For the next little while, I am going to be re-releasing some old teaching posts on hearing God’s voice. I say “re-releasing” and not “reposting” because I am not simply slapping an old post up here. I am updating the posts, making them even better and more relevant than they were the first time around. As if that is even possible.
Sort of like when a musician releases a “Best Of” album. Number one hits, only this time, in the acoustic version. Where the artist is more comfortable in his skin and strips the song down to its real beauty: a voice and an instrument. And sometimes a live audience where an overly anxious fan screams “FREE BIRD!”
If this is your second time around on this material, feel free to scream out requests. If you are new to this material, you may want to pull out your Bible, a journal and a pen. We’re gonna get busy.
Almost three years ago now, my little family traveled down to Guatemala to meet and bring home our daughter. Elliana, our then 13-month old daughter, lived in a Spanish-speaking foster home, in a Spanish-speaking city in a Spanish-speaking country her entire short life. That is, until her lovely Spanish-speaking foster mother placed her in my arms in the lobby of the Spanish-speaking Westin.
I cannot speak Spanish…at all. I’m a blond Polish Yankee from northwest Ohio. I used to joke with people when we were in the adoption process that the only Spanish words I knew were “taco” and “burrito.” Pretty much the content of the Taco Bell menu. Which proved to be rather helpful when we discovered her foster mother affectionately dubbed Elliana “Gordita.” True story.
You’ll be happy to know, I have since learned other Spanish words. Like margarita and mojito. And I attend Spanish classes every day. My instructor, Dora the Explorer, couldn’t be more proud of my progress.
But back in pre-adoption days, I used to think, Poor Elliana, She’s not going to understand a word her mother is saying to her.
I was right. The first day or two in Guatemala were pretty pitiful, as far as communication goes. On day-one, the cleaning lady and I stood at the threshold of my hotel room just staring at each other with apologetically furrowed brows, shaking our heads as if to say, “What do you want with me?”
I didn’t know how to ask room service to bring me warm milk. I didn’t know how to say, “No ice, please.” “Which way to the grocery store?” “Is there beef in this?” “How do I get to the hotel gym?” “Is there a pizza place around here?”
Clearly, life or death issues.
The good news is that we spent seven days in Guatemala. We walked the streets of the city. We mingled with the people. We ate at the restaurants. We shopped in the markets. We soaked up the culture. Thankfully, we also met some amazing new friends, who were, glory-be-to-God, bilingual. Suddenly, I became a little Spanish-speaking sponge. Not only so I could navigate my way around the city, but mainly so I could communicate with this little person who instantly became my daughter.
“How do you say, ‘I’m sorry’?”
“Can you tell her that I love her?”
“How do I tell her she is beautiful?”
Because I had been listening to others fluent in the language while they communicated with each other and with us, I started recognizing certain words and phrases. I wasn’t anywhere near fluent by the end of the week, but I was surprised by how quickly I was picking it up…
…And how quickly I lost it when we got back to the states! How sad. After only two months of no practice, I had already forgotten almost everything I learned.
The Bible is God’s language. His native tongue. In the Old Testament alone, the writers explicitly state 3,808 times that they are conveying God’s words. You will have a very, very difficult time hearing God’s voice if you don’t familiarize yourself with His language.
The more you read, hear, speak, write, memorize, study, seek to understand, teach and sing God’s word, the more you will discern His voice when He speaks to you.
Maybe you don’t see your need to hear God’s voice. I get that. Before going to Guatemala, I had no need for Spanish, what with all the English I had under my belt. I had encountered many people in my life who spoke Spanish—sometimes even in my presence—but I paid no attention. I didn’t even hear it most of the time.
When I got to Guatemala, however, I realized I needed Spanish for pretty much everything. English was useless. Grunts and hand signals will only take you so far. Just ask the cleaning lady at the Westin.
God has been speaking to you your entire life. Maybe you haven’t heard it. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention. Or maybe you just don’t think you need it.
But you do.
God is constantly trying to lead you in paths of righteousness. He is always trying to show you the way to escape from temptation. He is always trying to equip you to do the job He has created you to do for His kingdom.
But if you aren’t familiar with His language, you may not realize He is speaking. And if you do hear Him, you will have no basis upon which to judge the validity of what you heard over the other voices.
The most important thing you must know about hearing God is this: God will never, ever, ever (ever!) lead you in a direction that is contrary to His written word–the Bible.
I’ve heard it said that about 95 percent of what God speaks, He does so through His word. I’m curious about the mathematical formula used to determine this, but I gotta say, my personal experience is consistent with that percentage. It isn’t always when I have my Bible cracked open, literally reading it (though He speaks to me frequently that way, too), but it is also when
• He prompts a friend to share a scripture with me and it’s exactly the encouragement I need
• He leads my pastor to preach on a certain passage and it confirms something I thought God said to me earlier in the week
• I hear a scripture-filled song and it cuts through my heart, mending an old wound
• I’m struggling with a temptation to sin and He brings up from my own memory a scripture I had read days, weeks or years prior, getting me over the temptation hump
• I’m reading a book or a blog and the author shares some insight on a passage which reveals an area of my heart that must change in order for me to become more like Christ
• A friend asks me for some wisdom about a personal situation and as she speaks, God reminds me of a passage I read to directly address the situation
That’s how it works. If we aren’t continually exposing ourselves to God’s language, meandering in His culture, mingling with His people, asking questions, repeating and using what we are learning, it will be like me and Spanish…we’ll just lose it.
So to answer the question “What does God’s voice sound like?” I’d have to say that His voice sounds exactly like His word.
For Re-Release: Does God Still Speak To Us Today? Click HERE