How To Hear God’s Voice
How do you know if you are really hearing the voice of God and not making it up?
In this blog, we will look at seven ways that God speaks to us.
So, let’s talk about how to hear God’s voice.
Here are Seven Ways:
1. The Quickened Word of God
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
Scripture is the primary and most important way that God has spoken to humanity. Anybody that has a desire to grow in the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, must have a heart for studying the word of God.
The Scriptures are the rule and measure for anything that we may feel the Holy Spirit speaking to us. 1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us explicitly that no one speaking by the Holy Spirit can say, “Jesus is accursed,” and no one except by the power of the Holy Spirit can say “Jesus is Lord.”
These two statements serve as bookends that guide our discernment regarding the gifts of the Spirit. Anything that we hear from the Holy Spirit will always glorify Jesus and honor his word.
Plainly said, the Holy Spirit will not speak something to us that contradicts what he has already said in the Scriptures. Therefore, God’s word is the only objective truth in our lives to which everything else is subject.
However, we would be shortsighted to speak of the Scriptures as a static rule or historical document that we attempt to apply to our lives through our effort. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
This means that there are times when God will quicken or highlight a specific Scripture to our hearts for a unique purpose. In other words, all Scripture is inerrant, but at certain times one Scripture may be more pertinent in a specific moment.
Recently, I saw the power of the quickened word at a conference. When a pastor’s wife was praying at the altar, the Holy Spirit brought this verse to my remembrance: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Ps. 34:7).
As I shared this verse with this woman and her husband, she looked at me with tears forming in her eyes and thanked me for sharing a verse that encapsulated what God had been teaching her in that season of life concerning the fear of the Lord.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through the Quickened Word of God:
Psalm 12:6, Psalm 119, Proverbs 30:5, Luke 11:28
2. The Voice of God
The Audible Voice of God
“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10).
Throughout church history, individuals have testified to hearing the audible voice of God. Although this is not a normative experience, the Bible shows that God can and does speak audibly.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through The Audible Voice of God:
Exodus 3:3-4, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35, and Acts 9:4-5.
Still Small Voice (or Inner Audible Voice)
“And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (1 Ki. 19:12).
Perhaps a more common way that the Lord communicates to his people is through a still small voice. Unlike the audible voice of God that is heard with your physical ears, this voice is heard clearly in your heart.
Many believers have experienced this in one way or another, and some believers experience this on a more frequent basis.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through a Still Small Voice (or Inner Audible Voice):
Isaiah 30:21, Psalm 16:7, Psalm 27:8, and Proverbs 6:22.
3. The Visionary realm
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
Every night as you sleep, you dream. Most likely, you do not remember every dream. Because of this, it is easy to pass over the dreams you do remember without ever thinking twice about them.
In no way do I intend to advocate that every dream is from God, but the Scriptures are clear that God speaks through dreams, and we should be desirous for him to communicate with us in this way.
Many dreams recorded in the Bible are so symbolic that you have to wonder what kind of schooling they had to derive such interpretations. Consider Genesis 37.
There we read the story of Joseph’s dream about multiple sheaves of grain bowing down to a bigger sheave of grain. We are told that Joseph correctly interpreted that dream as God’s plan for his future promotion and leadership over Egypt.
I am not sure about you, but if I had a dream about sheaves of grain bowing down to me, there are quite a few things that would come to my mind before thinking God was planning to promote me to a prominent governmental position.
Try interpreting another difficult dream from Judges 7:
When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (7:13-14).
Please don’t lie to yourself or pretend to be overly spiritual. There are plenty of things that came to your mind when you thought of a massive loaf of bread rolling into a camp. Gideon conquering the Midianite army was probably not one of them!
Yet the soldier says it could be “nothing else” than Gideon invading the camp. From this, we can see that when God is involved in a dream, not only are there images that run through the mind, but also a definitive and robust sense of God’s Spirit at work in the dream and its meaning.
Not all dreams are symbolic; some deal with quite literal situations. And to reiterate, not every dream is from God! Ecclesiastes 5:3 tells us that some dreams are simply the decompressing of our soul as we rest: “As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.”
Some people attempt to attach spiritual meanings to their dreams in hopes of appearing spiritual, but the biblical pattern is that when God speaks to us through dreams, there is a clear sense that the dream is from God.
If you are wondering if a particular dream is from God, it would be wise to ask the following questions:
1) Do I remember a lot of details about this dream?
2) What kind of impression or urgency does this dream bring to my heart?
3) Do I continue to think about the dream long after it has passed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it would be wise to pray and seek the Lord to see if he would reveal a meaning.
There is no reason that interpretation should be a strenuous task or require the detective work of a spiritual Sherlock Holmes.
If God gives you a dream, he will be faithful to reveal its meaning. Although interpretations may not come instantaneously, you can be confident that if you hold the dream before the Lord in prayer, he will show its meaning.
Joseph encourages us to take great confidence that God will speak to us clearly through dreams. Genesis 40:8 “Do not interpretations belong to God?”
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through Dreams:
Acts 2:17 and Matt. 27:19.
“…I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 12:1).
Visions, like dreams, can be either literal or symbolic and may need to be interpreted to clearly understand what the Holy Spirit is saying. Though not every vision will carry the same intensity as Ezekiel, Peter, or Paul, they are an incredible way that God speaks to us.
Like much of the supernatural, we must be careful not to over-mystify visions. Visions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are seen with natural eyes, and others are seen with the eyes of your heart.
Some visions carry great intensity, while others are as quick as a fleeting impression that run like racing thoughts through your mind.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through Visions:
Acts 2:17, 9:10-12, and 10:3
A Vision of the Night
“(God speaks) In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds” (Job 33:15).
A vision of the night deals with the state you are in when you receive the vision rather than the nature of the vision itself. It is important to write down what you see when you experience a vision. The reason for this is two-fold:
1) Not every vision is for the moment
2) You can be intentional to pray about what God has shown you.
This small decision to steward what God gives us positions us to receive more. We should not be too spiritually proud to think that if we have a vision, we will remember all the details any more than we retain other important names and dates in our lives.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through A Vision of the Night:
Genesis 46:2; Daniel 2:19; Acts 16:9, 18:9
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance” (Acts 22:17).
The English word “trance” is translated from the Greek word ekstasis, which means to be “carried out of oneself.” Trances are only recorded two times in the Bible (Acts 10:10 and 22:17) in comparison to well over 100 visions.
Trances are not everyday events and are one of the most extraordinary ways that God speaks to people.
It is important to note that both times that trances are mentioned in Scripture, it says that the person “fell into a trance,” meaning that this is a God-induced state, not something a person can place themselves in.
4. Knowing by the Spirit
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there” (Acts 20:22, NIV).
Knowing by the Spirit is best explained as the experience of confidently knowing something that you are not sure why or how you know. These “knowings” are internal promptings by the Holy Spirit, which cause you to understand something without prior knowledge.
Acts 15:28 records this kind of knowing when the apostolic council in Jerusalem put forth this statement: “… it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.” Here we see an internal witness or “knowing” that gave the apostolic counsel great confidence in moving forward with the letter that they would send out to all the churches.
“Knowing” in this way can be talked about using the language of impressions. Long before I understood what impressions were, I was experiencing them regularly. I would walk into a room and sense something tense in the air, yet everything would appear normal.
Or I would be in the middle of a conversation with someone and start to think thoughts that did not feel like my own. I recall one particular incident where I was sitting in a church service and began to have strange thoughts like “my life is hopeless;” “what am I going to do with my future;” “I have no purpose.”
After a few minutes of these thoughts racing through my head, I went to the restroom to compose myself. I quickly realized that the thoughts I was having were not my own. So at that moment, I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit who it was that was going through this particular struggle.
He brought to my mind the individual who was sitting behind me, and I encouraged this person in the areas where I sensed they were struggling. After I shared what I had experienced with them, they were greatly moved that God would speak to me about what they were struggling with.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through a Knowing by the Spirit:
Matthew 9:4 and Acts 5:1-4, 16:16-18
5. Wisdom’s Voice
“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice” (Proverbs 1:20).
Wisdom may not come with a loud boom, or a fireworks show that sends chills running down your spine, but it is one of the most important ways the Lord speaks to us today.
If I could sum up Wisdom’s Voice concisely, it would be “do not miss the supernatural by looking for the spectacular.”
I am unaware of any person who would not desire to be led by supernatural fireworks show every day of their life, but the reality is that that is not the way life works. We must remember that God is both the author of Proverbs and Acts.
I am not saying this to discourage supernatural fireworks, but like waves in the ocean, we are to surf them when they are available, but we also need to know how to swim when there are no waves in sight.
If, for some reason, you are tempted to think that Wisdom is a lesser way that the Holy Spirit speaks to us, know that God cares so much about Wisdom that 1 Corinthians tells us it is one of his names (1:24). For more on the beauty and importance of Wisdom, see Proverbs 1:20, 2:6, and James 1:5.
One of the primary ways that Wisdom speaks to us is through godly friends, spiritual leaders, and mentors in our lives (Prov. 15:22). No Christian is an island. God has created each of us to be a part of the body of Christ and to be interdependent upon one another.
With that said, it is incredibly concerning and even frightening to meet Christians that claim to hear from God who are not active members in a local church or submitted to any spiritual authority.
There is no doubt that spiritual authority can be abused and can cause great harm, but there is no reason to reject Godly leaders’ Wisdom due to past hurt.
As we will discuss later, it is crucial to have people in your life who know and love you that can help discern what you sense to be from the Holy Spirit. There is no way we can continuously be objective concerning our lives, and for that reason, we must have other voices of Wisdom.
One particular way in which the Wisdom of elders and leaders can be worked out is in the unpopular realm of “church discipline.” Look at Matthew 18:19-20:
“Again I say to you, if two agree of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
The context of this familiar but often misappropriated verse is actually about church discipline. Although in many charismatic circles, the words “church” and “discipline” do not commonly go together, throughout church history, Christians have held that the Holy Spirit is present uniquely when church leadership gathers to chasten and offer restoration to an unrepentant believer.
Even reading this small paragraph may seem a bit unsettling. Still, the Holy Spirit’s ministry through church discipline is a promise that leaders must stand upon in times of great difficulty and that the church at large must recover despite past abuses (Galatians 6:1, Titus 3:9-11.)
The Wisdom of Conscience
The human conscience is a mysterious thing, but the Scriptures are clear that God himself is the originator. Consider Romans 2:14-15:
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”
All people have a conscience, and it has been given to us by God to communicate a universal sense of morality. Your conscience is not the Holy Spirit but is a tool that the Holy Spirit uses to point you to your need for truth.
For further study, see Job 27:6 and Acts 24:16.
6. Supernatural Phenomena
“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!” (Ps. 103:20)
Angels played a vital role in both the Old and New Testaments and the early church. Today, many Christians speak of angels as if they are imaginary friends. Others act as though angels retired once the Bible was written.
Neither extreme is an accurate depiction of reality. The writer of Hebrews warns us that we may be entertaining angels unaware (Heb. 13:2). So whether we perceive angels or not, the Bible teaches us that they are constantly surrounding the children of God.
Like other ways that God communicates with us, angelic encounters are by no means a normative experience.
Nevertheless, they are a part of the Christian experience. The word “angel” literally means “messenger.” It should be no surprise that the Lord uses them to bring messages to his people, whether in dreams, visions, or even bodily form.
Here are some verses for further study on How to hear God’s voice through angels and for an additional biblical perspective on angels, see Acts 8:26, 10:3-4, 27:23-24, Galatians 1:8, and Heb. 1:14, 13:2
7. Strange Events
And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am” (Ex. 3:3-4).
Due to the arid climate and extreme temperatures of the desert, burning bushes were not uncommon. What was strange about this particular burning bush was that it was on fire but not being consumed.
Notice what is happening in this passage: God caused something weird to happen with the intent of getting Moses’ attention so that he could speak personally to him.
Not long ago, I had a strange experience that the Lord used to catch my attention so that he could speak with me. I was dealing with some internal pressures regarding our local church, and I could not find God’s peace.
As I was praying about these matters, I happened to be driving my car and pulled up to a red light and found myself stuck behind a van that said in big block letters: “Sovereign. Count it done.”
When I saw this, my jaw dropped, and I started to laugh. God used this strange event and uncanny timing to quiet my heart, reminding me to trust in his sovereignty.
Like a burning bush, there was nothing uncommon about this van, but the timing and peculiarity of the moment caused me to step aside and see what the Holy Spirit desired to speak to me. On that day, I was reminded that there is no shortage of ways that God communicates with us; there is often only a void in our awareness.
How To Hear God’s Voice:
1. The Quickened Word of God
2. The Voice of God
3. The Visionary realm
4. Knowing by the Spirit
5. Wisdom’s Voice
6. Supernatural Phenomena
7. Strange Events
These seven categories are in no way an exhaustive list of how to hear God’s voice. Instead, these are broad strokes that show us that God is communicative.
Even with these categories, we mustn’t try to construct a formula. The apostle Paul reminds us that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
God must do the leading, and we must do the following. You cannot force the Holy Spirit to speak to you, but you can certainly miss or restrict him. As Christians, our responsibility is to make intentional time and space for the Holy Spirit to speak personally to us.
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