By Andrea Johnson
If I could give my loved ones anything, it would be the desire and ability to hear God’s voice. I hate to admit it, but I was in Bible college before I really considered the fact that God might want to communicate personally with me. I had given my heart to Jesus, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and faithfully prayed and read my Bible – but I had never stopped to listen to what God might want to tell me.
Then in class one day our instructor talked about God wanting to speak to us personally. He suggested that when we pray, we take time to be still and allow God to speak back to us. I was intrigued, so that night when I was praying I did just that; I asked God to speak to me. At that time my relationship with God was similar to that of a child trying to please a parent. So as I listened, I was expecting to hear what my next step should be in my “service to God.” (That wording sounds so ridiculous to me now!)
The conversation went something like this: “God, I am listening. Please speak to me. What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go?”
I had heard stories of God calling people to specific places, so I asked, “Do you want me to go to Africa?” (Growing up I was intrigued by missionary films, and Africa seemed like the place that would require the most “sacrifice.” I thought likely I would be serving at an orphanage there.)
Instead, the words that came to my mind caught me totally off guard: “I love you, Andrea.”
I replied, “Yes, I know that.” (As a small child, I had sung “Jesus Loves Me” many times.) “But what do you want me to do?”
Again, the same words came to mind: “I love you, Andrea.”
And again, I replied, “Yes, I know. What do you want me to do?”
At least a third time I heard, “Andrea, I love you,” and my life was changed.
God did not “need” anything from me, and although I had known in my head that He loved me, He was telling my heart. Have you ever had that experience, that of someone loving you with no strings attached?
I would need that assurance later in my life when the person I had counted on most to love me chose not to, when I realized that I was not going to be able to do the things I had planned to do “for the Lord.” Gone was my ambition of helping orphans; at that point I couldn’t afford to feed my own kids.
But do you know what? Even though I could not earn God’s love, He loved me anyway. And He had assured me of that fact years before when I was in Bible college.
Since that time, I make it a priority to listen for God’s voice. And yet, like a child learning to communicate with her family, learning to hear God’s voice is a process that takes some time, and sometimes we don’t interpret His words correctly at first. That does not mean He stops speaking; nor should we stop listening.
Throughout history God has chosen to communicate with us. In Old Testament times, people relied on the prophets to hear from Him. Then God sent Jesus to be His Word incarnate, His Word in flesh and blood (John 1:1). When Jesus returned to heaven, God chose to speak to people directly through His Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11-15). As we allow ourselves to be filled with His Spirit, we can learn how to hear His voice.
He speaks to me sometimes as a thought that comes to my mind that I know is from Him because the message is not anything I would come up with on my own, like when He told me He loved me. He speaks to me through the Bible. When I read the Scripture, I journal so I can record what He is saying. He also speaks to me through things other people such as a pastor or trusted friend may say that sticks with me.
We can ask these questions to make sure the words we are hearing are from God:
- Does the message line up with God’s written Word, the Bible? He will never contradict Himself. Is the message consistent with God’s character?
- Is the message persistent or more of a fleeting thought? I have all kinds of “good ideas” when I lay my head on my pillow at night. Most of those ideas are not from God, and most are not all that great! God will not be silenced quickly if we are listening with a heart ready to obey.
- Have I received a confirmation about the message? Often God will confirm His words through a trusted Christian friend or a passage of Scripture or some other sign that seems to “jump out” at you.
- Does the message bring you closer to God and to others or does it cause unnecessary division?
God speaks to us for a variety of reasons. During my college years it was to reassure me of His love for me. He has also offered me wisdom regarding direction in my life, lovingly corrected me, given me encouragement for someone else, shown me how to pray, revealed part of His character, and much more.
Today everyone has a message they want us to hear. Yet only One loves us so much that He gave His life for us so we could be together for eternity. His voice is the voice I do not want to miss.
About the Author
Andrea Johnson, a credentialed Open Bible minister, is the managing editor of the Message of the Open Bible. A graduate of Open Bible College with a major in theology/missions, she has edited and co-edited several books, including Servants of the Spirit: Portraits of Pentecostal Pioneers, We Believe: Core Truths for Christian Living, and We Believe for Kids! Her goal is to reveal Christ to those who are searching for Him. In her spare time you will most likely find Andrea enjoying time with family and friends or hiking. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with four children, three of whom are married, and eight grandchildren.