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A Spiritual Checkup For Intercessors
Hearing God's Voice
By Teresa Seputis
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.
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 the very first time God spoke to me this way. I was 17 and a new driver. I had been 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 discerning His voice clearly. But He desires and yearns for us to know and discern His voice clearly. This level of discernment, or of knowing God's voice, is born out of intimacy with Him. Let's look at a few scriptures:
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.
30 I and my Father are one.
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.
You see, God is talking about the sheep being in relationship with the shepherd, and that is why they are able to discern His voice, because they knew their shepherd, they trusted Him with their very lives.
By the way, if you want to hear God's voice clearly, there is a gotcha or drawback. God expects us to obey Him (John 14:15, 21).
If you love Me, keep my commandments.
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.
The more clearly we can hear God's voice, the more He holds us accountable to obey Him. In other words, our accountability to obey increases as our ability to hear Him increases. Jesus states this principle clearly just after sharing the parable of tares:
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.
So, now that you have learned 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.
Decide that you're willing to accept the increased accountability to obey Him. Make a conscious decision of obedience; a commitment to obey what you hear regardless of what God asks you to do (or not do).
Then inform God of your decision and ask Him to teach you His voice.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Once you've asked, trust God to communicate to you. His job to speak so we understand. When we ask God for good things, like knowing His voice, He assures that we get good instead of evil...
9 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
Increase your prayer/praise life. Get to know God's heart and to build relationship with Him. Remember, the more you know Him, easier it will be to discern His voice from any other voice.
Spend time in His word and with God (get to know his nature/behavior).
Have you ever had a close friend telephone you and then start talking to you without identifying who they are? Yet you know who they are because you have spent a lot of time with them and have learned to recognize their voice. That is the way it is with God, the more time you spend with Him, the more you read scripture and learn His nature, the more you worship and bask in His presence, the easier it is to recognize His voice.
Finally, get into scripture. Scripture is the word of God. It is the final authority.. where God has revealed His likes and dislikes and His heart and His nature to us. Pour yourself into it, read it, meditate on it, memorize it! The more you are familiar with who God has revealed Himself to be through scripture, the easier it will be for you discern His voice. And the easier it will be to identify/discern the false voices that that try to imitate God's voice. For instance, if "God" were to tell you to go ahead and go out and get drunk and party and have fun in the world's sense of the word, you would know it was not really God's voice because it clearly contradicts scripture.
Also, in my early days of hearing God, the Holy Spirit would constantly speak to me by recalling bible verses I'd memorized to my memory. Now, this may seem obvious, but He could not have recalled them to my memory if I had not memorized them in the first place. If you want to know God's voice clearly, get His word inside of you. Read it, become familiar with it, memorize it, mediate on it.
Learning anything, even learning to recognize God's voice, is a process. Like learning any new skill, you are clumsy at first and improve with practice. So, don't give up the first time you make a mistake.
I made a lot of mistakes in my early days. Some of them were quite comical. One Sunday morning I thought I heard God tell me to go to this specific church. I looked it up in the phonebook, and sure enough, there was a church by that name. So I looked up the address on a map and drove there. It was a relatively short street (only about 6 blocks long). I kept driving up and down that street, but the address of the church simply did not exist on it. I spent an hour looking for the church and finally came home frustrated. (Later, I learned that this street was one of the streets that stopped and started several times... and I had been driving up/down the wrong segment of the street.) Had I heard God right on going to that church that Sunday morning? Probably not. Did I feel like quitting since I'd obviously gotten it wrong? Of course I did. But I did not let myself give up. Eventually I learned to discern God's voice with a fair degree of accuracy.
So, when you are learning, be persistent. Jesus Values Persistence:
- Luke 18:1-5 is the parable of the persistent widow
1 Then He spoke a parable to them, THAT MEN ALWAYS OUGHT TO PRAY AND NOT LOOSE HEART. 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard men. 3 Now there was a certain widow in that city: and she came to him, saying 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "
- Luke 11:5-8 is parable of persistent friend in middle of night
8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of this persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
One last thought on this.. when a baby learns to walk, it often takes a step or two and then falls down. What if, after falling two or three times, the baby decided not to try any more?
Well, child of God, you need to persist in hearing God's voice just like you persisted in learning to walk. You fell on your fanny many times, but kept on trying. And eventually you were running all over the house, your previous failures totally forgotten. If you keep at it with hearing God's voice, you will eventually learn to hear Him clearly and forget the frustrations of the learning process...
So, give yourself room to make mistakes and keep on keeping on...
The learning process sometimes stops when you are walking in disobedience. If is actually a kindness of God, because the more clearly you hear, the more accountable you are to obey. So if you are demonstrating a repeated lack of obedience, then God will probably put the process of learning His voice on hold until you renew your commitment to obey Him. You will "know it" if you are in this situation, because you know that you've not been obeying what you had heard before the process of learning his voice stopped. The fix is easy. Repent and get right with God. Recommit to obey. God will give you a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc chance.
Another thing that impairs the process of learning/hearing God's voice is if you've fallen out of intimacy with God. Chances are you won't be able to hear Him very clearly if your walk with Him gets distant. Fix this by running back to Him, asking Him to restore you and walking in intimacy with Him.
Also, unforgiveness in your heart towards another can interfere with your ability to hear from God and damage your intimacy.
Matthew 18:23-35, especially 32-35
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?'
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
I am sorry to tell you this, but about the only way to get around that impairment is to consciously choose to forgive and to ask God to help you truly walk in forgiveness. It is not easy, but it is definitely worth it! Intimacy with God and clearly discerning His voice are far more rewarding than the fleeting "satisfaction" of holding unforgiveness (no matter how richly deserved) in your heart.
There is one last "problem area" to cover here. That area is: what do you do if you seem to be hearing really weird things? First, bring it to God and tell Him what you heard and pray about it. Ask God to confirm if its Him or to correct if it's not Him. Also, get another believer to pray with you for guidance from the Lord. Run what you hear against scriptural principles. If it violates scripture, throw it out. Finally you can go to your pastor or a lay leader you trust (such as an elder or home group leader) and ask them to help you discern if what you are hearing is really from God.