On Sunday I shared about growing in hearing God’s voice. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, counsel, and equip us to minister to one another. I encouraged us as a church family to pursue a relationship with Jesus and set aside time to hear what he is saying to us. At the end of the service I promised to write a blog post offering more tips for those who want to grow in hearing from God. So here it is . . .
1) Get to Know God’s Character by Immersing Yourself in His Word
Discerning the Spirit’s leading in our lives goes hand in hand with being grounded in God’s Word. We must be familiar with God’s character, God’s ways, and how God has chosen to speak in times past.
2) Set Aside Time to Be Silent
God is able to speak with a megaphone, but he often speaks in a whisper. So growth in hearing His voice requires setting aside time to be silent. Different people take different lengths of time to settle the activity of their minds and focus their attention on God. Set aside regular periods of time in which you sit quietly, focusing your attention on God. Whether you find Him meeting you in those times or not, consider it an act of worship to set aside all the other things in life vying for your time and attention in order to give God your time and attention.
3) Don’t Despise the Subtle Ideas and Images
I always thought a message from God had to be dramatic. A vision had to be arresting. But God communicates in subtle ways. So in those quiet times, sit with any ideas or images that come to mind and see how they develop. Most of the time I think it is just me making something up. Only later do I find out that it was God. So pay attention to whatever comes to mind in those quiet times, even if you think you are making it up.
4) Put It On The Shelf
After your time of silence, record whatever ideas, images, or messages that emerged, even if you are convinced that it is just your overactive imagination. Write them down in a journal so you don’t forget. This is called “putting them on the shelf.” Imagine you have imaginary shelves that you store these images and insights on. The more convinced you are that the message is from God, the higher it goes on the shelves. The less convinced you are that the message is from God, the lower it goes on the shelves.
5) Wait for Confirmation
In order to grow in determining when an idea or image is from God, look for confirmation through scripture, circumstances, and other believers. As God seems to confirm a message was from him, move it up the shelves until you are convinced it is time to share it. If the message is not confirmed, move it down the shelves. You may finally confirm that it is not from God, and it will fall of the bottom shelf. Using the shelf allows God to confirm what He is saying and enables you to grow in discerning His voice.
6) Only Share Encouragement
Paul says that messages inspired by the Holy Spirit that are to be shared are for “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor 14:3). By focusing on encouraging words we can make mistakes in hearing God without hurting people. Sharing encouraging words enables us to step out in faith and share in order to find out if the message is confirmed, and if it isn’t, we haven’t done any damage. Any message that is predictive, directive, or corrective should not be shared. Predictive messages are about something that may happen in the future. Directive messages are about something someone should do. Corrective messages are about a change someone needs to make. Predictive, directive, or corrective messages should only be shared with an MC leader or elder/pastor in the church to determine if they are from God and if they should be shared. If we follow these guidelines we can all grow through trial and error without someone being hurt or mislead.
7) Be Humble
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6). So if we want God to continue to speak to us, rather than oppose us, it is important that we don’t go around as “Thus sayeth the Lord” people. It is easy to receive a very accurate message from God, feel like you hit it out of the park, and wrongly assume you are going to hit it out of the park every time. It is important to pray that we would not just hear God’s voice, but that we would have his heart as well, walking in love, grace, and humility.
Most of these insights have come from my friend Elbert Paul and have been reinforced by the book Listening to God, by Joyce Huggett. You might consider reading the book . . . but don’t let the reading time cut into your listening time.
You may also appreciate this sermon on gifts of the Holy Spirit from Acts 2.