Hearing the Voice of
God is speaking today.
fact, He has never stopped speaking. He has volumes to say to our
generation, both corporately and individually.
of the keys to making the Christian life real is not looking back (to
great personal experiences, days of revival, periods of particular
blessing, when we sensed a hunger for God and a desire to experience
His presence), but building a strong relationship with our Heavenly
Father NOW. He wants us to hear his voice, understand His word, be
secure in His direction and enjoy His counsel in our current
day-to-day circumstances. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice
... and they follow me” (John 10:27). God says, “I will
instruct you, and teach you the way you should go”. The Psalms
are full of such sentiments. The writer to the Hebrews challenges
Christians, “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden
your heart” (Hebrews 3:7, 15, cf Ps 95:1-7.).
you have not yet reached that “place”, where you know God
speaks and that you have the capacity and willingness to listen to
Him, you need to press on. The challenge facing every Christian
today is this: if God is still speaking, if He has never stopped
communicating; if He wants a relationship with each of His children;
why do so many Christians find it difficult to hear Him in the first
place? Why do Christians still struggle to understand His will, to
receive correction and unequivocal guidance in their lives? You may
genuinely believe in Jesus, have an intellectual knowledge about God,
prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit, but not know how to listen
to God, actively and, as a consequence, have a turbulent or mediocre
The Voice of the Lord
was recently reading Psalm 29 (Good News Bible) and something about
the underlying tenor of the message hit me powerfully. The Psalmist
talks at length about the Voice of God, using thunderstorms in the
Middle East as an illustration. He shows that all creation is able
to hear God’s voice clearly, every time, the first time. On
the day the world began, the Voice of God brought everything into
being (Psalm 33:6, 9), matter out of nothingness (theologians call
this “creatio ex nihilo”), order out of chaos. As the
Creator visiting and living us, Jesus spoke God’s Word with the
same power and stilled a storm over a raging sea (Mark 4:39). God’s
powerful word continues to uphold everything (Hebrews 1:13).
I read Psalm 29, I was reminded of winter thunderstorms I experienced
during three and half years living in Lebanon. I would stand on the
balcony of my 7th floor apartment in Beirut (where I was posted by my
employer), look out over the Mediterranean Sea and observe the dark
clouds heading towards the coast. Sometimes I would go to bed and
see the lightning, waiting for the inevitable clash as the storm
system reached the coast, where the mountains come down almost to the
sea. Only a narrow plain separates the ranges and the shore.
the storms hit, they would be accompanied by incredibly loud thunder
that echoed powerfully between the buildings in the central business
district of the city (more noisy than the Israeli jets that would
over-fly Beirut, breaking the sound barrier and teasing the occupying
Syrian army). When the torment broke over the mountains, tons of
snow and ice were dumped on the higher elevations (Mount Lebanon is
over 3000 metres above sea level). This would be the hint for my
family to get out the chains and skis and drive through the tail of
the blizzard to a chalet at the ski fields to which we had access.
On occasions our parked vehicle would be nearly buried in the snow,
but the slopes were the best in the Middle East. Fabulous skiing and
crossing the Lebanon Mountains, the storm would continue eastward,
across the Bekaa Valley (a normally dry area known in ancient times
as Kadesh, then across the Anti-Lebanon Mountains into Syria, where
snow continued to fall heavily. I once forced my way by car through
a blizzard from Damascus to Beirut; on another occasion I was
stranded in Syria. But when the clouds cleared, it was easy to see
fresh snow on beautiful Mt Hermon and the adjacent high country. On
the Israeli side of the mountain there are ski resorts. When the
snow melts the waters form the beginning of the Jordan River.
Psalmist David uses these storms as a powerful “type”.
When God speaks to the mountains, they respond with “How high?”
He is greater than the mountains; the ancient cedars that cause
people to stand in awe crack because of the power of His voice. He
is the creator. All His works listen to His Voice and respond in
unquestioning obedience. ONLY MAN (who has the free will to do so)
often chooses not to hear and obey the voice of God.
God speaks so clearly, why is that so many Christians appear to find
it hard to listen to Him? I want to suggest a number of reasons, as
well as some remedies.
to Hearing the Voice of God
may be unaware that God wants this kind of relationship with us.
In many religions God is distant, unreachable, and ineffable. If He
is physically close He nevertheless does not communicate with humans.
Even in the Bible there were many who thought of Him this way. When
He spoke on Mt Sinai the people begged Moses, “You do the
listening and pass on God’s message to us; we want to keep our
distance” (Exodus 20:18-21). In organized religions around the
world people expect professional priests to talk to God on their
behalf, to act as mediators. It is assumed they have the training,
time and authority to do so; mere humans simply stand back and wait
for the fiats priests deliver on behalf of the Invisible, to tell
them what to do. I recently observed a mass in the beautiful Serbian
Orthodox Saint Sava Cathedral in Belgrade. The impression throughout
the event was that God and His word lived behind the screen (known as
the “iconostasis” it is designed to conceal the altar
except when it is opened briefly during the liturgy) and that only
the priests had the authority to go to “the other side”
and connect with Him.
congregation stood (believing it was disrespectful to sit in God’s
presence, as thou God only dwelt in the cathedral), and crossed
themselves from time to time, purchased and lit candles, savoured the
smell of fresh incense and watched in awe as the clergy carried God’s
Word to the pulpit and back into obscurity. This entire model is
misleading. God wants to have a personal relationship with each and
every one of us. Do you have such a relationship?
may have developed selective hearing.
There is an old saying in English: “There are none so deaf as
those who do not want to hear”. Adam enjoyed the presence of
God until the day he sinned; thereafter He hid because he heard God’s
voice seeking him out (Genesis 3:8). Hundreds of times in the Bible
we are reminded that God speaks: For example: “The word of the
Lord came to Jeremiah.” “God spoke.” “Thus
says the Lord”. And so on. Tragically, most people ignored
Him. He wasn’t saying what they wanted to hear, so they shut
him out (as though that were possible). Finally, He sent His Son,
and Him they crucified (see Hebrews 1:1, 2). Whether or not we hear
the voice of God in our lives usually depends on our willingness to
may be listening to other voices for direction, so we end up
confused. How many of us
decide to “go with the flow” on important matters,
instead oif thinking through all the issues and establishing what is
right and what God wants us to do. “The flow” may be at
odds with His will. The boy Samuel heard a voice as he lay in bed
late one night; so he assumed it was the priest Eli, with whom he
lived in the Temple precinct (1 Samuel 3:3-10). He had to learn how
to distinguish God’s voice from those in his community. Eli
and his sons only listened to the voices of the masses, not the voice
of God. There came a time in the life of Israel that “every
man did what he liked” (Judges 21:25). That’s not far
removed from current-day attitudes. There are many competing voices
today, a lot of noise; the airways are often jammed. Do you block
out God’s voice. Are other voices louder and more penetrating?
Is it hard for Him to penetrate the barriers of your consciousness?
may be out of practice.
All through the Bible we encounter people who “hardened their
hearts” toward God. As a result, it was difficult for them to
put His will into action. But they had a choice. David wrote, “I
will hear what God says” (Psalm 85:8). We may simply have
forgotten how. The Scripture records God’s growing sense of
frustration as He sought to communicate with His people “all
day long” (Isaiah 65:2). On one of the occasions during which
God spoke audibly, in the time of Jesus, the people thought they had
heard thunder (John 12 29). The Israelites called themselves the
people of God, but they were out of practice. After four hundred
years of apparent “silence” since the last of the Old
Testament prophets, when they heard the real thing they didn’t
recognize it. They lost spiritual discernment and, as a consequence,
had difficulty interpreting what God was actually saying to them.
may have been deafened by hang-overs from past situations or
problems. My maternal
grandfather was partially deafened by exploding shells on the Western
Front in France during World War I. As a result, he spent the rest
of his life wearing a hearing aid. When he became tired of
conversation or squabbles among his grandchildren he simply turned it
Psalmist says, “To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a
deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who
have gone down to the pit.” (Psalm 28:1). Maybe you have felt
God was silent. Or maybe you have turned off your spiritual hearing
aid because you have been hurt by circumstances. The Prophet Elijah
felt it (1 Kings 19:14). He had to deal with personal feelings,
fears and frustrations, get out of hole he was in and find God all
over again. God CAN speak to us through our circumstances; He may
test us, but He won’t destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13). In the
midst of all the problems and isolation that Elijah felt he
encountered a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). God
was still there.
may have put ourselves out of range.
It is easy to do. We stop praying and reading God’s word. We
become ensconced in our feelings and opinions. Before long we are
effectively out of range, without realizing it. Let me explain. I
was recently interviewed for a Christian radio broadcast in the city
of Ploiesti, a town to the north of Bucharest in Romania. The
manager of the station described to me the range of the station’s
broadcasts. It could, he explained, reach listeners on the other
side of Bucharest (he often received feedback from those areas); the
radius encompassed a population of several million. But if the
listener traveled further south, toward the Bulgarian border, or too
far in any other direction, it became increasingly difficult to tune
in and the broadcast faded away to nothing. It all came down to
range. Go beyond the range and reception becomes erratic. Move away
from dependence on God and a willingness to hear him, and guidance
becomes unclear; we turn off the apparatus, find excuses as to why we
do our own thing and get lost in the cosmic loneliness. Psalm 29
reminds us that the Voice of God is in the airwaves all around us. We
need to have the receiver on and the channel open.
God is speaking, what is He saying today? To you and me? How can we
remove the blockages described above?
need to start with a genuine desire to seek him.
“He will be found by you” (Isaiah 55:6). “He is
not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). Get into practice,
make it a habit to seek God and to expect that He will make Himself
known to you. Make interactive prayer a deliberate, conscious part
of your daily life. Get into the discipline of seeking God; don’t
let the market crowd God out of the 164 hours you are not at church
to the Holy Spirit and listen to Him.
Prayer involves 2-way communication. God has given you one mouth
and two ears, to actively listen. Every Christian can (and should)
have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught that the
Spirit has come to earth to “guide (us) into all truth”
(John 16:13). He would be “in us, with us, along side of us”.
As Christians we know we are God’s children because the Holy
Spirit has made us aware of this new status (Romans 8:15; Galatians
4:6); He comes into our hearts crying “Abba Father”, so
we know the channel exists.
His promptings. Get into
practice of responding positively to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Parents complain to their children: “How many times do I have
to tell you?” God is a Father. He knows we are human. But we
should not make our humanity an excuse, when we are also (as
Christians) the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling
place of God. Don’t allow disobedience or indifference to His
promptings turn into hardness of heard. Obey Him at all times, at
home, on the job, in church; in your personal relationships. Learn
to heed the voices of your Christian leaders (Hebrews 13:17) and the
advice of experienced Christian friends. Your Father loves you; He
will not lead you into chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33).
the presence of God. Don’t
shut Him out of your life and decision-making. Get to know him,
learn to recognize His voice when He speaks. It is important to live
as though God is right there, with you.
God’s Word. Your
Heavenly Father has given you the Bible as wisdom and lessons for
your daily life. He will use it as His voice, to speak to you. Pray
what you read into your daily life. It is simple: read a verse, then
pray and personalize it. Specifically. One verse at a time. Think
about what God is saying, and what you are saying back to Him. I
guarantee it will revolutionize the way you read and apply the Bible
in your circumstances and plans.
alongside those who know God, have proven Him in their lives and have
character that is consistent with genuine Christianity, and learn
from them how to hear Him when He speaks.
If you are an experienced believer, teach others how to hear the
voice of God for themselves. Mentor those who are younger than you
in the Christian faith. Make disciples.
you will do all that has been outlined above, it will help make you a
more confident Christian, with a relevant message to your world. The
Holy Spirit will communicate with you. You will hear the voice of
God the first time, every time. He will teach you, instruct you, and
give you ideas and wisdom. There won’t be confusion. You will
know how to deal with wrong voices, have peace in your heart,
confidence, assurance, security and “rest” as a Christian
even if there are storms in your life. Remember: the Voice of God is
above the storm.