The most important experience of our lives is to “hear” God’s voice or sense a touch of blessing from the Holy Spirit. It’s how we become a Christian, discern God’s direction for our life, appreciate a gift of grace, or are moved to act with compassion for someone in need.
There are many ways to receive a word or touch from God. Some are special manifestations of grace but most are simply “gentle whispers” (1 Kings 19:12). They come as a thought, feeling, image, or intention from God. Sadly, we often don’t recognize these insights or blessings as gifts from our heavenly Father.
In our new book, Journey of the Soul, we teach you how to hear God’s voice to help you live, work, and relate to others in loving ways that are led by the Spirit of Jesus. This becomes our primary mode of life in the stage of faith we call “Spirit-Led Ministry.”
Dallas Willard taught that the best way to discern God’s voice is to pay attention to the quality of your experience. We naturally focus on what God communicates, but the way the Lord speaks or touches us is just as important and it helps us to discern whether it’s truly God, just our own thoughts or feelings, or even one of the devil’s deceptions.
What is the way God speaks? Here are some of Dallas’ markers:
- Calm authority
- Not loud or hysterical
- Exalted peace and sweet reasonableness
- Gentle like the Spirit of Jesus
In my experience, God’s voice is normally like the gentle roar of the ocean waves. It’s peaceful and pure, yet powerful (see James 3:17-18).
On the other hand, if we’ve been resisting God’s grace for a long time or are in great danger then the Voice is likely to come in ways that disturb us, even with anger mediated by love.
Learning to recognize God’s voice is worth some study and practice. You’d think every Christian would do this, but many haven’t been taught.
Here are three of the steps for hearing God that we teach in Journey of the Soul:
- Practice quietly meditating on Scripture. Whatever God communicates is consistent with the Bible.
- Ask for empathy from a safe friend. Feeling and accepting your emotions helps you be sensitive to God’s words and touches.
- Wait for the Spirit’s peace or direction before you act. While you wait and listen, read Scripture, and seek empathy.
The best way to try these discernment steps is as part of an experiment in which you ask for God’s guidance with a specific life decision.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk episode: Hearing from God is available to us in our ordinary, everyday lives! Dallas Willard championed growth in a conversational relationship with God, where we notice his movement and speaking in all things. It’s crucial that ministry leaders take time to hear from God prior to speaking to others, as well as give listeners a chance to hear from God too. You’ll walk away from this podcast equipped with new insights and practical tools to help you discern God’s voice in your life and ministry.