When I spend time talking with individuals who are new to the Christian life, one of the topics brought up the most is hearing from God. How soon will it happen? What does it sound like? What were you doing the first time you heard His still, small voice? After providing answers to the question, I like to listen to the response I receive when I’m finally able to ask a question of my own. How will you go about answering God?
I think hearing from God can be tricky, regardless of how long we’ve been following Jesus. Discerning what is actually being conveyed by the Holy Spirit and what we think we are being told isn’t always as loud and clear as we would like. This is especially difficult when we’re asking for our desires to be granted instead of praying for God’s will.
When I first began spending time getting to know Jesus personally, I had all kinds of questions I wanted Him to answer. How long was I going to live in Florida? Who was I going to spend the rest of my life with? How long would it be before I could pursue a career writing about Scripture?
Looking back, I don’t think my primary focus was hearing from God. I think I was more interested in having my future played out in front of me. I’d spend hours walking on the beach almost daily. I would find a quiet spot in the sand where there wasn’t much traffic. I’d pray, read my Bible, and then sit with a pen and notebook.
I would jot down questions and then write down what I thought the answers needed to be. I still have something I had written that focused on how I thought life was going to end up. Let’s just say I’m extremely thankful God had a plan and He didn’t need me for direction or insight.
There was a willing to listen to God, but I wanted to tell him what he needed to say. I’d spend as much time as I could, begging God to tell me what I wanted to hear. I would pray and tell him all of the great plans I had. Then I would sit and listen to nothing more than the wind.
I began making decisions that had dramatic outcomes on my life at the time. I would pray and sit to hear God’s voice, but I wasn’t interested in listening to him. “Hey God, I think I’m going to do this. I plan on moving here. My intentions are to start writing for this website.” I’m sure there was plenty more that I had to say, but it was only to make sure He knew the plan. No feedback or comments were required. I believe that’s exactly why I never heard anything.
Finally, it happened. He had a message for me and made sure I heard it loud and clear. Not only did I hear what he had to say, he confirmed the conversation with several other people. I would pray and meditate, making sure he was positive about what he was doing. After all of the time, I had spent begging God to hear his voice, I had finally heard the whisper I will never forget. And then, I decided that I knew how to go about it another way.
God hadn’t provided me with all the answers I needed. The trip I was to take didn’t exactly point my life in a direction I wanted to go. I don’t want to give the wrong idea. I’m 100 percent, completely satisfied with how life has played out in the years since. I have been blessed in more ways than I ever imagined. I know God is ok with the ways things have gone. The point is, I heard from God, and I wasn’t interested in listening. He had finally called me, and I failed when it came to answering God.
There’s a lot I’ve learned in the last five years about answering God. For starters, I have to be putting myself in a position to hear from him. This doesn’t require a beach, a cell phone app, or a special listening device. It’s not as simple as closing my eyes and letting him know I’m ready to talk. Most importantly, there’s no guarantee that I am going to hear from him every time I sit down to listen. However, there are a few things I can do when it comes to preparing myself for the conversation.
Make yourself available
One of the most effective ways I can place myself in a situation to hear from God is by taking the time to listen to him daily. In certain seasons of my life, this has worked best within the first hour of waking up. At other times, giving him my attention for a while before going to bed has worked better. I don’t think the time of day is something anyone can suggest. You have to spend time figuring this part out on your own.
Don’t fall into the trap of putting God in a box. This can easily happen when you set a designated place for listening to what God has to say. Yes, I spend time daily in my office trying to hear his voice. However, I don’t make it the only place I’m available. I make sure Jesus knows I am listening during my walks in the afternoon. I have heard from him while reading Scripture. Most frequently, I spend time answering God doing this. Writing.
This doesn’t mean you need to rush out to buy a pen and a notebook. It means you need to have something you are most passionate about, and start using it as a means to connect with Jesus. Because you have your own personal relationship with him, what works best for you may be something I’ve never thought of trying. This doesn’t mean one of us are right and the other is wrong. It simply means that we spend time alone with God differently.
Hearing requires obedience
I have also learned there are specific things in my life that prevent me from hearing God. Before I go any further, yes, we all sin daily. However, I know there are a few sins that separate me from God more than others, simply because I allow them to take the place of God in my life. For instance, if I were to go buy a case of beer and start drinking again. I am not going to hear from God, mainly because growing closer to him is no longer going to be as important in my life. I know this from my own experience.
Being paid to write about sports is also out of the question for me. When I am making money as a sports writer, it becomes the most important thing in my life. The time that is normally spent in prayer or reading the Bible is spent watching Sports Center, catching up on stats and the latest breaking news. My relationship with Jesus loses its priority. Writing becomes about making money instead of inspiring others to grow closer to God.
This doesn’t make alcohol or sports bad things. It simply means that when either of the two is a part of my life, things inside of me change. I lose focus on what’s important. While you may be fine drinking a few beers and watching a game, I am sure you have something that makes it possible for you to relate.
Following through with the conversation
I think probably most important when it comes to hearing God’s voice is showing how seriously we take answering God. As I explained earlier, hearing what he has to say has to be significant. Just as importantly, we have to demonstrate a willingness to obey what he says. This isn’t something we do half-heartedly or as if we are completing chores. Tonight, while reading the book of Genesis, 46:2 really stuck out and grabbed my attention. It gave me a reason to stop reading and think for a while.
In the passage, God calls out to Jacob. The response Jacob gives is, “Here I am.” He doesn’t ask God what they are going to discuss. He doesn’t start rattling off questions. Jacob responds, here I am. Regardless of what God has to say or what he is wanting, Jacob is not only willing to listen, he’s willing to act. It has been my experience that the more I demonstrate a complete willingness to act on what God says, the more time I am able to spend answering God.
Genesis 46:2-4 There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called: Jacob! Jacob! He answered, “Here I am.” Then he said: I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.