the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God
We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. This week we’ll continue our conversation on how we hear the voice of God.
Last week, we looked at four ways God speaks. Here’s a recap:
- God speaks to us through creation (Ps. 19:1).
- God speaks to us through our conscience (Rom. 2:15).
- God speaks to us through Jesus (Heb. 1:1–2).
- God speaks to us through His Word (Heb. 4:12).
Here are four more ways we can hear the voice of God.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us.
Acts 8:27–29 records Philip hearing from God:
And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot."
Something similar happened to Peter in Acts 10:19–21:
And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?"
In both cases, the Spirit gave very specific instructions.
Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit takes some practice.
The Holy Spirit still speaks in this way. When you’re sitting in math class and you feel a sudden compulsion to go and talk to that lonely girl in the corner, that is likely the Holy Spirit telling you how God wants you to minister in that moment. When you’re in the middle of a fight with your mom and something inside you tells you to stop yelling and get quiet, it’s possible the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do what God has written in His Word by honoring her.
Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit takes some practice. But once we learn the voice of the Holy Spirit, we are wise to follow the lead of Philip and Peter in the stories above and immediately obey.
We’ll talk more about the job of the Holy Spirit in next week’s Theology Thursday post.
God speaks to us through the Church.
In Acts 13:1–3, Paul and Barnabas receive specific instructions for missions work from the Holy Spirit, but pay close attention to who confirms the calling:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Paul and Barnabas were in a church service, worshiping and seeking the Lord with other believers, when the Holy Spirit spoke clearly. They obeyed, but first they prayed with the other believers in the room and were sent out with their blessing.
God often uses other Christians to confirm what God is saying to us. There is wise accountability in surrounding yourself with other believers who can help you discern God’s voice.
God speaks to us through visions and dreams.
There are many occasions in the Bible where God speaks to people through visions and dreams. Here are just a few examples:
- Daniel recorded his visions in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.
- Abimelech was visited by God in a dream in Genesis 20 after sinning.
- Isaiah had a vision of God in heaven, which he recorded in the book of Isaiah.
- Joseph (the shepherd with the fancy coat) received a prophecy about what was going to happen to his people through a dream in Genesis 37.
- Joseph (Jesus’ stepdad) had a dream in which an angel told him to take Mary as his wife in Matthew 1. Matthew 2:13 records “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.’”
Since Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change, we can know that He is still capable of speaking to people through dreams and visions.
Joel 2:28 says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
Job 33:14–16 confirms that dreams are one way that God speaks to His people:
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings.
While hearing from God in dreams and visions has never been the norm, there is clear evidence that this is one way He chooses to speak to His people.
God speaks out loud.
God doesn’t need to speak out loud to us; He has written so much down for us in His Word.
It is possible for God to speak out loud to us, but it’s rare.
I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve thought it, too!). I wish God would give me a vision of heaven! I wish I could hear God speak out loud. I think we all have a tendency to want to have a conversation with God like we do with our best friend. But God doesn’t need to speak out loud to us; He has written so much down for us in His Word. Instead of waiting for some mystical experience in which God speaks, we can read His thoughts over and over in our Bibles.
Here are some great thoughts by John Piper on this, written after he had a dramatic encounter with the voice of God.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to guess about who God is or how He wants you to live. He has proven over and over that He is ready and willing to speak to us. We can hear from Him every single day through His Word.
How about you? How have you heard God speak?
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