I arrived at my table and ordered tea and a snack before two other women joined me at the table. They were women attending my church and we were going to have our first meeting studying the Bible. At the beginning of the conversation, I asked them, “What do you hope to get from our meetings together?” Both of them said similar things: they wanted to hear from God.
I was initially surprised at their response, but later thought about it and said to myself, that makes total sense. I believe we all want to be able to say, “I spoke to God, I heard from God, and this is what God is telling me to do.”
But from time to time, it can be tricky because we might not be sure if it’s God’s voice. Perhaps what we are thinking is from God could be what we desire, what family and friends are telling us to do, or worst it can be the voice of the enemy (Satan).
So how we can be sure?
God gives us a beautiful picture of who that looks like “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10: 3-4).
Jesus says we are his sheep and he is our Shepherd and we will know his voice.
Jesus’ response tells us that it is possible to know his voice, but that takes time. Hearing from God is not something that happens overnight. That’s because we have de-clutter and allow space for him to speak.
In a culture, that is busy, distracted, and at times very nosy it’s hard to hear God. However, if we allow the space for him to speak, it’s possible to hear him and to hear him well.
What kind of space am I talking about? Simple things.
- Reading the Bible. I believe this is the best way to hear from God. We want to have these grand moments with God but the best times he speaks to us are during our quiet times. I remember one time, I was reading my Bible and his word encouraged me. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I knew that God was speaking to me. But that only happened because I opened myself to his word. If this is something that you are currently not doing then I would say join a group to start to learn how to read the Bible or get your own Bible or download an app and read a chapter a day. Then write down what you are learning. It is probably best to invest in a commentary because it will help explain the content. If you do this continually you will hear from God.
- Pray. Spend some time just sitting before God in silence. As you do, the voice of God can fill the space. You will hear from him. Many times, when I have prayed God has revealed something to me. This is also incredible in a group space where someone else can speak and God uses them to encourage whoever is in a group. Do you need to amp up your prayer time with God or join a group?
- Worship. I can’t stress this enough. We live in a very busy world and if we miss out on group gatherings particularly worship in the church community you are part of you will miss out on hearing from God. While we are in worship or hearing God’s word from the speaker, God will speak. If we are not there, then we won’t get to hear him. Which church community are you part of?
- Serve and give. This might not make any sense but it makes perfect sense to God. As we serve and give of our time and money it increases our spiritual sensitivity. When we use our talents and gifts for God we are growing in Christ-like maturity. When we give our money generously to God, we are saying to God I am not in control you are and I am going to trust that you will provide for my needs. This is an act of surrender, and when we surrender God speaks. There are many times when I have called people, prayed with them, and given out money to those in need and then God would open a door for me. He would give me an opportunity or send a monetary blessing to me. This has proven to me that there is a God and he sees what we do. But it also shows us that God is speaking to us.
- Purity. This is a big one. If we want to hear well from God we need to think and behave in pure ways. God is holy and he showed us how significant purity is to him by wrapping himself in human flesh, coming to earth, and dying on the cross so that we would walk according to his ways. When we choose to dabble or open cracks or doors to sin in our lives we are asking for trouble but it also makes it harder to hear from God and for God to listen to us. In Jeremiah 7: 16 God says to him, “16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” Ouch! Why did God say don’t bother to pray? Because the people were living in sin. What temptations or sins are you struggling with right now and will you surrender them to God and get the help you need to overcome them?
When you and I begin to make these simple spiritual practices part of our regular life and make an effort to live a pure life, God begins to flow into our lives wonderfully and powerfully because the Spirit speaks.
I recently was at the hospital on a blizzard day helping my sister get to her appointment with her new one-month baby. As she went into the clinic I remained outside and waited. A woman who was there came outside in the hallway and sat two chairs down from me. She leaned down and rested. I looked at her and I thought, something is not right. Then she sat straight up and began to cry. Not just cry, but sobbing and tears.
Now my mind was racing. “God, what should I do?” Instinctively, I turned to her, “Are you okay? Should I get the nurse?” No response. Then I said to her, “What are you doing here? What happened?”
She began to speak and explain that her right arm was giving her trouble and pain. It was hard to raise her harm. She spoke between sobs and tears. “I was here last month, but they didn’t see anything.”
I could tell she was troubled by her situation. Not knowing why she was sick was making her feel unwell. I then asked for her name. She told me her name. Then I said to her, “Well my name is Tina and I am a pastor and I will pray for you.”
The moment I said that to her, it was like a bolt of lightning went through her and she sat up straighter.
“You are a pastor?” She asked.
“Can you pray for me now?” She asked.
I said to her, “Yes I can.”
And right there in the hospital hallway, as people passed by, I prayed for her. I put my hand on her and prayed for help and healing. Once we were done, she looked like a new person. The spirit of trouble and distress disappeared and a spirit of hope seemed to enter the atmosphere.
We chatted some more, and my sister came out and saw me talking to her. I wished her well and told her I would pray that God would heal her.
The irony of the story is my sister’s appointment on her paper said to be there at 10: 30 am but her appointment with the doctor in their system was scheduled at 11: 30 am. She was upset about the mistake. But after seeing me pray for this lady and leaving the hospital that day she realized God made it so that we were there at the right time to help this lady.
My sister later called me and said, “God used you today to help that woman.” I agreed with her as we chatted about what God did for her.
It was God’s Spirit who told me what to say to the lady. How to ask the question. Respond to and discern her needs. God was the one equipping me so that this lady, despite her trouble, would leave with peace and hope.
That is the power of us spending time with God because then we learn his voice. Then when we need to hear from him, we will know what to do and what to say. We need this kind of power and insight from God because we live in a broken world.
As we continue in this new year, let’s make it a goal to spend time with God so that we will know his voice.