How do we get better at hearing God’s voice? The answer doesn’t lie in a formula or a set of rules: “Follow these 3 steps, take time out or spend 15 minutes with God each day.”
Hearing God’s voice happens in the context of relationship, so if we want to get better at it, it’s the state of our relationship that becomes the focus. This week on God Conversations with Tania Harris we’re talking about how to get better at hearing God’s voice. It’s one of the most important questions to ask because it lies at the heart of knowing God.
We’ll get better at hearing God’s voice by applying the same principles that we use to grow communication in our human relationships. In the podcast, we look at three different principles that apply:
1. Make a commitment to improve your communication
Learning to hear God’s voice is a process that develops with time and practise. We learn to recognise his voice.
The prophet Samuel was a man who knew how to hear God’s voice. He was the expert. The Bible says of him that not one of his words fell to the ground – they all came to pass (1 Samuel 3:19). In fact Samuel became the prototype for all prophets to come. But he wasn’t always as good as hearing God’s voice. The first time he heard it, he thought it his mentor calling. He heard the voice three times and still he didn’t get it right! (1 Samuel 3:1-15).
Back in the first century, it wasn’t normal for men and women to be friends. They didn’t meet for coffee in morning tea breaks or discuss current affairs over the water-cooler. They didn’t sit next to each other in the synagogues and swap ideas about their theology. They certainly didn’t discuss their spiritual lives by the village well.
That’s why the actions and behaviours of Jesus with the Samaritan woman were so radical. Even his disciples couldn’t fathom his socialising with a woman, let alone one with such a scandalous reputation (John 4:27). Somehow Jesus managed to interact with the opposite sex in a healthy way, even being alone with them in a public setting.
Jesus shows us that it is possible to engage meaningfully with our female and male counterparts. In the radically new equality of the kingdom he inaugurated, it’s not surprising. It’s when men and women relate together that they are seen to fully represent the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28).
The question is how.
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What does prophecy look like in the contemporary church? How do we handle the fact that we can get it wrong when we try to hear from God? And what could God possibly be saying to someone when he gives her a vision of a yellow peacock? In this episode of God Conversations with Tania Harris, I’m excited to be talking to Professor Mark Cartledge, a British scholar who pioneered in the field of practical theology by looking at how contemporary prophecy functions in the Church of England.
What I love about Mark is not only is he a very smart man, but he is also a practitioner who has been involved in local church life for over 25 years. He’s a worship leader and preacher as well as a theologian and a lecturer. It’s a winning combination!
In this podcast we talk about:
- How God knows our passwords – God speaks through the preached Scriptures but he also speaks specifically into the details of our lives.
- What Mark discovered in his pioneering research and how common it was for followers of Jesus to just “know things” they wouldn’t ordinarily know
- The need for humility in our God Conversations. How there should be a general reticence towards using the words: “God said” and more commonly preferring the words; “I believe the Lord is saying this.”
How do we know the will of God for our lives? It’s a question that is often hotly debated with one side emphasising the need for God’s direct guidance for our decisions and the other emphasising human free will (Listen to: Is God’s will a Narrow Path or a 6-Lane Freeway?).
In this podcast, John Peachey from the Mornings show at Rhema New Zealand and I take a different tack. We explore this commonly asked question by drawing on the story told in Jessica Kelley’s book Lord Willing. Against the backdrop of her dying 4 year old son’s battle with brain cancer, Jessica challenges the popular idea that God has some sort of master plan where he ordains and controls every decision. In this view, God’s plan did not include her son Henry’s cancer, nor did he even “allow” it. As Jessica so vividly communicates, Jesus came to give abundant life, not to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), so he could never be to blame for her son’s tragic death. God’s sovereignty does not mean he is a controlling micro-manager (Read: What We Mean When we Say God is in Control?), nor he is never to blame for the evil in the world.
Jessica’s conclusions about the nature of God’s sovereignty, the presence of evil and the dynamic of human autonomy help us to better understand how to navigate God’s will in our own lives. If we believe in the so-called ‘blueprint view’, God will always get the blame, ‘everything happens for a reason’ and there is little room for free will. In this way of thinking, we will be paralysed until we hear God’s voice and we will approach decisions with a fear of getting it wrong. But if we understand our world to be a powerful interplay of God’s intervention with the fallenness of humanity, we can be better equipped to navigate the ‘will of God’ in our lives.
One of the most difficult times to hear God’s voice is when we’re in the throes of making a big decision. Shall I take this job, will I marry this person, or will we have children? Each of these decisions have life-changing consequences; they tug at our heartstrings and our emotions are deeply invested in the outcomes. That makes hearing God in these areas particularly fraught with difficulty – to the point where some say you shouldn’t even try to hear from God for them.
We’ve already looked at hearing God’s voice for marriage in episode 29 when we discussed some wisdom for hearing God’s voice for Mr and Mrs Right. But today we’re talking with someone who has heard God speak about two other highly sensitive areas: career and children.
Ps. Lisa Woods is the Senior pastor of Wheatland District Church in north West Victoria, along with her husband Dion. She has worked as a youth pastor, school chaplain in the local secondary school and local member of Yarriambiack Shire council, the youngest councillor to be elected to this position. She is an extraordinary woman of vision and passion who inspires all those around her to flourish. Today she is talking with us about hearing God speak about a job and a baby. I know you will enjoy her and learn from her story!