Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning to Hear God’s Voice

If we are truly going to be followers of Christ, it is quite essential that we know what God’s will and way is for our life.  The scripture makes it quite clear that God has plans and purposes He has placed into us.  Plans and purposes that we were specifically “designed” to fulfill, predetermined before our birth, even before the foundation of the world.  But in order for us to walk into, and live out these plans and purposes, we “must’ be able to hear and know God’s voice.  If we can’t hear or don’t recognize God’s voice, how can we ever expect to know or fulfill God’s will?

Years ago I was not at all familiar with hearing God speak, so because I wasn’t aware of God speaking to me I use to make the negative confession that, “I couldn’t hear God’s voice.” Until one day when I was reading John 10:3-4, where Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice, and know His voice.  So based on this scripture, there was one of three options that must be true concerning this matter: (1) Jesus was lying, (2) I was not one of His sheep, or (3) I “could” hear and know God’s voice.  Therefore because I knew Jesus doesn’t lie, and I knew that I was one of His sheep, the truth had to be that I could hear and know God’s voice.  I just needed to learn “how to hear and know it.  So from that time forward I began to confess that I did hear His voice, and began to focus on recognizing it.   And little by little I did begin to recognize God speaking to me, especially through the Scriptures.  But hearing Him speak about personal directional decisions was still very difficult.

Some years later as I was seeking God’s direction on a personal matter, and getting frustrated at not hearing His answer, God gave me an object lesson about hearing Him.  I was listening to my I-Pod with ear phones in, worshiping, and enjoy the music.  I got into my tractor to go do some field work.  As soon as I turned the tractor on, I could no longer hear the music.  The I-Pod was still working, the ear phones were still plugged in, the music was still playing, but I could no longer hear it.   The noise coming from the tractor engine was drowning out the sound of the music.  It wasn’t that the music was no longer present; it was just that the sound given off by the tractor engine was overwhelming the sound coming from the I-Pod.  The music was just as loud as it had been before, but my brain could no longer pick it up.  The only sound my brain could pick up was the sound of the tractor engine.  That was when God’s Spirit invaded my day and spoke into my heart saying, “It is not that I’m not speaking to you either, or that you don’t know my voice, it is just that you are letting the noise and business of the physical world around you occupy your attention, and overwhelm my voice; thus you are not picking it up.”  Ouch!  So much for blaming God for not answering!  What I needed was to learn how to get quiet before God, and shut out the noise of the rambling world around me.  I needed to learn how to tune Him in, much like tuning in a radio to a specific station.  It is possible to quiet our spirits before God even in the midst of a noisy crowd.  But to do so we must learn to focus on the Spirit within rather than the physical things going on around us.  God does not speak to us with a shout, but instead uses a “still small voice.”

1 Kings 19 tells of a time when Elijah the prophet was exhausted, depressed, and running from his enemy.  God found him hiding in a cave and instructed him to go stand before Him on the mountain.  “And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountain 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; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still small voice.  When Elijah heard the voice he wrapped his face in his mantle” (1 Kings 19:11-13a AMP)  Though the Lord may display Himself with great acts from to time to time, He does not speak to us with great fan fare, but instead chooses to use a gentle whisper and a reassuring peace.  If we truly desire to know and hear Him, we will get desperate enough to do what it takes to learn to be quiet and patient before Him.  If hearing from Him is not that important to us, we will continue to say, as I use to, “I can’t hear God's voice” and continue to miss out on the blessing of God’s best for us. 

God’s latest lesson to me on hearing His voice came just a few weeks ago.  I had been seeking to know God’s will on a matter and feeling as though I wasn’t getting an answer, when the Spirit directed me to John 5:25 where Jesus said,   “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God; and they that hear shall live.”  Again the Spirit spoke into my heart saying, “The reason you don’t hear my voice more clearly is that you are not dead enough.  The deader you are, the clearer my voice will become.”  This was not my traditional understanding of the meaning of this verse, but I clearly understood what the Spirit was communicating to me.  He was not talking about being physically dead, but being dead to sin and self.  In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said it this way, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”  Truly following after Christ requires that we die to our will and desires, and instead take on the desires and the cross of our master, Jesus.   Although we will “lose” our life in this process, Jesus assures us that this is actually the only way to save it.  I like how the Amplified Bible reads these verses.  “If any person will come after me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up the cross daily and follow me [cleave steadfastly to me, conform wholly to my example in living and if need be, in dying also].  For whosoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].”   

Paul also talks about this concept of us being dead to sin, and having died with Christ.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”  (Col. 3:1-3)  Because I am dead and my life is now hidden with Christ, my aim should now be seeking the things that are a priority to Him rather than seeking my own self centered and earthly priorities. The more I seek first the kingdom of God rather that the kingdom of “Me”, the more God’s will and voice will be revealed to me.  This life that I am living is not about me, and was never meant to be about me.  It is about Him and His purposes, thus the more I embrace and live out this truth, the more of Jesus I can and will receive.

I still have much to learn about hearing God’s voice, but if “the dead hear the voice of the Son of God.” Then the sooner I am dead to me and alive unto Him the sooner I will clearly hear Him speaking. 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Rev. 2:11a