Often people look for signs from God. When they see a ‘sign’, they then try to make sense of it. They even suggest some of them--"God if you want me to date her, have her say hi to me." Or, we use an existing circumstances to read God’s voice into them--"Wow, she said hi to me. I think that means God wants me to date her." Of course I do not deny these methods, but God has no trouble simply talking to us! The problem is that we don’t understand how He speaks to us; and we don’t know how to listen to Him.
The Bible says that God is Spirit [John 4:24]. Spirit is not physical flesh and blood. So God does not ordinarily talk to us in a physical way, as in an audible voice. Of course, God can and does speak to us in audible manner, but these instances are rare and few. It’s just not his usual method in communicating with us. His usual method is spiritual!
Some people rely on their feelings to hear God. That too is physical. Some people determine God’s voice through a feeling of electric charge, a tingling sensation, a strange burning feeling, a pain in the back...etc. Those are all physical. Of course God can give us a tingly feeling if He so chooses, but often these are psychological reaction to something God is doing that is spiritual. You’d have same kind of feelings at a rock concert or when someone asks, “Will you marry me?” That’s you - your response to what God is doing. Emotion is you reacting to what God is doing spiritually, but that is not God. You can hunger for God so much that you can actually fabricate these reactions. Did you know you can conjure up feelings of happiness, sadness, joy and rage? That’s why as important as emotions are, we’re not to trust them completely when it comes to God. Emotions simply are too unreliable, even though they are very important to our walk with Jesus. Therefore, having a group of loving people, such as our growth group, to pray along to confirm God’s voice is important!
At this point I want to be clear. I am not saying God does not speak to us in audible or emotional way. He does! Some more than others. But that is not his usual method. We are physical but we also have a spiritual component. Remember, our spirit is not made of flesh and blood. But it’s part of us which interacts most with God. Holy Spirit speaks to our spirit to remind us and share God's thoughts with us. This is the part where we find what the Bible calls ‘the heart’ -- not the blood-pumping organ but the center of our spirit. The heart is who we are. It’s the part God sees when He looks at us. It’s what he listens to when we pray. It’s also the part of us He talks to. It’s our spiritual ear; so use your heart! God pays attention to our heart not necessarily to our words - even though words can be our heart’s expressions. So people often shout and yell when they pray and others are so desperate, like Hanna in the book of Samuel, who could not utter words but mutely expressed her hunger and desire for the Lord.
When the words we speak and heart do not match, it’s what is referred to as double-mindedness. And God does not answer such prayers. When God speaks back He usually speaks to our heart. Now the hard part is that we listen not through our physical ears but with our hearts. And by the way, when God speaks to our hearts, he does not necessarily speak to us in English. Or whatever our first language is. He speaks in raw, powerful ideas. But when we understand and want to communicate God’s message to others, we have to put it in terms we can understand. That involves a bit of interpretation on our part. That is why each Bible writer sounds unique; yet at the same time, they all sound like God. God’s message filters through their own personality and uniqueness.
If you are a visual person, God’s messages to you are more likely to evoke visions and prophetic dreams; or perhaps you are going to notice things others don’t. If you are the words-type, you get words, poetry, and vocal messages. If you are musical, you will produce music. If you are artistic, you produce art - abstract or otherwise. If you are emotionally sensitive person, you will be moved emotionally. Everyone produces different result when God downloads into them.
Now it’s totally possible that you have been talking to God but had never realized what you were producing were the results of speaking to God and Him speaking to you. You never realized that He’s been speaking to you all of your life, even before you were a follower of Jesus... and you thought you were the one coming up with all these brilliant ideas! Interacting with God will rub off on you. He talks to us all the time, far more than we realize.
Have you had this happen to you? You are about to do something and then all of sudden something deep inside reminds you, “I should not do this; it’s wrong.” And you start to argue with this voice, trying to rationalize what you are about to do. You are thinking, but that’s me. If it’s you, why bother arguing with yourself, just do it. But no, it’s God. The Holy Spirit is speaking to your spirit, leading you towards Jesus, and trying to direct you towards God! Many people can’t hear His voice anymore because they have rejected him repeatedly. The place to start for them is to repent and turn towards God. They must sensitize their hearts again to the Lord’s voice by spending time with him, i.e. Quiet Time.
God speaks to us all the time. One by one, you have to learn to recognize which promptings are of God. We have to learn to stop confusing them with out own internal voice. That takes time and effort. But the more we practice differentiating between God’s voice and our own, the better we get at it!
So, how do you know you’ve heard from God, or whether you are just hearing things? Here are some suggestions:
Compare what you think is God’s voice with the Bible. The bible is what we know God’s said in the past, and since God’s character does not change, it’ll be consistent between the bible and today! Do you want to know what God is like and how He sounds? Read the Bible. Read everything Jesus said. Read the Old Testament and New Testament!
Have your growth group* members and pray together to confirm what you perceive to be God’s voice. Seek out other Christians who hear God. Namely those gifted in the prophetic. Find out which prophets have a good track record of conveying God’s messages correctly and accurately. Whenever you hear God’s voice, share what you think you heard with them. Permit them to teach and encourage through God’s message.
Once you determine it really is God, there is only one thing left to do... OBEY! When God talks to you, He doesn’t do it to give us a warm fuzzy feelings. He gives you messages for a reason... to build the Kingdom of God. He wants us in. He’s looking for obedient disciples. If we act on His messages, and demonstrate our usefulness, He’ll give us more messages and strengthen our hearts so we can hear him clearer and better then ever before. The key is intimacy! The more intimate you are with the Lord, the more he will share. Spend time with Him this week and listen for his voice--the sweet soft voice whispering into your heart. Blessings.