Another effect of the Word of the Lord is faith, that the certainty of knowing a thing is so. Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Often, when God speaks to you faith happens. And there’s a difference between belief and faith. I believe everything in the Bible. But I’m also going to be honest and tell you this: I don’t have faith for everything in the Bible.
As we think about the issue of discerning the voice of God, one of the things we need to realize is that it will also be relevant - because it will fit the situation that you’re in. It will make sense. You won’t have to strain to make it apply. And furthermore, when you tell someone else, they’ll get it too.
While on a tour in Poland, one man out of the group would call the waiter with “PRAH-chuh! PRAH- chuh!” which he told the rest of the group meant “please.” They began to notice that the guide was growing more and more uncomfortable. Finally he politely said, “Please, it is pronounced “PRAH-shuh.” Asked what “PRAH-chuh” meant, the guide replied with a sigh, “little pig.” I don’t know about you, but even after all this time I still sometimes struggle with what God is saying. And now, here we are. How do you know it’s God?
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Knowing God implies knowing what God wants. Even before we go on to other disciplines we need to know, “Is this what the Father is doing?” Jesus spent hours each day listening in the presence of His Father – to the point of knowing Him and knowing exactly what He was doing.
I was driving to Redding for a Master’s degree class on spiritual formation thinking about the issue of listening to God. As I drove, an incident that happened two summers before suddenly came to mind. My family and I were hiking in the mountains of southern Utah when we heard a noise along the trail that couldn’t have lasted more than a second, and sounded like a chipmunk.
In a cartoon, a tourist is standing next to a Native American who is sending smoke signals. The Native American is answering the tourist’s questions. “The most challenging message I have ever sent?” “It’s raining like crazy here!” That’s how I feel in teaching at times, especially in dealing with issues like hearing the voice of God and even more specifically with things like this: dreams, visions, trances, inner impressions, and supernatural experiences.
Stepping from her kitchen into the garage, a mother accidentally locked herself out of the house. When she tried to persuade her 18-month-old son to open the door, none of the tactics worked. Finally, she walked around the house to check for an open window. To her amazement, she found the front door open and her son standing there with a salesman. “I’ve been locked out for 20 minutes,” she said. “How did you get him to open the door?” Looking puzzled, the man replied, “I rang the doorbell.”
To hear God’s voice, we need a pure heart, we need a hearing ear, and we need a responsive life.
Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the stress rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
In developing a hearing ear, you must learn how to increase your understanding of God’s vocabulary. You do that by reading and meditating on scripture. Think about it, if you were to just sit down and read a dictionary, your language would improve without even trying to make it happen, but just by exposing yourself to that information like you’d read through any other book. By the end, you’d have a higher level of vocabulary.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Now, seeing in the spirit doesn’t only happen with your eyes. Sometimes it happens with your ears. “Seeing” is much broader than just the visual connection. “Seeing” is perceiving. He’s saying, “blessed are the pure in heart for they will perceive, they will tune in, they will recognize, they will realize, they will see God for who he really is, and what His character really is because your perception of God affects what you think you’re hearing him say. We need to be pure in heart, a pure perception of God.