Are You Hearing God’s Voice? Five Ways You Can Hear God Speak Directly to You
I often come across people (myself included) with this question: “How can I hear God’s voice?”
It was one I wrestled with for years. I’ll never forget a time I was sitting with a group of friends and one of them said, “God told me to go up to my friend in church and give him some money.” I sat there dumbfounded, thinking to myself, What do you mean God ‘told’ you? I was too embarrassed to ask him for clarification right then, but I went home that night with my mind racing with questions: Was it possible to hear God? Why hasn’t God ever talked to me like that?
I realize now that God was speaking all along. The problem was, I didn’t know how to listen. We often assume God ‘speaking’ means hearing an audible voice thundering down from heaven in a boisterous, “Thus sayeth the Lord!” kind of way. Though I do know a few people who claim to have heard God audibly, He usually speaks through other ‘modes’ of communication. Just like learning a new language, when one has to train their ear to hear certain sounds and syllables of the foreign words, so it is with hearing God’s voice. We have to train ourselves to know and discern the distinct sounds and syllables of God’s voice in order to hear Him clearly.
Do you believe God speaks? Are you hearing God’s voice on a regular basis? If so, that’s awesome. If not, it’s okay, it’s never ever to late to learn!
Today, I will share five of the most common modes of communication through which God speaks, along with a clear example from my own life or someone else's. Tomorrow, I will offer five practical tips to help you get started hearing God’s voice in your own life. Are you ready? Here we go…
Five Ways God Speaks:
#1 Through the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. Everything in it, though written by humans, is inspired by Him in some way (2 Timothy 3:16). We are instructed, “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). If we rely on God’s Word in this way, and believe the words we read are directly from God’s mouth, we will hear Him speaking directly to us through it.
Example: Several months ago, I was praying and asking God whether He wanted me to move back to the U.S. or stay in Asia and work. That same week, my Bible study class was studying the Book of Mark. As we read the passages together as a group, the following verse leapt from the page: “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). Since I had been praying so specifically, asking God for signs leading me in which direction to go, I immediately knew God was speaking to me through this verse about going back to the U.S. When we least expect it, God voice invades our world and guides us according to His will.
#2 Through the ‘Still Small Voice’. When we accept Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are immediately given a gift from God in the form of the Holy Spirit. While Jesus was still living among the disciples, He told them, “…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“ (John 16:13). Indeed, the Spirit of the Lord that resides within us, will tell us. The question is, are we listening?
Example: One time I was racing home to have a skype date with my sister. I was living overseas at the time so I really looked forward to these times connecting with my loved ones. As I rushed to make it home on time, I suddenly heard that still small voice of the Spirit say from within, “Think you could squeeze me in for a skype date?” Right then and there I sensed a deep longing from God to want to spend time with me as much as I wanted to connect with my sister. That was all I needed to start making time in my schedule to spend regular time with God.
#3 Through Other People. Have you ever been talking to someone and they suddenly say the exact thing you needed to hear? Or you’re sitting in church and the sermon tackles an exact struggle you have been facing? It is likely that God was speaking to you through other people–even without them even knowing it. God says he will use His people as ‘instruments for noble purposes’ (2 Timothy 2:21). These instruments may be in the form of people through books, podcasts, radio, TV programs, sermons or complete strangers on the street, but when it comes in it’s uncanny precision and accuracy, you know it when you hear it. Pretty cool right?
Example: A few years ago, the urge to write was growing stronger and stronger, but I didn’t know what to make of it. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it. I even wondered if I had anything worthy to write about. Around that same time, I discovered a Writer’s Workshop online. I’ll never forget the words God spoke directly into my heart the moment I started listening to the speaker, “You are called to write.” Something about the way he said it pierced the very depths of my soul. I took it as a direct Word from the Lord Himself. From that day on, I quit questioning, quit doubting and I began to step into the call God had over my life. God used another man I had never even met to speak words of life and encouragement to me in the very moment I was needing it most.
#4 Through Life Circumstances. Never take life’s circumstances at face value. No matter how bad or confusing or hopeless they may look, God often uses the ordinary to communicate His extraordinary love. Lose a job? Flight get delayed? Your product launch failed to get the results you hoped for? Don’t fret. Don’t necessarily blame God as the culprit either, but ask Him what He might be saying through it all. The Apostle Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can be sure that God is at work through every circumstance in our lives, even when we don’t fully understand.
Example: When I was in my senior year in college, many of my friends were landing jobs in the large investment banks and consulting firms in New York City. I thought that was the route I too should pursue because that seemed the thing to do. But after several interviews, I still didn’t have any offers. While it was tempting to get discouraged and feel like a complete failure, I chose to trust God had something else in store. He did. A few weeks later, I found out about a job in the Philippines with a news broadcasting network. I could have never planned that in a million years, but it turned out to be the perfect fit. God had orchestrated the circumstances as a way of revealing His will for my life at that point. That is why we are instructed to live by faith and not by sight, for God is doing things in the Spirit even when we cannot see with our human eyes!
#5 Through Dreams and Visions. There are several points in Scripture where it says God will speak to us through visions and dreams (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Daniel 7:1). Though there are skeptics who say this is not true in today’s Church, I have heard too many testimonies that suggest otherwise. Whether it is a full blown dream while you are sleeping, or a vivid image that comes to mind while praying, God does use visuals to speak to us and gives us the wisdom to interpret what He is saying.
Example: I had a friend who was sensing the call to missions in India but worried that she would never get married and have a family if she went. Then she had a dream where she saw herself sitting in the center of God’s palm and she saw a man sitting in the center of His other palm, who in the dream she knew represented her future husband. God brought them together, joined their hands and released them into their united calling together. She interpreted this dream as God giving her encouragement to stay in the center of His will by going to India, trusting that He would take care of the rest. She obeyed and went to India and did end up meeting her husband while she was there. God speaks through dreams!
These are just a few of the most common modes of communication God uses to speak to us, though there are others. The cool thing is that God knows what makes each and every one of us tick, right down to the core. And He will often communicate with us in the most unique and special ways, which He designed specifically for us to recognize. Isn’t that awesome?
Ponder these questions:
What kind of reaction to I have to someone who says they ‘hear’ God speak to them? Do I have trouble believing God makes His voice known to us?
Do I hear God’s voice on a regular basis? If so, what are some ways that have helped me hear? If not, pray and ask God what could be keeping you from hearing Him and ask for help.
In what ways have I most often experienced God’s voice? Recall moments where God could have been speaking through the Bible, His still small voice, other people, circumstances, dreams, and/or other ways.