A radio is a neat device when you have the frequency right. Growing up, I remember my dad had a shortwave radio where he could hear stations from all over the place. When I was living in Moneta, Virginia, one of our church members had a ham radio where he could talk to people over in Sweden if he so chose.
But critical to the success of a radio is the frequency to which it is tuned.Tuning to channel 970 when the channel should be 930 will result in loss of connection. So it is in hearing the voice of God. There are few questions I hear more often from Christians than this one: “How do I hear the voice of God?”
Admittedly, sometimes I have discerned the voice of God for my life while at other times I have not. Let me give you a recent example. On August 18th, 2015 I sensed the voice of God telling me to gather our team and pray that evening for a building where our church could minister seven days a week to people in this community. Following this prompting, our Tuesday night prayer group took that evening to pray that God would bless us with a location where we could do this. Incredibly, that very day a “For Lease” sign went up on a building right around the corner from where we lived. And next Tuesday night, our prayer meeting would be held in the building God had provided for us. A month later we would be celebrating our Grand Opening Service at “The Pointe.” This event was a supernatural God-moment in my life and for the life of our team.
On the flip side, I must confess there are times as a follower of Jesus that I have missed the boat. I have felt prompted to pray about something but upon further reflection I realized much of my prayer focused around selfish ambition. No doubt you have prayed a prayer like that yourself or at least witnessed someone doing so. In college, I remember the story of two guys convinced they had “prayed through” on the same girl that she would be their future wife. Obviously one of them was wrong!
So how do we discern God’s voice? First, let us debunk a couple of myths and then let’s look at God’s Word.
First, every supernatural event does not come from God. For example, in the day of Moses you may recall the magicians Pharaoh had were more than capable of performing slick acts where their rods would turn into snakes.
Second, God’s spoken voice never contracts his written word. It is amazing the voices we would filter out of our head if we would use this simple filter.
Third, God is not obligated to speak to you. I notice a trend in young Christians that they often become so desperate for God to speak to them that sometimes they settle for any voice that pops into their heads.
This being said, how do we hear the voice of God? Let’s turn to 1 Samuel 3 and look at the story of Samuel and Eli. This chapter has 21 verses, so I encourage you to look at this chapter for yourself. But let me give you the highlights version. Samuel, dedicated to God by his mother, is working as an apprentice in the temple to Eli the High Priest. But in chapter 2 we see how the Lord has rejected Eli’s household because of their disobedience to him. In this chapter, Samuel hears the physical voice of God speaking to him as he sleeps. While spooky at first, Eli prompts him to listen. Through listening, Samuel hears God say in verses 10-14 that he has rejected Eli and his family because of their disobedience. He then conveys this message to Eli in the morning.
Why did God choose to speak to Samuel and not Eli? To personalize it, how do I position myself to hear God’s voice? How do I become a Samuel and not an Eli?
1) Check Your Position. Samuel placed himself in the heart of where God was speaking to his people. It was his responsibility to take care of the lamp of God, and he positioned himself in the heart of the temple where God spoke to his people.
2) Become a Servant. Samuel’s response to God is “Speak Lord for your servant hears.” Up until this point, Samuel has demonstrated the heart of a servant. His agenda is God’s agenda. And it is only in this type of heart that God chooses to reveal his deepest thoughts.
3) Pre-decide to Obey. In the OT, obedience and hearing are intricately linked. When Samuel says “Speak Lord for your servant hears,” he is also saying, “Speak Lord for your servant will obey.” For Samuel, obedience meant speaking to his lifelong mentor and receiving possible punishment. Still, he obeyed God anyway. God knows the status of your heart. If you have a mouth that says you want God to speak to you but a heart that has consistently disobeyed what he says, rest assured that God’s voice will seem distant. Before you ask for God’s voice, make sure you are obeying his commands.
The beautiful part about the Gospel message is that through Jesus’ death on the cross we have open access to commune directly with God! When Jesus ascended into Heaven, he gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
Discerning the voice of God is not a secret God the Father wants to keep hidden. On the contrary, he gave his only Son to die for you so that this could become reality.
But just like a radio, tuning into God’s voice takes intentionality and focus. God has done his part. The question is, Will you do yours?