“Look Mommy! It’s God talking!”
These words burst out of my preschooler’s mouth and caught me by surprise. “What?” I asked. He pointed to the sun’s rays streaming through the clouds seeming to shine down on one particular place in the distance. I understood. All those children’s Sunday School pictures would show light coming down from Heaven when God spoke to someone, and now my son was seeing that in real life and knew in his little mind that God was talking. My perspective was changed forever in that moment. Now whenever I see the sun streaming through, I think to myself God’s talking to someone. I pray for whoever it is that God is shining down on at that moment, that they will hear, accept, and obey His voice.
Oh! If only discerning God’s voice were that obvious! If the clouds parted and sunlight struck me square in the face, that would be so much easier than having to mature and learn to discern for myself what God is speaking to me. How can I know it’s God talking? How do I discern God’s voice? How do I learn to hear God’s voice and distinguish it from the other voices I hear – my own, the enemy’s, the world’s, etc.
❀ The foremost way we learn to know God’s voice is the same way a baby comes to recognize his mommy’s or daddy’s voice: he is with the parent continuously until the parent’s voice becomes familiar to him. For us, that means spending time with God as constantly as we can. Granted, in everyday life, work must be done, physical life moves quickly. In the midst of this rushing river called Life we must intentionally plan for and look for ways to spend more time with Our Father God. This means immersing ourselves in his Word – daily, hourly, continually. Find focused time to read and study His word every day. Listen to scripture songs, sermons, podcasts, and testimonies. Memorize scripture so that it dwells within us. Let’s make our heart familiar with the tone of God’s voice so we recognize it immediately.
❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also means spending time in prayer listening for God to draw that verse of instruction up from the depths of our heart and into our conscious attention. We need to speak scriptures to ourselves and call our spirits to attention in the name of Jesus Christ and listen to Him. Life is not just composed of mind and body. We have a spirit within that can commune with God and that God will move and inspire. But we must pray and listen.
❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also happens when we immerse our lives in Him. Surround yourself visually with scriptures and wholesome, Godly images. Surround yourself socially with like-minded Christians who will “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) Get deeply connected with the local body of Christ. All these things help filter out the voice of the enemy, remind us of Christ’s voice, and correct us when we start listening to the wrong voice.
❀ Listening to God’s voice requires waiting. In our Instagram/Breaking News world we’ve become accustomed to having the information we want immediately. God is not bound by time and does not fall prey to our mental urgency to “know it now.” We must seek Him patiently with our whole heart and we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) We must be still to recognize and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also includes exercising self-control in your thought life. If your mind is overrun with your thoughts, the world’s opinions, unholy dramas, self-pitying sagas, and Satan’s fiery darts of temptation, God’s still small voice will be drowned out in all the hubbub, and even when He is speaking we will have trouble hearing Him. In Philippians 4:8, Paul gives us the key to controlling our thoughts.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Tools For Determining God’s Voice
1. Remember That God’s Voice Will Never Tell Us Anything Contrary to His Written Word.
God ‘s written Word, the Bible, is truth. God will never speak anything to your heart that goes against His written Word. That’s why it is critical for us to know His Word. If we don’t understand the full counsel of what Scripture teaches, Satan is able to slip subtle twists of truth into our minds and deceive us just as he did Adam & Eve in the Garden. Satan is in the game of mimicry and deception. He shoots those kinds of thoughts into our minds, and when we aren’t in tune with God’s voice we may obey this counterfeit voice thinking it is from God. Always compare the thoughts and promptings of your mind and heart with God’s written Word. If you’re a young Christian and don’t feel you have the Biblical wisdom to discern this yet, go to an older, wiser Godly woman or a pastor for prayer and help. The next tool will help with this too.
2. Sifting Our Thoughts
We must learn to sift our thoughts through the lens of Philippians 4:8, and then our mind can be cleared of the clutter and can readily discern God’s voice. Here is the process to take every thought captive. For any thought you have, ask your self the questions below. If at any point your answer is “No,” then that thought is not of God.
Philippians 4:8 Thought Tester:
Is this thought True? Yes/No
Is this thought Noble? Yes/No
Is this thought Right? Yes/No
Is this thought Pure? Yes/No
Is this thought Lovely? Yes/No
Is this thought Admirable? Yes/No
Is this thought Excellent? Yes/No
Is this thought Praiseworthy? Yes/No
If your answer to any of these is “No,” then choose to quit thinking that thought and replace it with a scripture verse to think about. If we just ask the first question, a great deal of what we consider will be raked aside.
3. Know What Scripture Says about God and Satan
Another way I make sure I am hearing from God is to be aware of what scripture teaches us about God and Satan. This simple chart compares the voice of God with the Enemy’s voice.
The Voice of God and the Voice of the Enemy
- Satan condemns, God convicts our hearts.
- Satan’s goal is to destroy, God’s goal is to correct and encourage.
- Satan’s is a harsh, loud, merciless voice, God’s is a gentle, merciful voice.
- Satan is negative and discouraging, God speaks honestly of your failures, yet is hopeful.
- Satan seeks to separate you from Christ, God seeks to restore your relationship with Christ and others.
- Satan is punitive, he offers no grace, God offers grace with appropriate consequences.
- Satan is a roaring lion, God is a still small voice.
- Satan has come to kill, steal, & destroy, while God gives life to the full; abundant life.
4. Recognize that God Asks Us Questions in Order to Teach Us
In the Garden of Eden, God called to the man and woman “Where are you?” Was it because God didn’t know? Had they hidden so well that the omniscient Creator of the Universe couldn’t find them in a garden? Um, no. He was educating them. Today we call it the Socratic method (an educational method based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions), but personally, I like to refer to it as God’s method. He knew where Adam and Eve were, but He asked them a question to get them to think – where were they really? Outside God’s plan, disobeying His instructions, hiding from Him. They needed to take stock of themselves to learn.
God asked many people questions throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19:9-13 God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as he hid in a cave in fear. Then a wind and an earthquake and a fire came by before God spoke in a gentle whisper and asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Side note: God also repeats Himself to us.) In Job 38 God asked Job questions which stopped him in His tracks. God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Jesus asked people He met questions, the most common one being, “What do you want me to do for you?” God asks us questions today also. He asks us questions to get us to think and learn His ways. So listen. When you find yourself asking yourself, “What are you doing girl?” just maybe God put that question in your mind to get you to think and learn. So stop, go to His Word, and contemplate your actions.
Learning to hear and discern God’s voice is a process. We must learn to recognize the voice of our shepherd. As we faithfully stay in His Word and apply His principals in living out our lives, we will find His voice becomes more distinct through the years. In the meantime, listen carefully! He is speaking! My prayer for you is that you would begin to hear Him and follow Him obediently just as it’s recorded in Isaiah 30:21-22 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 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.’ ”
(Join our fall Women’s Bible study at Gardendale First Baptist Church: Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.)