by Jeff Reed
Do a search about hearing God’s voice and you will find a number of things. First, there are numerous articles that offer advice from Scripture and opinion on how to hear His voice. I skimmed a few of these articles and found that many of them would ultimately include advice about hearing an inner voice speaking to us. A search will also find numerous people of varying degrees of popularity that believe they hear daily revelations from God. They are usually eager to share those messages and want you to hear them.
Hypothetically, if I were to tell you that I audibly hear God’s voice speak to me, you would most likely conclude that I was suffering from a mental disorder. There is no evidence that God is currently audibly speaking to His servants. But it is much easier to accept that God speaks to us and others internally. Many of the articles on this subject will cite from 1 Kings 19, the passage where God appeared to Elijah as a “still small voice.” They connect this passage with the Holy Spirit speaking to us. What these articles fail to mention though is that this was a calm and quiet audible external voice speaking to Elijah, not an internal one.
The problem with relying on an inner voice is that we can easily deceive ourselves. To be honest, most of these internally generated messages people claim to have received from God are nonsense. They usually contradict Scripture and are just a reflection of their internal biases and worldview. It would be foolish to follow them. My inner voice could tell me that it is God’s will that I buy a new car. Shortly after I may see a television commercial for a new car. One of my friends may mention to me a sale that a local dealership is having. I could then conclude that God must surely be telling me to buy a new car. This is simply confirmation bias. I am interpreting my own will as God’s will. This is a dangerous deception.
So you must be wondering if I believe we can hear God’s voice. I absolutely do. We must hear His voice! Jesus tells us that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). In Hebrews 4:7, we are told, “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” The writer of Hebrews then tells us how in the remainder of the chapter. There are three simple things we can do to hear God’s voice.
The first is obedience. It is explained that Israel did not hear God’s voice and were unable to enter His rest into the promised land. “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). Diligence requires that we persistently work at keeping the law despite all obstacles that may arise. As we obey, we are listening to His voice through our actions. The more we keep the law of God, the clearer we see His will for our lives instead of misinterpreting our own desires.
The second is reading the Bible. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If I am considering buying a new car I could read what Jesus says about possessions, scriptures on financial responsibility, scriptures on greed, and scriptures about God’s provision in our lives. I can let the Holy Spirit guide me after I read the passages to make the correct decision. The key is to use His words and not our words. The more we memorize and study Scripture, the more His words will be in our mind.
The third is taking our weaknesses to God in prayer. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Communicating to God is a two-way activity. Speaking to Him regularly will open our minds to His will. As we continually overcome through the grace of Jesus in our lives His voice will clarify.
Hearing God’s voice is not audible. It is not our internal voice. It is only achieved through the Holy Spirit. It is obeying His voice, reading His voice, and letting Him regularly hear our voice.