How can you hear God’s voice? How can you know what God’s will is for you? How can you be certain which way God is leading you?
As we have discussed in Part 1 and 2 of this series on “How to Hear God,” there are at least three common ways in which God communicates his personal will to individual Christians. We can hear God through his word, through the personal impression the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts, and also through our circumstances.
In Part 3 of “How to Hear God,” we will discuss hearing the voice of God through the external and obvious circumstances of our lives.
Reality Is Often the Answer for Questions About the Present
Our present circumstances provide us with a treasure chest of information about God’s will for our lives. Projecting where God wants you to be in the future is much more challenging. And if you have a question about God’s feelings towards you or about what God is like, your external circumstances will be worthless as material blessings do not confirm or negate God’s approval or disapproval of our choices (Matthew 5:45, John 9:1-3, Luke 16:19-31). But whenever you have a question about the present, you can always hear God’s answer through your present reality.
This idea sounds so obvious it almost feels not worth mentioning. But stating the obvious about God speaking through our circumstances is necessary because we live in a day and age where postmodernism is embraced and absolute truth is despised. We have to be careful we do not get sucked into the guru nonsense of our era.
In other words, your reality is not what you believe it to be. Your truth and my truth can’t both be right if they are different. You can’t speak things into existence. God really is in control and things in our reality are true whether you believe them or not.
- If you are hearing God say “date Laura” but Laura has rejected your last ten invitations and told you she will call the police next time you call her, you are not hearing God correctly.
- If you hear God say, “Quit your job because that book you wrote is about to be a bestseller in one week” but you’ve been trying pitch it to publishers for years and no one has even seemed remotely interested; and since it takes around a year after a book is signed for it to then actually go to print, God is probably not telling you to quit your job.
- If you are wondering if God wants you to work at Google but they just notified you that they hired someone else, you can be sure God does not want you working there right now.
- If you are wondering if you should buy that house but then someone else buys it, you don’t have to sit around wondering if you should still put an offer in. God has spoken.
All of these examples are limited to the present. Maybe Laura will change her mind one day. Maybe the book deal will come. Maybe Google will return to your resume for a different position. And maybe the house will come back on the market in a year or two.
But right now in each of those situations God has spoken because God speaks through our circumstances. In the Bible God warns his people not to put up with false prophets. But how are the people to know what prophets are true and which are false? In Deuteronomy 18:21-22 God gave the people some very practical counsel on how to decipher between true prophecy and false words from God:
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”
God makes it real simple for the people, “If reality matches the prophesy, the prophesy was in alignment with my will. If the prophesy doesn’t happen, that prophet did not here my voice.”
So if you want to hear the voice of God, sometimes all you need to do is look around. He is speaking through the events in our lives all the time. To be balanced, only looking at the circumstances of your life is not sufficient because most of our questions have to do with the future. As we all know, our present can change in a moment.
And as we mentioned earlier, you can’t interpret “good” circumstances with “God loves me” and bad circumstances with “God hates me.” Your subjective feelings about God’s feelings towards you should be guided by the objective facts God has revealed in Scripture about his heart towards you. When we fail to do this, we can trick ourselves into thinking God is pleased with our sinfulness and displeased with our service. Why? Because without the Bible we can interpret out lives however we want. And since we are flawed we will certainly interpret things wrong.
Again, the Bible helps us interpret our reality. For example, just because you are sick does not mean God no longer loves you. Your difficult circumstances are not God’s voice. The Bible says God shows his love by glorifying himself through our lives, and sometimes that means God shows his love not by sparring us of sickness or other trials but by glorifying himself through our lives as we walk with him through those trials (John 11:1-6).
So we must be cautious when using our circumstances to hear the voice of God. Again, it is best to use this method of hearing God’s voice when our questions are regarding the present. If you are asking, “Should I move to Texas to be with my girlfriend?” but then your girlfriend breaks up with you, God has probably spoken a “No” on that question through these circumstances. But if you are asking this question and your girlfriend is encouraging you to come, but you still have inner concerns about the move, you need more than your present circumstances to hear God’s voice.
This is why to hear the voice of God clearly, we must combine all three of the ways God speaks. When Dallas Willard was writing about the “three lights” by which we can hear the voice of God, he goes on to explain the importance of using all three together:
“These are circumstances, impressions of the Spirit, and passages from the Bible. When these three things point in the same direction . . . we [can] be sure the direction they point is the one God intends for us.”
How to Hear God Part 3 Summary
So how can you heart the voice of God? How can you know God will for you? The most effective way to hear God is to rely on his Spirit speaking through his word, right to your heart, and through your life circumstances. When you combine all three of these ways in which God speaks, you are giving yourself the best possible opportunity to clearly hear what God is saying to you.