepping out of God’s will.
Isaiah puts the same message in a different analogy:
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
The sense of guidance comes when we “turn to the right or to the left” and feel the Spirit leading us to make the right choice. We experience God’s direction in the choices and the changes.
We don’t all have the same gifts:
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30 NIV)
But every believer has access to our Father God .
If you don’t have a gift of prophecy,
If you don’t see pictures or visions,
If your dreams seem meaningless,
If you lack a sense of inspiration,
But you have God’s love and peace –
Be grateful –
You have the greatest gift