It was early on in my God-conversations journey that I learnt the most important key to hearing God’s voice. It wasn’t about acquiring a certain skill, increasing my Bible knowledge or even about striving to live a moral life.
I was 21 years old, had recently re-committed my life to God and was experiencing something of a spiritual honeymoon. Worship had suddenly come alive for me and I’d been spending time with God just because I wanted to. It was during one that God spoke and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. I was walking on the path by my home, skipping on the inside and singing one of those old corny worship songs: “I’m yours, Lord everything I am; everything I’ve got. I’m yours Lord, try me now and see; see if I can be completely yours!”
As I sung the words; “See if I can be completely yours”, an uninvited sentence broke into my thoughts; “Give all your money away.”
I stopped dead in my tracks, hung my head in horror and turned back home. No more angelic song, no inward skipping; just a sledgehammer command that I couldn’t get out of my head.
I knew it was God. I just knew.
God, you have GOT to be kidding. I’ve saved hard the entire year – every spare cent in preparation for my big adventure. The Solomon Islands awaits. Wycliffe Bible Translators have accepted my application and the teams are excited to have a teacher come at last. It’s all planned! And now you’re telling me to give all my money away?
What made it worse was that I’d just changed churches – here I was a stranger – a complete unknown. There would be no financial windfalls from faithful relatives or generous donations from the people I’d grown up with. And God had made it clear that in this case, I was to keep all the monetary needs to myself.
It was my first real introduction to a God who didn’t work the same way as me.
Why it Can Be Difficult to Hear God’s Voice
Today when I travel to different churches, I’ll often ask the question: “Who finds it difficult to hear God’s voice?” In practically every church or at every meeting, hands go up. There are heads nodding all over the room, knowing looks and an unspoken corporate sigh; “If only it were easier.”
It has left me pondering the question; Why? If Jesus promised his followers we would recognise his voice (John 10:27), why do we find it so difficult? If the Holy Spirit was given so we could prophesy and have dreams and visions (Acts 2:17), if God is a communicator by nature and his words are the way he initiates plans on earth (Gen.1:3, Amos 3:7), then why would we find it so hard?
The truth is, it’s actually not difficult to hear from God. As a masterful communicator, he is well able to speak. What is difficult is doing what he says.
My little experience with the Holy Spirit on the walking trail was my first introduction to this reality. We pray; Lord speak to me… but we don’t always anticipate what we’ll do with the answers. We hope he’ll say what we want to hear; we pray looking for the positive outcome. But often his words call us to radical surrender, they lead us on a journey of walking by faith. Sometimes they ask us to do things that go against our nature and ask us to break out of our comfort zones. But they will always be good. They will always be designed to draw us closer and to make us more like him. That’s his purpose for all our conversation. The question is, how will we respond?
Obedience as the Key to Hearing God’s Voice
My story ended well. After three weeks of tearful arguments and demands for confirmation, I relinquished a large cheque into the offering bag. Then the miracles began. Just before I was due to leave, the money poured in from all sorts of unknown sources. My finances were completely covered during the entire two year period of my missions experience.
I learned a lesson then that I still practise to this day. Requests to hear God’s voice are always sub-texted with the understanding that however he speaks, I will listen, and then I will do what he says.
Are we ready to respond to his word? However difficult that may be? Jesus said that we demonstrate our love by our obedience (John 14:21). He reveals himself to those who are willing to respond. Obedience may be difficult. But it makes hearing from God so much easier.