Hearing from God should be an expectation of every believer. In John 1:1, Jesus is described as “the Word.” If we know Jesus – and knowing Him is essential to being a believer – then we should expect to hear from Him. How do we hear from Him? Simply through the Word.
Jesus is the Word made flesh. Hebrews tells us that God has spoken (the Word, again!) through Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). If Jesus is the Word – and He is – and if the Bible is the Word – and it is – then hearing from God comes down to knowing the Word and knowing Jesus through the Word.
How to Hear from God
If you want to hear from God, you must come to Him expecting Him to speak. Throughout Scripture we find that God spoke through priests, through prophets, through a burning bush, through handwriting on a wall, in dreams, in visions, in an audible voice, through wise counselors, through angels, through the Angel of the Lord, and even through a donkey. If there is one thing the Scriptures make abundantly clear, it is that God speaks.
He has spoken in the past. He still speaks now. But I can almost guarantee you that you won’t hear from Him if you don’t believe that He speaks. You must expect to hear from Him. He wants to communicate His wisdom, His love, and His way to you. If you doubt that He will speak to you, then you won’t be able to hear Him, or you won’t be listening, or you’ll dismiss what you hear as your own thoughts or ideas. You must believe He speaks.
Second, if you truly believe He speaks, you must accept that the primary way He speaks is through His Word. If you aren’t in His Word, you aren’t expecting Him to speak to you. If you aren’t in His Word, you aren’t positioning yourself to hear what He has to say. If His Word is not in you (memorized), then He cannot bring it to mind when you most need it.
When you choose not to be in the Word, you are choosing not to hear from God.
Finally, to hear from God you must be ready to accept what He says. Hearing from God means acting on what He says. You must be ready to respond to whatever guidance, direction, wisdom, encouragement, or admonition He speaks. Convicted about prayerlessness? That’s probably God speaking to you. Your response should be to eliminate some social media time in order to free up time for prayer (or something similar). Have a nudge about spending more time with your children and less on Netflix? Probably God – what will you do? Reading through Psalm 51 and tears flow? Probably God telling you to accept and give forgiveness. He can enable you to do it – but you must choose His help.
Whatever, whenever, however you hear from God, you must be willing and ready to respond in action. Jesus never just speaks to us without purpose. It may be that your response will need to be practical, spiritual, emotional, financial, or sacrificial. It may be that you will need some wise counselors to help you implement what God says. It may be that your response will be just between you and Jesus. It may involve you family, friends, or church. Your response could take dozens of forms – the important thing is to be willing to respond.
If You’ve Never Heard from God
First, and most importantly, be sure of your own salvation. God can speak to unbelievers even though it is rare. But it is normal for Him to speak to His children. If you are His child, you should hear from Him. Remember, the hearing will usually be through the written Word – but God has used (in my life) songs, books, sermons, and friends to speak to me. However, those words were never contradictory to the Bible, and I always returned to the Bible to confirm what I was hearing. It is necessary to make sure our ‘words from God’ don’t contradict the Word of God.
Second, ask yourself if you are in the Word regularly. By ‘regularly’ I mean striving for daily times in the Word. Nobody is perfect in this, but it should be your goal – and mine – to be meeting the Father daily in the Word. Also, by ‘in the Word’ I don’t mean in a devotional. I mean opening the Bible you own and reading directly in it. Maybe you start with a devotional, but then you open your Bible to read the passage(s) referenced in the book. It could be best, however, to map out a reading plan that doesn’t involve using a devotional.
For example, determine to read the book of Philippians (only 4 chapters) in bits and pieces for a week or so. Use the paragraph divisions in your Bible, or the chapter divisions, or stop where the Lord speaks to you. However you approach this, have a ‘done by’ date that is no more than eight or nine days after you start.
While you are reading have a journal handy to write down what you hear from God. Expect to hear something! Not sure if what you’re hearing is from God or not? If it’s a Biblical principle to put into your life, you can’t go wrong! If it’s a bigger decision (changing jobs, moving, or marrying) look for principles, but be expecting more specific guidance also. It may take a while, but if you are in the Word, God will speak.
Also, ask yourself if you are truly committed to doing whatever God says. He won’t speak if you’re not serious. God doesn’t play games with commitment. He wants all of you. And that may mean some serious choices and changes in your life. But the rewards of following hard after Jesus, of doing what He directs, of living your life for Him are well worth it.
Finally, expect that there may be seasons in your life when you will hear more clearly from the Lord than at other times. There are many reasons for this. One could be that you’ve slipped in your commitment to living the Word. Another could be that you’ve let time in the Word get minimized by life’s demands. However, it could just as easily be that God is preparing you for something (think of the 400 silent years before the birth of Christ). Or that He is refining your character and tuning up your listening ears by speaking more softly.
To Sum It Up
- Expect to hear from God. If you are saved, He is your Father and He speaks. Expect it. Long for it. Beg for it in prayer. Don’t lose the sense of expectation.
- Be in the Word daily. Have a regular reading schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
- Record what you believe God is saying to you as you immerse yourself in the Word.
- Be committed to obeying whatever He says, even if it’s scary.
- Don’t give up if you don’t hear from Him immediately. It takes time to ‘tune in’ to the Spirit’s voice. And don’t give up if you experience seasons of dryness. He is working in you. He is speaking. He is there. Be in the Word and you will eventually hear from Him again.
Where to Start
Don’t know where or how to start? Here is a short reading guide to get you started.
- Day 1: Philippians 1
- Day 2: Philippians 2
- Day 3: Philippians 3
- Day 4: Philippians 4
- Day 5: Psalm 23
- Day 6: Psalm 51
- Day 7: Psalm 37
- Day 8: Psalm 1
- Day 9: Proverbs 1
- Day 10: Proverbs 2
- Day 11: Proverbs 3
- Day 12: Psalm 119:1- 40
- Day 13: Psalm 119:41 – 80
- Day 14: Psalm 119:81 – 120
- Day 15: Psalm 119:121 – 160
- Day 16: Psalm 119: 161 – 176
Don’t forget to record what you hear! Grab a journal, piece of paper, digital document, or your planner and take notes on what God says to you and what you are going to do in response. I frequently write in the margin of my Bible and date it. What a record of God’s faithfulness to me!
You can, of course, take more than one day on any of the above passages as God directs. When you finish those passages, read the Gospel of Mark, then some more psalms and proverbs. Go where God directs but have a plan.