We are entering a time like never before where we must learn to hear God’s voice. Brother Ian has given us a great teaching and example of what that looks like. It is a long read, but I can promise you well worth your time.
By Ian Vincent
Why does God whisper to us?
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2
If a king had to shout at his servants to get them to do anything it would indicate he is not highly esteemed or honored. But if the king only has to whisper a word and his servants scramble into action it indicates the king is honored by his servants. The servant and friend of God who will obey even the slightest prompting or whisper of the Holy Spirit is truly a person who loves and honors and fears God.
The immature wrongly think that if God has to thunder or shout at them to get them to do something then it means they are important, but they are ignorant of the fact that when they ignored His gentle promptings they were dishonoring Him.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: It has to be this way as it’s a matter of His glory. His glory is in the fact that He conceals. …But the honor of kings is to search out a matter. When we put all our being into seeking God and what He is saying to us, it both honors Him and honors us.
(Even though God lives inside us He never directs us to look inwardly to find Him. The Holy Spirit never causes a person to pray to God in them, but rather to God the Father who is in heaven, hallowed be His name…)
A more pertinent example of the difference in honor between whispering and shouting would be simply the case of a father and a son working together, and the father quietly asks, Son, would you come over here and lend me a hand? But the son ignores. Maybe he thinks that because his dad spoke so gently that really he doesn’t need any help or it’s not urgent. Again the father asks and is ignored. Then he shouts and the son jumps up and rushes over to help. That’s a shame on the son, right? He dishonored his dad by misjudging him. When he ignored his dad he was judging his dad.
If we ignore the gentle quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, then have we judged God? We have judged Him as a person who is not so close to us. We have judged Him as distant and detached and not as indwelling and abiding in us. To hear and heed the whispers of God we need to have faith in His true nature that even though He is Almighty God, He dwells with the humble and lowly, and is so acquainted with them that He expects them to know the whisper they hear in their spirit is actually the voice of their Father. But a person who doesn’t really know the true nature of the Father will be expecting to hear the voice of God thru more spectacular means.
It seems like a paradox that God Almighty can be present in a Christian and yet they find it hard to hear His voice.
Many say that to hear the voice of God all one needs to do is open the Bible and read it. That’s true when we are talking about establishing the truth which is in Jesus; however it is not always true when it comes to living your life led by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not a substitute for the Holy Spirit but they work together. Yet there are Christians today who do claim to be led by the Bible and yet their lives are not led by the Holy Spirit. We should remember that when we read the Bible, if the Holy Spirit were not our personal tutor then we would not understand a word.
It would be foolish to try and depersonalize the Holy Spirit and say that He does not speak to us today when in fact He communicates everything that God has to say to us when we are submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ rules our lives by the ministry of the Holy Spirit revealing His Truth and Words to us. When our life is yielded to Him, He shows us where to go, what to speak, what to do…. everything.
It’s not just you and the Bible. The Bible does not tell you all the details of what the LORD wants you to do. Obviously, He never intended that you would have to open the Bible every moment to find out when you should pray, who you should pray for, whom you should speak to, and every detail of our life. If you have truly bowed the knee to Jesus Christ then you can only live by His guidance which is by the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you have not truly bowed your knee then it won’t really matter to you whether the Holy Spirit guides you or not. It’s not just you and the Bible. It’s you, the Bible and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Many saved evangelicals today are not filled and not led by the Holy Spirit as per the New Testament examples, so it is not surprising that many don’t understand what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. Which is a vicious circle, yet it is His grace alone that breaks thru that closed loop. All saved people have the Holy Spirit indwelling, but not all are filled with the Spirit. And such people do hear the voice of the Holy Spirit to a certain extent, understanding the Scriptures to a certain extent and having assurance of salvation, but they often don’t realize that it is He who is speaking to them. They just think it is their own thoughts speaking to them.
This is where our closed-loop kicks in. When a person thinks that it is their own intelligence or diligence in study which is the vehicle by which they have understood what they think they understand, then they have been deceived by their own ego. That’s what closes the loop and forms the vicious circle and cuts them off from hearing the Holy Spirit – their intellectual pride. They are more self-taught than taught by the Spirit.
He whispers so that He can only be heard if we are close to Him
Why does God whisper to us? Why doesn’t He shout? As that way His voice would be unmistakable, right? He whispers to us so that He can only be heard if we are close to Him, if we’re in the place where we should be: in the quiet place of rest, the rest of faith in Him, in heart communion with Him. But His still small voice is so quiet that we can easily shrug it off as being just from ourselves.
For the King to whisper it means He only wants you to hear Him if you’re close to Him, and you are close to Him if you believe Him and love Him, He is closer than your own heart. Then it’s clearly a question of love and of honor. If man will honor Him then man will hear Him. If anyone really wants to hear His voice, they will.
It means God will not communicate with those who refuse to honor Him. If a man says he wants to hear from God but he doesn’t want to live close to God then he is going to be deceived for God will not fellowship and talk with such a man who wants a distanced relationship with God.
Many times we hear His voice but we don’t take heed. What can we learn from this? Why do we sometimes miss Him? Because there was a mixture in our life, crowding Him out to a certain degree so that His voice was indistinct among other voices or things craving our attention. But these missed opportunities are really golden opportunities to learn the way He relates to us; how He wants us to relate to Him according to His wisdom.
We sometimes mistakenly think that as we mature in the Lord He will speak in a louder voice to us, but it isn’t so. Rather, as we mature we grow to honor Him more, and esteem His communion and fellowship more and more precious to us; therefore we can hear more clearly because hearing His voice is so precious to us. If hearing and obeying His voice is extremely precious to you; more precious than anything in this world, then you will hear.
But to the self-willed, hearing God’s voice is irrelevant and they even contemptuously consider such a thing is a sign of weakness.
Another reason some believers struggle to hear God’s voice is that they haven’t yet fully and unconditionally surrendered their own agenda to take up His agenda – not denied themselves and taken up their cross to follow Jesus wherever he goes. They’ve already made up their mind what they’re going to do and made their own plans, so then God doesn’t disturb them with His plans.
When God speaks to a man or woman in their spirit it is the most wonderful thing in this life. But it’s reserved for those who will honor Him with their lives, with the obedience of their whole heart and soul and mind, it is the honor He gives His friends.
The promptings of the Holy Spirit
The still small voice of the Holy Spirit, His gentle promptings and impressions, though they are so quiet and we can easily ignore or miss them, yet they are the big thing. Interesting how God works, that the biggest thing comes to us as the smallest thing. (How God was manifest in human flesh and was born as a baby)
That quiet impression is the Creator God speaking to you! The natural mind expects the voice of God to be some momentous event, like thunder on the mountain and so obvious that no one could miss it. But the oh-so-gentle prompting to send an email of encouragement to someone; to make a call; to go visit some one – whatever: responding and obeying His promptings is the heart of walking with and following Jesus.
But notice how when we discuss this there is delineation between walking by the Spirit and walking by the intellect alone. Our intellect must be renewed by and submitted to the rule of Christ – His peace ruling and reigning in our hearts.
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit permitted them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, beseeching him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them. Acts 16:6-10
…forbidden by the Holy Spirit
…but the Spirit permitted them not
…seen the vision
This is subjective guidance. In this particular case the Holy Spirit did not use any Scripture in order to communicate God’s specific will and guidance to Paul. The anti-charismatic people could criticize Paul that he was being led by subjective spiritual experiences and not by the Word of God. Or was it OK for Paul to be led by subjective experiences because he was an Apostle, but it’s not OK for us today? They are asking us to believe that the Holy Spirit has changed since then in the way He communicates the will of God to Jesus disciples, which is a false teaching. The Holy Spirit has never changed the way He communicates.
The Holy Spirit is the only way in which The Father thru the Son communicates with His people. Hearing the voice of God may throw some people off. They may think it implies hearing voices in your head, like a psychiatric patient hears voices. Then let’s use the word communication. Is there a spiritual (Spirit to spirit) communication between The Shepherd and His sheep? Does the Shepherd communicate with you in your spirit and not just your mind?
Unless you see a Scripture will you say that the Shepherd has not communicated with you?
If you answer, No, then just check that you are truly one of His sheep, who hears His voice and follows Him wherever He goes. The Truth of the Scriptures always influences everything we are hearing from the Holy Spirit. Any subjective guidance will always be strongly consistent with the nature of Christ as revealed in Scripture. If there is any inconsistency or contradiction with the nature of Christ as revealed in Scripture then it is not the Holy Spirit we are hearing. And in all I’m saying here I’m appealing to the Truth of the Scriptures as the last word.
Yes, you may be disgusted by the abuses and falsehood associated with people who claim to hear the voice of God as if they were talking on the telephone to Him. So am I. Yet don’t let such abuses and error make you rebound off into error by ricocheting off on in the opposite extreme and becoming just as unbiblical as they are.
Yes, some who claim to be bible fundamentalists are very unbiblical.
Interpretation of His guidance
…Concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them. Acts 16:10
Concluding that… Paul had to interpret the vision or dream as being a message or direction from God. He had to draw a conclusion from the vision to interpret its meaning. This is quite helpful. We need to know whether God is speaking to us thru various means and to know that He requires us in each instance to interpret what He is saying to us.
Hearing God’s voice requires interpretation. Paul concluded what God was telling him thru the vision. So hearing the voice of God can also mean coming to a conclusion about a turn of events.
Hearing the voice of God is deeper than an experience. I’ve only used the term subjective experience as a concession or a bridge for the sake of communication, but it’s not the best definition. It would be more accurate to say that God communicates to us or speaks to us by causing us to know something in our spirit.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.. Romans 8:16
This is another aspect of what it means to hear the voice of God – a witness from the Holy Spirit. Are we earnestly seeking to do God’s will, and consequently do our spirits witness with the Holy Spirit concerning the things the Holy Spirit wants us to do? A Spirit-filled Christian will wait on God and always seek God for His witness. Those not filled really do not have sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and they trust more in their own judgment and intellect and feel confident to make decisions without any witness of the Spirit.
The fact that most of evangelicalism rigidly follows set programs shows there is little practical evidence of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some who go to such Churches may experience the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their personal lives, but the Church they attend has not yet figured out how the Church corporately can be led by the Spirit. God’s pattern for the Church (1 Cor. 14) was so that we would always have to seek and find the guidance of the Holy Spirit and hence grow in the practical ability to hear God’s voice and find His will and guidance.
He designed the Church with this as one of the ends or goals: Assembling together is supposed to train us to be led by the Spirit. As you fellowship in a 1 Cor. 14 type Church, slowly you will become far more sensitive to the witness and guidance of the Holy Spirit than if you remain seated in the audience of a traditional church: Obeying God’s direction for the Church results in spiritual growth in every member. When men rejected the counsel of God and set in concrete their traditions then people became far less sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If you follow traditions you no longer need the Holy Spirit to guide you moment by moment, and thus you never learn to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
If you read 1 Cor. 14 again I pray you will see that this requires a total dependency on hearing the voice of God. Read it again and then ask, why does God require it done this way? What did He have in mind?
~ Ian Vincent