Tuning into the God who speaks

Dear friends

If you have seen the film ‘Evan Almighty’ – a humorous modern tale based on a ‘Noah’s Ark’ theme – you will recall the moment when the central character, Congressman Evan Baxter, stands in front of a congressional committee and amid mocking sneers admits to the fact that God speaks to him. 

‘My sheep hear my voice’

That reaction echoes the cynical attitude of a so called ‘modern’ secular mind-set. It is inclined to dismiss spiritual realities and those who believe in a God who speaks with a ‘McEnroe’ kind of response: ‘You cannot be serious!’ And yet we talk about having a relationship with God as our Father. What kind of relationship would this be if we didn’t learn to tune into the God who speaks so that we can identify his voice and respond in obedience to his promptings? In St John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the picture of the Shepherd and his sheep to illustrate the fact that He speaks and for those with ears to listen and hear it – they can know it and follow it. 

‘The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out…I am the good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. They too will listen to my voice.’ John 10:2,3,14,16. 

Psalm 95: 7 ‘Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’. This builds on the expectation that God is not only knowable but speaks to us and longs that we might tune in to hear his voice and respond. According to Jesus his voice is not reserved for the spiritually elite or the especially ‘holy’ amongst us. Neither does he say; ‘might listen,’ ‘could listen,’ ‘should listen,’ but ‘they too will listen’. This is a tremendous encouragement to us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who speaks and his people are the flock who hear his voice. So if knowing God and being with him – the first disciples were called that they might be with Jesus before they were to do anything for him (Mark 3:14) – then walking in a close relationship with him, hearing his voice as a regular experience has to become an exciting reality for our lives. 

Tuning In

I find learning to identify the voice of God as he speaks is a little like becoming familiar with the voice of a friend or close family member who calls you on the phone. When they speak, you don’t need to ask who is calling – you recognise the voice. When others call you cannot begin a conversation until they identify who they are. The more frequent the calls the more attuned you are to the identity of the caller such that you no longer need to ask who is calling. 

So how can we grow in our relationship with God and learn to hear his voice more often? 

1. God speaks most clearly through his Word. That is why it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and comes alive to us the more we take time to dwell on it, meditate on it and ask God to speak to us through it.

2. When you receive a good thought or prompt to do something positive and enriching, credit God with that thought. So often we think that it is just our own thoughts but if we are intentionally seeking to live life God’s way and in the power of his Spirit then it is reasonable to consider that God is imputing his thoughts and ideas into our minds.

3. Ask God to speak to you in your dreams. There are examples of God doing just this in the Bible: Pharaoh (Genesis 41) and Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19), write them down, and ask God for an interpretation.

4. Be open to receiving pictures, words of knowledge, encouraging words for other people but always deliver them in a way that leaves room for not necessarily getting it right – so say something like: ‘I feel God may be saying..’ or ‘I have this picture in my head, I don’t know if it means anything to you..’ and leave the interpretation to the work of God’s Spirit.

5. And finally be intentional about giving God permission to speak to you and direct your thoughts through the day, allowing him to choose his own way of speaking, encouraging and directing. 

And so friends, let us be those who recognise the supreme value of walking with God, listening to his voice and enjoying a more active and vibrant relationship with him, taking time to tune out from the distractions of life and tune into His presence, as did Isaiah (50:4): 

‘The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.            

                                                      With every blessing in Christ,            Stephen