How to Recognize God’s Voice
“Then he (Jesus) added, ‘Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more.’” Mark 4:24 (NLT)
I previously shared a post on What Does God’s Voice Sound Like? I’d like to share some more tips on how to learn and recognize God’s voice. God’s voice becomes more familiar as we grow in relationship with Him.
This is very similar to meeting a new friend. At first, we probably don’t recognize their voice very well, and they have to introduce themselves when they call on the phone. However, the longer we are friends and the more time we spend with them (and hear them talk), the easier it is to recognize their voice. Eventually, they won’t even have to say who they are or introduce themselves.
The more time spent with someone makes them more familiar and more recognizable. My husband, Eric, just loves to tell the story (aka make fun of me 🙂 ) about the time we went on our first “official” date. I went to meet him at a mall. He was waiting outside the front door for me, and I walked right past him because I didn’t recognize him. In my defense, we hadn’t known each other very long, and he DID have a baseball hat on pulled down low over his eyes! Nevertheless, he will NEVER let me live it down. I shudder to think of all the times I must have done the EXACT same thing to God—walk right past Him due to not recognizing Him when He was standing right in front of me.
It’s getting easier for me to recognize God’s voice the more I mature and the closer I get to God. In hindsight, I wish I would have learned to recognize God’s voice a lot sooner. I can look back on my life now and see poor choices and/or missed opportunities where I had a “red flag” but didn’t realize at the time that God was speaking to me. Some things that I’ve learned along the way are the “What”, the “When”, the “How” and the “Why” of God speaking. My goal is to share a few of these things with you in hopes that you too can learn to recognize God’s voice so that you might miss fewer opportunities or make fewer poor choices.
Recognize God’s Voice in WHAT to listen for:
You will probably never hear an audible voice. God usually speaks to people in a still, small voice. In the bible, God spoke to Elijah. It says in 1 Kings 19:11-12 (AMP) “And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks 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 sound of gentle stillness and a still, small voice.” Many times we often have a misbelief that if God is going to speak to us it is going to be a big, grand ordeal, but that is rarely the case.
If you have a lot of noise and distraction around your OR a busy mind, you will have a hard time hearing and learning to recognize God’s voice.
Recognize God’s Voice in WHEN He speaks:
God speaks at a variety of times. We can recognize God’s voice when we read His Word, when we’re in church or being taught, during our quiet times, when we listen to a podcast or read a book or when we listen to music. These are the times we will most often hear God. Honestly, God speaks whenever and anytime He wants! He also speaks all the time and at the right time (which is not necessarily when WE want Him to speak). The more we are able to recognize God’s voice, the more often we will hear it.
Recognize God’s Voice in HOW He speaks:
God also speaks to us in a variety of ways.
- Primarily He uses His Word—through the Bible. The Bible is God speaking directly to us (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s amazing to me how I can get answers to questions or directions by verses or parts of verses from the Bible.
- Another regular method God uses to speak to us is through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, John 16:7-13).
- God also talks to us through our minds & thoughts, often just with one word or a phrase.
- Sometimes He speaks through our surroundings in things we see, read or hear (in a variety of forms even—such as billboards, bumper stickers, songs, overheard conversations, etc.) We need to be careful not to read into every little thing or try to find God speaking to us in any and every situation, but we do need to be sensitive to His voice and when He’s trying to get something across.
- He speaks through other people. God sends out laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38).
- God also often speaks through repetition. We might come across a repeated theme when God is trying to convey something to us (either through a sermon, a devotion, a song, etc.). Some things might seem coincidental, but we should pay attention to repetition in a variety of areas and try to discern if it is God speaking. It’s also a way of God confirming things to us. This happens to me all the time, and I’m much better now at clueing in when it does.
Recognize God’s Voice in WHY He speaks:
There are many reasons why God speaks to us too. Here are a few:
- He speaks to teach us and train us, show us the truth, convict us of sin and correct us, reveal things to us and to equip us to do His will.
“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.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
- He talks to us to build our faith. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).
- He speaks to give us direction and guide us. God instructs and teaches us the way we should go (Psalm 32:8).
“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalms 25:4-5 (NIV)
- God communicates with us to give us wisdom. We should turn our ears to wisdom and our hearts to understanding (Proverbs 2:2).
- God speaks to help us. He sent the Holy Spirit to do just that (John 14:26).
- He talk to us to comfort us. We can find comfort in God’s word (Psalm 119:52). The Lord comforts His people (Isaiah 49:13). The Bible is loaded with scriptures about God comforting us.
“your rod and your staff, they comfort me” Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
- He speaks to give us confirmation and praise. God wants to tell us “well-done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 (NIV)
- God talks to us to strengthen and encourage us through His Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:3).
Take Some Practical Steps to Recognize God’s Voice:
Give God permission to speak to you and let Him know that you are listening.
“And the LORD came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”” 1 Samuel 3:10
I have often started my quiet times saying (out loud) exactly this, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
Be quiet, be still and remove distractions and a busy mind. You can’t hear a still, small voice if other things are crowding it out.
Check what you hear against scripture. God will never contradict His Word. For example, He will never lead or direct someone into a sinful act because that would contradict His Word and law. God will never lie—He will never lead us contrary to His word.
“in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2 (HCSB)
Examine the scriptures to determine if what you’ve heard is true.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Listen and look for repetition. If you are seeing the same theme, message, word or phrase being repeated in several areas of your life, that very well may be God speaking to you and trying to get your attention and/or give you confirmation.
Spend regular time with Him and you will learn to recognize God’s voice. As with anything, you learn to recognize things by studying them closely. Spend regular time with God—in His Word, in prayer, in quiet times and in praise. Make positive confessions (and agree with the following verses) “I know and recognize God’s voice!”
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4 (NIV)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14 (NIV)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (NIV)
How do YOU recognize God’s voice? Leave a comment below (or click on the post link to join the conversation if you’re viewing through e-mail).
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