HOW A CHRISTIAN CAN IDENTIFY THE VOICE OF GOD?
Most Christians long to hear God speak, but how can we be sure we’ve heard correctly? Was that really God, or just our own imagination? Few things have the capacity to speak to people more than talk of ‘hearing from God’. People who don’t follow Jesus find it unsettling because it sounds as if we’ve got voices in our heads that we think are divinely inspired. Despite all that, we need to be quite clear: Christians hear from God. We worship a God who speaks; from the third verse of Genesis to the penultimate verse of Revelation.
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). We are sons and daughters of a loving Father, who wants a relationship with his children. We are the temple in which He lives and makes himself known. We are the sheep of our great shepherd, and sheep know their master’s voice. We are a body in which people prophesy, speak words of wisdom and knowledge, and use other spiritual gifts to edify each other.
We are those to whom God has spoken, in these last days, through his Son. We may get ourselves into a muddle and silliness sometimes, but as Christians, we are those who hear the voice of God. That’s how we came to follow Jesus in the first place.
The question is, of course: how do we hear the voice of God like that? What do we actually do? And how do we know that the voice we are hearing is in fact God’s, rather than ours? Or even someone else’s? We start with Jesus.
The writer to the Hebrews talks about Jesus as God’s climactic and definitive act of speech: in years gone by, he says, God spoke to our ancestors in all sorts of ways, but now he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1–2). In other words, our primary way of hearing the voice of God is through encountering the person of Jesus. In itself. In conclusion, Samuel heard the voice of God, but did not recognize it until he was instructed by Eli (1 Samuel 3:1–10). Gideon had a physical revelation from God, and he still doubted what he had heard to the point of asking for a sign, not once, but three times (Judges 6:17–22, 36–40).
When we are listening for God’s voice, how can we know that He is the one speaking? First of all, we have something that Gideon and Samuel did not. We have the complete Bible, the inspired Word of God, to read, study, and meditate on. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16–17). When we have a question about a certain topic or decision in our lives, we should see what the Bible has to say about it. God will never lead us contrary to what He has taught in His Word (Titus 1:2).
To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.
We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a
bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.
While God could speak audibly to people today, He speaks primarily through His written Word. Sometimes God’s leading can come through the Holy Spirit, through our consciences, through circumstances, and through the exhortations of other people. By comparing what we hear to the truth of Scripture, we can learn to recognize God’s voice.