Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘God’s voice’

7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

How do you actually know God is talking to you?

Every believer wants to hear from God. Why would you follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say? We want to know…Is this God?…Is this what He is telling me to do?…or…Am I being swayed by the circumstances of my life?

One thing I’ve observed is that we often listen for the grandiose voice of God. Sometimes God speaks that way, but many times God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through life’s circumstances. In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. How do we take the circumstance of life, as mixed up and confusing as they can be, and figure out what God could be saying to us?

Here are some guidelines to hearing God speak through the circumstances of life:

Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word – God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us through our circumstances in a way that will contradict His written word. I hear people at times claim God is telling them to do something that is in violation with what God has already said. That’s never God.

God uses people to confirm His voice – God often sends people into our path to confirm His will for our life. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God. Every time God has called me to something, there have been others to confirm they are hearing the same calling. I’ve often had to cycle through the naysayers to hear them, but they are there.

Recognize that God operates from a plan – Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose…God’s purpose. Looking back over my life, I could never have scripted it, but I see how God has used me according to an overall plan. He’s used my life experiences to shape me for where I am today.

Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan – When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years. Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope, but it would take the people 70 years to get there.   When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances. Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan.

Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God – Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life. Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God. God has typically spoken to me clearest during my darkest days.

Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV) As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances we must intently listen for the voice of God. Hearing from God is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?” Many times I think I know what God is saying, but it’s in the seasons of questioning that I am more intentional to go back to Him for clarification. I’ve even taken days away to intentionally listen during the confusing times.

Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes – We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son. God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life. I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him.

Hearing from God is critical for the children of God to know God’s will for our life.

Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.

Advertisements

A Distant Whisper (from a pursuing God)

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

When the young prophet Samuel heard the voice of God calling to him in the night, he had the counsel from his priestly mentor, Eli, to tell him how to respond. Even so, it took them three times to realize it was God calling. Rather than ignoring the voice, or rebuking it, Samuel finally listened.

In our modern, pragmatic world we often have no such mentor, so we do not understand it is God speaking to us in our heart. Having so long been out of touch with our deepest longing, we fail to recognize the voice and the One who is calling to us through it.

Frustrated by our heart’s continuing sabotage of a dutiful Christian life, some of us silence the voice by locking our heart away in the attic, feeding it only the bread and water of duty and obligation until it is almost dead, the voice now small and weak. But sometimes in the night, when our defenses are down, we still hear it call to us, oh so faintly-a distant whisper.

Come morning, the new day’s activities scream for our attention, the sound of the cry is gone, and we congratulate ourselves on finally overcoming the flesh.

Others of us agree to give our heart a life on the side if it will only leave us alone and not rock the boat. We try to lose ourselves in our work, or “get a hobby” (either of which soon begins to feel like an addiction); we have an affair, or develop a colorful fantasy life fed by dime-store romances or pornography. We learn to enjoy the juicy intrigues and secrets of gossip. We make sure to maintain enough distance between ourselves and others, and even between ourselves and our own heart, to keep hidden the practical agnosticism we are living now that our inner life has been divorced from our outer life.

Having thus appeased our heart, we nonetheless are forced to give up our spiritual journey because our heart will no longer come with us. It is bound up in the little indulgences we feed it to keep it at bay.

(The Sacred Romance , 2-3)

Take Time To Listen

SOURCE:  Living Free/A Passionate Pursuit of God: Drawing Nearer to Him by Dr. Mike Chapman.

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” Joshua 3:9 NLT

Communication is a vital key to every relationship.

And so it is with our relationship with Christ. Intimacy with God is not possible without communication.

When we pray, we talk to God.

When we listen, God can talk to us.

Unfortunately, most of us spend all our prayer time talking to him, never taking time to listen.

God speaks to us in various ways:

Through the teaching of the Bible. Through Scripture “explosions.” (This is when a verse literally jumps off the page and speaks to us.) He speaks through a “still, small voice” in our hearts and minds. And sometimes he speaks though other people or through circumstances—in these cases, the message will usually be a confirmation of something he has already told us.

Consider this … 
How do we know when we are hearing from God, not the enemy or even our own imagination? First, God comes openly with peace, never causing fear, anxiety or guilt. Second, his message will always line up with Scripture and will build faith. And third, his message will result in more love and more power in our lives—not in confusion.

God loves you and wants to communicate with you.  Learn to listen!

Prayer
Lord, teach me to hear your voice. Help me to talk less and listen more when I pray. Help me to hear clearly from you as I read the Bible. And throughout each day, help me to be more open to hearing you speak to me no matter what else I’m doing or where I am. Teach me to listen. In Jesus’ name …

Repentance And Change Are Much Better Than Guilt

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

My views on guilt have evolved over the years. Like many people, I beat myself up and thought that guilt was the Christian thing to do. I figured guilt motivated me to do better so I heaped it on myself. My first and early realization was that I lived in false guilt or shame. It wasn’t just that I’d done something wrong, but I was wrong. So I worked on breaking free from false guilt.

But I still thought true guilt was useful because so many people don’t admit when they’re wrong. Then I started listening to my friend Dallas Willard, who made blanket statements such as, “Guilt never helps.” I was puzzled though because he wasn’t from my psychobabble generation; he was of that generation that seemed to love guilt. Why did he say that?

But over the years, I’ve seen how even true guilt doesn’t help me. It just makes me hopeless. Even worse, it fixes my eyes on me (what I’ve done wrong!) rather than on God and what God has done right. My view of guilt actually made my spirituality about me and my performance (and lack of it), not about God. So I became suspicious that Dallas might be on to something. I’ve experimented with dumping guilt and I’ve discovered some important things.

First, repentance is much better than guilt. Repentance isn’t feeling bad, bad, bad about sin. It’s metanoia, thinking about my thinking—examining how I think. It’s making changes in how I think, which then makes changes in how I act. A short cut version of this is that I began focusing much more on, “What is my next step?” instead of “Wow, my last step was really dumb!”

Next, I realized that we need better training in how to confess sin. Glossing over things doesn’t work; we’re as sick as our secrets. It’s healing to say to God exactly what I did and why I think I did it. Then we allow space to hear this truth of God: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” We bask in this: Lord Jesus Christ, how merciful you are to me, a sinner! And, very importantly, we allow space for asking God about what our next step might be.

Lately, I’ve noticed something else. In general, the devotional masters and saints throughout the ages weren’t depressed by their sins. The closer they were to God, the more they felt their sin, but the more they focused on God’s greatness. They saw God as a Helper (Psalm 54:4) not as Condemner, picking out their sins. In monasteries, abbots didn’t allow monks to think obsessively about their sin. God’s purpose in revealing sins to us is to help us change, to give us power to change. God is like a craftsman, saying, “Here, let’s do this better.”

As a spiritual director, I have many conversations with people who are motivated by guilt. They are steeped in sadness and feel defeated. It destroys them and forces them to look at themselves and make their spirituality about their own (miserable) performance. I don’t think this is a work of God but a work of the enemy of our soul. This enemy paralyzes us with guilt; but the holy God of heaven invites us to repent, to change, to live in the deep gladness of being loved. This is the voice we listen to.

KNOWING GOD’S VOICE

(Excerpted from Into Abba’s Arms by Sandra D. Wilson pp. 199-201)

Knowing God’s Voice by the Approach

1.  God calls and woos us with the gentle voice of a shepherd who leads his sheep.  Like a ravening wolf, Satan seeks to drive the sheep into panic.  He threatens, demands, and intimidates.

2.  The Lord’s voice is quiet and deeply internal.  Satan’s voice is intrusive.  He is that thief who seeks illegal entrance into the sheep-fold that Jesus described in John 10:1.

Knowing God’s Voice by the Content

1.  God always speaks in ways that concur with major principles of Scripture and his attributes as revealed in Scripture.  This is not the same as so-called proof-texting, where a verse is used out of context to make a specific point.  That’s what Satan did when he quoted Scripture to Jesus during his temptation.

2.  God’s voice drips with mercy and grace toward us and toward others.  He does not condemn our personal worth.  God is more apt to urge us to change our attitudes (and sometimes our specific behaviors).  Satan speaks in ways that create feelings of personal condemnation.  And he wants us to have condemning, unmerciful attitudes toward others.

3.  The Lord’s voice usually focuses on changing us rather than on urging us to change others.

4. God’s voice is grounded in truth and hope in contrast to being grounded in past, negative experiences.  (Remember that Jesus urged his weary disciples to put their nets on the right side of the boat despite their past failure to catch fish.)

5.  Our Lord usually focuses on the here and now rather than on the future (“Don’t worry about tomorrow” [Matt. 6:34]).  Satan encourages us in our natural tendency to live in the past or the future.

6.  God’s counsel is practical and simple rather than impractical and complicated.  For example, Jesus is more apt to tell us to take cookies to a new neighbor today than to take a boatload of Bibles to China next year.

7.  Similarly, God usually speaks to the ordinary and mundane in contrast to the spectacular, which appeals to our desire for approval and applause.

Knowing God’s Voice by the Effects

1.  We will have more hope rather than less when God speaks to us.

2.  Hearing God’s voice produces more empathy for others. Satan wants us to despise and/or envy others.

3.  Listening to God brings a greater sense of peace—even when our outward circumstances do not change.  Listening to Satan increases our ingratitude, dissatisfaction, and anxiety.

An Additional Thought about Listening to God

We must be willing to respond to God’s inaudible voice with obedient hearts.  Listening prayer is not some kind of spiritual “parlor trick” designed for our amazement and amusement.

In her classic book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whitall Smith says: “Take all your present perplexities then to Jesus.  Tell Him you only want to know and obey His voice, and ask Him to make it plain to you.  Promise Him that you will obey whatever it may be.  Believe implicitly that He is guiding you according to His word.  Surrender all the doubtful things until you have a clearer light.  Look and listen for His dear voice continually, and the moment you are sure of it yield an immediate obedience.  Trust Him to make you forget the impression if it is not His will” (as quoted in Bob and Michael Benson’s Disciplines for the Inner Life [Waco, TX: Word, 1985], 257).

Tag Cloud