The Process of the Build
When I first started in the ministry, no one told me about an interesting phenomena that occurs in this vocational calling. It is the truth of unfinished work. When you work with people, you always have to surrender to the fact that it is Jesus who finishes the work in them and not you. More specifically, "He (not you) who began a good work in you shall complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
What that ends up doing is teaching you to look elsewhere to find that sense of completion. I did a few construction projects, in which I actually got to build things. Normally, I was asked to get coffee and put my toys (tools) away for safety reasons. But on these rare occasions where I could swing a hammer, the most satisfying thing was to walk away and there was a wall there: finished with nothing left to do. You may have no idea how profoundly satisfying that can be at times.
Another thing that construction taught me was the importance of the order of the build. There are things that if you do them later, you will not be able to complete what you want. Simply put, painters are not needed until the wall is finished, you don't lay electrical until the frame is up, and, you can't put up walls unless there is a foundation laid.
Learning to hear God's voice is really no different. It follows a building pattern that is based on principles that liberate and do not constrict. I'd like us to look at a few so we can fully cooperate with the One who has begun a good work in us, and who will complete it.
Know that He wants you to hear His voice.
John 10:27 (NKJV)
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." It is a normal thing in the Christian life, hear me, normal to learn how to hear the voice of God.
I have been around many analytical people in my day who declare with unyielding conviction that they cannot hear the voice of God. Wonderful, Jesus loving, Bible believing people, who say that hearing His voice is beyond them. Sometimes they sink into a self exile of perceived second class Christianity. Other times they exalt the Bible beyond its primary purpose to being the only way God speaks. When that happens, the Holy Trinity is reduced to a functional confession of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Book.
Here is my point: to hear the voice of God, you must believe that He is speaking! It is that simple, faith must be exercised in everything in the walk with Jesus and this is no different. Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Faith unlocks possibilities that are ours, but await our investigation and exploration.
You can get it wrong. So how do you get it right?
Many times people are extremely hesitant in exploring this field of inheritance for fear of getting it wrong. While the fear of the Lord is very foundational, it is after all, the beginning of wisdom, there are some things where the Lord Himself invites us to partner with and learn. Hearing His voice is one of those areas. One of the most influential books out side of the Bible that shows the ups and downs of hearing the voice of the Lord was written years ago by Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM, titled with the question that all of us ask when going on this journey, "Is That Really You, God?". Learning to provide checks and balances in this process is necessary. I will provide some other resources later, but for now, here are three things to help you get started on the journey to hear His voice. You might say this is how you build it out.
Become well acquainted with the word of God!
There is no substitute for a daily time with God in reading and encountering Him in the word. Studying for knowledge is good, but if you don't have an encounter with God as a result of your study, places to apply the word, you will just become educated enough to win an argument, but not enough to walk with the Lord in daily communion. When you read the word, read it with God. Invite the Holy Spirit to open it to you. Then, as you read more and more about who God is, you learn the rhythm of how He speaks. What His voice sounds like from an objective place.
Putting the Bible into practice is the Biblical way to lay a good foundation. Take note of these scriptures:
Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
"But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
James 1:22-25 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
The Word of God will teach you what He sounds like, His resonance and how He speaks. It builds faith as you read it, yes, sometimes out loud, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God! When you are in your daily devotions, I recommend getting a Bible that is well translated and very close to a word for word translation. I will give some examples of this and why it is important in later columns.
Learn to hear God's voice for yourself, in addition to the word.
Make no mistake, every time I hear the voice of the Lord, whether in my deep consciousness, which is most of the time, or I perceive an audible voice, which has happened a couple of times in my life, I aways listen through the filter of the word. If what I am hearing is in direct contradiction to the Bible, I reject the word. Let's say I heard a voice, or had a thought that said, "Go punch the current heavyweight champion of the world", I would not do that for two reasons. First, it doesn't measure up to scripture. Jesus didn't command His disciples to go about pugilistically enforcing the gospel and secondly, I like life and punching a heavy weight champion would significantly reduce the chances of my goal of a long life span.
Learning to discern what I hear personally is a skill set in the kingdom. I take everything I think God says and place it against the plumb line of scripture. A plumb line is a weighted tool that you can use to see if a wall is straight. The plumb line of the Word of God is the right tool to see if what you are hearing is correct.
Another way to do this is to check what you are hearing with trusted, mature believers. Run the things you are hearing from someone who loves Jesus and will tell you the unvarnished truth. The Bible says in three different places in the Proverbs:
Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 15:22 (NKJV)
Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
Proverbs 24:6 (NKJV)
For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.
Allowing other people to hear what you are hearing and to run it past them is great wisdom, and a good tool to learn to hear God's voice for yourself. If you are one of the people who are called on to "listen in", then make sure you learn to "speak the truth in love" and "let your speech be seasoned with grace so as is fit for the hearer." Press in on this, does the word sound like the revelation you know in the Bible?
Learn to receive God's word through others as well.
Prophecy is one of the greatest gifts to the body of Christ. Years ago, in a revival known as the latter rain, prophesy of a personal nature was looked down on because some people in their press to democratize the gifts and the ministry of the Spirit forgot that words need to be weighed (judged) and not just taken wholesale. Prophesy is a blessing, every time when it is God. I never receive a word outright, but take it, listen or read it over in prayer before the Lord and then when it is confirmed through the Scripture, my personal history with God and trusted others agree, then I ask the Lord what to do next. Personal prophecy has been a blessing to me over the years, confirming things God has been speaking, waking me up to things I had allowed to go dormant or didn't see (almost always confirmed by two or three words from others) and encouraging, comforting and exhorting me forward. Even if the word is off, and that does happen on occasion, I have felt loved and in awe of the risk the person has taken in giving me the word.
My encouragement to you is to be open again to prophecy as part of your journey in hearing the voice of God.
You were made and born to do this. You are a child, born again and all things are becoming new, including your ability to hear Him!
As always, I welcome your questions and will try to address what I can in the near future. Please note that there is a one night only workshop, Thursday, July 29th at 6 pm, in which I will teach you to learn to read and hear from God in a daily devotional habit. The workshop is free, but you must register. You can do so here. It will be one of the greatest hour and twenty minute investments of your life!
Keep pressing in to know the Lord and to hear His voice! You will be richly rewarded!