by Debbie Altman
In our 30 years of full-time ministry, the question we are asked most is, “How do I hear the voice of God?” People can think that because we are pastors, we have a direct line to God that no one else has! The truth is that we are just regular people like you… recovering sinners, saved by grace, on a journey learning what it means to walk with God and to hear from God.
I still wish God would be more obvious when I ask Him about something. I wish he would put the answer on a billboard, send me an email or text message or just smack me upside the head! And I hate to admit it, but I realize that sometimes the problem isn’t that I can’t hear God’s voice, I can hear him perfectly well, I just don’t like what He’s saying and I don’t want to do it!
But once we get over our little temper tantrums, for the most part we all DO want to know what God is telling us, we want to follow His direction, and we want the assurance that we can hear Him.
God does speak to us personally
In John 10:27-28, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.” Psalm 32:8 says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Like any good Father, He wants to communicate 3 basic things.
- His love – how much He values us
- His ways – the best way for us to live
- His will – guidance and wisdom
We are wise to hear what God has to say because when we make decisions based only on what we think is right, we often get ourselves into big trouble or we get less than God’s best for our lives.
Ways God speaks to us
I’ve found over the years that people seem to run after spectacular experiences with God, but Biblically, the dramatic is really the exception, rather than the norm. Initial encounters with God might be more dramatic but usually that’s because we are being really ornery and He has to get our attention! As our relationship with God grows and the longer we have been communicating with Him, the quicker we recognize His voice.
- God speaks through His Word – the Bible.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is a living book. God’s Word clearly spells out His will for us for almost everything in our lives! When you read it, ask Him to make it alive to you and show you what He wants to speak personally to you, in that moment. I have story after story of reading a certain verse that I’m familiar with but in that specific moment, it jumps off the page and is exactly what I needed to hear. This is God making His Word alive to me. He wants to do that for you, too!
- God speaks to us when we pray.
Prayer is not an obligation, something we should do or have to do. Prayer is a conversation between you and God. Many times though, we tell God everything He needs to do in our lives but we neglect to sit and listen to His response. What God has to say to us is infinitely more important than what we have to say to Him, yet we generally monopolize the conversation!
When you pray, practice being silent and still. Just BE in His presence. Disconnect from technology and eliminate distractions and listen. You may take time in the morning when you wake up to start the conversation with God and then just talk to Him during your day.
I have been guilty over the years of going around seeking answers, talking to people, checking Google, trying to figure things out in my head and I never even asked God His opinion or His advice! He is waiting for us to ask Him.
- God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.
In John 14:16 Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads you into all truth.”
Once we have experienced salvation, the Holy Spirit’s job is to make us like Jesus, to transform us into His image. It’s our job to listen and surrender to what His Spirit is telling us. The Holy Spirit will use many ways to draw us closer to Him and remind us of what God wants for our lives. But one way is through an “inner voice” speaking to our heart and mind.
The Holy Spirit brings comfort, reveals God’s will, gives us power, reminds us what is true, brings understanding, convicts us of sin, and many other things. As we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He will bring the transformation we cannot achieve on our own.
- God speaks through our circumstances.
God may use an event in your life to reveal something about Himself or His will. It could be through a job offer, car accident, unexpected gift, surprise phone call, death, a letter of encouragement, random conversation, a failure or a success. God will take any of these situations to draw us to Him, to show us His love or faithfulness, to mature us, to discipline us, or to give us guidance.
Don’t go seeking the hidden meaning behind every traffic jam. But, be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit might be trying to say to you during the circumstances in your life. Look and listen! Just because a circumstance looks appealing, doesn’t mean God wants you to move forward. A job offer might present more money but the cost of losing time with your family or affecting your spiritual life might not be the direction God wants you to go. The key is asking God when those opportunities come. He will lead you!
- God speaks through other believers.
When you are actively involved in a church body, you have the opportunity to know others and to be known. When you are unsure what direction God is leading, it is wise to seek counsel from trusted Godly people, especially for big decisions like career moves, marriage, etc. Sometimes it is hard to hear God’s voice objectively when our emotions are involved.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success.”
Think of the important relationships you have in your life with family and friends. Now, think about how often you talk to them and how close your relationships are as a result. It’s the same with God. When we seek to spend time with Him, our relationship will grow, we will learn His voice and we will turn to Him first when something wonderful happens and when we need comfort and peace.
God’s purposes are not the same as ours. We want Him to indulge us; He wants to transform us. We want a formula on how to hear God’s voice but He does not limit Himself to a formula! God’s choice to communicate in so many diverse ways forces us to put our faith in Him and not in a method.
God will guide you specifically and step-by-step. The Christian life is not a sprint, it is a long race. We don’t want to race ahead of God. Watch and pray! Wait and listen. Be patient. Begin well and end well.
Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago. She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son. She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.