He conversed with Adam in the first garden. He told Noah to build an ark. He spoke to Moses in a burning bush. He promised Abraham a son. Paul heard His voice on the way to Damascus. But does God still speak to us today? If so, how? When? Where?
Often when people ask this question, they are talking about an audible voice. And God can do that. He can do anything He wants. He’s God. Why then, can’t I hear God speak to me audibly, someone might ask?
I can’t answer questions that the Bible does not make clear. And the way God works is one of those questions. I do think “hearing God speak” may mean different things to different people. To some, it may suggest, “I need answers for my life, or this particular crisis.” Another may say, “I’ve asked God for _________, but He never answers me.”
God treats each of us as unique children. None of us are cookie-cutter Christians. Because of that, God doesn’t “speak” the same way to all of us. However, here are eight ways God often uses to communicate with us.
1. Through His Word in General.
2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is “God-breathed.” His Word sometimes gives us a warning, a word of encouragement, or a lesson for life. It’s ”His-story”–written with love as God’s guide for life, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
That means God is whispering, and sometimes shouting, all through His Word, giving us instructions and principles for life. As we interpret Scripture by other Scripture, we avoid the false logic and misinterpretations that sneak into our world. If someone claims, “God told me to go kill my neighbor!” would you believe him? Of course not! God never violates His own Word or principles. That “voice” does not belong to God.
I needed help for raising my children. God “told” me about that in His Word, especially in proverbs. Marriage difficulties? God spoke about that as well. Times when I was afraid? I “heard” Jesus’ words to His disciples as they feared for their lives one stormy night: “Peace, be still!” and it was as if God was speaking to me, too (Luke 8:23-25).
2. Through His Son, Jesus Christ
The New Testament was the fulfillment of God’s special plan. It’s the gospel: the good news of Jesus Christ. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).
Through the words of Jesus in Scripture, we can “hear” God’s heart and God’s voice–and know what God is truly like. These words were not written for a few, select individuals who could jump through the right spiritual hoops (“For God so loved the world…”). Someone in Africa, in Germany, in China, and in Alabama can “hear” Jesus’ voice by reading the same Bible.
Comparing us to sheep and He as the Shepherd, Jesus says in John 10:27, NKJV: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Why? Because the sheep know who He is. They belong to Him, and they recognize Him by the sound of His voice. And He’s the one who will always lovingly lead them on the right path–again and again.
3. Through Nature and God’s Creation
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20, NIV). Through the intricate details and magnificent beauty of all that God has made, we can “hear” His voice.
How? By observing the ant’s strength to store up food all summer long, we learn about wisdom and industriousness. By studying the heavens, we understand more of God’s greatness. And through planting and growing a garden, we “hear” about miracles of death and rebirth. God designed–and spoke them all into existence.
4. Through Other Believers
God may use a friend, a teacher, a parent, or a preacher to convey His message of truth to us. Their words may come as a warning, a blessing, or as a prophetic truth about our lives. Whether we choose to hear it or ignore it, depends on us. Do their words line up with Scripture? Will God confirm or affirm that truth in us? “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17, NIV).
I’ve “heard” God speak to me numerous times through other people. A good friend once cautioned me about flirting with danger. Words from a speaker or Christian author have both challenged me and convicted me at times. And I’ve “heard” God talking to me through my own children as their pure and honest words cut clear to my heart and spirit, reminding me of God’s true priorities.
All these things may not sound to you like ways of ”hearing God’s voice,” but it’s possible to reduce God to our own image if we insist on Him acting or reacting a certain way. God is bigger than that. He once spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22:28). Why then, can’t He speak through anyone at anytime or in any way He wants to?
Bottom line is that if we are His children, God loves us unconditionally and will spare no expense to show us. Our part? Believe Him!
Hearing His “audible” voice would no doubt cinch His reality in an awesome way. But I’ve never heard God through an angel’s message. I have no taped recordings to tell you what God sounds like. But I have heard God “speak” through the above ways–and in a few more.
5. Through Music
Perhaps one of the ways I can sense God’s presence the most and “hear” His voice the best is when I am praising Him through music. Maybe it’s because in times of depression and difficult trials in the past, I would pour over David’s songs in Psalms, often singing them back to God with my own tunes.
Praise brings me instantly to attention, like a sergeant’s command to his soldiers. The words and the notes bring a soothing comfort, excitement, and passion that open my ears and heart and lift my spirits immediately.
In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a huge army of enemies who could have easily destroyed His people, but he did a strange thing. With a declaration that his eyes were on God, he sent in a choir of praise singers: “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21, NIV).
God “spoke” clearly. He released His power, and Jehoshaphat’s army defeated their enemies!
6. Through Circumstances
When others claim to hear God through circumstances, I try to caution them to test their conclusions with other evidence. God is a Holy God, and often uses circumstances to get our attention. But He will usually confirm it in other ways.
This happened to us before my husband and I married. We were dating in high school and were both involved in what could have been a deadly accident, when a speeding pick-up hit our car broadside. Through that accident, my husband felt God had a special purpose for his life. Did he “hear” God’s literal “Yes?” No, but through much prayer, seeking God’s Word, and talking to others, he felt God’s confirmation. Several months later, he committed his life to full-time Christian service.
Someone once told me they just knew God was telling them it was okay to buy a brand-new pickup. They’d prayed about it, and circumstances confirmed it: the local car dealership had just the color and model they wanted. But there was one small problem they were neglecting. They couldn’t afford it on their income. And they ignored other red flags as well.
Through Moses, God used circumstances (plagues) to convince Egypt’s leader to release God’s people from slavery. But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.
Sometimes God uses our circumstances to test our faith. We don’t always know how to interpret the things that happen to us. I recently took my first trip in an ambulance to the local ER–unfortunately as a patient. My pulse, along with my blood pressure, dropped dangerously low. For several minutes my world looked like a spinning photo negative.
Scary, to say the least. Four hours of testing later found no cause as to why it happened. The doctor pronounced me healthy and sent me home, after encouraging me to get a follow-up–which I did. Nothing showed up.
I don’t know if God was speaking to me about something special, but the first thing I did was tell Him I was listening! If nothing else, life–and loved ones–suddenly became much more precious to me.
One of the first things I usually ask God when circumstances change is: “God, is there something you want to teach me through this?” Yes, I know everything is “fodder” for writers. But I want to make it personal and learn the lesson first.
7. Through His Spirit
I once heard someone teach about “minding the checks” in your spirit. Some may call it “God’s whispers,” while others say, “God’s still, small voice.” We are made in the image of God, and when we confess Jesus and follow Him as our Lord and Savior, His Spirit comes to live in us (John 14:17, 1 Corinthians 3:16). God’s Spirit speaks to us through our conscience, helping to make the right decision. When we’re tempted, that same Spirit warns and nudges us to do the right thing.
As a writer, I depend on God’s Spirit to give me direction. There are times when ideas pop into my mind totally unexpectedly–and sometimes directly after a plea for help from God. The good ideas I credit to God, because after all, He is the source of every good and perfect gift. The others? They’re in file 13. Even the good ones need developing and rewriting, but that’s a different subject.
Why do you suppose ten people can “hear” a sermon, but each person will walk away with a different truth that applies to him? In some cases, the speaker never spoke what the people say they “heard.” Many times, that may be the result of God’s Spirit speaking a personal “Rhema,” a living, breathing word of truth to our spirits. It’s when Scripture comes alive to us–because it is truly “God-breathed.”
8. Through Prayer
Each way I’ve shared that God may speak to us today meshes into the other. God often speaks to us through His Spirit, through prayer. We may not know how to pray, but God’s Word tells us His spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27).
Often through a combination of fasting and prayer, our minds become clearer and our hearts are more sensitive to God. Again, we may not hear God’s literal voice, but His Spirit confirms a certain direction or answer for us. As the distractions fade, we can sense His leading in a new way. Sometimes while praying, God’s Spirit will remind us of a Scripture or a truth in His Word that we can directly apply to the situation.
Does that happen immediately? Not always. There have been occasions where I still had no clue what to do, but in faith I thanked God whenever and however He would answer. A day, a week, maybe even months pass. Then one day in the shower or on a walk, a thought comes–that gentle “whisper” that could only come from Him, accompanied by His peace.
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