“And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kings 19:11-13 ESV).
Thursday we discussed the need to examine our beliefs, recognizing that perhaps we really don’t believe that God still speaks to us today. Friday we discussed that oftentimes God will show us His will step by step so that we can learn obedience, need-to-know mode. Today we will look at listening and hearing God’s voice.
I’m not sure where we ever got the idea that God’s voice always roars like the wind, shakes the ground, and spits fire like a volcano. If I looked only through the lens of my personal experience, I’d say that God never speaks like that. But I have heard the voice of God. Like the softest whisper amidst the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, God speaks to us. His love is so powerful and patient that He doesn’t raise His voice.
Okay, if God usually speaks to us through His Word and His “still, small voice,” how do we learn to hear his voice? How do we develop and enhance our listening skills? Can we actually learn to listen?
First, and foremost, we need to develop expectancy. We need to believe, not only that God still speaks to His people, but that He wants to speak to you and me! This is a difficult thing to wrap our heads around. Why would the One, True God want to speak to us? It’s simple. He is a Father. He is our Father. He is your Father. Now I’m aware that some people don’t have a very good image of what a father is because of their experiences with their earthly father. But Abba (Hebrew intimate form of father, “Daddy”) wants to spend time with us; He wants to listen to us when we speak, and He wants to speak to us. He wants to give us good things (Matthew 7:11).
When we go to work each day we have an expectancy that we will be paid for our time. It was part of our job agreement. And from experience we are so used to it that we pass from expectancy to acceptance. Our children don’t question whether they will be given food to eat, expectancy has turned to acceptance.
Second, we need to approach scripture prayerfully, asking God to speak to us through His word, to clarify this verse by these other verses. The Bible is the primary method God uses to speak to His people. They are not just words; He put them in writing!
I recently completely disassembled our non-functional vacuum cleaner to thoroughly overhaul it an replace defective parts. I had found great instructions on YouTube (it’s kind of like a modern book, isn’t it?). But as great as the instructions were when I watched the video before beginning the project, I still had to watch parts of it again (and again for some parts!). Only the gifts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are greater than the gift of the written Word of God, a gift that keeps on giving as we can come back to it again and again. God speaks to us when we read it by stirring up our spirits within us a certain “knowing”, an identification with His truth, or by conviction of sin that needs repentance.
Third, and the concluding point of this series, God speaks to us by whispering in our ear things that He would like us to say or do. I’m sure that you can remember times when you had this “feeling” that you needed to pay for someone’s groceries, or watch their kids so that they could have some alone time. Maybe you felt that you needed to pray for someone, only to find later on how much they needed your prayer at that particular moment. The more that you obey these promptings, the more easily you will hear them in the future. Of course, the opposite is true, too. If you ignore, or disobey these promptings, your heart will harden and your hearing dim.
We learn to hear the voice of God as we learn to obey Him. The more we desire to walk with Him, the easier it will be to hear Him. And if we obey Him when He speaks to us, we will find that our expectancy will turn to acceptance of who we are in Him; that is where we find His will for our lives.
**image from http://news.psu.edu/story/321281/2014/07/23/research/probing-question-what-whisper-therapy