“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Rev.3:22).
There cannot be preparation for the return of Jesus Christ without first learning to hear what the Spirit is saying. Correction, encouragement, insights and empowerment come from the Holy Spirit. So, listening to the Holy Spirit is the beginning point.
One of the major problems with Christians at end-time is, not listening. There are many preachers but few listeners. Yes, they hear but would choose what they want to listen to. The Message Bible brought it out clearer.
“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (2Tim.4:3-5).
It would be hard time for preachers of the Truth because listening ears would be in the minority. At that point, learning to hear from God becomes so valuable.
Meditating on God's Word in your quiet time.
Since the beginning of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, every relationship, interactions of man with God, and every manifestation of God in the realms of men, is through the Holy Spirit. Those who claimed to have seen Jesus Christ, whether by vision, dream or out of body experience, had encounter with the Personality of the Holy Spirit. When we hear the voice of God in our inward being, we have just heard from the Holy Spirit. When we hear the voice of God audibly, it is the Holy Spirit speaking. So, how does a person recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit?
Job 33:14 “For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it.”
The book of Job tells us that the problem is not about God speaking; it is about perceiving what God has spoken. God speaks in different ways, but His voice needs to be perceived. The Hebrew word that was translated perceive also means, observe, notice, regard or behold. It is one thing to hear but another thing to notice, observe or regard what you heard. In other words, we hear God many times, but do not believe, acknowledge or recognize that it is God speaking.The
ways through which God speaks are too numerous to mention. He spoke to the Children of Israel through the Urim and Thummim, spoke to the Maggi through the stars, spoke to the shepherds by an angel, and the list goes on. A person who is in tune with the Holy Spirit hears His voice almost in everything. Psalms 19:1-4 declare, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.”
The constellations (each group of stars), the galaxies, the planets and their alignments, all speak in inaudible voices, declaring the counsel of God. The wise and listening ears get the message; some others would either not listen or would get it wrong completely.
Paul said that God speaks to man through nature. 1Cor.11:13-15 Paul said, “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.”
Beyond the subject of hair covering, Paul was drawing the attention of the Corinthian Church to the fact that God has hidden certain lessons in nature. He taught the same lesson to the saints in Rome. Writing to the Roman Church Paul declared, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Rom.1:18-20.
This is amazing! Humans do not have any excuse not to worship God, even if nobody has ever preached to them the Gospel of Salvation. Why? It is because God has preached to them in nature. God has hidden so many lessons in nature but it takes a listening ear and understanding heart to get those lessons.
God speaks in numerous ways but the common mode of communication today include, but not limited to the following;
In subsequent articles we will do in depth study of each of these modes of communication, but in the meantime, we have to consider the basic conditions everyone who wants to hear from God must fulfill.
God wants to speak but He does not want to be mocked. Anybody who wants to hear from God must be sure that he really wants to hear from God. Many people had sought to hear from God but ended up being deceived. Husbands have divorced their wives and married another; preachers have wrecked other people’s marriages, all in the name of ‘God told me.’ It is possible that something spoke to them! Hear what God says in Ezekiel 14:1-4
Then came certain of the elders of Israel to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and put the stumbling block of their iniquity and guilt before their faces; should I permit Myself to be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Every man of the house of Israel who takes his idols [of self-will and unsubmissiveness] into his heart and puts the stumbling block of his iniquity [idols of silver and gold] before his face, and yet comes to the prophet [to inquire of him], I the Lord will answer him, answer him according to the multitude of his idols…”
When a believer masks self-will and stubbornness with a cloak of spirituality, God will answer him according to his self-will. His insistence to hear from God without repenting of his self-will could either hinder him from hearing God, or make him believe a lie. When a congregation is hardened in self-will, they could make the servant of God in that Church to err in vision, revelation or prophecy. In other words, the self-willed believer might deceive not only himself but also his pastor.
Verses 7-9, “For anyone of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who separates himself from Me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity and guilt before his face, and [yet] comes to the prophet to inquire for himself of Me, I the Lord will answer him Myself! And I will set My face against that [false worshiper] and will make him a sign and a byword, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people; and you shall know (understand and realize) that I am the Lord. [The prophet has not been granted permission to give an answer to the hypocritical inquirer] but if the prophet does give the man the answer he desires [thus allowing himself to be a party to the inquirer’s sin], I the Lord will see to it that the prophet is deceived in his answer, and I will stretch out My hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel. And they both shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the iniquity of the [presumptuous] prophet shall be the same as the iniquity of the [hypocritical] inquirer.”
God calls them, hypocritical inquirers! Hypocritical inquirers fostered by presumptuous prophets! That is the condition of Christendom today! Seeking to hear from God but not willing to accept any answer that is contrary to their perceptions, expectations, comfort and pleasure! They want God to approve their plans, but they hate rebukes. Indeed, they would obtain approval! We have examples of such in the Scriptures:
Four hundred prophets were deceived because of one person (Ahab) who was a hypocritical inquirer (2Chron.18).
Many prophets of Israel were deceived because of the hypocrisy of the children of Israel; those prophets saw visions and prophesied peace for Jerusalem when judgment was actually imminent (Ezekiel 13:16).
Apostle Paul prophesied that false teachers would flourish at end time to serve the appetite of Christians who would not like to listen to the wholesome Truth (2Tim.4:3-4).
When people seek God, study the Word of God or listen to preachers without first dealing with themselves regarding the state of their hearts, they usually end up being deceived. So, the first step in our desire to listen to the Holy Spirit is to cleanse our hearts, and make sure we are not stuck in self-will.
A teachable spirit is that disposition of the believer to give careful consideration to what other people are saying, even when it is conflicting with his or her own traditional beliefs. He has the tendency to change if the new teaching is proven true. A person with a teachable spirit does not argue to prove his points, but rather listens to prove what he hears whether it is of God or not. The Berean Christians demonstrated ability to learn when they scrutinized the teaching of Apostle Paul and confirmed it was true (Acts 17:11). It was revolutionary to their traditional beliefs, but they accepted the change.
God searches the heart. God knows when you truly hunger for Him. God knows when your heart is not arrogant; when you are not eager to keep pace with the Joneses; when you are not consumed with a competitive spirit; when you are not eager to show off and prove your superiority, affluence, intelligence, and whatever you think makes you superior to your fellows. If you truly thirst for God, He would show up.
When Prophet Samuel was going to choose a leader for Israel, he missed it by a mile. He based his judgment on everything the human mind could conceive, but the decision factor was on something which the eyes and senses could not perceive. God corrected him.
“When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1Sam.16:6-7).
How many Churches have made gross mistakes in their choice of leaders just because they based their decisions on credentials, physical attributes and every other thing the eyes could see? How often have we made wrong choices just because we based our decisions on what our eyes and senses could see and analyze? God searches the hearts and He knows those who genuinely depend on Him and are willing to risk their safety and comfort on the basis of God’s Word. Hanani the Seer rebuked King Asa and said,
“Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the LORD, and he handed them over to you. The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2Chron.16:8-9).
Every day, every minute, every second God is scanning the hearts of men, to see those who truly commit to God. You may cry on your knees and shout aloud that you want to hear God, but God knows whether you would truly sacrifice your comfort, your pride, your most cherished treasure for the sake of what God says. If you cannot, the harder it would be for you to hear from God.
Jesus was teaching at the Temple. Majority of the “Church members” could not understand what kind of person He was. This is what He said to them, “So Jesus answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.’”
Did you notice something in that statement? Someone would need to desire to do God’s will, before the person would understand. The first step in hearing the Holy Spirit is having a burning desire, genuine commitment to following the leading of the Holy Spirit irrespective of the outcome.
God resists the proud. The root meaning of humble is, to make or bring low; reduce to meaner circumstances, to assign a lower rank or place, to abase. To humiliate is to “afflict humility” on self or someone else. Your humility is tested when you are grossly ignored in a place or by a person who should honour you; when decisions are made without your inputs but you have to work for the success of those decisions; when you have worked tirelessly to make achievements but the praise goes to someone else; you are not given the promotion, commendation or reward you rightly deserve, but you are expected to keep working; you are required to share the secrets of your distinction with others who may likely compete with you, and the list goes on.
When someone seeks to hear from God, he or she does not have control over how God would speak and what God would say. And that unknown should make you to bend low. Naaman, the Syrian Army General, had expected Elisha to speak to him with dignity; to give a complementary diplomatic respect; but Elisha gave him a lesson in humility. Elisha not only spoke to him through a servant but he also asked him to bath in one of the low profile places, River Jordan. When He humbled himself he got his miracle. (2Kings 5).
Many people today have missed God just because He did not come as an Honourable. So many Christians very much cherish status, class, prestige, respect and glamour that they cannot understand what it means to be lowly. Some are so deluded that they assume that to flaunt their possession is to show the glory of God. So many Christians would fight and hate if you fail to sing their praise, announce their names with dignity, or show them respect in public. Apostle Paul had something to be proud of, but those credentials he disregarded and counted them as dung. What Apostle Paul hated to be identified with is what many Church leaders today scramble to be labeled with.
Any believer who wants to hear from God should clothe himself or herself with humility. Settle it within your heart that wherever He leads you would follow. If it brings you financial poverty, loss of friends, lack of fame, rejection, pain, disrespect, or any other thing that is uncomfortable to the human nature, you would follow. That is when you are ready to hear God speak.
A lot of believers today do not like to give attention to anything that would disturb the status-quo; upstage their comfort zone, or make them appear ignorant. But the heart that wants to hear God speak must be ready for transformational changes. When John the Beloved heard God in the Island of Patmos, God’s message to the churches in Asian Minor was a mixture of commendation, rebukes and instructions. Today, a mass of believers hate rebukes and instructions, but those who seek to hear God must have open hearts.
Let’s check ourselves and with sincere heart and repentant spirit, we ask ourselves;
Oh God, deliver me from self-deception; let me see myself as You see me; grant me the grace to recognize my spiritual condition as you make it known to me.
Oh God, take away from me the heart of stone, and give me the heart of flesh that would tremble at your Word. Grant me the spirit of integrity so that I would be upright before you.
Do not let me be deceived; speak and make me hear You even when Your counsel is contradictory to my perceptions and long-held beliefs.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father..." (John 14:12).