2022 Discipleship Series: Discerning the Voice of the Lord
Have you ever had a prompting to give someone a call or send them a note of encouragement? If you followed through with that nudge, did you find out later that it really impacted the other person? Or have you ever been reading a passage in the Bible and it seemed like words were jumping off the page just for you?
Most of us have experienced one or both of these situations at least once, but did you recognize that as God’s voice–God speaking to you? You may have had someone’s name come into your mind as you were praying or felt a nudge to pray for someone in the course of your day. That is God speaking to you.
Just this morning, my daily Bible reading included the following verse:
“If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways.”
When we discussed the topic of prayer earlier in this series, it was noted that there is a listening component of prayer. If we want to flourish in God’s Kingdom, we must learn to discern the voice of God. It is not a skill that comes naturally to most, but it is a skill that can be learned.
My own journey with learning to discern the voice of the Lord began out of desperation. I was struggling with depression to the point of despair when God sent a woman into my life who counseled me, “Kathy, you need to get on your face and ask God what to do.”
That was the best advice I have ever received in my life! I was so desperate for help that I took her advice and literally got down on the floor with my face to the carpet and cried out to God for help. First, I cried and told God all my troubles—as if He didn’t already know! Then I got quiet and listened. Nothing.
I could barely take a few seconds of silence before I had to get up. Psalm 46:10 comes to mind.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
I had a lot of trouble being still because whenever I got still the voices in my head got very loud. Thoughts like, “You’ll never be able to hear God.” “You’re a terrible wife.” “You’re a lousy mother.” I could go on, but you get the point.
I did not give up though. Each day I came before the Lord humbly on my face and cried out to Him. I told Him what was on my heart and then I listened as long as I could before getting up. It took more than a few days before I actually heard anything, but as I continued to listen, the Lord began to speak to me and tell me what to do.
You may wonder, “How did you know it was God speaking?”
That's easy. He gave me very practical things to do to be free from depression. If I had been able to figure that out myself I would not have needed the Lord. I also reasoned that the enemy wasn’t going to give me the wisdom I needed to be free from depression.
So. There was some faith involved. First, I had to believe that when I did what my friend told me to do that God would speak to me. Where do you find that kind of faith? Well, I began a search in the Word. What does the Word of God say about listening to the Lord?
There were two Scriptures that stood out to me.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
As a teacher, I am always glad to answer the questions of my students, so I reasoned that it would be impossible for the Holy Spirit to teach me all things or remind me of Jesus’ words if He didn’t speak to me. I asked the Lord, “If it is possible for me to know Your voice like this verse says, will you teach me how to listen?”
He did. It took a while for me to learn to be still long enough to hear, but I did learn, and now I can hear the Lord no matter what I am doing––even in the midst of a noisy crowd.. Like those sheep, I recognize His voice.
He taught me to take every thought captive unto Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and to hold every thought going through my brain up to the standard of Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that none of the thoughts going through my mind lined up with that standard! I had to ask the Lord to help me to think better. He did.
Here is what I have learned about discerning God’s voice:
· You have to want to listen with the intent to obey.
· You have to take the time to learn and discern.
· You have to practice – a lot!
· Every word from the Lord will align with Scripture and brings peace not confusion.
· God is able and willing to help you. His Holy Spirit within you makes it possible to hear.
Do you have to get on your face to hear? Probably not, but I learned that a position of humility helped me to be receptive.
Those who seek the Lord will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). Seek Him in the Word and He will speak to You there. Take time to be still when you pray and He will speak to you there. As I go about my day, I ask the Lord many questions in my mind and He answers with Heavenly wisdom. (Why do ask God questions in my mind and not out loud? The enemy cannot read your mind. Only God knows your thoughts. This allows you to keep your conversation with the Lord personal without interference from the enemy. He does not want you to learn to discern the voice of the Lord, so he will put obstacles in your way. That is nothing to be afraid of, but you must be aware of it, so his schemes don’t keep you from drawing closer to the Lord.)
It may take a while. You may make mistakes. You may need a lot of practice to become proficient, but it will be worth it. You will find your relationship with the Lord will deepen significantly as you learn to discern His voice.
Lord, teach us to listen when You speak to us. Help us to be willing to learn so that we will always know Your voice and never follow the voice of the deceiver again.
Read Psalm 29.
Do a Word Study in Scripture about listening to God, God’s Voice, etc.
Journey to Trust by Robyn Dykstra pages 14-15 has a lesson about listening to God.