Yesterday I wrote in Doubts of Faith that God puts us through drills or tests to learn to listen and obey him. Today I want to list some ways that we can hear God’s message for us.
- Read the Bible
- I do not believe the Bible is intended to be used as an instruction manual or a rule book. Those perspectives have divided God’s church. God’s desire is unity of faith in him (Ephesians 4:11-13 ). The Bible is a picture of God and his eternal kingdom plan. He is the main character, not us. We read the Bible not so much to learn what to do but who God is. His Spirit is the one who instructs us and guides us. Without reading the Bible it is difficult to recognize whether the thoughts and ideas we have are from God or elsewhere.
- Intimate Time with Jesus
- If you want to get to know someone intimately, you will desire to spend time with them alone. This may be a difficult concept to grasp because we don’t see God in the flesh anymore. However, Jesus rose from the dead in bodily form. He is alive and desires to communicate with us personally through God’s Holy Spirit.
- Call it prayer. Call it meditating. Call it whatever you want but the purpose again is to seek God’s desires and God’s plans. If all you want is your desires and your plans, chances are you haven’t had a strong intimate relationship with anyone. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) so it makes it a bit easier to grasp speaking to Jesus than to grasp communicating with the invisible God. He really will speak to you. Trust what you hear, if it is in line with what the Bible says of God’s character and plan, then act on it with the openness to receive feedback from other’s who know Jesus.
- Journaling helps me. I write out the conversation with God, including what I sense he is saying to me. You might like video or audio recordings. At minimum, I recommend talking out loud at least once in a while. When you sense God speaking, repeat what he says in question form, “did you say…?” When I do this, I generally get a sense of yes or no immediately.
- In Community
- This is probably the biggest place we can all get messed up. It can be easy to think we can get enough Bible from hearing a sermon at church or attending a Bible study. We may feel like worship at church was sufficient intimacy with Jesus. These are ways to hear God in community. But it is much safer to have the first two on this list in place before we try to encourage others or be encouraged by others in community – even preachers and Bible teachers. Sermons, group Bible studies, worship, even devotionals are some very good ways to hear God in community just don’t allow community be a substitute for Bible Reading and Intimacy with Jesus Alone.
- Group prayer is another way to hear God in community. Listening for God’s personal instruction and encouragement in community requires a degree of vulnerability and openness to be wrong. This is more than asking someone to offer prayers for us. I’m talking about asking someone to truly listen for God with us in the moment. I have found this to be most powerful in groups of three. When two others are willing to wait quietly and not speak unless they feel God has revealed something for them to say, God speaks. We are human and things can come out wrong. This is where step one and two are essential to this step. In my experience, one of two things generally happens when God speaks to me through others. It is either something I’ve already been dealing with through Bible reading and Intimacy with Jesus or it is a prompting to deal with an issue through Bible STUDY and Intimacy with Jesus.
- God desires to communicate directly with each of us. Community is the place where we can have the encouragement to know that God truly cares about each of us individually. That our thoughts of God are not just our imagination. This doesn’t have to be through prayer. It may be through a song or a sermon. It may come through a totally unrelated conversation, movie, or any everyday activity. God prompts and nudges us. Our part is to be aware and respond when he does.
As we begin to know God and his desires through Bible reading, spending time with him in intimate conversation alone and notice that inner stirring in community, we start recognizing his voice more. And as we respond positively to his voice, we hear him more and more.
I pray this helps you to hear God more and know his love for you is greater than you could ever imagine.