Hearing God provides a huge advantage for Christians, even in the work-world. Our Father delights to speak to His children, like any good father. Even as a manager in a secular business, I had this hidden advantage, hearing wisdom from God (although personally I did not use the words “God said…”).
Where do you stand on “hearing God today.”
It’s controversial among godly Christians, and much of the difference is semantics. When we were seeking God’s will in respect to missions in Germany, “hearing God” would not have been a phrase I would have used. However, I did “hear” God in the broadest sense of clear communication. God communicated with me outside of Scripture, but not in contradiction with Scripture.
I was convinced of God’s will and simply took steps to follow, knowing my caring Father would arrest my attention if needed. My confidence has always been in God’s ability to speak rather than in my ability to hear. God used whatever means He needed so I could respond to His will. Properly understood, God’s communication is essential for knowing God’s will in particular circumstances.
Adding fresh thoughts to Hearing God.
When Fran and I were in our forties, we returned to the States from our time as missionaries. In Germany, we were part of a denomination of churches who primarily used Scripture, proverbial wisdom and a Holy Spirit peace that passes understanding to discern God’s leading. We shifted to a denomination that expected to hear the fresh voice of the Lord in advance for each transition.
I still believe God speaks in addition to the written Word of God, the Bible, yet never in contradiction to it. God speaks through creation, if we have ears to hear (Psalm 19:1-4). In the Bible, the God who is the same today as yesterday spoke directly through verbal speech, in dreams, through people and circumstances and even through a donkey to communicate to His people. Some friends have even told me He speaks at times with them in an audible voice.
Reflecting on the past with fresh insight.
At that time, I realized I had often “heard” from the Lord, although I would not have used those words. Once I embraced from Scripture a “belief” for understanding how God speaks, my ability increased because I became more aware when it happened. And I still have never heard God’s audible voice, although I’m confident I “hear” from God regularly. For me, it’s often through fleeting impressions like a bubble or butterfly of thought flitting through my thoughts. As I respond, I gain more clarity. Practice a Both/And approach to “hearing God,” flowing from a life-practice of Psalm 37:4.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
As we delight in God as a life-pattern, He is now free to give us the desire of our hearts because our thoughts are now His thoughts…usually.
And a battle for our mind exists.
Unfortunately, although we are certainly now new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we still battle with a residue from our life prior to Christ. God never pushed the “reset” button our memory when we came to Christ. Jesus calls this our self-life and Paul our flesh-life. Paul graphically describes this battle raging within him as a Christian in Romans 7:14-25 and a summary of the solution in 8:1-39. I think of this residue as a rebel guerilla force within me, comprised of “members” scattered when my “old man” died at the time of my salvation (who I was prior to salvation). It’s not me (Romans 7:19b, NASB), but is so like aspects of my former life that it feels like me. Don’t get confused here.
No wonder discernment is so crucial!
How can we discern the heart and intent of God from among the myriad of other voices vying for our attention and allegiance in our culture today?
Hearing God & Developing Discernment
We develop discernment over time as we attend to the inner movements of our heart, especially the affections. Scripture teaches that our heart is the core of who we are, the seat of our mind, affections/ emotions, and our will. At the heart of Trinitarian spirituality lies a certainty that God is ever present and active in our lives and in every area. This leads to an active attentiveness to God in our daily activities joined with a prompt responsiveness to His will.
This attentiveness is not morbid introspection. We are attentive to God and His inner movings. We regularly monitor our hearts for these two. First, to sense the direction the wind of our affections is blowing, toward God, or away from God toward our self-life. Second, to note where God’s footsteps in our affections are going so we may go with Him.
Why seek God’s will?
And also of utmost importance is why we seek God’s will. To do it? Or to vote whether we want to do it? Are you personally committed to doing God’s will as soon as you are reasonably sure you know it? Without this, little LifeChange happens. Yearn to make the choice that leads to a deeper relationship with God. Embrace this truth. Everything in this world is presented to us “so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily” (a thought from Ignatius spirituality).
“Hearing God” is essential. And thinking that God must always speak specifically before I act sounds so spiritual. “God spoke to me fifteen specific times about….” However, it often ends up paralyzing many people from action and slowing down the maturation process.
Why not respond the first time, even if we are not 100% sure. our missteps don’t bother God; only our rebellious heart?
We settle in the status quo, dissatisfied, yet strangely content that we are “waiting on the Lord.” A belief that God must speak directly before I respond is only a portion of God’s ways. This is “part-for-the-whole” thinking, lifting up a legitimate part as if it is the complete response.
Certainly we still have a deep need to walk in interdependence with Him…always. And our hearts are now more attuned with the Father, Son and Spirit after time drawing from His strength, making Scripture our home and responding to overcome evil (the three traits of spiritual “young men/warriors”). His values and ways have now become our own through the Psalm 37:4 process in our hearts. Now God often speaks through the whispers in our hearts, rather than as frequently in external ways. And also, if we misunderstand, God will communicate in any way necessary to gain our attention. My confidence is not so much in my ability to hear, but in His ability to speak.
Such a response is not rugged individualism or independence, but healthy interdependence. Confidently embrace our freedom in Christ. Respond as image-bearers walking in the Spirit in proverbial wisdom from Scripture, including weighing godly counsel and our reasoning heart. Although God is not a God of confusion, we are still very much still in-process and often step out in chaos and confusion and disorder, still seeing darkly, as in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12), even when we are “hearing God.” I like the NT model of partnership in humility: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). “It seems good.” Then go for it, trusting God to arrest our attention anytime it’s needed.
Such a way of “hearing God” keeps us dependent on our Family-of-Three. This also frees us to live in a society with 34,000 average adult daily choices each day. If we expect a direct, specific word from God on every detail of life, the flood of thoughts brings paralysis. Yes, God is always free to speak loudly in dreams and visions. If we get off course or if His will is beyond our present ability to comprehend.
Yet the norm for healthy Christians is hearing God since He is our Father.
This is an excerpt from my book “Cycles of Lifelong LifeChange,” describing three spiritual development cycles on my page “Books by Jim Fredericks” under the tab “Bible Resources.”