Whether we have been Christ-followers most of our lives or we are new to the church, most of us wonder, “How does God speak to us? How can I hear His voice?”
In John 10:27 (NLT), Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice…” The implications are manifold, but the point is it shouldn’t be considered odd or unusual that followers of Jesus are able to hear, discern, understand, and respond appropriately to the voice of our Shepherd.
Rules of Communication
We’ll look at some ways that God speaks to us, but before we do that, here are a few things to consider about communication.
First, as with any conversation, speaking is only half of the equation. If my wife speaks to me, but I’m not listening, it doesn’t matter what her message is. Similarly, when God speaks to us as His followers, if we’re so distracted by other things, we can easily miss what He’s seeking to say to us.
Second, God spoke in an audible voice on occasion in the Bible, and there are those with whom He still communicates in that manner. With that said, I’ve personally never heard God’s audible voice, except as He speaks to me through another person.
However, in my spirit, I have discerned His voice clearly many times. He is the inspiration of everything I write, and I trust His voice to guide me, just as I believe He guided the authors of the Bible.
Perhaps, it would be helpful to think of God speaking as simply communicating. It’s purported that a high percentage of human communication is nonverbal, even when using words, so it shouldn’t surprise us that God seeks to communicate with us in many nonverbal ways.
This is in no way intended to be a comprehensive report of every way God speaks. However, I do hope to emphasize that God seeks to communicate with us in a language that is specific to every person. He very much desires each of us to hear and understand what He’s saying.
Going back to the question of how does God speak to us, we can look for an answer in His Word.
God Speaks Through His Word
In Hebrews 1:1 (NLT), the author writes, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through His Son…”
In the opening verses of the Gospel of John, we read, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The most significant and understandable way God speaks to us is through His Word, the Bible. Jesus, God’s living Word, is the thread that holds the narrative of the whole Bible together. God will never say anything to anyone at any time that contradicts what He’s clearly declared in His written Word, the Bible.
One of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture.” In other words, if you’re struggling with something you read in the Bible, keep reading, and somewhere in the Bible, you’ll come upon a clarifying statement or passage that will shed light on what you don’t understand.
Reading and studying the Bible isn’t our whole responsibility as a believer, but it’s certainly an integral part of the process. Without the instruction of God’s Word, we have no track to run on, no clear voice to guide us in our quest of fulfilling God’s purposes on this earth.
Yes, of course, there are conflicting interpretations and teachings regarding the Bible, but I’ve found in my more than fifty years of following Jesus, as the Psalmist affirmed in Psalm 119:105 (NLT): “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
If you desire to know God’s will and discern His strong, clear voice, make time every day to read the Bible, taking notes and listing insights and questions. And when you read something that’s difficult to understand, seek counsel from a pastor or a trusted, believing friend.
Other Ways God Speaks to Us
Space doesn’t allow elaboration on every way that God speaks (communicates) with us, but I’ll list a few other ways God speaks to us for your consideration.
- Nature – God shares His creativity and power through that which He’s created. Sit on a huge boulder in the Grand Canyon and watch the sunset. Ponder the breathtaking beauty of a sunrise from the vantage of a Hawaiian island. Hike the trails of the forests of the world or climb the many mountains that give you views that can literally thrill your soul. Listen to a bird’s song or follow the erratic path of a butterfly. Marvel at the flight of an eagle or smile at the antics of a monkey.
- Music – Do you want to know God’s favorite kind of music? All of it! He inspired the creation of every note, whether the composer acknowledged His participation or not.
- Other believers – What a joy to have a conversation with someone who loves Jesus, sharing the manifold ways He speaks to them and expresses His loving care in such personal ways. Read books and articles. Go to seminars and speak with pastors or Christian counselors, always being careful to measure what you hear with what the Bible teaches.
- Life’s experiences – Pastor Rick Warren says, “God never wastes a problem.” Some of the most life-transforming lessons I’ve learned were through pain and suffering. On the path the Lord has led you, you will encounter things that you would never have chosen for yourself. Listen carefully in those seasons.
- Quietness/Stillness – Sometimes the Lord speaks to me most clearly when I’m too sick to get out of bed. Did I hear someone say, “captive audience”? But even when I’m well, sitting quietly in His presence, free of distractions, opens the lines of communication with God.
- Worship – Both individual and corporate. Opening ourselves to Him in complete surrender, singing to Him, desiring Him above all else, giving ourselves fully to Him without reservation – nothing opens the lines of communication like fully yielding ourselves to Him.
The truth is there is no limit to the number of ways God will speak to us if we’re willing to listen.
A few days ago, God said to me, not in an audible voice, but with absolute clarity: “Miracles abound for those whose spirit is tuned to experience them.” God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same God who spoke this earth and everything in it into existence is the same God who speaks to us today. He wants to communicate with you. Are you listening?
If you are looking to dive into God’s Word and see how God does speak to us, check out Vertical, a daily devotion that is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to have a regular interaction with the Bible and with God.