My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 NIV
Three years ago, I wrote an article titled “To Hear His Voice”. I remembered I had written it, but had forgotten it was in January. How times have changed! What apparently has not is that, come January, my mind and I guess my heart turn to the discipline of recognizing or discerning God’s voice. After all, it is the season of creating goals and seeking direction for the year.
Have I “heard” His voice since I last wrote? I would like to think so. Have I gotten any better? I am not so sure. For a while, like Philip and the Ethiopian from this Sunday’s sermon on Acts 8, I could feel the nudging. But as schedules get busier or mental/emotional/physical health suffers in this pandemic world, sometimes it is good to have a quick refresher on this discipline of hearing His voice.
John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We know that we can hear God through scripture and encounter Jesus as the Word. As stated in a previous sermon, the Bible is one of the few—or maybe the only book—written specifically to draw the reader into relationship with the author. The Bible is God-breathed. We can easily encounter that “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12); it is a surefire resource to test what we have heard and seen all around us. Every new year, one of my resolutions is to read a little scripture every day, even if it is just the “verse of the day” from my Bible app!
Of course, we hear God through prayer, too. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 states, “Pray ceaselessly.” Prayer is talking to God, but I would argue it is also the act of waiting for Him to respond. Someone once challenged me to try to have a back-and-forth conversation with God. For the time it took for me speak my requests, I would have to be still and listen in return. Job at his lowest had a back-and-forth with God, where God said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (Job 42:4). If we are in relationship with Him, why not? Isn’t that how a conversation works? Besides, when I do not have the words, the “Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
Which brings me to the Holy Spirit. After doing Alpha with Creekside in the fall, I have thought lots about how the Spirit moves and connects us to God through Jesus. Am I still open to the miraculous? In that old blog post, I wrote about one of the craziest ways I had heard God through the Spirit. I knew a word of knowledge was from Him because I recognized the peace and joy that came with it:
Once, I had a vision for the person standing behind me. We were praying and asking God to speak (Jeremiah 33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know”). I had no idea who it was… In the [vision] was a farm with a duck and her ducklings in the pond. I just felt this feeling that God was like the duck. He’d been imprinted in the person behind me like the mother to the ducklings. So, with uncharacteristic boldness and without turning around, I explained what I had seen. The girl behind me was wearing an Oregon Ducks sweatshirt and proceeded to cry! I found out later that what I had said was an answer to a question she had been asking God. In this case, not only was my faith boosted, but everyone who was there got to experience it too. It was wild. This is not a story I tell lightly. I have a bit of anxiety knowing this will be up on the internet. But I tell it because when God speaks, it is faith-boosting.
We do not often talk about the supernatural aspect of our faith. To be fair, we do enter dangerous territory, since we can encounter other things that “speak.” After all, there is very much a spiritual battle raging (Ephesians 6:12). But when it is God, there is a recognizable peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This has been my experience. And we can always go back to the Word and to prayer to verify!
And finally, we hear him through fellowship with one another. We are many parts of one body (1 Corinthians 12:27). And when two or more are gathered in His name, there will He be (Matthew 18:20). More chances to encounter and to hear! For example, I know I heard God during Alpha when we were gathered over Zoom, and I am continually blessed by the different viewpoints at my Bible study discussions. We were never meant to do this alone, including when trying to hear God. In short, we are one flock of sheep learning to recognize our Shepherd’s voice.
I have not touched on the last part of that verse above. We do not always obey once we hear, at least I do not. However, each encounter with God I am renewed and transformed, so hopefully someday I will always be prompt in my obedience. But first, I must listen again.