Hearing from God: Is It Possible to Discern the Voice of God?

Recently, I heard a respectable Christian talk show host claim that it was impossible to hear from God.  He blasted Henry Blackaby’s discipleship program Experiencing God claiming that no one can learn to hear from God.  He also claimed that to say that one could hear from God goes beyond the scope of Scripture.  Is this true?

In my experience as a Christian, I have heard from God on countless occasions and still do.  Without the guidance and direction of God, I would not know how to minister or how to live a life in God’s will.  Furthermore, while I greatly respect the radio host, I fervently disagree with the host on his belief that no biblical evidence exists for the Spirit’s communication to God’s people.  I have found at least five ways that the Spirit of God communicates with His people using biblical texts to present these truths.

God Uses People to Communicate His Will

“So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’  Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:27–31, NASB).  God puts His people…the right people…at the right place, at the right moment, and at the right time to communicate powerful truths to us right when we need it.  With the story in Acts, the Ethiopian eunuch was struggling with understanding a passage of Scripture in Isaiah.  Philip had the answer to the eunuch’s question.  So, God sent Philip to the right place at the right time to minister to the eunuch’s need.  Does this not show the great importance in evangelism and missions?

In my life, God has used the works of apologists to answer my doubts and questions about the faith.  At other times when I have felt down and out and praying that God would give me a sign, God sends a person with a word of encouragement that meets my need.  Even during my graduate studies at Liberty University, God has put the right teachers and the right books in my life to show me His will at the right moment.  God does not only communicate with us through godly people, God also uses another method of communication through the person of the Holy Spirit.

God Uses Circumstances to Communicate His Will

Paul writes, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13, NASB, underline mine).  Through the circumstances of life, God communicated the need to bee content in all things.  Also, God uses these circumstances…especially the bad circumstances…to show the need for Paul to be strengthened in and through the power of Christ.  Many feel that God is entitled to only grant His children good things in life.  However, through circumstances (especially difficult circumstances) the Spirit of God communicates valuable truths to us.  As Paul writes, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NASB).  The Spirit of God pours out truths to us and builds our character through circumstances of life.  If you pray for patience, God will place you through circumstances that will build patience.  If you pray for strength, God will put you through circumstances which will build strength.  If you pray for more faith, God will place you in circumstances where you will be forced to depend upon Him more.  But, God uses a third way of communicating with us through the Holy Spirit.

God Uses Scripture to Communicate His Will

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NASB).  The psalmist shows that the Word of God gives us insight in how we should live.  Jesus said to the disciples of the Holy Spirit, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26, NASB).  God uses Scripture to communicate His will to us.  Understand also that since the Word of God is God’s word, then it is the standard by which we all should gauge all things.  God cannot lie so if you hear a compelling that is leading you away from what the Bible says, then it is not God.  It could be the self.  God has a way of bringing back Scripture to your mind through the Spirit at your time of need.  In my life, the Spirit has brought Scripture to my mind that I had not even memorized.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This also shows our need to study the Word regularly.  There is yet a fourth way the Spirit of God communicates with us.

God Uses the Still Small Voice to Communicate His Will

At least four times in Scripture, we learn about God speaking to individuals through what many call “the still small voice.”  It is written of Elijah, “Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV).   Elijah was expecting God to speak to him in a loud fashion.  Yet the Holy Spirit did not speak by a thunderous earthquake or a powerful tornado, but God spoke through a gentle still small voice.  In Acts, the Spirit spoke to Philip as it is written, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot’” (Acts 8:29, NASB).  The Lord had a reason for Philip to meet to Ethiopian eunuch as we mentioned before.  But, the Spirit communicated with that same still small voice.  Jesus even shows that we can depend upon the Spirit to give us words whenever we are accused, or perhaps in evangelism.  “When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11, NASB).  Some will say, “Pastor Brian, the text is referring to the disciples.”  Yes, that is true.  However, should we as disciples of Christ expect anything less today?  I think not.  Another text shows how God speaks to us through that still small voice.  “And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding” (Nehemiah 2:12, NASB).  Some will claim that Nehemiah knew the Lord’s will after the event.  That opinion is guilty of reading more into the text than is there.  God placed the thought in his mind before the event took place.  How else would he know that it was God who placed the thought in his mind?  The Scripture gives us a fifth way the Holy Spirit communicate to us.

God Uses the Compulsion of the Spirit to Communicate His Will

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.” (Luke 4:1-2, NASB).  Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  There are times when the Spirit of God compels us in certain directions.  It may be to talk to a person at a certain time.  I heard the testimony of a woman who worked at a hospital who was compelled by the Spirit of God to do an amazing act.  The Spirit of God compelled the woman to ask a long haired man if he would like a haircut.  She was compelled by the Spirit to use this act as a means of evangelism.  She did not know why the Spirit of God wanted her to do this act, but she was obedient nonetheless.  As she cut the man’s hair, the man told her that his wife used to cut his hair for him.  His wife was sick and in the hospital.  He had not had his hair cut in a while due to his wife’s sickness.  He then began to speak of Jesus and how Jesus blessed him in his life.  The woman was really stumped as to why the Spirit wanted her to use this act as a means of evangelism since the man already had a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, to her surprise, a co-worker approached the woman after she finished cutting the man’s hair.  The co-worker asked the woman, “Why did you cut his hair?” The woman said, “I did so because of my love for Jesus.”  The co-worker said, “Can you tell me about this Jesus?”

It was through the compelling of the Holy Spirit that I was led to a Bible bookstore and guided to a shelf that had several apologetics books that God used to answer my doubts and questions.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the guidance and compulsion of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Does the Holy Spirit communicate with us?  Absolutely!  That is part of the process of prayer.  Prayer is reciprocal.  It is a dialogue.  We speak to God and God speaks to us.  How could anyone deny the Spirit’s power to communicate truths to us?  The trouble is, many of us get into trouble when we do not listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This is not only true for apologists, but for all Christians from all walks of life.  We are so busy in our lives that we do not take time to listen to God.  Maybe the reason we are not hearing from God is that we do not really want to listen to God.  We might be frightened by what He shows us…or where He leads us.

Keep the faith,

Pastor Brian Chilton

Postnote: After further listening to the radio host and reading some of the host’s writings, I do not think that he meant to take such a strong stand against “hearing from God.”  Although I do not agree with his attacks on Henry Blackaby, I do think an area of misunderstanding on my part occurred.  But, I would concede that one must ensure that the direction aligns with the Word of God.  Otherwise, it probably is not God that is leading.

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