If there was a top 10 list for questions asked about God, I am sure this would be one of them. “How do I hear the voice of God?” The very first book someone gave me after I committed my life to God was a book titled “The Hearing Ear,” because I, like so many others, began to ask the question of how do I hear from God. Granted I was in high school, and I didn’t read ever during that time of my life, so I am sure at best I read maybe 1 chapter.
In this post, I want to give you one simple thought about hearing from God. There are many that could accompany this and should accompany the thought, but I would say for a Christian who wants to know when God is speaking, this is a great place to start.
One key to hearing God, is to be in the will of God.
To see this clearly, let us look at the book of Jonah.
The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD . He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish. 4 But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.
– Jonah 1:1-5 NLT
Here are a few quick observations.
- Because Jonah was a prophet, it is safe to say that at the beginning of this story his life was submitted to God and he was in the will of God. Verse 2 shows us that God spoke to Jonah, and Jonah heard him clearly. So clearly, that he decided to run in the opposite direction because he didn’t like what God had to say!
- When Jonah ran from God, God continued to speak. He didn’t give up on Jonah. Often times we think God has given up on us, because of a mistake in our past or missed call in our present. God has a plan for our lives and He has grace for our mistakes.
- God speaks in different ways at different times to his people, and this text shows 2 ways that he communicates. First he gave a message to Jonah. I liken this to the “whisper” of God. Secondly, verse 4 lets us know that God “hurled a powerful wind over the sea.” God was still speaking, only this time it was less of a whisper and more of a shout. A quick side note… God caused this storm in an attempt to get a message to Jonah, but that does not mean that God causes every storm.
- This storm caused professional sailors to panic and cry out and to throw cargo overboard. This storm was powerful enough to rip the ship apart. The boat was being pushed in every direction. It was a violent storm, but where is Jonah in all of this? He was asleep…
When Jonah was in the will of God, he could hear clearly the whisper of God, but outside of the will of God he couldn’t even hear God’s shout.
So, let us be in the will of God! However, just like the question about God’s voice, if there was a top 10 list of questions asked about God, I am sure this one would be on the list as well… “What is the will of God for my life?”
Let’s start with the premise that, the will of God is more about who we are and less about what we do. When Jesus was asked, in the book of Matthew, what the greatest commandments are, he explains that the law and the prophets can be summed up with two commandments. First, love the Lord your god with all of your heart, soul and mind. and the second one is equally important as the first… love your neighbor as yourself.
What if the will of God, focuses more on how we love God and how we love people, and less on what we do? Don’t misunderstand me, God has given each of us talent and ability that He wants us to use to advance the kingdom, but if our motivation for why we do something isn’t right, then what we do matters little.
So, we should love God and love people, but how do we love them?
Don’t be jealous or boastful
Don’t be proud or rude.
Don’t demand your own way.
Don’t be irritable. <— is that even possible!?
Don’t keep a record of every time you have been wronged
Don’t rejoice about injustice, but rejoice when the truth wins out.
Don’t give up on people
Don’t loose faith
And if we love in that way, then our love can endure any circumstance!
I am sure I could break this list down and we could dive into them for weeks, but for now, let’s let this list be our goal. I am convinced that if we treat people like the list above from 1 Corinthians 13, then when God speaks to us, we will hear Him. We will see people as he sees them. We will love people as He loves them.
If you are interested, below is a recording of the message I preached which included this thought and a few more about hearing the voice of God.