Hearing God’s Voice (in prayer)
This document assumes that the reader already understands basic Christian beliefs and terms, a general understanding of the Christian Trinity, and a belief that the Bible is the only authoritative revelation of God’s will for all.
What does a “personal relationship with Jesus” mean? Your other “personal relationships” involve two-way conversations. Some of your friends may be “strong and silent” types—they mostly listen and say very little. Jesus can be the same way, but He expects us to listen to Him when He does speak. He said that His “sheep listen to his voice” in John 10:3 (NIV), and again in verse 27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Listening for His voice is more than simply reading the Bible. We read His book to get to know Him—so that we know what He says about most things. But what happens when you desire to know God’s will about something that is not in the Bible? The Bible, for example, does not tell you whom to marry, and you want to make sure you get that right! What if, even after seeking the counsel of Godly friends and searching the Scriptures on an issue or decision, there is still no telling what God wants you to do? You want Him to be your Lord, but you are not sure how to follow Him in such a circumstance. You need to hear His voice.
To those who ask, God gives His wisdom “generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5), because if they are genuinely asking Him for instructions, they must have already turned to Him with a will to want to know how to follow Him. God does not want us acting like slaves who only take written orders from far away. We need to hear His voice in the intimacy of conversation: God wants to speak to us much in the same way that our other friends want to speak to us. Do you ask your friends (or yourself) for advice before you ask God? Why not ask the Generous One first? He is the only perfect friend available for you to trust completely. Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John -15, NIV).
Jesus wants to be your friend, and talk with you. This is not merely a one-sided conversation, where you just talk and do not listen as you pray. As He points out in v.14, a friendship takes effort from both people. Will you reach out to Jesus to take His hand of fellowship that He is offering to you?
John 10:14-16 (NIV)
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Matthew 25:11-12 (NIV)
Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
Let’s look at Strong’s meanings of the Greek words for “know” used by John and Matthew:
The Spanish language has two words for “know.” To know someone personally is conozco, similar to the Greek ginosko above. The other word, saber, means to know academically—head knowledge. The Greek also has a word for head knowledge: gnosis - knowledge signified in general intelligence or understanding. Clearly Jesus was specific about the way in which His people know him. Notice how Jesus condemns to Hell these people with whom He was not intimately acquainted in a loving relationship of obedience.
Luke 13:25-28 (NIV)
Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
While the people Jesus is referring to knew Him as a person, they did not know Him as Lord or Master. While they even heard His words physically with their own ears, they did not heed His voice speaking spiritually to their hearts.
John 17:1-3 (NIV)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know [ginosko] you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
How important is this issue to Jesus? He equates this intimate knowledge or “personal relationship” with God with eternal life:
Knowing God Personally = Eternal life
Colossians 1:27-29 (NIV)
To them God has chosen to make known [gnorizo, from ginosko] among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
1 Corinthians (NIV)
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
If Jesus is in you, why don’t you ask Him first about things? He is as close to you as you are to yourself. Educational research tells us that we all talk to ourselves every day. Why not just have those conversations with Jesus? God never said, “Don’t question me about that decision of yours; it is not important or big enough!”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
I hear God’s voice very often, and so can you. There is nothing special about me—only Jesus. I want to tell you about the need, the method, and the benefits of hearing God’s voice.
Before we address using the Bible to know God’s will, I want to encourage you to read the whole thing. You never know what you are missing until you do. You don’t want to waste your prayer time missing God—you cannot know who He is if you have not read His book. God will never tell you to do anything that contradicts the Bible. He cannot contradict Himself.
Also, make sure you hang out with folks who are committed to knowing and helping you know how to follow the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Beyond knowing the Bible, we must obey it.
James 1:21-25 (NIV)
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Jesus said in John 14:15-16, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.”
Here he demands obedience to His written commands and promises guidance in doing so. The Bible commands us to do many things, which can be overwhelming. We need God’s guidance as to when to do what, but we always should expect to be doing something. This is another reason it is important to hear God’s voice. Some people use “God has not told me to do that” as an excuse to continually not obey the commands of Scripture (such as never giving to the poor or to missions, or never preaching to the lost). They usually do not hear God’s voice for one or both of the following reasons:
Let’s deal with reason # 1 first. Jesus explained to his disciples in Matthew 13:12-17 (NIV),[TS1]
Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: [from Isa 6:9-11] 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.' In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Sure enough, they do not hear God’s voice telling them to obey because they “hardly hear with their ears”. The problem is not that God has not spoken to them. The problem is that they have not obeyed, and they have not turned from their disobedience. Therefore hear nothing more from God.
Who's not listening now?
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive
to them; they find no pleasure in it."
Zechariah 7:11-13 (NIV)
But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen . . . . So the Lord Almighty was very angry. "When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,” says the Lord Almighty.
Not surprisingly, they hear nothing from God and do nothing for God, because they are goats and not sheep:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
This passage helps you understand that if your “personal relationship” with Jesus continually costs you nothing, then you are actually having a “personal relationship” with the devil. The Pharisees were a step ahead of you, if you are not obeying and following Christ, in that they at least outwardly obeyed the Bible’s commands. However, they were without a relationship with the Father because they didn’t obey God in all things—in the attitude of the heart, as well as in action or outward response. This is why they could not know who Christ was.
John 8:43-45 (NIV)
Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
I John 3:7-11 (NIV)
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
I John 5:3-4 (NIV)
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
So, we need a personal and loving relationship with the true Jesus, who leads us into obedience. Then we know we are following the real Jesus, and not the imaginary Jesus we’ve made up to suit ourselves. In other words, we need to follow His Word (the Bible) and His voice:
If you are reading this to learn how to hear His voice (and your intention is to obey it), then you are interested in following Him, and He will generously give you wisdom (see James 1:5-8 above). But will you want His wisdom? What if it is the opposite of what your flesh desires?
This document presupposes a disciplined, life-long commitment to pursue and obey the Jesus Christ of the Bible. This is a commitment that God responds to by giving you sensitivity to the voice of His Holy Spirit.
John 1:12-13 (KJV)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This way, you can begin following Him accurately even though you have not read the whole Bible yet (assuming that you are working on it in good faith). Before the New Testament was written, Jesus said:
John 16:12-15 (NIV)
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
“He will guide you into all truth” - As you read the Bible, you will find many areas that seemed to be “gray” will be cleared up. As you delve into the Word, you will better understand God’s will and character as He has revealed them in the Scriptures. In the meantime, your conscience will not only expand within you, but you will be hearing God’s voice. True disciples desire to obey this voice, and must get beyond the idea that hearing God’s voice is nothing more than the little voice inside your heart telling you that something is wrong (the usual definition of ‘conscience’). Far more (in fact, the fruit of the Spirit—Gal -23) awaits those who are obedient to their conscience and seek the Lord. For example, “he will tell you what is yet to come.” What a wonderful promise! You do not have to fear the future, for “he will tell you what is yet to come”. Before you start hiring prophets to prognosticate about the stock market, let’s look at two examples of this phenomenon. This way, you can see how God speaks to His children to help them carry out His will in the face of resistance to it. The prophet/New Testament believer Agabus demonstrates this below.
Acts 11:27-30 (NIV)
this time some prophets came down from
Acts 21:10-15 (NIV)
we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from
Not exactly the most marketable skill after all? You must understand Jesus, before you understand what He is saying. Notice Christ’s harsh rebuke for Peter’s political prosperity gospel in the passage below (his denying the need for Jesus to suffer). He may have thought that Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom with Himself at the helm. James and John verbalize similar thinking in Mark 10:35-39.
Matthew 16:21-25 (NIV)
that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to
Peter demonstrates here a common fallacy related to hearing God’s voice: that suffering for the sake of obedience to God is “not God’s will.” Peter tried to convince Jesus that God’s will for his life was “good, not bad,” or “easy, not hard.” However, the fleshly, human conception and evaluation of what constitutes “good and bad” are not equivalent to God’s. Peter mistakenly believed that God’s definitions of blessing and prosperity are the same as the world’s. Peter’s own notion of “God’s Blessing” or “promise of prosperity” was from the fleshly perspective, which has its origin in Adam and Eve’s decision to follow Satan. This is why Jesus rebukes the devil, as Satan is speaking through Peter a message of false prosperity: That God wants to bless you, and that His blessing will mean nothing but power, pleasure, and wealth. When we are supposedly listening for guidance from God, but “do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” we open ourselves up to hear from our flesh or from the devil instead of the Holy Spirit. Hearing from our flesh or the demonic realm is more naturally appealing to us than God’s will for us to “participate in the sufferings of Christ”:
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Isaiah 30:20-21 (NIV)
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
Jesus is the most encouraging, loving person ever. However, that love is a sacrificial love—sacrificing the desires and inclinations of self--that you can partake of with Him. The question arises again: how much do you want to know the real Truth, and how much are you willing to pay for it? If you are willing to die to yourself and live for Christ alone, then you are ready to continue in the Truth.
John 14:6-21 (NIV)
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
Beyond reading the Bible, we also need to study it. After you finish the New Testament, and are beginning the Torah (Old Testament), you might want a Bible that gives you some historical context. I prefer the Chronological Bible with historical notes.
Also, there are some
things that the Bible does not say outright that can be applied to other
circumstances. For instance, the Bible does not say “Thou shall not smoke
dope,” but it does say in Revelation 21:8 that sorcerers will not inherit the
This is one example of hearing God’s voice. I have seen friend after friend “feel convicted,” guilty, or wrong about sins like the ones mentioned above, having not even known that the Bible forbids them. When God changes your heart, your heart becomes sensitive enough to hear His voice.
Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NIV)
O house of
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
If you obey God’s word (repenting and asking forgiveness if you fall short) and your heart remains soft, you will continue to hear His voice. Note the condition there: it is essential to persevere in obeying and following God if you want to remain in Him and gain eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:22-23 (NIV)
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NIV)
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.
Psalms 95:6-11 (NIV)
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways."
So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."
Hebrews 3:7-12 (NIV)
So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.’" See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
If God told you to do or stop or start doing something, He has given you the power to do what He has commanded.
1 Corinthians 10:13-14 (NIV)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
What if you are continuing in the faith and then commit sin? If you want to continue or persevere in keeping your relationship with God, then repentance is the key. Jesus is the advocate for truly repentant sinners:
Job 16:19-21 (NIV)
Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.
I Kings 8:33-36 (NIV)
I John 1:7-10 (NIV)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
If we are purified from all unrighteousness, then our heart should return to being soft enough to hear God’s voice again, as long as we continue to listen for it. Sometimes we need to tell another Christian about our struggle against an old habit, so that their prayers and accountability may help us overcome it.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
1 John 3:9
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
If a Christian begins sinning and does not listen to the voice of God, then relationship with God is stymied. If things continue in this way, the unfruitful branch will be cut off and thrown into the fire—in other words, relationship with God will be cut off because of disobedience (John 15, Rom 11, Luke 13).
"Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: [from Isa 6:9-11] 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.' In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become callused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."
"But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen... So the Lord Almighty was very angry. "When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the Lord Almighty."
Often we ask God to speak to us, only to hear back, "If you are so interested in what I think, then why didn't you do the last thing I told you?" Obedience is the response that keeps the dialogue going. If we refuse to do what God tells us in the little things, we risk deafening our spiritual ear. If we refuse to do what God speaks, we risk His active rebuke.
1 Samuel 15:22
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Imagine your own son coming to you in great earnestness and saying, "Father, please speak to me. What would you have me do?" You respond, "I would like you to clean your room." Thrilled at the sound of your voice, the child goes off elated, but does not clean the room. Later, he approaches again, "Father, please disclose your will to your humble child." You tell him again, "Go clean your room." Pleased, he withdraws himself again, but does not do what you asked. Yet again, your son comes to you, "Oh great Father, I long to do your bidding! Grant me the favor of your wisdom and direction." What would you do at this point? Perhaps a stare would suffice... What does God do when we play this game with Him?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Hearing God’s voice is a great privilege, because He will say things beyond what any human could say.
Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
Reason #1: So you’ll know how to obey in God a specific situation.
We already discussed the need to hear God’s voice about when to do what. For instance, should you give this poor person the money he is asking for? The immediate answer might seem to be “Of course—he’s clearly in need!” But God knows the situation, the person, every circumstance better than you do. God might tell you, “No, he can pay for his own liquor.” In order to know God’s will and not just run with our own notions and ‘logic’, we must ask Him and listen.
John 14:15-17a (NIV)
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.
This way, we are not blindly obeying the written Word without the guidance of our Counselor. He can help us see through people’s (or the enemy’s) lies, among other things. What we may see as obedience, He may see as wasting His money and supporting wickedness.
Reason #2: To discipline you.
Deuteronomy 4:34-36 (NIV)
Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.
The Bible does not tell you every specific thing that you should and should not do in your everyday life. However, when you have a “bad feeling” about doing something, it may be God telling you that you should avoid it. Discipline is necessary for a believer:
Heb 12:2-14 (NIV)
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Often people say things like, “If God told me to, I would give up ____ or start ___ing”. Strangely enough, these same people never seem to hear God’s voice. They simply continue to go about life in their own way. So God never gets His message through. Is His arm too short (Numbers )? No, He is available to give us guidance generously, because He wants to help us follow Him.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
His arm is not too short. Most people do not hear His voice because they do not seek Him. This is usually because they do not care to:
Jeremiah 6:10 (NIV)
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.
Seeking God is clearly a command of scripture. If we love God, we will obey His commands. Obeying this command is vital because we are seeking the Commander Himself, the One from whom all good things flow. You can know you are obeying the right command at the right time when you are seeking God.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Acts 17:26-27 (NIV)
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
1 Chronicles 28:9 (NIV)
And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.
Yes, we must seek the God of the Bible, the person of Jesus.
Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.
The Holy Spirit can give us guidance that is consistent with, yet more specific and personal than the written Word. Do we need this guidance? Can we really follow the person of Jesus without it? Jesus is our wisdom and salvation. We cannot separate His person from these things:
1 Corinthians 1:30 (ASV)
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:30 (GNB)
But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God's holy people and are set free.
Do you lack wisdom? I do. Don’t we all? Is there anyone that should not ask God for it, according to James 1:5?
James 1:5-8 (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
I should also add that the high cost of knowing the one true God only adds to its value. If you have tried cheap love, grace, or truth, and have been disappointed over time, then you know what I mean. You get what you pay for. Count the cost:
Luke 14:26-35 (NIV)
If anyone comes to me and does not hate [‘hate’ in this instance, miseo in the Greek, translates as “love less than”*] his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
* bracketed text is mine.
Do you have ears to hear? If so, read on to find out how to hear God’s voice.
Well, no… at least not initially. Everyone has a conscience, or a sense of right and wrong.
Beyond having a moral conscience, everyone has some degree of God-consciousness. This is the most basic way that everyone hears God:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
Everyone, including Hitler, heard God at least one time, and probably more. The trick is to hear Him and follow Him, then to hear Him more and more specifically. We want to go far beyond the extreme basic of knowing that genocide is wrong, all the way to the New Testament level, as demonstrated by Agabus’s prophecies about the future (Acts 11:28). When I write about “Hearing God’s Voice”, I mean it literally, like in Agabus’s example. We want to hear God like Agabus, so we can warn and help people out. However, don’t think you will get there from here without obeying your conscience:
1 Pet 3:21
And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1 Tim 1:18-19
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
1 Tim 4:1-2
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (KJV)
So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you--when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."
We must make the decision to listen to His voice. God has, for each of our lives, a wonderful plan:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Because He is a respecter of our will, it must be our decision to pursue His plan by making Him our central focus and our Lord (Master). The more of an effort we make to draw near to God, the more He will be able to reveal to us about his love, wisdom and providence. This truth of this principle is described in Proverbs 2:1-8 (Amplified):
My son, if you would receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom, and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding---applying all your powers to the quest for it; Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, If you seek Wisdom as silver, and search for skillful and godly wisdom as for hid treasures; Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God. For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom, from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He hides away sound and godly wisdom and stores it for the righteous---those who are upright and in right standing with Him; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and with integrity, That He may guard the paths of justice. Yes, He preserves the way of His saints.
God has guidance that is perpetually available. He has graciously given us, in his Word, a method for benefiting from it on a consistent basis. Jesus expounds on Proverbs 2:1-8, revealing Himself not only as incarnate wisdom and truth, but also speaking of his imminent union with those who obey Him. This union implies a close, dynamic relationship, like that of marriage, where there is loving, two-way communication.
John 14:12-26 (NIV)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, 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.”
This union has at least three benefits for the obedient believer:
1. God will make His home in you. This is beyond “roommates”:
Revelation 19:7 (NIV)
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Notice how John the Baptist, an “Old Testament” Prophet, celebrates his relationship with Christ:
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
2. The Lord will show Himself to you.
John 14:21, 26-27 (NIV)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him….The Counselor, 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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
If God’s will is not made clear to you through scripture, simply ask God directly what His will is (James 1:5-6).
3. The Holy Spirit will remind you of God’s Word.
Many times, a scripture will pop in your head a certain time. Pay attention: this could be God speaking to you (John ). When you ask God for an answer, do not be surprised if He leads you to a scripture. While scripture is the first place we look for guidance, it is not exhaustive enough to provide detailed guidance in every single, personal situation. However, listen to this story: My friend was praying about something, asking God for a confirmation, and God told him to turn to Mark 15:2 &1/2. He had never heard of halving a scripture, but look at what he found:
Mark 15:2 (NIV)
"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
This brother has also seen Jesus as promised in John 14:21 above. He said He was tall. Then he cried for 3 days. Well, not continuously. When he told my pastor, he spilled his coffee. As for me, I have only had visions of a slain Lamb on the throne in the Holy of Holies. That makes me cry too, but my eyes were not open when I see these visions. Actually, sometimes they are, but it is more of a picture in my imagination. This guy actually saw Jesus in his house with his eyes open!
Does this all seem far-fetched? Well, let me break it down for you so you can join in:
The first step in cultivating the privilege of being able to hear God’s voice through prayer is learning to believe that God is speaking to you personally. This encompasses three elements that are fundamental in following Jesus:
1. Trusting that God’s nature and intentions are good.
2. Having “ears to hear” the voice of the Lord.
3. Believing that you are hearing the voice of God.
There are two very important ways in which we must trust in and believe in God’s goodness: we must trust in the goodness of His nature, and consequently the goodness of the plans that He has for us.
When we are able to learn to trust in the perfect goodness of God’s nature, we gain confident assurance (both spiritually and intellectually) that His intentions for our lives are good as well. Jeremiah 29:11‑13 (Amplified) says:
For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you, declares the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me; when you search for Me with all your heart.
It is very important that you believe that His way truly is best for you at this moment and always. Nothing and no one (including your own ideas) can match God's love, wisdom, and direction in your life.
Having “ears to hear” means possessing a willingness to listen for God’s voice and a desire to seek His guidance. Instead of just babbling like a pagan all the time when you pray, you need to listen for God’s voice.
Matthew 6:5-15 (NIV)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
So, let’s break this down into the main steps: (1)Recognize God’s identity (Matt 6:9), (2) “your kingdom come, (3) your will be done” (Matt 6:9.5).
1. Recognize God’s identity.
2. Focus on His Kingdom
3. Focus on HIS will, not yours
1. Recognize God’s identity.
Recognize God’s identity as Father; beneficent provider, protector, care-giver. Matt 6:9
2. Focus on His Kingdom -- “your kingdom come..” Matt 6:9.5
God’s kingdom is where He rules---in one sense, in the heart, mind, and life of an obedient believer. What is an obedient believer? Well, let’s start at the beginning: an obedient believer is Born Again:
John 3:3-7 (NIV)
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.’”
An obedient believer is Water Baptized & Sold out for Christ!
Acts 2:36-47 (NIV)
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The Kingdom of God continues the same way today:
Luke 17:20-21 (NIV)
Once, having been asked by
the Pharisees when the
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
Acts 14:21-22 (NIV)
They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
The obedient believer must allow God’s Kingdom to expand in him through expulsion of all known sin and un-forgiveness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-- but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Follow the example of the disciples in the early church:
Acts 2:42 (NIV)
They devoted themselves to
1. the apostles' teaching and to the
3. breaking of bread and to
Acts says, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Ask God to heal and do miracles through you and your brothers and sisters in Christ. The believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (NIV)
Ask God how He wants you to give away or share your (now His) belongings with brothers who need them.
3. Focus on HIS will, not yours -- What is His Will?
Read the whole Bible to find out. If you don’t read well, you can buy audio tapes or CD’s. While you are working on reading the Bible, pray about each decision you make. God knows your thoughts anyway. You do not have to close your eyes to pray. He is always there. By His grace, He will help you along while you have not studied the entire Bible yet.
Is crucial to hearing God’s voice. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, make a commitment to obey, regardless of your feelings about or personal agreement with His leading. Resist the devil (James 4:7) and choose to be totally sold out for God’s will to be done.
Quiet people don’t constantly chatter in a way that prevents them from hearing God. That does not mean that they will hear God. They need to turn aside.
Let’s take another look at our second above definition of “knowing” God.
eido (i'-do) - to see, to perceive, notice, discern, discover; to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to anything; to inspect, examine; to experience any state or condition; to visit; to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to
Moses turned aside when he saw something that God was using to get his attention. So should we.
3:1One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,a the
priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,b the
After Moses turned aside, God spoke to him, calling him. God waited for him to take a closer look. We must seek God.
Belief in Personally Hearing the voice of God
As you read the whole Bible, you will see examples
of God speaking to individuals as well as to the nation of
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the
region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from
preaching the word in the province of Asia.
When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but
the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of
Why would the Holy Spirit keep them from preaching the Word (Acts 16:6)? This shows how much God would prefer us to hear His specific instructions for us: Instead of starting our own ministries, and assuming that we know what He wants.
Proverbs 19:2-3 (NIV)
It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.
A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.
Acts 16:7 indicates that we should not only hear God’s call and direction, but always pay attention to what He has to say along the way. Israel’s trek through the desert indicates a similar principle. So does Galatians 5:24-25 (NIV):
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
We must keep up with the Spirit, which means that we must neither lag behind (refusing to do what God asks us to do) nor run ahead (assuming we know God’s will without asking and waiting). God cares enough about you to be involved in every step of your journeys, even the little details.
Matthew 10:29‑31 (NIV)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Psalms 119:105 (NIV)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
What does God mean here by the word? Does He mean more than just the Bible?
word- the Hebrew word used here is dabar.
speech, a word, speaking, a thing
b) a saying, an utterance
c) a word, words
d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension)
God is talking about more than just the Bible. Although the Bible is our authoritative standard of Christ's identity, we should expect to hear God's voice. It always lines up with the Bible. God will not change or contradict Himself. His voice always leads you in obedience to His commands:
Isaiah 30:21-22 (Amplified)
And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, Be gone!
Stand on His promise to tell you specific instructions (or guidance and direction) in your life.
If you wait on God to tell you, He will give you what you need to hear. If you don't, even what you have will come to nothing: Because God never told you to do it at that time. You were not paying attention to His voice.
Mark 4:22‑25 (NIV)
“For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you‑‑ and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
1 Cor 3:11-15 (Amplified)
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, the work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done. If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. But if any person's work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire.
If we do not hear God’s instructions (who, what, when, where, and why, and how) regarding an undertaking, and start it anyway, we might be "running ahead of God". Some people run ahead of God--directionless, like a horse that needs a bridle. It is easier, more fruitful, and less painful to hear directly from God through Jesus in you, than to have to try to guess His will by being bounced around by circumstances.
Joseph had a dream from God, but God never told him to tell his brothers about it. He knew the what, but not the when or the how.
Gen 37:5‑8 (NIV)
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
How can you avoid being presumptuous? Spend enough time with Jesus to know when to do what, and continue listen as you go about your day.
Believing God for daily direction
Discerning His Voice from Yours and Others
You must learn how to live a lifestyle of consistent surrender to Jesus’ Lordship, walking in communion with His Spirit and learning His ways. This is what it means to be a disciple.
1. Become a living sacrifice; then you will be able to distinguish His voice.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God‑‑ this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is‑‑ his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our minds are renewed by the Word of Christ. After we are transformed by this renewing, we should be able to test and approve what God’s will is. Not just God’s general will, but His “good, pleasing and perfect will”. What do these words mean? Things are either God’s will or not right? Take Paul’s experience in Acts 16:6‑10, for example. God’s general will is that “none should perish”, but gain everlasting life through Jesus (John 3:16).
Paul knew this.
He also knew that However, when he was “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. New International Version (NIV)
Colossians instructs us, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (NIV). Let the peace of Christ reign in your heart: the word “reign” is the Greek word Brabeuo, which means to act as an umpire, to determine, to direct. Which decisions do you have peace (Christ's peace) about? Jesus gave peace to Paul amidst un-peaceful circumstances, and He will give us that same peace. “Peace that transcends understanding” means that we will have peace when, because of our circumstances, it doesn’t make rational sense for us to be peaceful! God may give you peace about doing something that would usually frighten you or cause you to feel uncomfortable.
Philippians 4:7-8 (Amplified)
And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
When in Doubt, Leave It Out: The Double-Minded Man
James 1:5‑8 (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double‑minded man, unstable in all he does.
God cares about why we do what we do for Him. In fact, there are ungodly, fleshly motivations to "do something for God" that will render no reward (1 Corinthians 3). Some of these include working to win approval of others, fear, social pressure, and desire for acceptance from God (on the contrary, He accepts you by believing and receiving His lordship, not by works). Again, God will give His peace as we rely on and seek Him:
Phil 4:6‑7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Once you have God's peace and are no longer double-minded, confused, or doubting, you are ready to hear from God.
Waiting on God
God is not in hurry-- He would prefer you spend more time with Him and know for sure His heart on a matter, than for you to try to run around in your own strength and try to "please" Him.
1 Sam 15:22 (NIV)
But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Ps 62:5 My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
If/Then—The Conditions of Obedience
God had to convince Moses (Exodus 3-5) and Gideon (Judges 6-8) that if they followed his instructions, then He would make a way out of no way.
The paralytic at the pool (John 5: 2-9) exhibited incorrect "waiting on God" behavior: When Jesus asked him what he wanted, he told Jesus that he wanted help into the pool. Did he really want to be healed, or did he like sitting around and waiting for others to do things for him? Imagine asking Jesus, who can do anything, for walking assistance, instead of complete healing. Not knowing Him, or His will, may lead to weird prayers that are amiss.
Don't sit around and ask God to do things that you could do:
· "God, please tell me what's in the mailbox.." God might say, "Why don't you step outside and look?"
· "God, please warn this divisive person for me". God might say, "I will, but he may not hear me. You need to warn him also, like I told you to in my Word." (Ezekiel 3:18, Titus 3:10).
Prayer is not always an excuse for inaction. Neither is action an excuse not to pray. Prayer should come first. If you have not heard His voice, your actions may be like shooting in the dark.
God has nothing against common sense, or reasonable planning. In fact, He gives us an example in His Word of how we can articulate our own plans: “If the Lord wills, I will ___________.” (James 4:15) Verbalizing long range planning can become deceitful when you do not follow through. This is the type of long-range planning that Jesus warns against.
It is taking God’s name in vain to use God or especially "the Holy Spirit" to excuse your own poor planning or organizational skills—claiming, for instance, that God was involved in your own confused situation that He was not involved with, and then claiming that His will was done. Don't blow your testimony and call God a liar in the process. He is still the Word. Read it. Get to know Him. If you are not sure whether God told you to do something or not, don't say He did. Don't stick His name on your own ministry. That called false testimony, which breaks two of God’s Ten Commandments.
Another common mistake is assuming that a warm fuzzy feeling was God speaking. Sometimes His love is tough. Are you?[TS2] Enabling someone's sinful patterns is sin for you as well. Don't say God told you to do it.
What are you building your house on wood, hay, and stubble, or gold, silver, and costly stones? Are you really hearing from God?
1 Cor 3:9‑15 (NIV)
For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Wouldn’t it be a shame to see all the stuff you put your time into burn up? Why not ask God to tell you specifically what to do? Then your kingdom on earth will parallel your kingdom in heaven, so it will not have to burn on the Day of the Lord. Instead, your works will be shown to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven, something Jesus did through you.
Sometimes we prefer to do "stuff for God"; making up some work to perform (hoping or assuming that it is God's will for you at that time) instead of listening for His voice to tell us specifically when and what to do. This leads to good works, which may be good, depending on how you look at it.
I prefer to use the term “better”. Yes, it’s better to play in a Christian Rock band than a worldly one. But that does not make it “good”.
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
(Whole Chapter: Matthew 19 In context: Matthew 19:16-18)
The question for the believer is not: What is good or bad? The law already tells us that. The question should be: What is the Lord's will for me right now?
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
(Whole Chapter: Ephesians 5 In context: Ephesians 5:16-18)
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come-- it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. (NIV)
What if God told the Christian rocker to lay his guitar down and finish reading the bible? Then the rocker was so busy with His band that he did not hear Him. It’s not so good then is it?
10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
However, it is still better than worldly rocking. This example makes it clear that God has not called us to “better”, but to “best”. This is what we should seek:
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. New International Version (NIV)
This “doing stuff for God” approach can lead to ineffective use of God's human (and other) resources and less powerful ministry, which He would not prefer. Instead, we should follow his law (Ps 40:8), according to his will (Ephesians ) as he leads (Rom ) us.
It amazes me to see the wide variety of extra-biblical activities that Church-goers “do for God”. The term Extra-biblical means this: Church activities that are found nowhere in scripture. They are neither promoted nor condemned by scripture. With as many clear commands that the scripture gives us, I still have not figured out how obedient believers find time to pursue such endeavors. One common thread that I have noticed across these types of man-made churchy activities is that they hope to be a big event with a lot of people in attendance.
5 Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 My heart is not proud, O LORD ,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
New Testament Church drew crowds by performing miracles and being violently
persecuted. I have yet to see that
ministry pattern in the
Also, if God is not the author, his Name may or not be on this ministry in question. Imagine if some guy name Zeke thought that he heard what God said to Moses or Gideon above. What if he then tried to replicate their ministries in his own strength? This leads us to the possibility of hurting others with false promises that God did not promise in that situation. Zeke would be held accountable by God for his poor leadership.
James 3:1 (NIV)
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Many times, when people invent a ministry in their own strength, other people are involved in it. Most of the time, they do not know any better. Why would you want to expose them to less than your and their potential in Christ?
John 14:12‑17 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever‑‑the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
The word name (Onoma) here means identity, not just tagging an "in Jesus name, Amen" on the end of a prayer. "In His name" means within His identity. These steps may eliminate some guesswork for God's personal will for your life:
1) Ask God to show you what He wants to do in you.
2) Ask God to show you what He wants to do through you (affecting those around you).
3) Ask God to show you who, what, when, where, and how you can partner with Him in carrying out His specific will.
The Ephesian church was doing many good deeds, to the cost of spending time with Jesus:
Rev 2:4‑5 (NIV)
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Too many "good" activities can cut the Lord out of your schedule. This checklist may help guide you in preventing this:
· Do not commit to anything other than what the Lord would have you do.
· Look at what you are already committed to, and compare it to what you feel led to do.
· Can you swap out activities and face no net loss in time with God?
· If so, which path which is most edifying?
Hearing God's voice is impossible outside of a personal relationship with the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
Hosea 6:1-6 (NIV)
Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has
injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third
day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will
come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." What can I
do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning
mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt
Remember, a truly loving personal relationship with Jesus is a disciplined one, where you make time for Him (and spend time with Him) like you would make time for a lover.
Song of Songs 2:14 (NIV)
My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.
Isa 54:5 “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One6918 of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (KJV)
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Colossians 4:4-6 (KJV)
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
If you have heard from God, you can have Faith for action—that is, a belief that He is with you in His battle and it will be victorious. Faith for action is knowing that God is with you and you are with God and nothing can stop Him.
This scripture actually applies to one who has heard God’s voice and is following Him each step of the way:
Phi 4:13 I can do2480 all things3956 through1722 Christ5547 which strengtheneth1743 me.3165
Notice is says “through” Christ, and not “for” Christ. It is belief for continual communion: He is on and by your side.
31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Are you sure it’s God’s will? Ask yourself these questions which are based upon the scriptures presented above:
1) Have you obeyed His will that He has already shown you?
a) Have you been faithful with the talents he has given you already (before you ask for more)?
Have you done the things He has already told you to do? (1 Samuel 15:22, James 1:22)
2) Does it fit with you?
a) Your gifting; what you have already done?
b) Your identity in Christ?
c) Your gender?
3) Does it line up with the whole Word of God?
a) Are there any scriptures that speak against it?
b) Are there few or no scriptures that speak for it?
c) Not sure? Ask someone you trust who knows the whole Bible.
4) Is there a confirmation of Godly and mature people around you?
5) Is there really peace in your heart, or is it an emotional reaction?
a) No long-term commitments to short-term emotions.
6) Are you listening?
a) Are you spending quiet time alone with God?
(1) Are you listening to Him in silence?
(2) Are you getting daily bread from His Word?
b) Is your heart open to receive the answer you do not want to hear?
personal knowledge of Jesus entails hearing and obeying
His word and His voice. The Lord provides plenty of direction in His word. However,
He cannot steer a vehicle that is not moving.
He cannot guide inaction.
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