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Our God is a communicating God and He is constantly speaking to us. Even when we don't think we can hear God's voice, God speaks to us in a variety of manners: the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, object lessons, through Holy Spirit arranged "coincidences", through Bible verses jumping out at us, etc.
You probably know what most of those are, but let me explain what an object lesson is. An object lesson is when God points our attention to something in the natural and then suddenly reveals a spiritual truth to us. This is a very common way God speaks to many of His children.
Let me share very first time God spoke to me this way. I was 17 and a new driver. I had hungry for God and praying for weeks and weeks that God would let me see Him in His unveiled glory. I was in the car, driving through one of those tricky three-way intersections. It was almost sunset. Suddenly the road curved and I was headed straight into the sunset. Glare filled my windshield and I could hardly see where I was going or where the other cars were in relationship to me. As I said, I was a new driver, and this was my first experience at being blinded by glare. I was terrified. I prayed one of those "God, HELP!!!" prayers. Somehow I made it through that intersection without hitting any other cars and the road curved again and then I could see.
I was still shaking, as only a new driver can do, from the experience. Suddenly God spoke so clearly in my thoughts that it was almost like an audible voice. It as the first time I'd ever heard Him speak directly to me. He said, "Teresa, you've been praying for me to show you My unveiled glory. But if I showed it to you, it would blind you, just like the glare from the sunlight blinded you a few seconds ago when you were driving. You wouldn't be able to see where you were going spiritually and you'd be in danger of falling off of My path for you. So I have to veil My glory somewhat as I reveal Myself to you, so you can grow safely in Me."
Wow. I understood precisely what He was saying. The spiritual truth made sense to me because of the natural experience I'd just had... God had spoken to me through an object lesson. Now, not all object lessons are that dramatic, but the "gist" is the same.. first you see a pattern in the natural, and then you understand a spiritual truth from it.
God does speak to all of us, whether or not we are good at recognizing His. But He desires and yearns for us to know and discern His voice clearly.
This level of discernment, or knowing of God's voice, is born out of intimacy with Him. We see thin from John 10. First, look at John 10:27-29: "27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." This is a familiar passage where Jesus claims that His followers should be able to hear His voice clearly.
But look back a few verses at John 10:11-15: "11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep."
That passage speaks about the sheep (us) being in relationship with the shepherd. And that is why we are able to discern His voice, because they knew their shepherd, they trusted Him with their very lives. And the same holds true for us. The deep knowledge of God's voice comes out of a loving and intimate relationship with Him.
By the way, if you want to hear God's voice clearly, there is one drawback that I should probably warn you about. God expects us to obey Him (John 14:15, 21) when we hear Him speak to us. Let's look at the verses. John 14:15 says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." And John 14:21 says, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
That means the more clearly we can hear God's voice, the more He holds us accountable to do what He tells us to do. In other words, our accountability to obey increases as our ability to hear Him increases. Jesus stated this principle clearly just after He told the parable of the men waiting for their master to come home from the wedding banquet. He said, in Luke 12:47-48, "47 And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much as been committed, of him they will ask the more."
I can pretty much guarantee you that if you learn to hear God's voice, there will eventually come a time when He tells you something you really don't want to hear. He might tell you not to do something you really want to do. Or maybe He will tell you to do something you really don't want to do. And guess what? You won't get a choice in the matter, you will be obligated to obey God.
This even happened to Jesus. He knew it was the Father's for Him to suffer and die at the hands of man so that He could purchase our salvation on Calvary. But as it got close to the event, He really began to dread the idea. He did not want to go through all that suffering. He was in agony of spirit. He was in so much distress that He sweated blood. In that state, Jesus prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me..." (Matthew 26:39). But there was a second part to that prayer, "...nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." In this case the Father willed for Jesus to go through with something dreadful that He did not want to do. And Jesus did it. He had pre-decided that when there was a conflict of will between Him and the Father, He would do what the Father wanted.
And He expects the same from us. When there is a conflict between God's will and our will, we have no choice in the matter. We are obligated to do God's will. Jesus is our role model. When we have a conflict with God's will, guess what? We have to follow Jesus' example. The bottom line is that we give up our rights when we commit to obey God. We don't get a vote. If God tells us something, we obey Him.
So, now that you have learned about the price tag -- increased accountability to obey -- do you still want to hear His voice clearly?
You do, Good! Then read on, and let me share some practical steps to getting started in this process of learning His voice. We will talk about them in detail in our next lesson, but let me summarize them for you now: