How can I hear God's voice and know that He is clearly speaking to me?
Question from a reader:
I really want to follow Christ but at times I become anxious searching for God’s Spirit within me. How can I hear God’s voice and know that He is clearly speaking to me?
Answer from Randy Alcorn:
Knowing God’s voice, I think, comes mostly from abiding in Christ, as in John 15. Part of that, but not all of it, is His Word abiding in us. Then, our confession of sin and coming back into relationship when it’s broken. The wisdom and input of others—not just any others but very godly others—is helpful. But in the end, there is a supernatural aspect to this that’s more than seeing what the Bible says and listening to others.
I can’t quantify this or even describe it well, but sometimes I sense a definite prompting from God, call it the still small voice or whatever. Often this is to pray for someone, or speak to someone about the Lord, to give them a book, and not just a book but one particular book. For instance, on Sunday I was playing tennis with a non-Christian guy I’d never met. My default giveaway book to nonbelievers is Grace and Truth Paradox, but for some reason I really felt led to give him Lord Foulgrin’s Letters. I called him yesterday to see if we could play again and he said, “I read that whole novel you gave me; it was very interesting.” We’ll see where it goes but I have no doubt God was speaking to me.
I do usually avoid the words “God told me to...” or especially, “God said to me, ‘Give him Lord Foulgrin’s Letters.’” Yet essentially I do believe that’s true. I avoid saying it that way because it’s never been an audible voice. But sometimes it seems just as objectively real even though it’s not audible. Of course, that’s my subjective sense of what is objectively true, but it is a very real sense. I am virtually certain of God’s leading in some of these things even that are not directly stated in Scripture.
In many ways I think God’s voice has become clearer to me as the years have gone on. Maybe I’ve been around long enough now to evaluate the difference between a thought or idea popping into my mind, and something really coming from the Lord. Of course, much of life does function on the basis of principles, wisdom and counsel. We don’t have to have an objective voice from God to know we should go to a certain place and talk to someone, or help the needy or share the Lord.
I do have a greater sense than I ever have of God’s providence in arranging the people who come across my path. Last night I got a call from someone about a young guy on the tennis team I help coach. His father abandoned him and his mom in the last few weeks, and he is distraught. I called him and spent three hours with him today, mostly playing tennis, but building a relationship, and talking quite a bit afterward. I felt God directing me to call him, to say certain things, to pray for him, etc. I have no doubt of God’s voice and direction in this. On the other hand, when I came home, my wife and I had dinner and after a while the Olympics came on. I watched it for forty minutes. It wasn’t a matter of feeling God’s leading. It was a discretionary choice. I didn’t have to hear God’s voice to figure out what I should do.
Now that doesn’t mean that God’s Spirit doesn’t lead in such things, but I can say that I don’t sense God’s voice in every detail of my life, nor do I need to, but in most days I have a number of things small or large in which I do think I’ve heard his voice in the sense I’m talking about.
This may not be helpful, but that’s what comes to mind. I appreciate your heart and your desire for insight. I would encourage you to relax and be patient, and let God develop your sense of His voice and direction more as the years go on. As long as you abide in Him, I believe you’ll find a greater sense of assurance of God’s leading and speaking in your life.