Hearing God and Discerning His Will
(from sermon message I delivered at Inglewood Community Church on May 17th)
Today you are going to hear about “Hearing God and Discerning His Will”.
I can share with you that when I first heard someone say “God told me…” It was here at ICC. I was a new babe in Christ and I was amazed that people actually heard God speak to them. I wondered if he sounded like Charlton Heston or Alex Trebek. I thought the people claiming this must be special and to be honored if God took time to speak to them. I thought they had audible “Moses burning bush” experiences all the time in their living rooms.
I felt that I wasn’t worthy enough or special enough for God to speak to me like that. The only thing close to that was the voice I felt inside me, that led me up front here, after pastor did an altar call almost 11 years ago. I thought it’d be cool if I could just hear God’s voice like someone sitting next to me. An audible voice that I could hear clear as day.
I had to ask pastors Troy and Darlene what was really going on when people said “God told me” such and such… Because even though I was young in the faith I knew that God loved me and wouldn’t bring me this far to leave me hanging and in the dark.
So let’s continue by asking some questions:
Did you know that you can “hear” from the Lord? The answer is “Yes”, most definitely. In fact God desires it, commands it, loves to and wants to speak to you constantly. Our Christian life, our worship, is a relationship with God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; every relationship is established and maintained through communication.
(Speak on relationship examples, like marriage, friends and family and the need for good communication (speak on my relationship with Andrea))
God desires to have a relationship with us so, yes, He HAS to speak to us and we NEED to hear Him for that relationship to work.
- Do you hear from the Lord? As we go through the message today I want you to ask yourself “How has God been speaking to me? Is it a clear conversation? Am I doing what He is saying?
- Do you understand what the Lord is saying to you? In the second part of the message we’ll talk about Discerning God’s will.
- Do you know how to tell that it is the Lord speaking to you? Again, “Discerning”. We’ll see in a little bit what Jesus says in John 10:27.
- Are there different ways to hear from the Lord? “YES” I’m glad you asked!
o In the past, God has communicated in various ways, including angels, His prophets, dreams, visions, miracles, and even through a donkey that He enabled to speak! Heb 1:1-2 says “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”
o This is by no means an exhaustive list. God created communication and deeply desires to communicate with us. The ways He can do it are limitless. But here are the most common ways that God speaks to us.
- Through His Word in general.When we have a question about a certain topic or decision in our lives, we should see what the Bible has to say about it. God will never lead us contrary to what He has taught in His Word (Titus 1:2,3a “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching,”).
- Through His Son, Jesus ChristI so love the hearing and studying Jesus’ actual words in the Gospels, the Beatitudes all the parables. The parable of the Sower, the parable of the Prodigal Son. How He lovingly explained them to his disciples (and us). (Share the story of the young girl I met at ICC long ago who said she only read and paid attention to the Red letter words of Jesus in the Bible and how she didn’t trust anything else). How Jesus treated people and interacted with them “Speaks” to us, giving us guidance on how we are to interact with and treat others. Reminding me of WWJD “What would Jesus Do”. When we are seeking guidance we can look to the words and actions of our Lord to “Speak” to us on what we should do.
Jesus’ words were not written for a few, special, select individuals. John 3:16, my favorite scripture, my Rock, because it summarizes and says so much with so little. “For God so loved the world…”, the whole world, all inclusive, everyone! Someone in Inglewood, in Africa, in San Francisco, in Guatemala, and in Alabama, in “Sin City”. All can “hear” Jesus’ voice by reading the Bible, hearing the Word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Jesus says we are sheep and He as the Shepherd, He says in John 10:27, NKJV: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Why? Because the sheep know who He is. They belong to Him, and they recognize Him by the sound of His voice. And He’s the one they trust in, who will always lead them on the right path, save them from all darkness and danger, again and again.
But hear me in what I just said, to hear Him and know his voice, we must belong to Him. We belong to Him when we receive Him, believing on Him and what He did for us on the cross. When we ask Him to come into our hearts and reside there as our Lord and savior.
If Jesus is our Lord we must’ve made the decision to obey Him. Not just consider His will and Words as suggestions but we actually listen to and hear what He is saying to us and DO what He speaks to our hearts.
Speaking of our hearts, once He, His spirit is in our hearts, that leads us to the next way God speaks.
- Through His Spirit: This to me is by far the way Jesus and God the Father speak to us the most, throughout our days.
John 14:15- 26 says… “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
1 Cor 3:16 tells us Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Remember He is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. When your friends won’t or cannot talk to you, His Spirit is there. When your wife or husband isn’t speaking to you because they’ve lost patience with you, His Spirit, that loving still small voice is there.
Zechariah 4:6 tells us that God’s work is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” God not only manifests His works through, but He personally speaks to us via His Spirit.
God’s Spirit voice speaks to us through our conscience, helping to make the right decision. The dictionary defines it as con·science
“an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.”
When we’re tempted, that same Spirit warns and nudges us to do the right thing. When someone speaks to us in a distasteful way, the Spirit guides us in how to handle it in a way that glorifies God. When the decision about a job comes up He shows us if we are altering our career paths for the right reasons.
- Through Prayer- When we are in our personal prayer time we need to make sure we are having a two-way conversation with God. Not a genie in the bottle conversation, where we are just asking Him to fix our lives for us. Make sure to ask God His opinion on things. Listen quietly, awaiting His answers. Pray for others needs first and what God would have you do for others.
- Through Other Believers Why we need to surround ourselves with godly, loving Christian friends and family. Not our worldly, not like-minded
- Through His Creation See Romans chapter 1
- Other interesting ways
- Through Circumstances
- Through Music
- What to do when you hear from the Lord?Mark 4:23-25 Sums it up. Hear and follow, hear and OBEY “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
When we are not obedient we can’t expect to continue to hear clearly or at all from God. Sin separates us from God remember. Even though He has freed us from the penalty of sin, sin in our lives still has a very negative effect on our relationship with God as well as with others.
If you aren’t hearing from God,sensing his presence, you have probably grieved the Spirit. Maybe there is sin in your life that you need to repent from. True repentance. God’s tells us obedience is better than sacrifice. We may find ourselves trying to bargain with God through works when we don’t hear from Him. But it may be sin that you need to take care of.
We don’t want to hear “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)
Now let’s speak a bit on “Discerning God’s will”.
If you are even just a halfway decent studier of the Bible a lot of God’s will for your life is obvious:
Love God with all your heart, mind body and soul.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Thou shalt not kill.
Do not gossip.
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” verse 18 goes on to say “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
Gambling – The Bible does not specifically condemn gambling, betting, or the lottery. The Bible does warn us, however, to stay away from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10;Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 13:11;23:5;Ecclesiastes 5:10). Gambling most definitely is focused on the love of money and undeniably tempts people with the promise of quick and easy riches. We see and hear this clearly in the Word.
We see there are many, many, many words that God is very obvious about. Especially, “go out into all the world and make disciples”.
All these things that God speaks to us on are because He loves us. Jeremiah says ” For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
But what about the day to day things that aren’t so obvious in the Word? How do we discern God’s will then? “Call pastor Darlene!!!” (Jokingly).
No, we are capable and can become better communicators with our all-powerful, wise, loving creator. With any relationship worth having and THAT relationship being the most important. More important than your marriage, more important than your relationship with your mother, than your kids.
Here are some great tips I found on knowing and discerning God’s voice.
Hear God’s Voice
Read your Bible; study it to learn God’s ways. Meditate on Scripture. Make yourself available to God through prayer. Worship the Lord. Be still in His presence. Invest in your relationship with your heavenly Father. Be attentive to the ways God is leading you as a member of a local church. Heed the Godly counsel of trustworthy fellow believers. As you do, you will learn to recognize God’s voice.
There is no shortcut to learning to recognize God’s voice, just as there is no shortcut to mature from infancy to adulthood—it takes time. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then spend time with Him. The more you are with Him, the better you will know His voice. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).
Maturity Requires Discipline and Obedience
“The depth of your walk with God is directly proportional to the zeal with which you seek him. If you seek after God in a halfhearted, inconsistent manner, you cannot expect to hear him speaking at the deepest levels. But if you will discipline yourself to concentrate on the Lord and if you diligently obey everything he says, then you will be prepared to experience God at an increasingly profound and personal level. God has invited you to go deeper in your relationship with him. The depth of that relationship ultimately rests with you.”
Principles to follow:
The principle of Relationship – John 15 speaks to us abiding in Christ, bearing fruit. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (Friendship/relationship)
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:12, 14, 16-17 NKJV)
The principle of Obedience – Mark 4:23-25 “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
The principle of Willingness – James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways
John 7:17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
The principle of Protection – Sincerity, personal experience, and circumstances are never a substitute for the truth; develop a “objective perspective”. This is critical for our safety.
Tools to Use:
Search the Word – Proverbs 2:1-5
Do your homework – Proverbs 12:27 “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession.” Don’t be lazy about God’s Word.
Seek mature counsel – Proverbs 15:22
Pray earnestly – Proverbs 19:21 “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.”
Pitfalls to Avoid:
Changing circumstances – When things are going against or for what we think is “right” always rely on God’s word first. Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Faulty feelings – Do let our petty emotions rule us. Use faith and act, according to God’s Word.
Flimsy fleeces – Gideon asked God several times to validate his Word by signs, but that was due to his lack of faith. We know it is impossible to please God without faith.
In closing…. You Are Unique
Does God speak to all of us the same way? No, we are all unique. Are these the only ways God speaks today? No. He’s a creative God.
Regardless of the way God chooses to reveal Himself or “speak” to us today, remember these truths. He will never contradict His Word, and the message He gives will always bring glory to God. The Bible warns about adding anything to the already written, God-breathed Word of God, or accepting any other messenger who claims to be superior to Jesus.