How to Hear God's Voice

July 26, 2020

Josh Pollard

Want to hear from God? Here are the 3 ways that you can!

How to Hear God's Voice

July 26, 2020

Josh Pollard

Want to hear from God? Here are the 3 ways that you can!

Hi everyone! For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Josh and I’m the Adult Ministries Pastors here at Renovation. It’s great to be with you all. We’ve got our new building going up just a few blocks that way, which is awesome. But I also kinda like meeting at a school. It reminds me of when I was a kid. I didn’t always want to be a pastor, you know, I actually wanted to be an astronaut like my dad. He wanted to be an astronaut too, so I was a lot like him in that regard.

I remember this one night as a kid when I was just 13 years old really well. It was just another night. It was late summer of the year 2000. I had just started high school drumline - A dream on mine since I was a little kid. Another full day of band practice complete and I was exhausted. The good kind, where I’ve hung out with friends all day, rode my bike home, ate way too much taco bell. Went to bed – Top Bunk. Little brother four feet below me, fast asleep. So I prayed as I usually did at that time – same prayer every night. {Dear God, Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.} and as I opened my eyes, I looked up at my blank white ceiling, that was close enough to reach up and touch. Maybe it was all the tacos I had eaten but I couldn’t sleep. I was wide awake and my mind was racing. And I thought about how even though I prayed sometimes and I talked to God, He never seemed to speak to me, and I wondered why not. I knew that people said they could hear from God so He must speak to people. So my question was not if God would speak to me but when, when would God speak to me, when would I finally hear the voice of God? Maybe I need to just ask Him! So I closed my eyes again and started to ask God to speak to me, to Give me some kind of sign that he was there and that he loved me and that he knew what I should do with my life because I knew that he did that in the Bible and other people say they hear him speak to them. And I imagined in my mind’s eye how amazing it would be to have a glowing white angle suddenly appear through the roof of my house and make my whole bedroom glow and how I would be terrified, horrified, amazed, my brother missing the whole thing because he’s fast asleep, and I’d be frozen not knowing what to do and then he would speak and says, “Joshua, Do not be afraid, thus says the LORD…” and I opened my eyes and I looked up and I promise to you, I saw, the blank white ceiling, close enough reach up and touch. The only voices I heard were from the movie my parents were watching in the next room. Eventually I fell asleep.

Wanting to hear something from God, something clear and obvious, undeniable, is something that almost every human being wants at certain points in their life. God, tell me what to do. What college should I go to? – Should I go out with that person? – Why am I going through this? – are you even real? – do you actually care about me? –Where are my car keys!? Have you ever wanted that? To hear God’s like that? I have. Even people that don’t believe in God at all sometime wish that God would just tell them what to do, how to live life, how to get out of a certain situation, that everything will eventually be ok. Having someone around that can help you when you’re not sure is a very good thing. And God said he’s always with us so it seems only normal to expect that He would speak to us. Right? But how? Let me tell you what I’ve learned since that night when I spent staring at the blank white ceiling.

God does speak, and there are 3 ways that we hear God’s voice. The first is through the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? I’m glad you asked! The Holy Spirit, simply put, is God. As Christians we have the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all three of whom are God. The Holy Spirit is God moving mysteriously and powerfully in your life and in the world. When we talk about how God is alive in our hearts, we’re talking about the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6 says he lives in us, that we are his Holy Temple, the place he has chosen be. When God does things in the world today, that’s the Holy Spirit doing those things.

Now that night that I was praying I was imagining some crazy experience, maybe like Mary experienced where a big angel appeared in her room to tell her she was going to have baby Jesus. But a better example of what we typically experience is what happened to the prophet Elijah in 1st Kings 19. Elijah wanted to hear from God so God told him to go stand on a mountain and That God would meet him there. And when He got to the mountain, there was a great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rock, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then there was a powerful earthquake that shook everything around him, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was an intense fire that burned bright and cast light all around, but the Lord was not in the Fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper, and that is where God was.

When the Holy Spirit does this, speaks to us, guides us, it’s more of a feeling in your gut or a quite whisper in your heart or in your mind. Kind of like no matter how old you get you can hear your parent’s voice in your head saying things like put your seat belt on, wash your hands, don’t eat the yellow snow. Sometimes He guides us without words, but just with feelings, like peace about a situation, or excitement about something in life, or even by making you feeling bad about something that is wrong, we call that feeling convicted. He can speak to us through our experiences, like through worship music, or being in nature, or pain, or sickness, or even silence.

Over time, and with help from our Christian friends, we learn to recognize when the Holy Spirit is whispering and when it’s just our own brains talking. And what does he whisper? Jesus tells us in John 14:26 that “The Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” So what He whispers to you will point you back to Jesus. He’ll never tell you something that would contradict Jesus. Through his whispers he teaches us and reminds us of what Jesus said. How Jesus lived and taught us to live. How Jesus thought and taught us to think.

The best way to get to know the Holy Spirit is to talk with him. And by that I mean Pray. That’s how you build a relationship with Him. You won’t recognize His voice if you don’t invest in the relationship. Just like in our other personal relationships where you need to actually hang out with someone to get to know them- there will never be a true and lasting connection without the effort of meeting and communicating on a regular basis in person. In the book of James, it says, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you”, so talk to him like a good friend. Just like talking with a good friend, the key is not coming up with the right words or something; the key is honesty, trust, and enjoyment. Just like talking with a good friend, sometimes you talk, sometimes you listen. Over time, you can recognize better and better when he’s talking.

However, there is something that we must keep in mind when we talk about hearing God’s Voice and that’s that there is a danger to focus only on sensing the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And that’s that for some reason one of the things that we seem to trust the most in our lives is our own personal, emotional experiences. Those things we experience with our emotions seem to be the actually true things, or the most real things. And that seems to cause us to think that this whispering is the only real way, or the most important way that we hear from God. So when people don’t have some unique emotional experience where they can say “I just felt like God was speaking to me”, well, then they think that God has never spoken to them. Just the other day one my dear friends said he prayed and prayed for God to speak to him when he was young and guide him but God never did. But it not true, and this is super important. God speaks to us in 2 other ways that are just as important and powerful as what we sense of God in our experiences, if not more so! In fact, they are the ways that we test what we think the Spirit is saying to see if it’s true or if it’s just our own brain talking.

The first of those is that we can hear God through other Christians. Don’t forget that He lives in them too, guiding, instructing, and reminding them all that Jesus said. So why couldn’t God speak to you through their words. This can be difficult because we think, well who are you, You’re just another person, you don’t know me! But the Holy Spirit that lives in them does know you even better then you know you. So we can hear what the Holy Spirit teaches through them, see his power working in them. Just think of all the people that hear a pastor talk about what God has done in their lives and because of it other people come to faith. That’s because the Holy Spirit speak to them through the words and life of another Christian.

So that means 2 things for us. 1) We need to have other Christian in our lives that we trust and are practiced at listening to the Holy Spirit’s whispers and can recognize His voice. They can help us figure out how God is guiding us or when it’s just our own brains guiding us. And 2) it means that Christians need to be sharing what the Holy Spirit is doing in them so that others can hear about him and begin to recognize him in their own lives.

Are you guys ready for the third way? Any guesses? The third way that we hear from God is through the Bible. It might seem like too obvious an answer, but if you want to know what God says to you, look at the words that He’s written down. Last time I checked, written communication counts as real, valid communication. To think otherwise would be like if my wife texted me and said, “hey can you do the dishes before I get home”, and I was like, “Gosh, I want to make my wife happy but I wish she was here to tell me what she wants, what I should do. All I have is this lousy text message that says do the dishes but that doesn’t count because it was written down. Now I’m totally lost.” Obviously that doesn’t work, I know because I checked with my wife, she said it doesn’t work. It doesn’t make since but we seem to apply the same thinking to reading the Bible. We can see what God teaches us in the Bible about how to live our lives, and then say “if only He could tell me what to do, then I would know”. It’s like the story of the people that were stuck on a Desert Island praying that God would save them. A boat comes by and says hey jump on and they says, “No thanks, God’s going to save us.” So the boat drives off and a helicopter comes and they say Hey jump on our helicopter and we’ll fly you home. And they says “No thanks, God is going to save us.” Eventually they all starve to death and when they see God they ask Him, God why didn’t you save us? And He says, I sent you a boat and a helicopter, what else did you want?!” Do you want to know what God has to say to you? It’s right there in the Bible.

2 Timothy says that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work – Through the 100’s of stories in the Bible God shows us who He is so that we may be able to live how He wants us to. So learn how to read it well. Download a reading plan that helps you keep reading. Get a study bible that can help you understand what you’re reading. Ask questions about it. And talk to trusted Christians about what you read so that you can hear God’s voice speaking to you in it.

The most important part of hearing God’s voice through the Bible is that it acts as the filter and foundation for the first two ways. It is the filter because it helps us to know when our own brains are just speaking to us, or when our friends are simply wrong. God is not a liar, so he will never contradict what He’s already said in the Bible. If you feel like the Holy Spirit is telling you to rob a bank, And your Christian Friend says she thinks you should go rob a bank, you can be sure that is not the Holy Spirit because He already told us to trust him and not steal in the Bible. So that would be your own brain talking, and your friend is sadly mistaken.

Secondly Hearing God’s voice in the bible is the foundation for the other two because the bible does not explicitly speak about every human experience that we might want God’s help on. It never mentions if you should homeschool or not, it doesn’t tell us how to use social media, or what job you should do. But the better we know the Bible, the more sensitive we will be to His voice in our hearts on topics that we might face that are unique to our contemporary world. That’s true both for ourselves, and for our friends.

So you see, that night, after I had not seen an angel from God or heard a big booming voice, I didn’t give up. I didn’t think, I guess God doesn’t speak to us. No. I thought, well I guess not tonight, I wonder when. It turns out He’s always speaking to me. He’s always speaking to you. If you want to hear from God, Pray, seek out strong Christians to have in your life, read that Bible, and you’ll begin to hear him clearer and clearer, like he’s right there by your side. And I pray that tonight, when you’re in bed, looking up at your plain white ceiling, you’ll realize how close God is to you, close enough to practically reach out and touch.

Pray with me.

Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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JULY 26, 2020