The Practicalities and Discerning Between God's Voice and Mine (HGV 18)
I have had a number of people write and ask me for answers, help, input in response to the series of Nuggets I have been writing on Hearing God's Voice. It seems you have found the Nuggets I have been writing helpful but want more input on how to know the practicalities behind hearing God's voice and how to discern the difference between God's voice and your own. Let's address that now before I close off this series next week.
When it comes to hearing God's voice the first issue to be aware of is to realise He is always communicating. God wants to have your ear and for you to talk to him. Given the habits we have developed over time, many Christians have not stopped to think about the fact that prayer is two-way communication. We need to realise that we ought to be open to listen for His voice. Most who have walked with the Lord for a number of years are well practised in talking to God via our prayers. But a smaller percentage have the inclination to stop and listen for His voice in response. Communication is two way or it is not communication at all. We have all experienced the person who does all the talking and doesn't stop to hear what we think. Let me assure you that God is not like that.
Once we realise it is good to stop and listen for God's word to us personally, we then strike the question of how to discern God's voice to us and figuring out how to tune in to His voice and screen out the background noise or the volume of our own thoughts. Many have asked during this series for help in being able to separate the "loudness of their own thoughts from the still small voice of God" as one person put it.
As we saw in the first of these Nuggets, God has multiple ways of talking with us. What surprises me is God seems to tailor the means of communication specifically for each individual. What do I mean by that? For the one who is keen on music God will often speak through a song you are listening to in order to give you the perfect answer to the question you have been asking. To the one for whom poetry is a passion then He will often speak in poems, rhyming couplets, a haiku or out of the Psalms. For the person who sees things in images he will speak in word pictures or images to you. Remember my friend John Mason I told you about in this series? How at Bible College I was surprised at how God could speak to John in visions and word pictures that John would delve into many of the same things He was showing me through the grammar of the Greek text. God tailors His answers to us through the means or the media we cherish.
You will see below something I use in Deeper Bible in 101 n the first session of Experiencing the Bible.
God has created us to use both hemispheres of our brains. In fact we have the capacity to function on both sides of our brain at the same time. However, for many of us we have been encouraged to use our left brain to do real work, real thinking, while being discouraged to engage in right brain activity. Decades ago in the mid-twentieth Century, students at school were discouraged from writing with their left hand because it was thought to be inferior. Perhaps because our left hand then moved forward to obscure the words we have just written. The reverse occurred where brain power was involved. A glance at the image above will show you left brain activity was thought to promote real intellectual thinking power (the office cubicles) while the activities of the right brain were considered to belong to the realm of play and pastimes. One had to apply oneself to study in structured ways to develop intellectually. We now realise that is not true. Many of us are able to come up with inspiring and innovative thinking in right brain ways. In fact to be balanced people, we ought to aim to combine the approaches from both left and right brain. No one is totally left brain or totally right brain.
Betty Edwards has written a very interesting book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, including a play on words in the title. Her main purpose is to teach people to draw, but as she explains, we need to draw on the right side of the brain, with implications from both meanings of the expression.
A number of you have asked questions related to our preparedness to listen or receive messages from the Most High: words, sentences, images, pictures in our head, concepts which need expanding. How do we even begin the process of hearing God's voice if we don't think we have ever heard it before? Just how do we hear God's voice when considering receiving something from God in right brain ways. Firstly let me share with you how to intentionally open yourself up to hear from God on the right side of your brain.
I use this slide in Deeper Bible at level 501 to assist the class to fine tune their minds and spirits in order to receive from the LORD. Each of these word pairs represents a continuum of readiness to receive. Check yourself on each paired set of words to see where you are at on each scale. Better yet ask God to tell you where He sees you. Now there is a challenge for you!
Say "God, where do you see me on the scale of talking or listening?" That should be an easy one. You will know yourself how far along the scale toward listening you are. Asking yourself the question helps you to hone your own sensitivity as to how much you listen for God to speak. Asking the same question of God and stopping to discern His perspective is your first step toward increasing your ability to hear His voice. Over years now I have tuned myself to hearing His voice. The personal testimonies I have shared through this series of Hearing God's Voice give you examples of how it happened for me and how it could happen for you. But as I said above God tailor-makes the way He speaks to suit each individual person (which will vary person to person). Furthermore, I trust you will realise that with each occasion I have "heard from God" enables me to discern more clearly His voice, the way He speaks to me and the kinds of things He will say. Many people I know have playful conversations with God, developed over time.
Now that you have asked that first question of God to give you His input on your position on the talking > listening continuum. try the others. Evaluate yourself on each pairing and then turn the question to God for His impression of where you are at. Realise that God can speak to you through a single word, or a word picture, an image or a vision that you see in your minds eye, an impression of what He wants to say to you. The communication which comes from God is spontaneous, it is not that we have to seek it or search for it. We don't have to work at it or think it up. In fact I would seriously question something that arose from my own mind with effort on my part to think something into being from God.
Think about the many examples I have shared with you of how God has spoken to me over the years. Many of my BIG ONES, the times which are burned into my spirit, soul, mind (but not yet my body) have come as rebukes or corrections of direction. You need to be prepared for similar experiences. But don't be afraid of God's rebuke. Some have told me over the years they fear hearing from God because of what He might say to them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whenever I have felt corrected, rebuked or disciplined (and I have told you some of them) I have realised I have never felt judged, rejected or abandoned. God's correction is always loving, never in anyway like my own earthly father's approach. Be encouraged to step out and be brave. Steel your soul for your moment of hearing from your Heavenly Father. Trust me, I think you will like it more than you imagine is possible.
Remember these verses from Hebrews 12:5-8
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?
If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.
Now we come to final question which multiple numbers of people asked.
"How do I know if it is just my thoughts I am hearing or whether it is really is God?"
"How will I really know it is God speaking to me?"
"I don't want to get it wrong."
I am sure every child of God wants to know that it truly is God speaking to them and doesn't want to be led astray. i.e. we come with the right motivation. But it is also fair to say we have all heard of situations where well-meaning, spiritual people have gone astray. "I just don't want it to be me."
When I look back on my experience of "being led" in the wrong direction with the school leading I told you about in HGV #4 I recognised after the time seeking God that I was too active in the seeking. I was the one putting it together. I was seeking too much, picking up on every little thing and writing it down to discern God's leading. That's excessive. Taking that approach will almost certainly lead you astray and rather than hearing from God, it will open you up to all the voices you could hear. Just back off and let God put it together.
Everytime when I have felt God drop something into my thinking it has always been spontaneous and without prior thought or effort on my part. The God thoughts don't come to me because I have thought them up, or analysed the situation and have thought the answer of God's response into being. I would serious question a thought or input that came to me "from God" in that way. Spontaneous thoughts from God come out of the blue, but with a clarity that has not been thought out beforehand. The Hebrew word for the process is [lamad] which comes spontaneously and yet with depth and clarity. It also comes with an emotional quality of excitement or conviction with an awe or wonder attached to it. I don't have to think it into being. Rather it bubbles up spontaneously and is suddenly just there in your mind or even your inner being with compulsion or a keen sense that God is talking to me.
Biblically there is a stark difference between Prophecy and False Prophecy. False prophecy is "cooked up" or "reasoned" or "thought into being". Whereas true prophecy or words from the Lord bubble up and are just there in your spirit or thinking. Unless you are Sharyn and can just read the screen as I told you about in the last Nugget. You have a strong sense that this "word" or "thought" is from God.
The last point I want to make in this Nugget before I conclude is that your ability to hear God's Voice is honed over time. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. I have made many of them. It is all part of the learning process. Where Jesus talks in John 10 about his sheep hearing his voice it presupposes that there is a training period. Just as real sheep don't learn to hear the shepherd's voice in an instant, so too with us learning to hear our Shepherd's voice. Be prepared to step out in faith and trust that you have heard His voice. The process of honing your ability to discern which is His voice and what are your desires comes with practice and with time and through a review of those moments when you get it wrong. He doesn't mind that.
Just one word of caution and a suggestion I would slip in here where you feel you have a word for someone else, or the body of Christ as a whole. Rather than starting with a strong "Thus sayeth the LORD . . . " it is better to begin "I sense I have something for you from the Lord but I strongly suggest you check it out with Him to see if it is for you or not."
In the last Nugget in this series on "Hearing God's Voice" next week I will answer any further questions that come and pull it all together and tie it up in bow.