Part III – Ways In Which God Speaks
I’m way overdue. I know. I’ve been procrastinating, finishing college (yay!) job hunting, prepping for graduation and the works. Let’s just say the past month has been quite the roller coaster ride (in a good way) and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. So didn’t nobody have time to blog :-).
But to finish out the series – here is the last installment: Ways In Which God Speaks.
Now let me preface this by saying we can never fully know God, all his ways and everything he does. For as long as we live, we will always be learning about God and how he operates. That said, there are no definitive methods or hard and fast scenarios in which God speaks to us. God can and will speak in a multiplicity of ways. He’s spoken through a burning bush and a donkey! His ways are past finding out. This post is simply my attempt at outlining ways in which he has spoken to ME and how I have been learning to recognize him. I’m sure if I live a hundred more years I will have a hundred more ways to add to this list. A year from now I’m sure I will know even more and I’ll probably be kicking myself wishing I would have waited to write this. But that’s the beauty of life, we learn we grow and eventually we find out we really weren’t as smart as we thought we were a few days ago :-). Nevertheless, it is my unwavering belief that when I learn something that truly empowered me, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to pass it on.
Recognizing the voice of God can be quite tricky and will require faith, trust and a whole lot of courage. You have to be OK with the fact that sometimes you’ll get it wrong. It’s almost like learning a new language. Consider how babies learn to speak – they listen and then they mimic what they heard – stringing words together that hardly make sense. Sometimes they understand the words we use and sometimes they don’t and we have to break it down for them. But as they grow, with practice and our loving and gentle correction, eventually they get it right. It is the same with learning God’s language (or his methods of communicating with us). When we think we hear him speaking or giving us an instruction and we move in the direction of what he said – sometimes we’ll get it right and sometimes we won’t. If we got it right – there will be fruit and you will see the evidence, if not the outcome may not be as desirable, but I promise He will make it right and it will all work for your good. Essentially, it will start out as trial and error. But be careful to note when you do get it right, what it felt like and what it produced. You can then use that as a marker going forward.
Also, I think when I say God speaks to me it is important to explain what that looks – or sounds like. It’s not as if God and I are sitting down talking like old friends and you can hear two people talking and laughing. Not at all. Mostly this occurs inside of me and I hear with my “spiritual ear.” Kind of like the way you would think a thought and you can “hear” it in your head. It’s just like that except I’m acutely aware that it’s not my thought because, well, I’m just not that smart. Sometimes I get a response after I ask a question other times my mind is quiet and I can be thinking on something totally different but then a thought or impression comes and I pay attention and allow it. I almost always write it down because I like to go back and reference especially when I’m experiencing doubt or discouragement.
At first it may feel weird, you may wonder to yourself whether a thought was yours because the “voice” sounds so much similar to yours. It is important that you are able to distinguish between the two so you don’t miss God when he is moving. That idea you had that you buried, that friend you thought to reach out to but didn’t – all could be guidance from the Spirit but yet you are missing it. So in times like those, when I am unsure, I ask the Lord to confirm and he sometimes does in several different ways so much so that it is unmistakable. Most times however, I usually follow whatever I thought I heard (as long as it is biblical), because I’d much rather be wrong than disobedient.
Ok so to the point. I’ve listed below some of the most common ways I’ve been able to hear the Voice of God – so far.
- The Bible
In Part I, I detailed how God first “spoke” to me through John 15:16. In Part II, I explained the importance of reading and studying the word of God daily, as the Bible is God speaking to us. But it also helps us to learn the ways and principles of God and helps us to discern, through what is revealed in scripture, what God would or would not say. As such, it is our qualifier. Any voice you hear that doesn’t line up with what the Bible teaches, rebuke it! If it is biblical, however, ask the Holy Spirit to confirm what you believe you are hearing. The word of God is alive and active (Heb 4:12). By reading it, the Holy Spirit will illuminate certain verses and the words will literally come out at you and address your specific situation. The bible speaks to me directly on a daily basis. It answers my questions. It explains my dilemmas. It tells me what I should do and how I should do it.
Google is also pretty helpful when researching the Bible on any specific area and there are tons of sites with articles that will help you learn about whatever you are seeking. (Just be careful to consider the source.) Remember in your spiritual pursuits not to ignore the common sense and the practical. A simple “what does the bible say about fornication?” search will save you days and hours of praying, fasting and waiting for a sign from God. (Afer all, If he’s trying to sleep with you – God didn’t send him. Don’t even waste your prayers.)
- Impression/Still Small Voice
I remember when I first quit my job to attend school full time, I was very worried. I was sure I had the Lord’s instruction and blessing. I was sure I had a witness in my spirit that this was the right thing to do, but nothing was lining up. Not one thing. Everything I tried failed. I was falling into despair because as a single mom, I felt like I jeopardized my son’s well-being over a dream. As I sat on my sofa, falling apart, I “heard” the quietest voice say “everything will be OK. You are exactly on course.” Then His peace consumed me. It was so surreal. I knew then that I could press forward with confidence because I heard from the Lord. Yet, It wasn’t a voice at all. It was more like a fleeting thought that just came and went. As mentioned before, it is similar to the way you say something in your head and “hear it.” That is mostly how God speaks to me – through a small still voice that is like an impression – but not audible. I have never heard the audible voice of God, I’m sure some people have, but I haven’t. It’s either a thought I hear or a feeling that I get and I know exactly what it is “saying” and exactly what I should do. There are no words necessarily, it is more like an inspiration and it doesn’t go away until I’ve got it.
That said, I mostly get these impressions during praise and worship (whether in my home or in church), in prayer or during my morning meetings with the Lord. This is why it is important to have set, dedicated times to meet with the Lord. You are sure to receive whatever word you may need and you’ll develop more wisdom and discernment in knowing his voice as you daily grow with him.
Job (33:14-16) said:
“For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.”
Sometimes your dreams are simply a result of your thoughts, other times not. In the beginning of my Christian walk this was how God spoke to me the most. I often say my mind was so busy that God probably couldn’t get a word in if he tried. I also used to “intellectualize” my thoughts away and if it didn’t make sense to me I’d just automatically reject it. So during sleep I had the least resistance. And there in my dreams the Lord would tell me things and show me visions that I couldn’t even reveal if I wanted to for fear of sounding too puffed up. At times – maybe two or three times – through trance like states – the Lord has shown me wonderful pictures of the future, which I will not reveal. But it is amazing. Nevertheless, if you’ve been following this blog for a while then you know that my journey to finishing my degree these last three years have been the most trying and so I truly needed God to get through it. There were times I wanted to quit and the only thing that stopped me was a word from God. One night I had a vision of myself on stage in my gown and I heard a voice say “well done.” I woke up excited. Mind you, I’d just started but every time thereafter that I felt like giving up and I remembered that vision, I knew I had to keep going. (I graduate Thurs. June 2. Yay!)
Usually God speaks to me in a dream when he is showing me what he is about to do. God spoke to Joseph in a dream (Gen.37) and to Abraham in a dream (Gen. 15) to assure them of their future and his plans for them. So when you have dreams pray about them and ask the Lord what he is trying to reveal to you.
- Pastors/Teachers and Leaders:
Without fail, mostly everything I study or read or hear from God Monday through Saturday, will get re-iterated by my Pastor on Sunday. Or sometimes I’ll ask God a question and my Pastor will give the exact explanation in church. I remember wanting to quit church for a while because I was hurt about a certain situation. That Sunday morning I told the Lord, I won’t quit entirely, I’ll just stop going for a while. However, that morning I tuned in online. To my surprise my Pastor said “this is why you need to come to church – so you can fight the enemy on God’s turf. He would love for you to quit church so he can disarm you so that (quitting) is the wrong move.” I simply laughed to myself because I knew that was God’s response to me and, of course, I was in church the following Sunday. I also laid out in Part 1 how my pastor confirmed my spiritual experience by preaching on the same bible verse the Lord used to reveal himself to me. My friends – and others – usually ask me what is the importance of going to church – if God is within us then why do we have to go to a church to worship? And there are many reasons why and that may be a separate blog post but one of the main reasons relative to hearing God is – because the Pastor is God’s vessel to teach us, lead us and edify us. And truth is most times we are not spiritually disciplined or mature enough to hear the voice of God and live as we should. So we have our pastors and teachers to guide us along and as leaders they are often anointed and gifted with wisdom and knowledge that most of us do not have, so we need them to help us reach our maximum potential.
Sometimes the situations you find yourself in are a direct indication of what God is trying to tell you. He will send roadblocks to stop you, open a door to let you know you can pursue or give you a challenging situation that you must conquer to get to where he is taking you. At times we may not know whether or not where we are is where we should be and sometimes asking God will not produce a direct yes or no. Case in point: I got a part-time job last year to help with some of my expenses. I didn’t like the job much or the people I worked with and I desperately wanted to leave. I kept telling the Lord I would quit but each time I tried to leave it failed. My boss would re-work my schedule any which way I desired just so I could stay on board and there would always be a some financial emergency that would make me reconsider. I later realized God wanted me on that job to teach me some very specific lessons. Once I realized this, I surrendered.
Now it is important to understand that sometimes God will be leading you and you won’t even know it. So don’t fall into the trap of over-spiritualizing. The truth is God knows how to get our attention and as long as you are human and He is divine he will never be without the power to make you yield to his will. Don’t believe you have to go on a fast and fall on your face or get all spooky in order to hear from him. I have had a lot of super natural experiences but most of what I’ve accomplished in the Lord was through simple, common sense, practical means. You don’t always need signs and wonders to guide you. Just wisdom. So work on getting closer to him and being intimate with him, and everything else will fall into place.
Truth is, it doesn’t really matter how you hear God. It just matters that you hear and know. You can walk by a billboard or a sign on the side of the bus and it may speak to you directly. A stranger you pass on the street may say something you happen to overhear and you will know that that was the exact answer you needed. You may even turn your TV on or hear a song and it will speak to you so deeply you break down in tears. Our God is cool like that! The most important thing is what you do about what you hear. So you have to cultivate a deep, intimate relationship with the Spirit inside you so that when he is speaking you will know and you will know what to do.
Never forget – you are God’s baby created for his glory. He longs to talk with you and fellowship with you. Go boldly to his throne in faith and with an open heart. You’ll be amazed at all the wonders that await you. (Jer. 33:3)