Listen Up

She glanced in his direction, but her eyes slid easily over his form and moved away to someone else. Through the course of the evening, she conversed with every single person… except him. She laughed at their jokes, offered warm encouragement, and posed thoughtful questions to all the guests but one.

Have you ever been given the cold shoulder, punished with wordlessness? It’s not a happy feeling. I used to think God was silent. Now I know better. He has a voice, and He loves using it.

Scripture could easily be considered the long history of divine communication. Between verbally unleashing the cosmos in the first chapter and issuing a call for His people to come enjoy Him in the last, God instigates, urges, warns, sings, woos, instructs, comforts, confronts, interrogates, explains, converses, declares, invites, and engages. This is no voiceless King.

So, yeah, let’s assume He speaks—and more incredibly, that He longs to speak to us! Now what?

Now we get southern and hush our mouths. Job puts it beautifully: when faced with the overwhelming power and person of God in one of the most revealing monologues to ever issue from heaven, this broken man cries, “I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4).

When is the last time you quieted all the internal and external static around you, providing the Lord some whitespace to interrupt your stinking schedule? (I’m looking at you, self.) With all of the distractions I can come up with, my soul needs time to sit humbly before the Lord and listen. Of course He can communicate in the midst of my rush, but wouldn’t I prefer a civil discussion to a spiritual 2 x 4 upside the head? Indeed I would.

As I create intentional space to encounter the Lord, I need to remember what to listen for. How can I be sure it’s God, rather than my own imagination (or the enemy) responding? Here are some truths we teach our church in the area of discernment:

  • His voice never contradicts the Bible. If all Scripture is breathed out by God, and God never changes, we can rely on consistent principles.
  • His voice isn’t pushy.
  • His voice is usually not loud. While He could thunder, He’s most often gentle.
  • His voice is persistent. The Lord never gives up on His people and is found over and over again pursuing them.
  • His voice is specific. It probably won’t offer you a whole plan from A to Z, but it should be clear what He’s asking you to do next.
  • His voice brings peace, not confusion. The enemy loves chaotic thoughts; these are not of God.
  • His voice brings glory to Himself. If you’re being prompted to make yourself famous, consider it a red flag.
  • His voice might bring conviction, but it never shames. (Conviction: “You did bad.” Shame: “You are bad.”)
  • His voice often comes from within. Don’t confuse this with a conscience, part of your own mind. The Holy Spirit does not speak with words like we do. He speaks in prodding, direction, peace, etc. Missionary E. Stanley Jones says, “Perhaps the rough distinction is this: the voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks, and it is self-authenticating. It has the feel of the voice of God within it.”*

Given the fact that we have a passionate Father who yearns for us to know Him, how could we not settle our hearts and open our ears? His love song for us is set on repeat. We just have to listen up.

*E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents.

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