When believers begin to deepen their root and love for God they begin to develop strong desire to hear from God. They would like to know what God is saying regarding their decisions, lifestyle, ambitions, etc. You would often hear them say, “I am waiting on the Lord.” Many books have been written on how to hear God. Some authors have enumerated several steps to hearing from God. I would not say they are wrong, but I would rather think that hearing from God is as natural to a Christian as recognizing the voice of the mother is to a baby.
How do we teach a toddler to hear the voice of the mother? How do we teach a child the steps to recognizing the voice of its parents? It is hard to say. For a toddler, recognizing the voice of the mother comes by association and experience. So also the believer.
Being born again means we are born of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the makeup of our spiritual gene. The Born Again Christian would naturally incline to following the Holy Ghost. As the believer interacts with the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying the Scriptures, listening to the teaching of the sound Word of God, praising and worshipping God, the believer develops a sense of the Holy Spirit. A new believer could tell you what God has told him even when he has never heard that voice before. How did he know it was God speaking? It is because of the spiritual gene of the believer.
That is not to say that believers need not be taught on how to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit. The fact that saints of God are still resident in the human flesh presents a serious temptation to misconception of Divine Truths, misunderstanding of Divine intensions and purposes or outright deception. Apostle Paul noted this danger and he said, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2Cor.11:2-3).
Seeking and crying after God.
Satan is crafty! Unlike the toddler that scarcely has a desperate predator, the saints have an adversary who would do everything to deceive and derail them. That is why believers, although hearing God from rebirth, would need to be taught on how to guard their hearts against deception.
There is a growth process. The Bible told us the story of Samuel who did not recognize the voice of God until his mentor and spiritual father, Eli, taught him. In fact, something striking in that account was that, God spoke to the little boy, Samuel, using the voice of his mentor and spiritual father, Eli. (You may refer to our article on Learn from the Eagle). Yes, a young believer would normally face some challenges about recognizing when God is speaking to him or her. This is because God does not speak in one way; He speaks in many ways and the Devil imitates them all. So, while on one hand believers in Jesus Christ do not need to be taught on how to hear from God, on the other hand, they need to be taught on how to differentiate the voice of God from the other voices.
Many voices speak to our hearts. Our own heart speaks to us; Satan speaks to our hearts as well as the Holy Spirit. In most cases, the voices look similar. You would scarcely differentiate them by how they sound. Getting to differentiate the voice of God from those of others comes from your knowledge of the Word of God, your intuition (the voice of your spirit) and your experience. Let us look at how Elijah was able to recognize the voice of God.
Elijah was running for his life after the death threat from Jezebel. When he got to Mount Horeb He met with God. It reads, “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What do you here, Elijah?”
How did Elijah know that God was not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake and not in the fire? Those were the ways through which God had manifested Himself to the Jews. In Exod.19:16-18 God showed His association with those phenomena.
“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceedingly loud; so that all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the lower part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke of it ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”
In Exodus and in the Ministry of Moses God manifested Himself through thunders, lightening, earthquake, fire and smoke, but Elijah recognized the voice of God even when it did not come in the usual pattern. That was the first time God was speaking in a still small voice, yet the prophet did not miss it. If you are acquainted with God through prayers and intimacy you would recognize His voice irrespective of how it comes.
Any formula for hearing God would be counterfeited by the Devil. When Moses brought the message of God to Pharaoh and performed the miracles that God sent him to do, the magicians of Pharaoh counterfeited almost all of those miracles (Exod.7:14-25). In application, if you believe that God speaks in a certain way, it would be difficult for you to differentiate the voice of God from a deceptive voice. Satan also speaks in a still small voice. Satan speaks even through the Bible. Many people have read the Bible and came out with deception: some believe that speaking in tongues is a thing of the past; some believe that hell is not literal, but a metaphorical expression that means separation from God; some believe that everybody would be saved because Jesus died for everybody, and the list continues. They all got their ‘revelation’ from the Bible. In understanding the voice of the Holy Ghost it is not about how you heard, but what you heard.
If you want to hear from God, there are certain things you must do. Some of them have been treated in our article, “Listening to the Holy Spirit – Part One.” In addition to the issues discussed in that article, it is important to note the following;
The sure step to hearing from God is to lead a prayerful life. In the Scriptures we see that God speaks to the prayerful. Both Anna and Simeon whom God opened their understanding to recognize the Messiah in His infancy were people of prayer. Waking up early in the morning to seek the face of God in prayer and study the Word of God is a basic step in cultivating a prayerful life. But leading a prayerful life goes beyond morning devotional prayers. In our busy world setting out some time to pray and fast may be a big challenge, but it is inevitable if we would cultivate a prayerful life. Beyond set times, the believer must endeavour to pray always. Pray in private, pray in the marketplace, pray with whispers, pray also with tears; pray before every project and pray after. Pray for every need conceivable as they relate to you and to everybody and everything related to you. By all means, pray without ceasing. Prayer is one activity that is never inappropriate. When a man prays he is indirectly challenging God to show His ability to answer. God would answer in any way He deems appropriate, and that could mean speaking to direct your path, to reassure, to rebuke or to reveal. If you would like to hear from God, then cultivate a prayerful life.
So many people would like to hear from God but they do not know what God has already said in His Word. Every diligent student of the Scriptures would testify that God speaks. The problem most times is not that God is not speaking; it is rather that we are not hearing. The reason for not hearing is given in Rom.12:1-2, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
The problem lies in the way we think. Consider the above Scripture carefully. The instructions are;
Give your physical body to God, make it holy, and sacrifice it to God to be His and His alone.
Do not copy the behaviour and customs of this world including their social trends, their reigning fashions, their lifestyle, their ambitions, their mannerisms, etc.
Change the way you think. Think Scripture, talk Scripture, reason Scripture and let the Scripture form your mental pattern.
Note verse 2b, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you…” So, a Christian does not just understand God’s will. It is not granted that, since you have given your life to Jesus Christ you would automatically understand God’s will for your life. You would need to fulfill certain conditions before you can understand God’s will, and those conditions are listed in Rom.12:1-2. So many Christians who are praying to understand God’s will in their lives would never be able to actually come to know God’s will for their lives. God has a language; His language is His Word. Just as every human being communicates through language, God also communicates using His language (His Word). If any Christian is illiterate in the Scriptures he or she would find it difficult understanding God’s voice. Even when God has spoken to your heart, you still have the responsibility to verify whether what you heard is in agreement with the written Word of God, the Bible. This is the reason why so many Christians have said God told them when God never did.
“God show me a sign” is Old Testament prayer. Asking and receiving a sign from God was one of the ways they knew the will of God. They depended so much on signs because the life of faith had not yet been revealed. In the New Testament the Church never asked God for a sign. People ask God for a sign as a proof that their prayers have been answered; they need a sign to know that they are in the will of God; they need a sign to know that it is God speaking. That is gross carnality and misunderstanding of the Scriptures. Any believer who builds his life on signs, phenomena or some manifestations, is prone to deception. Satan can counterfeit every physical manifestation, including signs.
Miracles, signs and wonders would characterize the end time. One of the popular Christian songs says, “The God that answers by fire, let Him be my God.” The basis of this is that God answered Elijah by fire. Today, God does not need to answer by fire to be our God. The False Prophet of Revelations 13 would perform so many miracles, sign and wonders that he would even make fire to come down from heaven in the sight of people. The Bible calls them, “lying signs and wonders”. They are intended to deceive the world. The supernatural would be so rampant that the undiscerning would not be able to differentiate the genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit from magic. It is dangerous for believers to live by, “God show me a sign”.
God would have the New Testament saint live by faith. We live in faith when we take God by His Word. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:14-15.
When we believe that God has answered us we do not ask Him for signs. The saint first discovers the will of God in His Word, and on that ground he stand.
The signs of the return of Jesus Christ is all around us, even the blind can see them, but who is really preparing? Where are those Christians whose daily cry is to be transformed by God’s Word? Where are they who yearn daily to be separate from the mental attitude and lifestyle of this present world? Can you say as Jesus, “… My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work”? If it does not bother you whether what you are doing pleases God or not, then you are spiritually sound asleep. May this message be a wakeup call, to arouse you from spiritual slumber unto earnest preparation and expectation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“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).