At one point in their marriage, my parents worked opposite shifts. My mom was on first shift and my dad on second shift. They were like ships passing in the night. They couldn’t sit down to a meal together until the weekend, and it seemed to them that they never really had good times to communicate. It didn’t help that both of their jobs were very stressful. My sister and I were grown and out of the house by this point, so it didn’t affect our day to day lives, but I could see the difficulty of them maintaining this kind of life for any length of time. They had to communicate whenever and however they could. They had to be purposeful in order to maintain any sort of relationship while life was swirling by. I’m thankful that my parents had long ago learned to endure hardship and although not ideal circumstances, they made the most out of the time they had together. Thankfully, their jobs have changed now, and they’re both on regular day hours.
I often ask myself how purposeful I’m being in cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ. I claim that He’s everything to me. I identify with Him. I proclaim His teaching on this blog and in Bible study. But…are we really just two ships passing in the night with maybe a note left on the table as I head out for some activity? Am I being still and speaking to Him and sharing with Him or am I rapidly firing prayer requests at Him as if I’m reciting my grocery list to Alexa?
Last week, I wrote about Jesus as the Good Shepherd and that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. One of our readers asked a very good question in response to that post – How do we know that it is God’s voice we’re hearing? I thought I’d followup this week and maybe help expand the idea of hearing God’s voice.
I always want a formula or a system for everything I do. It makes it simpler because I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I repeat a task and the outcome is just about guaranteed to be consistent every time. God doesn’t work in formulas though. And it’s because then we would trust the system or the steps, and we’d fail to trust Him.
Here’s an example of what I mean. My first question to think about was, How does God speak in the Bible? These were some of the answers I brainstormed: face to face, burning bush, dreams/visions, donkey, walked on water, signs like Gideon’s fleece, Holy Spirit, hand that appeared on the wall, messengers/angels, circumstances like being swallowed by a whale, a bright light in Paul’s conversion, a still, small voice to Elijah, fire from heaven, plagues, God’s audible voice from heaven, in prayer. And those were just the ones I could think of–I’m sure there are others that I missed.
So where is the formula in the midst of all those ways that God communicated with people in the Bible? Are you going to boldly approach every animal you meet to determine if it’s carrying God’s message for you? That sounds ridiculous. And yet God used a donkey.
Cultivate a Relationship
I still very much prefer face to face communication in this digital age. Texts and emails can be misinterpreting so often. Sometimes that’s because you don’t have a real relationship with the person on the other end of the message. If you solely existing having friends who you only texted and never spoke to in person, you would miss out on all the wonderful nuances of their personality–their laugh, their voice, that one eyebrow that raises, their body language, how excited they get when they talk, how warm and inviting their smile is.
It’s easier to interpret a text from a friend you know well (although there are often errors made even when we know someone well). It’s because you have a relationship. You can predict their behavior or how they usually address things with you.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Knowing God’s voice means knowing Him–abiding in Him. Not just being acquainted with Him–knowing Him. And knowing Him means cultivating a relationship on purpose. Do you talk to Him? Openly, bluntly and honestly talk to Him? Have you tested His promises and found Him faithful? Have you had answers to your prayers? Have you heard other people’s answered prayers? Have you endured trials and persevered in trusting Him above your circumstances? All of these things cultivate a relationship.
You can’t know God’s voice if you’re only doing the equivalent of texting Him.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
We may not have formulas to determine what is God’s voice, but Scripture is God’s voice in writing. He won’t contradict His written word, so what we think is God’s voice should be measured and verified by Scripture always. Let it be a light shining on your next steps.
Act in Faith
God rewards faith. We see it as Jochabed put Moses in the river in a basket, as Rahab hid spies and lied about their whereabouts, as the Egyptian midwives chose to disobey Pharaoh’s order to kill the male children…God even often attributes faith where we see disbelief–like Sarah. She laughed when God told her she would have a child in her old age, but Hebrews 11 says she had faith. Some of these people had sin intermingled with their faith and God still rewarded that faith.
Am I saying that if you just muster up enough faith for any given situation that you’ll see the outcome you desire? No, not always. What I am saying is that God sees our faith. If you’re seeking to determine God’s voice, and you’re cultivating a relationship with Him, and consulting Scripture, then just act in faith. Our faith isn’t rooted in our ability to discern – it should be tied only to the person of God and His character.
In order to answer the question about how to determine what is God’s voice, we have to look at our motivation. Are we truly seeking God’s voice, or are we just avoiding acceptance of His “no” or “wait.”
Earbuds and earplugs look very similar and have some similar functions. But where earbuds block out all the noise around us so that we concentrate solely on the music streaming in, earplugs block out all noise around us and all we can hear is our own breathing. When we’re attempting to hear God’s voice, are we using the earbud or earplug principle? Are we blocking out the world in attempt to concentrate solely on God’s voice or are we blocking out the world to just hear ourselves?