God is practical and knows that learning to wait can be a hard transition for many of His people. The realization that He is always speaking to us in our spirit is comforting, but the fact that we are not always hearing Him speak, lead, guide, comfort, encourage, correct us in our soul, where we really need to hear Him, can be discouraging. God is speaking to you now, and you are fully comprehending Him in your spirit. How do we hear Him in our mind, will and emotions, even by our physical senses? It isn’t all that complicated; in fact, it’s simple! Not easy, because there are enemies that don’t want us to hear from God, but it is simple. Here’s a great way to start:
- Recognize that we can’t hear from God without His help. We’ve seen how He has already removed all obstacles, but He also does the enabling in us, providing the teaching, opportunity, encouragement and confirmation we need. He’s already given us ears to hear, a mind that understands and a heart to respond. All we need to do is join Him in His process.
- Commit to waiting on Him, for Him and with Him. The goal of hearing is to KNOW God, not just to hear Him more clearly. Often part of our struggle to hear Him is that we have a misunderstanding of what God may say to us. He wants to speak to us because He wants to speak to us, not merely to correct us in some way. As we commit our time and attention to hearing Him, He turns every circumstance in our lives into a teaching opportunity.
- Develop your soulical senses. Once we experience salvation, we become a new creature, a new being that has never lived this life before. Part of that new life is that we are learning how to live using new spiritual senses, which in turn activate, or give true life to, both supernatural and natural senses. The more time we spend with God, the more our spirit is given the opportunity to bring our other senses into alignment so that, over time, direct communication can occur from God’s Spirit, to our spirit, to our soul, to our body. We become united, whole and complete in Him, and can hear, know, and experience Him completely. God is always speaking to us, and our confidence will grow as we experience His Life.
- Rest: Be patient, confident and dependent. The timing of the process is in God’s hands. Your success in this is not judged by how well you think you are doing, how clearly you think you are hearing from Him or anything else for that matter. Anxiety is a signal you are trying to do God’s job. Your success is based on being dependent on Him to make Himself clear. Can you let Him do that? To hurry God is to find fault with Him.
- ASK! God will give you a hunger that will not be satisfied with anything less than His best. God desires to speak to us openly, to reveal Himself and His truth. He gives us a hunger by giving us a personal encounter, rather than inspiring or motivating through providing a goal or presenting a need. He desires to speak with us face-to-face, now. Drop your expectation of what hearing God will be like; you are in a unique relationship with Him, and He will reveal Himself how and when He chooses. God will give you experiences you can not anticipate or perhaps understand.
- Be Bold! Any interest you feel at any time in knowing God IS FROM HIM! THE GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL BE FULFILLED IS CONTAINED IN THE DESIRE. God doesn’t tease us. The desire to know Him more doesn’t come from the enemy, doesn’t come from our soul, the world or our flesh. Any desire to know Him is of divine origin, and therefore contains the divine guarantee of its fruition.
3 Principle Means of Learning to Hear
Hearing from the Lord is a process that each of us must learn for ourselves. Though He is always speaking to us, recognizing the general stages of the process will keep us committed to pursuing Him even when it doesn’t seem like anything’s happening.
The process of hearing the voice of the Lord begins with Revelation. Unless God chooses to make Himself known, we cannot of ourselves hear His voice. Thankfully, part of His gift of grace at salvation is exactly that: when He re-created us, He revealed Himself to our spirit. The process now involves His voice being revealed from His Spirit through our spirit to our soul. If you are a believer, God has already revealed Himself to you and given you the ability to hear and recognize His voice.
Once we realize that because we are now In Christ we are already hearing God in our spirit, we can fine-tune that ability in the soulical realm by hanging out with God. Like learning to speak a new language, the best way is to actually move to that country. How do sheep learn to recognize the voice of their Shepherd? Just by being with Him, spending time thinking, listening, acknowledging that every circumstance in our life is from Him and a way He speaks to us, will quicken our ability to hear Him in other ways as well.
If we really want to be able to recognize the Lord’s voice, we will have to make lifestyle changes, rearranging our schedule and beliefs to make room for Him first. The more time and attention we give to God, the more fine-tuned our senses become to His leading. He reveals Himself, we spend time with Him, then we begin to act on what we’ve heard. As we test what we’re hearing, His voice will likely change in character. His direction, encouragement and comfort is likely to become unspoken and subtle the more intimate our relationship with Him becomes. The more we work to know Him, and labor to enter into His rest, the fewer specific words are needed.
Though we will discuss practical ways of learning to hear, God has a particular plan and schedule for each of us. Look to Him to provide, guide and motivate, rather than your preconceived expectations of what “hearing from God” will look, feel, and sound like. Especially don’t compare your experience with others to judge whether you’re hearing or not; it’s great to learn from one another, but only God can confirm whether you’re hearing from Him.
Discerning the Voice of the Lord
Now that we know the stages in developing our ability to hear, we can look practically at learning how to recognize His voice for ourselves.
His voice has been revealed to our spirit, and our spirit is perfectly communicating with His Spirit at all times. Let’s assume we have decided that we want a more intimate knowledge of Him and want to be able to hear Him more clearly and more often in our conscious awareness. We decide we want to cultivate, put the necessary time and attention into developing a relationship with God. How do we start?
As we spend time with the Lord, both throughout the day and at specific times we’ve set aside (more on this later), we can objectively evaluate what we are sensing, discerning and hearing using the following guidelines:
1. Identification (WHO is talking)
Ears to Hear
The first step in hearing the voice of the Lord is recognizing that you are hearing something! This may involve the Lord cleaning out your ears, and perhaps clearing away some wounds and beliefs that are keeping you from hearing clearly. Some of us need our ears cleaned, while others may even need to have their eardrums pierced to relieve the pressure of condemnation, guilt or demonic oppression. Whatever the condition of your hearing, ask God to give you ears that hear, and a heart to respond.
We often miss the connection between the circumstances in our life and direction from the Lord simply because we have a preconceived idea of what and how the Lord speaks.
“Is That You, Lord?”
Remind yourself that knowing God is simple; we often want to make it complex for reasons of control of others or to keep from changing our own beliefs or experiencing the pain that accompanies getting healed. But this is really the sum of hearing: asking, “God, is that You?” We can come up with all kinds of guidelines (which may be helpful), but the bottom line is the answer to that question.
Say you hear (in whatever sense) what you believe to be the Lord. You ask, “Is that You, Lord?” You hear, “Yes.” How do you know this is the Lord? There are two voices that speak to the sheep: the butcher and the shepherd. Is the voice you’re hearing reflecting the qualities of the Lord, and His unconditionally gracious, loving stance toward you? Is the voice encouraging, accepting, loving, honoring? Or is it condemning, harsh, arrogant or demeaning?
For instance, I’ve heard it said that God never yells, so if you hear someone “yelling” at you it’s not God. Gotta tell ya, I think God reserves the right to communicate with us however He chooses! But even in that “yelling” there will be a sense of urgency, getting our attention, rather than threat or coercion. It’s best to learn to rely on our “inner-knower” to be able to recognize His voice rather than to rely on a set of guidelines.
When your family and friends call you on the phone, how much do they have to say before you know it’s them? As we habitually turn to the Lord first when discerning the origin of a voice, we will not make the mistake of going to others (pastor, scriptures, spouse, friend) for confirmation. If it’s from the Lord, Who best to confirm its authenticity but the Author?
Talking to Your Self
Being able to distinguish between our own thoughts, thoughts the enemy may speak to us and the thoughts of the Lord is a long-term process that begins with becoming aware of what we are thinking. Most of us are totally unaware of what we are thinking, feeling, or even how we make decisions. So part of the training that God puts us through is for the purpose of bringing these to the surface, so we can objectively evaluate the source. That which is Life will stand the light of day; but we must also be willing to change our beliefs.
We will likely find that we have a thought-life that is flesh-based rather than Life-based. We think thoughts that keep our flesh in control, which keeps us protected and comfortable. But if we are going to hear from the Lord, as He cleans out our ears we will likely have to lay aside that which interferes with our hearing to begin with. Environmental influences (what we read, listen to and say) and internal dialogues (what we spend our time thinking, and affirming to ourselves) will be evaluated over time, with the Lord’s direction, to separate life from waste.
The Voice of the Butcher
The enemy is subtle, and will often speak to us in phrases we use ourselves. The above test, “Is that You, Lord,” will likely expose him, though it may take several times applying the test. That’s fine with the Lord; He wants us to grow in confidence and authority. The enemy is NO HINDRANCE to hearing from the Lord, as he is a conquered enemy. God has left him here, though, to reveal where we are wounded and living out of our flesh, and to teach us how to overcome (how to hear the voice of the Lord). Just because you’re hearing the voice of the enemy doesn’t mean you’ve missed God or are in some kind of dire straits. It simply means God has placed an opportunity before you to overcome the enemy by standing on your authority and commanding him to skedaddle or to reveal a wound so you can get healed. Either way, his presence in your life is allowed by God and serves His, and your, purpose for that time.
As we learn to IDENTIFY the voice of the Lord, we will also be learning to discern if what we are hearing and being taught from others is from God or some other source. Our confidence in our ability and judgment grows, and we become free from the fear of being exposed to “error.” Your discernment will become so sharp that if even an angel of light were to appear spouting scriptures you’d be able to inwardly know if the source was God or of some other origin. This hearing comes with time, experience, trial and error, but it is more than worth the effort.
2. Understanding (recognition of WHAT is being said, by revelation and experience)
Once we realize it is indeed the Lord speaking to us, the next task is identifying what He is saying to us. Over time we will begin to become familiar with the way He speaks to us individually, but at first, as our confidence is nurtured by the Spirit, it is often helpful to approach this aspect of training fairly objectively. Keeping a record, or talking it over with a trusted friend may be helpful. Remember there’s no rush; God’s goal is relationship with you, not holding it against you that you may not hear Him as accurately as you’d like.
God is speaking to us 24/7/365 in our spirit. What is He saying? Very often, it’s the same kinds of things that we speak to our family and friends about on a regular basis—what’s going on in our life, what are we going to do today, how much He loves us. He doesn’t want us to “over-react” to what He says to us; He’s usually not that dramatic. We find that as we are tuned to His voice, most of what we hear from Him is very general because we’re already becoming one with Him in our soul. As our purposes, desires and motivations become joined to His, He will not be instructing us to do what we are already doing, or encouraging us under specific circumstances, because we have “become” courage.
There are, of course, times when we will be able to identify a specific message or idea from the Lord. Sometimes I marvel at the level of detail God can communicate; think of the direction Moses received concerning the tabernacle and priesthood, and the mathematical and construction details relayed to Noah for the ark. And both of these guys lived before the Resurrection! We have so much more available to us today—we have the Living Christ dwelling and speaking within us. Don’t be surprised if the Lord begins to find ways to stretch your hearing to accommodate His details, whether in financial matters (how much should I pay for this?), travel (when, where, for how long, with whom), or any matter that may arise.
Of course one of the main ways the Lord gets our attention, to draw us to Him, is by putting us in positions where we need to make a decision or choice. Most of us have put such an emphasis on being in the center of the divine will of God that we lose the peace and rest that comes from letting Him guide us as He chooses. Though we will go into some detail later regarding divine guidance, discerning and following His leading, it is helpful to remember now that His purpose, His goal is not that we make the “right” choice or decision, but that we depend on Him to reveal what that decision is. As we mature in rest we will more and more find ourselves making decisions and choices without realizing it; not until after we find ourselves traveling in a new direction will we even notice, for our eyes and ears will be upon Him, not on our surroundings.
One of the benefits of gaining the confidence of knowing that we are hearing the Lord’s voice is we will become less dependent on the need for confirmation. As we begin, the Lord knows we need this encouragement, and will use confirmation, giving a sign in some way, for instance, that what we’ve heard or understood is from Him. Part of the process of learning to hear is not only testing what we hear, but also how it is confirmed; the devil is perfectly capable of confirming his word using the same means God does. So it’s important that we grow out of needing to have a confirmation. Once God knows He has our confidence, He will likely enjoy celebrating with us through confirmation, after we have stepped out or made a decision. God’s confirmation to Moses that he was hearing from Him was that after Israel was set free, they would worship Him on the Mount. Not before—after!
Sometimes the Lord speaks to us things that we don’t understand at the time. Often this is to draw us into a deeper understanding of His ways by encouraging us to put other things aside (both things that take up our time, and beliefs and doctrines based on tradition) in order to get the answer from the Lord (not by figuring it out by talking to those who know better or reading every book on the subject). There will also be times that we are to accept what He says without understanding it. God is under no obligation to explain Himself. Well, then, why does He share it with us? Who you truly are in your spirit already knows the answer to all these questions, and knows why the Lord doesn’t want you to have understanding in your soul realm. As your confidence in your relationship with God grows, you’ll simply be able to accept the situation and enjoy what the Lord has given.
One reason is because He loves to show His friends what is on His heart before He does things. So sometimes He reveals secrets to us that He wants us to keep secret. God wants to be able to trust us with things that are important to Him; part of the process of getting there is entrusting us with secrets and seeing how well we handle them. And here’s how to handle the secrets of the Lord: Ask! “Lord, is this something you want me to share, and if so, with whom? Or is this something just between us?” I think one of the greatest marvels of self-control was when God revealed to Daniel what He would do in the future, then told him to “seal the vision.”
The final and sometimes most difficult way the Lord communicates with us is through silence. We live in a culture and time in which our ears and minds are bombarded with information, noise and chatter 24 hours a day. Part of our learning to hear God will involve making a distinct effort to quiet our senses, often involving shutting the door, whether figuratively or literally, on both the inward and outward distractions that keep us from experiencing His silence. It is generally in knowing His silence that we come to recognize His presence. It is in His silence that He does His greatest work in, through and for us. And it is in His silent presence that we find our rest, and where He finds His dwelling place.
3. Response (WHAT TO DO with what you’ve heard)
Ask! “Lord, what should I do with this?”
We will get into some specific responses to specific situations later, but for now develop the habit of going TO THE LORD with your questions or for clarification in how to respond. Though the Lord may very well use others to speak to you, He is not obligated to, and reserves the right to speak to you in person. FIRST!
Think of your closest personal relationship, or even your relationship with a co-worker or person in authority over you. What if your boss came to you and asked that a task be accomplished in a certain way by a certain time? Would you say, “Well, let me check with my pastor.” Or even “Let me pray about that?” No, you recognize the boundaries of the relationship and respond accordingly.
I had a friend who refused to learn to do his own laundry while attending college, reasoning that if he learned he’d have to do it himself. Soon after graduation from college he married a woman who reasoned he should be able to do the family laundry. He botched it the first time he tried, ruining a load of whites in the process, whether on purpose or not he never admitted. It was only after several years and two kids that he buckled down to learn how to do the laundry without ruining their clothes.
Very often we, too, don’t want to learn how to hear from the Lord because of the responsibility that comes with that ability. We’re afraid of what He might say or ask us to do. This fear is likely part of what the Lord wants to expose and free us from! Though the increasing opportunities on the internet and elsewhere to share with others and get input can be great, to a large extent it has encouraged believers to turn to anyone and everyone else—experts, pastors, religious leaders, prophetic ministers—before we turn to the Lord. But the Lord wants to speak for Himself, and wants us to turn to Him first.
He knows where you are—The more clearly you hear His voice, the more clearly He will direct you, and the more clearly He will provide the encouragement, motivation and results He knows you need in order to live an excellent life now. In order to do this we need to be quick and able to respond.
Consequences of Hearing the Voice of the Lord
A word of warning to those who desire to hear the Lord; He WILL respond! This will likely propel you into conflict with beliefs and relationships you now hold. God desires to speak to His people on a personal level. As you set your ears to hear Him, He will put you in situations that will provide opportunities to test what you are hearing. As the Lord draws you to Himself, He will become more and more jealous over you and how you spend your time and what you think about. Your lifestyle, attitudes and beliefs will be changed, which will affect others. Some will recognize the Lord’s presence in your life to a greater level, and will respond in one of four ways: They will encourage you, mock you, join you or ignore you. Be prepared to have your motives exposed, and set your will from the start that you will pursue the Lord’s training.
Waiting on the Lord also impacts every aspect of our daily lives. Though we will need to structure our time to incorporate a specific time period for waiting, we will also need to shift our view of control over our lives in its entirety in order to be able to allow that time period to expand to encompass our entire life, including our time. My particular phrase for this is learning to cultivate quietness, which is simply a way of encapsulating God’s goal for us on this earth: that we would live in dependence on His life for all our needs; to be fulfilled by and through Him alone, so that in Him we live, and move, and have our being.
Man, in his intellectual arrogance, loves to make complex what God has made simple. And knowing God is simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. He’s already done all the hard work; our job now is to get on His timetable, let Him make the changes in us, and learn to rest, trust and respond accordingly. As we’ve said before, there will be attacks from the world, our flesh and the devil to keep us from entering into His rest, but as we violently persevere we will experience that peace, contentment and energy that is our inheritance and birthright.
The essential approach to knowing God is that it will involve a change in our lifestyle. We can’t devote our time and attention to God without changing how we manage and where we spend our time and attention. As we review the ways in which God seeks a relationship with us, and how we desire relationship with Him, be aware of areas the Lord may be putting His finger on. These may range from getting our time priorities straight, to getting healed, to acting on something He has already told us to do. Whatever it is, calmly let the Lord speak to you as He sets your house in order so that you can spend more time in His.
What can we do to know God?
* First, we show up for class.
* Second, we do our homework.
* Third, we take the tests, and be willing to fail and take them again.
* Fourth, be willing to be promoted.
* Fifth, be willing to learn more.
For now, simply begin to orient yourself to the simplicity of God’s approach to learning.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas