When God speaks, can you hear Him? Do you know what He sounds like? Compared to days of ancient times, we have a very unique opportunity. That opportunity: given to us through the death and resurrection of Christ — prayer. Last week I spoke about having a little talk with Jesus (praying to the Lord). Prayer is often viewed as inaction by nonbelievers, but I find that prayer is the first action we should take in our faith in God. Yet, when we talk to God, the question arises – what does He sound like?
You should know: You can watch this sermon! Scroll to the bottom!
Not What You Expect
That was a question I used to ask my dad when I was far younger and much smaller. Yet, “what does God sound like” is a question that both believer and non-believer – young and old – ask today. Many of us have been led to think that when God speaks, He has a boisterous baritone voice. For example: Charlton Heston from the Ten Commandments, or someone’s voice like James Earl Jones.
We also expect that when God speaks, He’s going to give us some spectacular signs. Maybe we expect there to be thunder and lightning or for the earth to quake when God speaks to us. This reminds me of when Elijah traveled to Horeb and went up into the mountain. There was a mighty wind that tore into a mountain, an earthquake, and a fire but God was in none of those signs (1 Kings 19:11-12). We are told that God was in the still small voice that Elijah heard after those spectacular signs (1 Kings 19:13).
Looking for signs is understandable
So, it is certainly understandable to look for God in these ways. I say that because scripture has shown us that God certainly can communicate through some spectacular sights. We all remember that when God spoke to Moses the first time that He did it out of the burning bush that wasn’t consumed (Ex. 3:2). On other occasions, when God talked to Moses, Moses saw God in the form of God’s glory (the shekinah cloud) (Ex. 34:5, 34). On the day that the Lord spoke to Job, there was a mighty whirlwind that sent Job’s friends seeking for shelter (Job 38:1-2).
So, we look for God to show us a sign in some similar fashion. Again, this is something that I understand because we often feel that such a sign would be easily understandable that it came from God. Yet, what I have learned while on this journey, is that God’s voice does not sound like we imagine or often expect. No, we’re not going to hear Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones’ baritone voice when God speaks to us so do not expect that.
The Voice of God
So, let’s take a dive into the voice of God so that we can have some clarity and know when God is talking to us. I want to set something up first so that you can understand the unique opportunity that we have.
In Old Testaments times, the prophets were the only ones that could hear the voice of God. (Nobody else living in those times could hear God’s voice – not even the priests.) All of the people had to turn to the prophet to hear from the Lord. I say this to set up what I want to share with you next. After Christ, God entered into a personal relationship with all genuine believers. Through this personal relationship, God began to communicate directly to us, the genuine believers, through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The ways God will talk to you
God is going to talk directly to you in many ways, not just through some spectacular sign. When God speaks to you, He may do so through your intuition – meaning your thoughts and feelings. Not only will the Lord communicate to you through your thoughts and feelings, but He’ll also communicate through dreams (visions) and even through other people – people you know and even the stranger. These can all be the voices of God.
The Bible is filled with many examples of how God communicated with the believer after the death and resurrection of Christ – during the age of the church. God spoke to Peter through a sleep-like state (a trance) when Peter saw a great sheet fall from heaven with animals (food) he considered to be unlawful to eat (Acts 10:10-16). God used Priscilla and Aquila to talk to Apollos and teach him about the way of Christ when he was only preaching the baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 18:24-28).
At the end of his last missionary journey, when he knew the great affliction that awaited him in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit compelled Paul to go there anyway (Acts 20:22-24). Scripture has shown and declared to us that these are just some of the ways that God will communicate to us when He speaks. So, for us as believers, we must be conscious of the many ways that God will speak to us and not simply lock in on one form of communication.
How do you know when it is His
This is good for us to know, but the all-important question that we often ask is: How do we know that it is God who is talking to us? Jesus supplies us with the answer we desire. He says in my key verse, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Imagine simply knowing when you have heard the Lord speak to you – Jesus says that is the case. I, however, imagine that statement is a bit confusing in itself because many of us might say that we’ve never heard His voice before.
So, let me make something clear here for all of you feeling that way. Paul declared that God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:33). God said to Jeremiah, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).” When God communicates with you, it is of peace! Now, some of us will hear this and say to ourselves, ‘this can’t be true’. We will say that it can’t be true because of how confused we are when we believe God is speaking to us or showing us something (leading us).
Eliminating the other voices
Understand this: there are many other voices trying to get through to you and will attempt to communicate to you in the same manner as God. Those voices will communicate through people, through your thoughts and feelings, and also through dreams (visions). Remember how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the leader of those voices (Matt. 4:1-11).
Where God’s voice is subtle and a still small voice – a voice of peace – those other voices are loud and noisy. The sole purpose of those voices is to confuse and distract you from the voice of God. This is why you can’t always believe every dream, thought, feeling, person, or sign because the devil will use these as well. The devil will whisper sweet thoughts into your head, show you signs, and direct people towards you.
Remove the noise
What we need to do when we are distracted and confused about something we believe to be a message from God is shut off the confusion. We need to cut out all the voices until we recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice.
Before he began ministering, Paul was led away to Arabia, far from Jerusalem (the noise), so that he could better hear the voice of God and learn (Gal. 1:11-17). When Jonah was distracted and confused, God placed him into the belly of a big fish to talk to him (Jon. 2:1-2). The apostle John was placed on the island of Patmos by himself for the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9). They had to all be removed from the noise, the confusion, and distraction in order to hear the voice of God. To better hear when God speaks to us, sometimes we need to shut everything off and simply meditate on Him and then we will better be able to hear that still small voice.
To the doubters
Some may say, “well, pastor, I don’t believe that God speaks to us or even to you. I have never heard God, so I don’t believe it.” If you are not in fellowship with God, then you won’t hear His voice. If we are not close with Him in our personal relationship, it will be difficult for us to hear His voice over all of the noise. So, as I say often, we must always examine and evaluate our relationship with the Lord.
We must ensure that we are walking in the light. It is when we get into the dark that we find ourselves in trouble. Remember, darkness does not comprehend the light (John 1:5). If you’re in the dark (not in a relationship with God or a close relationship with Him), then it will be hard to understand or hear Him when He speaks. I would tell you that God is always talking.
We know and understand when He is talking through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God has a beautiful voice. When God speaks, He speaks words that comfort us, brings clarity, and gives us peace. When you have that little talk with Jesus, make sure that you, in your spirit, listen for that still small voice of God.