This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Family of Prophets.” We’re rediscovering our identity as a church family this year and this group of individuals are an awesome example to learn from.
Family is a group of people who genuinely love, trust, care for, and look out for each other.
Last week, we learned about the birth of Samuel and how he became a part of Eli’s family. This is essentially the beginning of the family of prophets.
We were also reminded of who we are. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you’ve been adopted into His family. You are a child of God. You hear and recognize the voice of your Father and won’t listen to the voice of a stranger.
We were challenged to create an altar in our lives – a time and place set apart to seek after God and to hear His voice.
This morning, we’re going to learn some practical tips from young Samuel’s life of how to hear God’s voice.
God is a creative God who created you. The way that He speaks to us will vary from person to person. There are, however, some common ways that He chooses to do so as we read in the Bible.
In the scriptures, we see that He speaks through an audible voice as He just did with young Samuel, through dreams or visions, through a talking donkey, through a burning bush, through impressions, through nature, through angelic visitations, through written word (even writing on a wall), through other people, through circumstances, through wet and dry fleeces, and several other ways.
God is always speaking and doing so in countless ways!
A good place to start is in the Bible, His written word. When God speaks, He won’t contradict Himself and the written word is an authoritative, tried and tested, repository. Whatever God speaks to you will be in harmony with His word. This is evidenced in the New Testament. When the early church was listening to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit, they would often confirm it with quotes from the Old Testament.
The Bible teaches us how to better discern and recognize the voice of God. We learn about God’s character and ways. We learn about how He spoke to others in the past. You can get to know a whole lot about God by reading about Him and the testimonies of those who had personal encounters with them.
God’s word is alive and active because the Holy Spirit, the author of it, is alive and active. For sure, God will still speak to us through it still today. We simply can’t say that God is silent if our Bibles are closed!
There are also other books and videos and messages and Bible Studies and commentaries and all sorts of resources for learning to hear God’s voice.
What God is recommending to us is not to necessarily turn to any of those right away. No, there’s nothing wrong with them and they are valuable resources. However, we have a tendency to overthink and overcomplicate things.
Hearing God’s voice is not an intellectual study, it’s not a theological, philosophical, or doctrinal issue. Hearing God’s voice is a relational issue. We recognize the voice of God because we have a personal relationship with Him and care about hearing His voice and want to listen to Him.
Hearing God’s voice is no different than hearing and recognizing my voice right now. God gave us ears on our head to be able to hear and discern different sounds. He gave us a mind to interpret and understand what is heard. He gave us a creative imagination used to internally challenge and reason in order to grow our understanding.
Hearing God is just as much a matter of our heart as it is our hearing or other five physical senses. There is good reason that the first of God’s two essential commands is to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. A divided heart will prove to be a hinderance of whether we really want to hear God’s voice or not.
…“The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet (chapter 6):
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
Sure, God uses our five physical senses to speak to us, but we primarily hear God through the ears and eyes of our heart. God is speaking, but do we really want and desire to hear what He has to say?
Samuel heard the voice of God, but didn’t recognize who it was. It wasn’t until he responded, “Speak for your servant is listening.” that God stood beside him and conversed with him. Samuel first needed to want to hear what God had to say.
Before getting too theoretical where we are supposed to be practical, consider this situation that helps to explain this truth. We often view our Heavenly Father through the eyes and ears of our hearts formed by our experiences with our earthly fathers. We tend to transfer over that same relationship with our earthly fathers to God our Heavenly Father.
Ever make a dumb decision and had to confess it to your dad? You probably knew exactly what he was going to say. However, deep down, you knew what he was going to say was true and for your own good. You just didn’t exactly want to hear it, your heart was a little hardened about it. Maybe you had an experience like this?
* Duck Dynasty – Jase forgetting plug in boat video *
Right? Sometimes, we don’t draw near to God because we assume that we already know what He’s going to say and we don’t want to hear it! We think He’s just going to remind us how we’ve messed up and why. However, He just might have a better word for us and may not just be waiting to give us the, “I told you so!” speech!
The first step in hearing God’s voice, before any other practical thing, is to come before God with a sincere heart that truly does want to hear what God has to say. We don’t have to worry about anything we’ve done wrong, we go to our Heavenly Father and He will forgive us completely.
Yes, sin separates us from God, but only if we hold onto it instead of confessing it and allowing Him to forgive us of it. He doesn’t want anything hindering our relationship with Him and Jesus has already done everything necessary to take care of any such thing.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Jesus made a way and the only thing in that way is our will. If we humble ourselves and allow Jesus to be our savior, we can draw near to God, right into His face-to-face presence. We do so with a sincere heart through faith.
OK, now on to the practical. We look back to the example of young Samuel found in chapter 3. His life was lived in an atmosphere of worship and he simply lay before the ark of God in His presence. It was there and then that God spoke to him; though His voice had not been heard for quite some time. Here are some simple tips for hearing God’s voice:
– Set apart a place and time away from distractions – an altar.
This could be a room in your home, here at the church, your car on the ride home, a stroll through the woods, soaking in the tub – anywhere that distractions are minimal for you personally.
Jesus would wake up early and even leave behind crowds of people for this very purpose, just to get alone with His Heavenly Father. It was through that relationship that He found acceptance, assurance, direction, strength, success, and wisdom in the midst of strong temptation, weaknesses, and opposition.
This is a way to show God our sincerity, eagerness, and willingness to hear His voice. It’s sort of like turning off the game while your wife is speaking with you to show to her that she has your undivided attention and that you care about what she is sharing with you.
– Create an atmosphere of worship.
This doesn’t have to be music, that is only one expression of worship. True and proper worship is simply humbling ourselves and exalting God. It is a lifestyle with countless ways of expression. At your altar, simply give Him thanks and praise Him.
During this time, try not to focus on yourself, but on Him. Focus on who He is and what He has done for you. It’s so easy to cry out with all of our needs and wants and concerns and to make this time about us. It isn’t that God doesn’t care about all of these things, but save them for another time of prayer. During this purposed time, we come to build relationship and listen, not to make requests and get what we need.
– Lay still in the presence of God.
In our culture, taking time to be quiet and still is not valued and presents a huge challenge for us. During this time, let your words be few and your listening be large. Be still and know that He is God.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
In fact, as difficult as it is, I’ll choose not to go on and on about this point either as an illustration of it. 🙂
– Listen for His voice.
You are His sheep and you hear His voice. Jesus doesn’t lie! God is speaking, we simply need to learn how to discern and recognize it. For myself, I all too often discounted God’s voice as my own imagination and thoughts. When I would get a vision or have a thought, I didn’t consider that this was the voice of God and not just my own self.
God has chosen to fill us with His Holy Spirit. His voice beckons us from within and not from without. Sure, God can speak to us externally as He did with Samuel, but He most often speaks to us from within. His voice most often comes in the form of an impression or gut feeling.
You may even observe something in the natural world with your five natural senses, but God uses it to give you a deeper revelation. As Jeremiah was beginning his prophetic ministry, he had this conversation with God.
11 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.
12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”
“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”
14 The Lord said to me…
You might pass the same tree that you’ve passed a thousand times before on your routine commute, but God will use it to speak something to you. It’ll be as if though you are seeing it for the first time and you’ll probably never look at it the same again. It would sort of be like the encounter that Moses had with God at the burning bush.
Consider recording in some way what you hear. Record it even if you think it is your own thoughts and not really God’s voice. Recording what God speaks to us shows that we value it and expect to hear from Him. It also helps us to see patterns discerning what was our own thoughts and what was the voice of God. It helps us to test and prove what we’ve heard.
God will often speak to us about the future. It’s been amazing for me personally to look back through my journal and see how God had spoke to me years ago about something that I am going through right now. It didn’t really make sense then, but it gives direction and understanding now. Those times build your faith and confidence in hearing God’s voice and following Him.
If you do these things, but don’t really hear anything, don’t be discouraged! Continue on through your day and set apart another place and time. Eagerly look forward to that time and allow your faith and hope to grow.
After all, these won’t be false hopes because they are hope in the promise of Jesus from the written word. You are His sheep and you will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.
As you hear God’s voice in this distraction-free environment, you’ll also begin to recognize and hear God’s voice all throughout your day. You’re prayer life will be transformed from a time of asking favors of God to an ongoing, life-long conversation with God. You will find yourself truly living life together with God – more than a co-laborer, a best friend.