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?

stressed manAnswer from Randy Alcorn:

Knowing Gods 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 its 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 thats more than seeing what the Bible says and listening to others.

I cant 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 Id 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. Well 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 thats true. I avoid saying it that way because its never been an audible voice. But sometimes it seems just as objectively real even though its not audible. Of course, thats my subjective sense of what is objectively true, but it is a very real sense. I am virtually certain of Gods leading in some of these things even that are not directly stated in Scripture.

In many ways I think Gods voice has become clearer to me as the years have gone on. Maybe Ive 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 dont 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 Gods 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 Gods 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 wasnt a matter of feeling Gods leading. It was a discretionary choice. I didnt have to hear Gods voice to figure out what I should do.

Now that doesnt mean that Gods Spirit doesnt lead in such things, but I can say that I dont sense Gods 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 Ive heard his voice in the sense Im talking about.

This may not be helpful, but thats 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 youll find a greater sense of assurance of Gods leading and speaking in your life.

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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