Does God talk to you?
The Bible is full of examples of God talking to people. Sometimes He used an audible voice, such as when Jesus was baptized: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Other times He spoke through the prophets, although we don’t know how they heard His voice. He talked to Moses out of a burning bush. And one time, God even spoke through an ass! (See Numbers 22:28.)
The Urim and Thummim were used to cast lots, another way for the ancient Hebrews to know God’s will (1 Samuel 14:41 is one example). Gideon put out a fleece (Judges 6:36-40) to make sure he was hearing God correctly. Pete and I did too; w hen God asked us to move to Colorado, we asked for confirmation that we understood what He wanted us to do.
Sometimes God speaks through circumstances. Years ago, Pete and I thought we’d like to move to western Washington. Of course we prayed about it, but God didn’t seem to be saying much one way or the other. So, Pete applied for some jobs there. In spite of his excellent qualifications, every opportunity fell through. Even when a company agreed to hire him, they later changed their mind! Eventually it became quite clear that God had other plans for us—such as a move to Colorado a few years later.
God also talks to us through other people. God might ask someone to pass on a message for Him. Others may have a gift of wisdom; we do well to listen to their advice. As our pastor likes to explain, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit’s voice sounds just like my wife’s!” Many times I’ve sat in church convinced that the pastor wrote his sermon just for me.
Of course, God talks to us through Scripture. The Holy Spirit interprets what we’re reading, highlighting specific passages or reminding us of other verses. I don’t recommend the “close your eyes, open the Bible and point” method of discerning God’s will, but I have to admit it does work once in a while.
Perhaps the most personal way God speaks to me is when He literally puts ideas in my head. This is that still, small voice that Elijah heard in 1 Kings 19. There have been numerous times when I knew what to do because God told me in this way. One recent example is when He told me to sign up for the mission trip to Swaziland. It was the furthest thing from my mind at the time—I wanted to go back to India. But as I looked at the list of trips being offered for 2013, I knew God wanted me to go to Africa instead.
Hearing God’s voice in this way is pretty simple. I don’t need to have an open Bible handy and I don’t need another person. I just need to be paying attention, or at least be available for God’s interruption. Sometimes God speaks in the midst of my busy-ness, but often He waits for me to stop—turn off the electronics, put down the book, clear the mental clutter—and give Him my ear.
If God is urging me to do something outside my comfort zone (such as pray out loud in a large meeting, or respond to an offer of altar ministry), I pretty much know it’s God. I’m used to Him stretching me in ways like this.
The tricky part is when God tells me to do something I already want to do. Then, God’s voice sounds just like mine! I keep assuming that I’m just hearing my own desires, not realizing that God has put those desires into me in the first place.
Starting my photography business was like that. I love taking pictures so much, that couldn’t possibly be God’s will, could it? It just didn’t sound, well, spiritual enough. He had to yell pretty loud (and confirm it in several other ways) before I finally accepted His call. And now I’m going to Africa as our team photographer!
Loren Cunningham (founder of YWAM) wrote a book back in 2001 that is all about hearing God’s voice. Is That Really You, God? is still in print, and is an excellent resource if you want to pursue this issue. Using the founding of YWAM as his context, Cunningham explains the many ways God spoke to him as he sought to obey the vision given him.
At the end of our Swazi team meeting this week, we all stopped our conversation, put down our dessert forks, and spent some time listening to God. Then we shared what we’d learned. It turned out that He spoke to us in different ways. Some had mental images, others had new thoughts, and still others had verses to share. One person explained that she’s so busy, God often speaks to her in dreams; it’s the only time he can get a word in!
I think it’s pretty clear that God talks to us. The question is, are we listening?