God Radio

god-spoke-to-me

I don’t remember growing up with a lot of voices in my head. Sure, I had plenty going on up there, but nothing that seemed to come at me from the outside. That’s why I never doubted my experience in high school. I had never encountered such a powerful, foreign intrusion. And even though the message seemed to contradict what I believed, I never doubted that it was from God. Maybe I should have.

I married a person whose mind was a mental chatter house. She was constantly telling me what the Lord was saying in her devotions, or while showering, or driving, or standing in the post office. Sometimes the voice would be confirmed as genuine, but not always. She talked about other voices as well—tempting, laughing, condemning voices. She confessed that her mind seemed to be trapped between two masters, each demanding her attention and allegiance.

You can imagine how our conversations went in that first year. I was not the most sensitive listener, and most of my advice would be trying to convince her that the noise in her head was self induced, just regular thoughts, thoughts that could be managed with a little counseling or spiritual development. What else was I going to do? Hire an exorcist?

Once during that first year Laurie said that God had slapped her in the face during devotions. Without thinking, I told her that God doesn’t slap people in the face. Basically I was telling her that the voice she had always attached to God was not really God. You can imagine how well that conversation went.

A couple years later, while we were attending Bible School, Laurie was brave enough to tell me that God had spoken to her again. He wanted her to believe she was pregnant.

So we went out and got a pregnancy test. The test came back negative. Then we left for a couple weeks on Christmas break, two weeks for Laurie to wonder if she had ever heard from God, to see if she would believe despite the evidence.

After the break we tried again. This time the test came back positive. This was a decisive moment for us, something Laurie could always use to differentiate God’s voice from the others.

Some believers would insist that God no longer speaks to people, not in those ways. He has spoken, and what he said was written down in his Word. The last thing we need is a bunch of people claiming that they are hearing from God, using their “revelations” to justify sinful behavior, lead people astray, or start a cult.

But what if we do hear something? How do we know if it is from God, from the devil, or just a thought like any other thought?

A few years ago I wrote an article on this topic for a youth magazine. In preparing the material, I asked my friends and family to share their experiences of hearing from God.

Four claimed to have heard God’s voice audibly. In two of those cases, God said the same thing. “Trust me.” Most often, God spoke to people in their spirits, sort of like my experience in high school, or through an affirming thought or emotion. Some people mentioned circumstances bending around them, forcing them into important encounters with people or key decisions. In many cases, God spoke in a moment of crisis, intervening at the perfect moment with a check in the mail, a word from a friend, a dream, a vision, or a perfect verse.

As I considered the many examples from Scripture, and thought about the experiences of my friends, I noticed a few consistencies:

God Is Personal

God knows us on a profound level. He understands our personality, culture and relationships. He knows our past. When he approaches us, he will come on a first name basis.

God Is Consistent

God’s voice is distinct to his personality and purpose. When he speaks, it will always be from a heart of love, encouraging growth, promoting truth, and deepening our relationship with him. In times of pain, he often brings comfort. In times of comfort, he often brings a challenge.

God Is Diverse:

God is predictably unpredictable. If you think that a certain kind of prayer will generate a certain kind of answer, you’re not thinking of God as a person. He is not a vending machine. It is impossible to predict what he will say or how he will say it.

God is Clear 

On three separate occasions in my own experience God’s voice has been followed by an emotional reaction, and later confirmed by another person. I don’t think he minds if we pull a Gideon from time to time, as long as we are trying to be sure of his voice and willing to obey it.

God is Timely  

God acts at the perfect moment. Would a mother make dinner in the morning to help her children feel confident that they won’t miss a meal? No, she would want her kids to trust her character, not some checklist.

God is Costly

Sometimes seeking God requires sacrifice. I have often been encouraged to seek God with extended periods of prayer or multiple days of fasting. Sometimes God won’t answer until I go after him more aggressively.

What are some patterns that you have noticed in your interactions with God? How can you be sure you’re not fooling yourself? What advice would you give to people that are still struggling to discern God’s voice?

8 thoughts on “God Radio

  1. The first time I felt God urging me to give a large sum of money, he used several ways to speak to me.
    1. HE MOVED MY HEART and placed an exact number in my head. The number wouldn’t leave my thoughts as I heard this missionary friend speak in church. I was pretty confident He wanted me to give this amount but God was willing to give me more signs of confirmation.
    2. HE CONFIRMED BY USING HIS WORD. My devotional that evening. All the scriptures were about giving.
    3. HE CONTINUED TO CONFIRM BY USING MY PASTOR. The next week’s sermon was all about giving.
    And the fourth way he spoke to me blew my mind.
    4. HE CONTINUED TO CONFIRM BY USING A DIRECT WORD. I told my youth pastor I had sensed a prompting to give money and asked him to pray. Though I had told NOBODY the amount in my head, he responded “Are you supposed to give ‘X’ amount of money?” …which of course was the exact number God had put in my head!

    God never promised me anything if I obeyed. He just wanted me to. It was a sacrifice, given the fact that I was saving up for my first car. I knew I would have to wait a lot longer to buy that car after giving this amount of money… BUT…

    Not much later, my soon to be brother-in-law (who was a mechanic at the time) found a car for sale that was ridiculously inexpensive. It was everything I prayed for too! It was white, had 4 doors, stick shift… it even had the flip lights that were cool to me at the time… ha! We went, he check the engine… and everything was fine with the car. We were both baffled at the price. According to Kelly Blue Book, it happened to be the EXACT amount of money LESS – that I gave! Boom! Cherry on top to this awesome God moment.

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    • That’s amazing stuff! Thanks Mo.

      Funny thing . . . when we left LA, we just couldn’t take both cars and the moving truck, so we gave the Jetta to our friends, the Martinez family, who had just come back from the mission field. The Lord was pretty clear that they needed it more than we did.

      Two years later, I’m standing in our church parking lot here in MS, and a lady named Judi Martinez tells me that she and her husband want to give our family a car.

      The Martinez connection!

      When you have extra, God asks us to give. When we have need, God supplies it. Sometimes it feels humbling to be on the receiving end of things, until we realize that we are just acting as a part of the Lord’s body and this is how it works. We give. We receive. And we rest in the Lord.

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  2. John, I so appreciated this post and your earlier one about how God spoke to you on February 20, 1995. I believe Holy Spirit speaks to us in many ways, and beyond “speaking,” his presence guides us and draws close to us in many other ways through circumstances, nature, music, the church, scripture, relationships, and so on. I think many people block out these ways of hearing him, either intentionally through disbelief or unintentionally through simply not paying attention. At the same time, I think there is also a danger of fooling yourself and believing your own voice and desires are God’s voice. One book that helped me think about all this is Dallas Willard’s book, “Hearing God.” I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about how God communicates to people and also how you can avoid the pitfalls of attributing things to God that are not really from him. I love your blog.

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  3. I could probably leave a book’s worth of thoughts on this subject, but I’ll stick to a brief response.

    I think the most profound thing about hearing God’s voice, is that–to some degree–mustn’t it be subjective? None of us can prove God exists, but we have empirical evidence for an intangible thing. God’s voice. It’s freaky when someone seems like they can’t use the bathroom without God telling them to go. But shouldn’t it be freaky if someone says they’re following an invisible God having never heard his voice? Maybe that’s extreme, but don’t read in to that too much.

    I believe we must lean on what we hear, the current, spoken voice of God. However, this cannot happen in a vacuum. We have to be able to bounce our “words” off of people in order to “test” what we “hear.” This probably sounds weird, but to me I think that’s the way we should live. God should be speaking. There has to be a fresh word for us to be guided by, otherwise we have to live by static principles. I am not advocating for utter reliance on “the voice” but I think it shouldn’t be taboo to talk about it or be guided by it. There is nothing in scripture that plainly says our experience with God should exclude hearing his voice. But, there are some instances where the opposite is said “my sheep know My voice…” seems to infer that.

    What’s shocking is that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for seeking the scripture their whole lives and yet denying him. He was the messiah, the Son of God, who inspired the very scripture in question. They were students of the scripture their whole lives. It seems that’s not enough.

    Jesus seems to want the book he wrote to lead us to the Author. As has been said on here, the scripture must be the bedrock of our experience. It must be in our minds, we must think biblically. The scripture can guide us alone. And even circumstances that we feel are in God’s providence are important. Personally, I can doubt those things a lot more than a voice in my spirit urging me to do/say/give/go/wherever/whatever. I think what always encourages me is when I am reading the scripture and I feel that still small voice highlighting or encouraging me that what I’m reading is now being breathed on by God for this moment. You’re right in saying that there’s no formula, but in my experience that is the most often way I hear his voice.

    I heard a great quote recently: “Complaining about not hearing God with a closed Bible is the same as complaining about not getting any messages with your phone turned off.” In the silent times, such as the one I have been in, God’s voice is few and far between. But if I stop reading, I feel like I’m making it harder (if that were possible) for God to speak.

    Sorry, this is really long…

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