Skip to content

How to discern the voice of God?

While growing up in Chennai, India I remember we use to have a certain neighbor who would come to our house only when she had certain need. Soon it became a joke in my house, because my mom had understood the pattern in which this neighbor functioned. Whenever this lady stood in front of our house, my mother will silently whisper to us and tell us with a smile the reason for the woman being there. I used to be surprised by the way she knew the heart of this person. As human we can discern the heart and the voice of the other fellow humans sometimes. But as for God how do we discern his heart or his voice.1Co 2:11 No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to know the voice of God clearly and surely. It is my desire to teach our readers the significance of not only hearing the voice of God right but also to know the different ways in which God speaks.

I remember doing a exercise in the church I pastored. I asked a man in my congregation to go to the corner of the room and make some intelligent conversation or just to utter something. So he did exactly what I said. He went and shouted out saying “Hey how are you doing” so all the congregation turned their heads towards the direction of this person. The lesson I was communicating was “if you identify the voice it leads to the person”. Throughout the OT and NT *we read of God’s desire to speak to his people and in return that His people would heed to his voice and recognize him. Great men throughout history have accomplished great things and transformed cultures just by hearing the voice of God. From Martin Luther to Mother Theresa the list of super heroes and heroines who have obeyed the voice of God to fulfill their destiny in being a blessing to many.

Why do we need to discern the voice of God?

I would like to echo the scriptures ,2Co 11:3 But I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent. Here we see Paul the apostle warning the Corinthian church concerning deceptions. Even today we need understand that Satan is the master deceiver. He pretends as though the people are hearing right and he pretends as though you are doing the right thing. I am reminded of joke that I heard many years ago. One day a man was taken to heaven and there Peter the apostle of Jesus had asked him if he would choose heaven or hell. It was then he was revealed hell and while he was surprised that there were beautiful beaches and woman in bathing suites running and the excitement made his heart leap. Later heaven also was revealed and it looked a little boring to him as he saw people constantly praising God. So he choose the place where there was excitement and fun and it brought him to hell. So while he was in hell things changed he was surprised again this time for eternity. He cried out to Peter from hell and asked “ sir I thought I was just going to have some fun, I did not expect the come here”. Just then Satan and his demons began to eat his body and say “Surprise, welcome to Hell” and one of them said it was just a screen saver that you saw. Deception, Church is the reason why we need to discern the voice of God.

Understanding the different ways in which God speaks:

The voice of God can be manifested to us through different forms and ways. It is important for believers to discern and dissect the voice of God. It is important for us to understand the God speaks to us who are in the dispensation of Grace through his son Jesus. Heb 1:1. According to Acts 1:2 God spoke to his disciple through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in turn conveys the heart of God and transmits the message through dreams and visions, impressions, intuitions , prophecies and Logos the written word of God. I remember when my son was a new born baby. He would cry every time he had a dirty dipper or was hungry. As parents it took us some time to figure out as to what he was trying to say. Was he hungry? Was he not feeling well? Was he having a dirty dipper? Was he wanting to be held? It took us a while to discern as to what he was saying and to understand him. Eventually we became pro’s at understanding his cries to a extent we would sometimes even show off to strangers when he’s crying we would let them know he was hungry and that’s why he was crying. My point is in order to hear the voice of God and to me accustomed to the different ways in which he wants to speak to us, we need to have a fellowship with the Father , Son and the Holy Spirit. Just as it took time for us as parents to understand the language of our baby, it will take time for each believer to understand the way in which God chooses to speak to us.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Ask God to speak to you so that you will obey His voice: Why would you expect God to speak to you if you would disobey his voice?
  2. If God chooses to speak to you through dreams and visions make sure the avenue through which it comes is always washed by the blood of Jesus and that there is no room for adultration.
  3. It is always good to place to word of God received to people you are accountable to like your spiritual director or a mature Christian friend . So that they are able to say Amen to what you have received.
  4. Always choose to operate in grace and not in law.
  5. Expect God to speak and sanctify you vessel to receive from God.
  6. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.
  7. Be quick to obey. Delayed obedience is equaled to disobedience.
  8. Believe what you have received from God and don’t doubt it.
  9. Always get a confirmation through the written word of God. Have God’s word your final authority.
  10. Walk by faith and not by sight.

There are many things that can be learnt from people who have walked with God. Especially the way they have learnt to navigate the voice of God. It is necessary that I suggest to our readers, the most important trusted source through which we can receive the voice of God is through the Logos the written word of God. In Psm 1 ; 1 we are encouraged to delight ourselves in the Torah which is the extension of what we accept as the complete word of God. It is necessary that we practice to rightly divide the word of God , whether is of law or of grace. To many have walked in err holding on to the law. To hear the voice of God rightly it takes a person to mature to discern and separate the law from grace. The purpose of hearing His  Voice is to lead us to the person of Christ.

Driving through the freeways of California, one will soon find many patterns and similarities. One such pattern is you will find many identifying themselves as an “alumni” of their alma mater on their license plates. I have wondered why people do that? Maybe they want to show they are educated or may be also they take pride in the school they went to. The school you went to not only gives you education but also creates a identity and defines who you are.

However, woe to you if you are a seminary graduate. because people generally poke fun at you. One time there was a guy who asked me with sarcasm, “Which cemetery did you go to?”, and then corrected himself as though it was by the slip of his tongue. I wanted to tell him, I not only went to Fuller Theological Seminary but I also went through the school of the Holy Spirit to have enough of education and knowledge that can give me the credentials to speak and to minister.

Today many Christians want the easy route in life without going through the school of the Holy Spirit. They do ministry and Church functions in a certain way, but have never gone through the school of the Holy Spirit. In this school, the Holy Spirit is not only the President but also the Director. Some of the subjects that we need to major in will involve, temptations, trials, pain, loneliness, depression, discouragement, failures and brokenness.

Types of Knowledge

There are two kinds of knowledge and each of them are important and totally different.

One kind of knowledge is familiar to all and is what we study in our universities and schools to gain factual or “worldly” knowledge. This knowledge is attained predominantly through our five senses. I once remember talking to a person about Christ. This man was considered to be a intellect or a expert in certain field of life . After my conversation with him I have come to the conclusion that it is possible for someone to be a expert in a certain area in life as in a PhD but have no knowledge about the things of God. Because the medium in which we learned the “world’s system” was by going through schools and universities and attaining this “worldly knowledge”.

The other kind of knowledge that I want to explain here is exposed to only some - mostly Christians who know the Lord. The Holy Spirit teaches us unlike other forms of formal education. His purpose is to not only reveal the resurrected Christ to us, but that we may bear more fruit for the Father. This means being more productive in influencing lives and communities with the knowledge of Christ.

Spiritual Knowledge

I remember meeting Sister Janet. She was a woman given to fasting and prayer. She was lean looking and did not look healthy. One thing that became prominent about her was her ability to speak in English in a certain way which was so nice to hear. This happened every time we gathered to pray. She would burst out into praises to God and her English would change to this wonderful praise and adoration to God. So one time I was curious to find out to which school she had gone to and how she was so articulate in praise and expressing herself to God. To my surprise she said she was a drop out of 10th grade and never was educated after that because she was very poor. I was reminded of how the scriptures goes on to say about Peter in Acts 4:13:

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

The knowledge of the Spirit is priceless and superior. To partake of this, it is essential that one is filled by the Holy Spirit.

Isn't it amazing that the people of the world begin to notice our mannerisms and the way we talk when we are with Jesus.

Dear Church, as we enter into a time and season when the leadership and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is becoming more visual and tangible, it is necessary that we yield ourselves to the blessed Holy Spirit. The bible goes on to say that those of us who are led by the Holy Spirit are the children of God. In other words those of us who are obedient to the leadership and directions of the Holy Spirit are the true sons and daughters. This would mean to trust in Him even when it does not make sense. So that when we obey His voice and yield to His leading. He will bring us up to a place of liberty and freedom in Christ.

This will lead you to a place called “knowing”. When you arrive at “knowing” you just know things. Its then that we receive our Masters in Faith-Walking. We graduate from a place of “walking by faith” to place of reality and purposes of God.

Romans 4:3 says,

Abraham believed in God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (NKJV).

Abraham entered into what God was doing for him and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own (The Message).

Abraham entered into the land of “knowing” in God. Isaiah 32: 17 says,

And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes it will bring quietness and confidence forever” (NLT).

Dear Church, it saddens me to see ministers , men and woman of God who profess to know Him and yet deny His power and lack confidence. This is a result of the working of the enemy to keep them in the land of “ignorance”. I want to remind us what Paul the Apostle said in 2 Tim 5 : 7

Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth.

We have men and women who are constantly studying and still are not able to arrive to the place of proper understanding.

I’m reminded of a advertisement by Kaiser-Permanente which had a quote saying “knowledge is power”. To many of us in the western world knowledge is not just information but a form of power. A power to control. Hence I agree with Paul the apostle who says “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth” They are caught in the land of “nowhere” and unable to see the resurrected Jesus as the absolute truth.

To Study in the school of the Holy Spirit would mean to see “Jesus everyday” as the absolute truth that sets us free from all carnal and sinful behavior. This would also mean to embrace the “crucified life”. Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. If I have to paraphrase this it would be like this. Knowledge puffs up but the Spirit of God builds you up.

It helps to understand the difference between the two kinds of knowledge. One is earthly and the other is not of this world .One is backed up with facts and evidence, the other is a reality that gives birth to facts and evidences.

The Spirit of God’s Teaching Ministry

I remember when I was visiting a particular family for some prayers. While I was praying for the family saying “God would you please provide for this family”, at that moment I felt the nudging of the Spirit asking me not to pray for the provision of the family but rather to ask God to bless them abundantly. I felt immediately God was already providing for this family and what they needed was not provision but abundance. I immediately corrected myself as I prayed for the family. The reason I share this is because one of the ways the Holy Spirit teaches us is with His gentle nudges. He also woos us with His desire, images and pictures in the realm of the Spirit. He has many ways of teaching us in the school of the Holy Spirit.

I remember a man of God sharing his experience about how he was caught up into the heavens and stood before Jesus and the father. This man of God had been fasting and praying for forty days and in the final day he was taken up in the Spirit. When he stood before Jesus, he was asked what did he want? For that the man of God replied saying “ Sir, I want the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Then he said God the father had asked him “ Do you want me or do you want the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit?”. He said at that moment he felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit telling him to say that he should say “ I want you God”. So he replied to God telling Him that he wanted Him. He said at that moment he could feel as though God the father was very pleased with his answer. Ever since this experience his ministry has been marked with unusual signs and wonders. People gather in millions, traveling from various place to hear him speak. All this to say one should not underestimate the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit. Obeying those nudges leads us to a place of trusted friendship, a calm assurance and quiet confidence that feels like the one who is planted by the rivers of living waters.

My mother was a teacher and I remember every year that state would award the teachers with best teachers award. The reason I say this is because the Holy Spirit should always be given the “best teacher award” because there is no greater teacher like Him. He knows how to lead a church perfectly well and He also knows how to lead each individual perfectly well. John 6:45 says they shall be taught by God.

Psalm 32 : 8 says,

I will instruct you and teach you.

The promised one is committed to teaching us. We the church need to go through the school of the Holy Spirit to learn from him. Mathew 11:28 says,

Learn from me for my yoke is light and easy.

A professor and Fuller theological Seminary named Robert Clinton fondly called Booby Clinton wrote a book called “Ministry that Lasts”. In that he studies the lives of men and women of God who finished well. He says the secret of these men and woman who finished well was they all had a posture and attitude of learning from the ultimate teacher.

Let me ask you this: Are you controlling the Holy Spirit or yielding to His gentle nudges? Are you being taught of God in such a way you are learning new things everyday as you wait on the Holy Spirit? Do you have a teachable Spirit or do you think you know it all?

Tongues with Interpretation

Behold I desire to do a new thing in your life. It is a quick work and a eternal work. To him who delights in me I will open my treasures to gaze at my beauty. Behold the enemy has kept some of you busy and occupied and tired so that you bring me the leftovers. To them who desire to know Me, even as you yield and surrender yourself to Me, you will find victory and refreshing strength to renew your mind, body and spirit. I know your tiredness and your frustrations. Here I have heard your hearts cry and release grace to you. Blessed are you who go through the school of the Holy Spirit for you will receive treasures in heaven rewards for your obedience to My Spirit.