Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Knowing God's Will: Hearing God's Voice

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Luke 11:9-13

I have spent two weeks trying to convince you that when you are seeking God's will it is best to begin not with trying to hear voices from heaven but rather by digging into God's Word and trying to get to know Him better. We tend to skip over these steps in the discernment process, but I think that we can determine God's answer for 80-90% of our questions just by doing these two things. It's that other 10-20% that causes us anxiety, however; because it often includes some of our biggest life decisions. So how do you know God's will when the Bible doesn't give you an answer?

Well first, we must ask ourselves this question, "Does God still give direct guidance/leading to His people?" Some would say no, but let’s look at what the Bible has to say. If you search the Scriptures you will find plenty of evidence that God does in fact speak to his people (Matt 4:1, Luke 2:26-27, John 16:13, Acts 8:29, Acts 9:10-12, Acts 10:19, Acts 13:4, Acts 16:6-7, Acts 20:23, Romans 8:14, I Corinthians 2:9-16) and no evidence that His interaction with His people has changed. But how do you know God's will? Do you hear an audible voice? Do you feel it your gut? How do you know?

I believe that hearing God’s voice is both a gift from the Holy Spirit and an acquired skill. I Corinthians 12:4-10 contains a list of spiritual gifts and in this list is a gift referred to as “distinguishing between spirits.” Think about it. Anytime you are trying to make a decision, you have to distinguish between a number of voices (spirits) that weigh in on the matter. You have your own voice (your desires on the issue), the voices of your friends and loved ones, the voice of God, and Satan is surely trying to influence you as well. I believe that this passage indicates that the ability to distinguish between these voices and specifically to identify what God is saying is a spiritual gift.

Now there are many spiritual gifts, and we do not possess them all. Therefore, if you haven’t heard God “speak” to you, you don’t need to feel like you are a second class Christian in God's eyes. You just may not have this spiritual gift yet. However, Paul does tell us to “eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit” (I Corinthians 14:1). So the ability to know and discern the voice of God in your life is a gift to be desired and sought after. 

But knowing God’s will is also an acquired skill. Let me explain. When I was in college I was discipled by a man who told me how he had learned to better hear God’s voice. During a time in his life when he felt disconnected from God and was longing to know His will for his life, he decided to set aside one day a week to have a doubly long quiet time. For him this meant having an hour quiet time on Saturdays. During that hour on Saturdays, he got alone with the Lord and prayed a simple prayer. He asked the Lord to let him hear His voice, and then he sat silently. He didn’t pray very much or even read his Bible, he just sat and listened for what God might have to say. At first, his mind was full of thoughts and busyness, but after about 3 or 4 weeks of setting aside one extra long quiet time of just sitting and listening, he began to hear the Lord speak. Over time he got better and better at discerning God's will.

Some of you may be thinking, "That's great but how will I know when I hear His voice!?" If you look at the Bible stories in which people receive direction from God you will find that when God speaks to His people, they always know  two things: 1) that God spoke to them and 2) what He told them to do. Our God doesn't mince words. He gives clear guidance. Nowhere in the Bible will you find people questioning whether or not God led them to do something. When God leads, you know it. You may not like it, but you know it. This has proven true in my own experience and in the experiences that others have shared with me. When God speaks you do not hear an audible voice (although this is not beyond Him), it doesn’t register with your ears—it registers in your soul. You probably won’t be able to explain how God spoke to you but you will know that He spoke and you will know His will. 

That may not seem very helpful. It isn't the easy answer that you may have wanted. But the fact of the matter is that until you experience receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit that God has placed inside of you as a Christian, you probably won't understand. Here's some god news though. In Luke 11:9-13 God gives you an open door. He says “Ask me and I’ll give it to you. Knock and I’ll open the door for you. Search for it and you will find it!” Then He goes on to specifically promise that He will give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks for it. This is a promise that God has made to you. Ask Him for His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to reveal His will to you. Ask Him to help you hear His voice, and trust Him to do so. I challenge you this week to ask God to reveal Himself to you in a new way. Sit and listen expectantly. You might be surprised at what you hear. 

For further reading this week…

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