One of the most amazing attributes of God is His willingness to communicate. He loves to talk to His people. As soon as He created Adam and Eve at the beginning of time, He blessed them and gave them detailed instructions. God talked to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He gave detailed instructions to Moses, David, Elijah and many other prophets. And today, because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, He speaks to us.
Yet I meet so many Christians who struggle when it comes to guidance. When they pray, they strain to hear anything. They know God speaks, but either they don't believe He wants to talk to them, or they don't want to obey what He says. Many believers have never known the thrill of hearing God's gentle voice in their spirits.
There are Christians who teach that God doesn't speak to people personally. They believe the only guidance you need comes from the Bible. That's actually a strange doctrine, since the Bible itself says God speaks to individuals. The phrases, "And God said ... " or "the word of the Lord came to so-and-so," appear more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament.
Do you want to hear God's voice more clearly? I believe there are four primary ways He communicates with us:
1. You can hear God's voice by reading the Bible. People sometimes complain: "I just never hear God speaking." Yet when I ask if they read the Bible regularly, they say they're too busy. They might hurriedly read a chapter while getting dressed, or listen to their Bible app while driving. But serious Bible study is rare for them.
God inspired 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years to compile the Bible. After it was written in Hebrew and Greek, many people were martyred because they translated it in a modern language. God went to a lot of trouble to give us His book. Yet today Bibles collect dust because people are too busy to read His personalized love letter to us.
When you read Scripture with a prayerful heart, God can cause a verse to jump off the page as a direct message to you. Expect Him to speak directly to you from Scripture.
2. You can hear God's voice through the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an eerie presence that just hovers around us. He lives in every born-again Christian, and He comforts us and actively speaks to us. He can do this in many ways: through dreams, visions, warnings, a sense of conviction, or—most often—through what we know as the "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:12b) of the Spirit.
I have had prophetic dreams and visions, but the most common way the Spirit speaks to me is through a deep sense of inward knowing. I will never forget a time in 1985 when God spoke to me while I was driving my car in Florida. A message came to me, not audibly but in my spirit: "You will move to Washington, D.C." It seemed to come out of the blue, and I knew it did not originate with me. Four years later I was offered a job in the Washington, D.C., area, and I worked there for three years.
The ability to hear the Spirit's voice is developed over years as we grow in Christ. If you really want to hear Him, you should ask God to fill you with His Spirit. As you allow more of the Spirit's presence and power in your life, you will set aside your selfish agendas and sinful habits so God can communicate without hindrance.
3. You can hear God's voice through people. We are members of His body, the church, and you will hear God better when you are in fellowship with His people. God can speak to you through a pastor's sermon, a friend's wise counsel, a mother's rebuke, a mentor's phone call or a prophetic word given to you by one of God's Spirit-filled servants. If you live in isolation, you probably won't hear much from God.
God uses the gift of prophecy, but you should never chase after prophecies. I know Christians who will travel across the country to attend a prophetic conference to get a word from God, yet they have not read the Bible in months or sat still long enough to hear from God on their own. Never treat the holy gift of prophecy like fortune telling. When God needs to speak to you in an unusual way, He has faithful messengers who will deliver it to you at the exact time you need it.
4. You can hear God's voice through circumstances. My oldest daughter wanted to attend a college in Tennessee, and we were praying about her decision. Right after we prayed, I got a call from the president of a college in Georgia. He was inviting me to speak at the school, but in our conversation I learned that this school was willing to offer my daughter a scholarship. She ended up enrolling in that school, meeting her future husband there and graduating four years later. God was totally involved in that phone call from Georgia!
God is sovereign. He opens doors that no man can shut. If you have been praying about getting a job at one company, and suddenly you get an offer at a different company, this may be God's sign that He has a better place for you to work. Listen carefully. Tune into His frequency. Be willing to obey Him. He promises to guide your steps.
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J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.
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