The topic of hearing God speak is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I know God speaks to us through His Word. He speaks to us through other people. He speaks to us by prompting us to go or do.
But what about those moments when He speaks to us in an audible way or through clear leading? How can we be sure it’s His voice?
There really is no easy answer. Although the Bible is clear that God does communicate with us, it doesn’t exactly provide instructions on what that sounds like when He speaks in an audible way or with clear direction.
A few days ago, I was reading John 16, where Christ is speaking to His disciples before He returns to Heaven. One part of passage stuck out to me:
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’” – John 16:12-15
Christ is telling His disciples what to expect as we continue to wait for His arrival. I love that. He invites them to come close and assures them that although He may be leaving physically, He isn’t going anywhere. The Holy Spirit is coming to live inside of them and keep them connected to Christ and ultimately the Father.
God’s Spirit moves and works within our world – and that includes directly communicating with us. How He does this I think is something we will continually see as we know Him more. There’s no simple way to tell people how to identify God’s voice. No one person has the authority to say another person did or did not hear God’s voice. It’s something we have to discern as the Holy Spirit moves our hearts and we study God’s Word. Still, emotions get in the way. Selfish desires take over. We hear our own thoughts and think they’re His. Since we can never see from God’s perspective, we can’t fully understand how He works or what He’s doing.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t hear Him.
I think this passage says three important things about hearing God’s voice, what that means, and what He communicates to us:
1. God’s voice will not contradict what He has told us in the Bible.
The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.
This doesn’t really need an explanation. Whenever we think God has spoken to us, the first thing we must do is examine what we heard to see if it is completely in agreement with Scripture. What the Holy Spirit leads you to do or what He speaks into your heart will be directly from the Lord, since they are One along with Christ, and He does not contradict Himself. If something doesn’t quite line up with the Bible, it’s safe to say what we heard was not from God.
2. God’s voice will ultimately point us to the guaranteed future: Eternity.
He will tell you about the future.
Honestly, I get a little uncomfortable when people today start talking about how God told them something specific will happen in the future. It just feels weird. Maybe that’s because people have used tactics like this for their own advantage, instead of for the purpose of sharing the Gospel and pointing others to Christ. But I know He can and He does speak in this way. I’ve experienced it in my own life and I’ve witnessed it in the lives of others.
I do think God will sometimes, though He does not always and certainly not often, reveal to us a tiny glimpse of His plan for the future. To do so is within His character. But no matter what He says will or will not happen, His voice and direction I think will always bring our hearts into an Eternal-perspective. Ultimately, even if we’re confident we’ve heard God speak, we also have to recognize we cannot know the mind of God and things may not (will not) unfold how we think or maybe not end in the way we thought He said. We have to remember the only guarantee in life is that Christ will come again and take us to live with Him in Eternity if we are in Christ. That’s what we have to hold onto even more than any specific direction He gives. Everything else is just temporary.
3. God’s voice will only tell us what we need to know at the time.
There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.
Have you ever stopped to wonder if not hearing any clear or specific direction from God is also one way He communicates? I think it is. Jesus couldn’t have said it more plainly: there’s more to know, but it wasn’t the right time for His disciples to know. God will answer our prayers, but at times that means not hearing an answer because it isn’t the right time.
The point of His voice is not to give us a crystal ball into the future. We cannot coerce answers out of Him. That’s really hard for me to keep in mind as I wait for direction. I like immediate answers and resolution to things. So I bring my questions and requests before Him, fully expecting that all I have to do is ask and listen really hard, and then I’ll get my “yes” or “no” right away. But I think that’s the quickest way to confusion, not clarity. When we don’t get immediate answers, it’s easy for us to fall into a place of believing we heard this or that, simply because we want to hear something. Often it’s our own heart speaking out of desperation for quick relief from our anxiousness. When our hearts are plagued by anxiety, He doesn’t give us band-aids to make us feel better in the moment; He invites us to trust and He gives us Himself.
Sometimes He calls us to step forward in faith as we wait for Him to answer our prayers. We have to be expectant that God will lead, available to hear Him speak in His timing, and willing to accept silence as part of His answer.
What are some questions you’ve had about hearing God speak?