Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
This podcast is all about caring for the hurting soul, whether you are caring for your own soul or caring for another who is hurting. And so many times, that means we are bringing our cares and burdens and questions before the Lord, asking for His guidance and wisdom in what we are to do.
And so last week, we started a series all about posturing our hearts to hear from God. Specifically, we talked about the first R—ready—and how we can get both our physical space and our inner space, our hearts, ready to meet with God. In essence, we are preparing ourselves to hear from Him, especially in those moments when we are trying to discern a specific question or issue.
Remember, these heart postures can help us be mindful of things that might be getting in the way of hearing from God, and also help us take a more proactive and intentional approach to hear from Him.
So last week we talked about getting ready, and today, we are going to talk about the second heart posture: recognize.
Recognize is all about learning how to recognize God’s voice and movement in our lives. And it’s a heart posture because it’s about slowing down and paying attention to what God is doing and saying.
And this is probably one of the things that people question themselves on the most. How do I know this is God speaking to me? How do I know it’s not just coincidence or someone else influencing me? How do I know it’s not just my own thoughts and feelings? Or even the enemy?
If this is something you struggle with, I want to encourage you: you can know God’s voice. You can!
In John chapter 10, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd and says that His sheep follow Him because they hear His voice, they know His voice, they listen to His voice. If you believe in Christ, He is your Good Shepherd, and He will teach you what His voice sounds like. Do you believe that?
And think about this, Jesus also said that sheep “won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:5 NLT). And isn’t that true? If you hear a strange voice talking to you, how likely are you to trust it? But if you know the voice, if you recognize it as being someone you love and trust, then of course you’re going to be willing to do what it says or to listen to what it has to say.
Let’s make this a practical example. You get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize and the person on the other end of the phone says they are your spouse, that they got in a car accident, and that they lost their phone, so they are calling you from someone else’s, and they need you to come and pick them up.
What do you do if you don’t recognize the voice? If it sounds strange to you? You’re going to hang up and ignore it!
But what if you recognize it as being your spouse’s voice? If the tone, the language, the rate at which they speak are all familiar to you and resonate with you? Then you’re going to listen to them and find out where they are so you can go pick them up, right?
It’s like that with God. Once we learn to recognize His voice and presence in our lives, we will yearn to hear what He has to say and listen to Him!
So how do we do this? How do we learn to recognize His voice?
Today, I want to offer you a practical exercise as well as some basic principles to keep in mind as you allow God to teach you what His voice sounds like.
A Practical Exercise
First, the practical exercise. Here’s something you can do that will help you start to discern whether something is from God or not. This is what I want you to do:
Get out a piece of paper and write down all the times you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you heard from God or experienced His presence. Start out by listing them as bullet points or something, and then once you can’t think of any more, go back and write as much as you can remember about each experience.
Where were you? What was going on? What did God say to you? How did He come to you—was it through a dream, a sermon, a song, Scripture, another person? Write down the date and anything that stands out to you about each experience.
You can also write down answers to prayer or times when you have felt especially close to God, like you could feel Him transforming you into a new person.
Then go back and review those. How has God typically revealed Himself to you in the past? That will give you some indication of how He might reveal Himself to you again today.
And that’s another part of recognizing God’s voice and movement in your life. What does God’s voice sound like?
Here is where I want to walk you through a few basic principles to keep in mind as you are discerning God’s voice and movement in your life.
God’s voice can sound different to different people or at different times
First, God’s voice can sound different to different people or at different times.
I’m sure you’ve heard that God speaks in a gentle, quiet whisper… and that’s true. But it’s also true that when He speaks, it can sound like thunder.
For example, there are several spots in the book of Psalms and in Job and even in Revelation where God’s voice is described as being thunderous.
And in John chapter 12, Jesus is speaking to a crowd and then a voice speaks from heaven. And then verse 29 says, “When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.”
So God’s voice can sound like a gentle whisper, yes, but it can also sound like thunder.
Just like sometimes you speak with a softer voice and sometimes you speak with a louder voice, right? It’s still you speaking. So learning to recognize God’s voice, in both the loud and quiet moments, or in the in-between moments, is important. And of course, these don’t necessarily have to be audible words, but something we sense in our souls.
God can speak through different methods
So first, God’s voice can sound different at different times, and second, God can speak through different methods.
And isn’t that a blessing? Because we all like to communicate differently, don’t we? Some like to write, some like to have face-to-face conversations, some like to communicate more through music or art…
If you go through the practical exercise I just described, where you are identifying ways God has spoken to you in the past, you’ll likely have listed several methods of communication: something a friend said, a song on the radio, a sacred nudging in your spirit… Many of the women I work with hear from God as they write and journal.
So know that God can communicate through different methods, but there are other attributes to His voice that can help you distinguish Him from others.
Know God’s voice by being familiar with His Word
The more you read God’s Word, the more familiar you will be with His voice and the way He reveals Himself to His people. And that’s our third principle.
The Bible is one of the clearest revelations we have of God.
According to an essay on The Gospel Coalition website, “Scripture is the written form of special revelation, providing God’s people with an enduring witness to the work of God in Christ.”
The Bible is living and active, it is inspired by God Himself, and God uses it to speak to us. He has gifted it to us as a way to know Him.
Do you believe that?
Spend time in His Word. You won’t always walk away with a huge revelation about Him or even an answer to your question, but over time, you’ll learn to recognize who He is and what He sounds like and how He interacts with His people, especially over the whole of the Bible. God is kind, yes, but He is also holy and just. How do those things go together? As you read throughout the Scriptures, you’ll be able to know God more deeply than just one or two facets of His character.
Know God’s voice by the content of the message
So know that God’s voice can sound different, that He can communicate through different methods, and that you can become more familiar with His voice by reading His Word.
Fourth, you can know God’s voice by the content of His message. And I’ll simply summarize it here:
- God will not contradict what He says in Scripture.
- God brings clarity, not confusion (even though He may not share all the details).
- God brings peace, not fear or anxiety.
- God brings life, not death or destruction.
- God convicts, not condemns.
- God shares truths, not lies.
As you start to recognize God’s voice, you can take what you are hearing and test it by these things. And if what you hear is confusing or causes you to be afraid, you know that’s not from Him. It’s not.
Recognizing God’s Invitations
Okay, one more thing before we end today. This second posture, recognizing God’s voice and movement in our lives, is all about paying attention to God’s presence and listening for His voice, His answers to our questions.
My clients and I talk a lot about recognizing God’s invitations to us. What is His invitation to you in this season, or even in this very moment?
So, for example, in your season of loss, is He inviting you to take the time you need to grieve? Or is He inviting you to celebrate? To trust? To surrender?
In your season of loneliness, is He inviting you to draw nearer to Him? Or to reach out to someone else? Or to grieve the loss of friendships from the past?
In your season of burden and overwhelm, is He inviting you to persevere? Or to let go of something? Or to rest?
What is His invitation to you today, right now, after hearing this episode? What are you sensing from Him? Go ahead and write it down. Test it out. See what He has to say to you.
As you learn to recognize His presence and movement in your life, I encourage you to be listening for His invitation to you. And that will help you as you step into the third heart posture: receive. We’ll talk about that one next week.
Okay, that is all for today, my friends. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
QUOTES, RESOURCES, + BIBLE VERSES:
- John 10:1-16: The Good Shepherd and His Sheep
- “When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.” (John 12:29 NLT)
- “Scripture is the written form of special revelation, providing God’s people with an enduring witness to the work of God in Christ.” (The Gospel Coalition)
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.