“But beyond this my son, [about going further than the words given by one Shepherd], be warned: the writing of many books is endless [so do not believe everything you read], and excessive study and devotion to books is wearying to the body,” Ecclesiastes 12:12 is still true today but to this list we could add sermons, prophetic words, blog posts etc., etc., ad nauseam. How does one navigate the minefield of man’s words to hear God?
Our journey in learning to hear God
Years ago Wanda and I were trapped in the cycle of religion going to stale church services. We wasted many precious hours passively listening as a man in a suit relished in his intellectual hubris. We heard God’s word but there was no power and no change in our lives. When God broke into our world in 1997, we began to experience a whole new dynamic in hearing His voice. We heard from many prophets who spoke words claiming to come from Jesus. There were also many teachers on the Internet who had something to say about following God. Every word was coming through the mouthpiece of man, but we could still hear God.
After a time, however, we began to see some discrepancies between what we were hearing and seeing. We were maturing in our relationship with God and reading His Word for ourselves, but the things we heard from others didn’t add up. At first we saw confusion and contradictions which many tried to explain away. Next we saw words that weren’t coming to pass. Then we began to see that there was sexual impropriety, greed and lust evident in the speakers.
The enemy of our souls tried to convince us we can only hear God through others but the discrepancies only alarmed and confused us. Surely something was amiss. In 2007, Jesus lured us to the wilderness to wean us off the words of man completely so we could hear God alone. To hear God for ourselves is vital if we want to survive the dark days ahead because His word rarely comes clean through a ‘self-filled’ vessel.
The real and the counterfeit
Early in our journey we learned a key principle in hearing God. The simple fact is if we want to spot the counterfeit, we must study the real. People who deal with counterfeit money spend long hours studying real money, right down to the finest detail, so when a phony bill appears they know the difference. For us to discern what words were coming from God and what was being corrupted by ‘self’ would require we know the difference between ‘self’ and spirit.
We started by reading the word of God from beginning to end. When we studied God’s word we engaged our spirit in humility to hear His voice. Next we learned to obey Jesus as He spoke. We cannot overstate how important obeying God’s word is to our spiritual growth. If we only read or hear His word it has absolutely NO benefit to our lives. Only when we actively read God’s word and obey Jesus do we travel the pathway of spiritual growth. As we grew in maturity, we found God often spoke using special ‘code words’ known only to us and Him. This was part of His love language. As our intimacy with Jesus grows deeper these ‘code words’ are like love notes from the Father. They are also crucial a verification method God uses to confirm when He speaks to us through others.
Once we learned how to discern God’s voice and obey His lead Jesus then taught us what ‘self’ looks like. From our own lives we gleaned lessons on how deep and duplicitous the ‘self’ nature was. We saw how the ‘self’ nature of man infiltrates and corrupts words coming from God and twists them into something that ‘self’ would agree with. (Luke 6:45) When believers then spread these infected words over the Internet the weed seeds infect many.
There are many words out there that sound good but are false. They have no basis in the Bible or what God is saying and doing with His people. These words only sound good because they appeal to our ‘self’ nature. Likewise there are many words that make believers uncomfortable but are from God. Most often these words expose the ‘self’ nature yet we dismiss them. Most of the words on the Internet have this mixture to varying degrees. We then have to exercise discretion, picking through the weeds of ‘self’ to hear what God is saying through other people. Our extensive training time in the wilderness gave us the tools to accomplish this task. Had we not learned these lessons words from others would have shipwrecked our faith journey.
God’s message has not changed in millennia. His focus has always been, since the dawn of time, for His people to mature and become like Jesus so they can enter into union (1 John 4:17) with Him. Full stop. God is looking for people to experience lives of deep faith, sacrificial love, maturity and holiness just as He always has. The problem is that ‘self’ in man does not like this message. It prefers anything but sacrifice and so will corrupt God’s word to avoid this.
To hear God
For our faith to be effective we must live as we say we believe. Reading blog posts, social media memes and listening to speakers will be of no use. Easily gained knowledge is also easily lost. If we do not pay the price in the wilderness, we will have no experiential faith, only an intellectual belief. ‘Self’ and satan will gladly corrupt God’s word to lull us to sleep and we will end up spiritually impotent. Would we choose this future, to be so easily deceived, when the path of faith lay open before us?
To hear God requires sacrifice on our part. First, we need to take time to read His word. It surprises us how few people read through their ‘Owners Manual’. Second, we need to obey His words and commands. It is never enough to just read or listen to God’s word, obedience is crucial if we desire to grow. Third, we need to acknowledge that we are in a dynamic relationship with Jesus. He trains us to hear God through others and discern when ‘self’ is interfering. As we mature God exposes new layers of understanding of His word. What we learned as a spiritual child changes as we become spiritual adults.
Being able to hear God is not a gift, it is the reward of diligent listening.
Each step of obedience in faith we take will allow us to hear Jesus better. As in marriage good communication is vital for an intimate relationship. Our experience with Jesus is no different. If we learn to hear God our reward is a love like we have never seen before.
Homer and Wanda