How to Hear the Voice of God by Tom Brown
“His sheep follow him because they know his voice.” — John 10:4
The reason Christ speaks to you is so that you “follow him.”
I have had God speak to me many times. He told me to go into the ministry, and I followed His command. He gave me a vision of a dark-haired woman and said to me, “This is your wife.” Later, I met Sonia and married her. On another occasion, God told me what part of the city of El Paso to plant my church, and I did. One time I was going to purchase land for our church and before I did, God told me, “This is not the land you are to purchase for the church.” So I did not. We later found much better property.
On the other hand, I have also been pressured by people to do certain things that they felt was God’s will for me, but as I listen to God, He often told me not to do what they were pressuring me to do.
God’s voice will guide you and protect you from mistakes. God’s voice will lead you into His perfect will.
There are important decisions you will need to make in life. Fortunately, as Christ’ sheep, He has promised to tell you what to do. He will tell you which person, if any, you should marry. He will tell you what career you should go into. He will tell you how to fulfill your ministry. He will even tell you how to make more money and be successful, if you let Him. Don’t you think your life would be better if you listened to His voice?
It is a surprise to many Christians that they can hear the voice of God. A casual reading of scripture reveals a talking God. He first spoke the universe into existence and He has not stop talking.
He spoke to Adam about what trees he could eat and not eat. He spoke to Noah about building an ark. He told Abraham to leave his country and relatives and go to a city that God would show him. In the Bible, we find God talking to Moses about leading God’s people out of Egypt. In addition, God spoke to many prophets and gave them important messages that He wanted them to deliver to people.
The point I am bringing out is that God speaks in a voice that clearly humans can hear. In the New Testament, His voice is even clearer. Jesus said that His sheep, “know his voice“. This means you should be able to not only hear Jesus voice, but recognize His voice against so many other voices. I am going to share with you how to recognize God’s voice versus the voices in your own head or the voices of others who claim to be speaking for God.
Six Facts about God’s Voice
There are six biblical facts about hearing God’s voice.
- God speaks today.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:1-2). Theologians don’t discount God speaking to our forefathers and prophets in the Old Testament, yet some doubt that He talks to us today. They may argue that He already spoke to us through His Son and we should not seek or accept any present word from God.
However, the Hebrew writer continues the thought of Jesus speaking in these last days: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (4:7). It’s clear that the author believed that God still speaks to you “today.” In fact, if God stop speaking today, no one would get saved. The only reason you got saved is that God spoke to you. Without God’s present word none of us would have come to the Lord.
New Testament Proofs
Here are a few New Testament proofs that God still continues to speak to His sheep after Jesus ascension into heaven. Let us look as some of them so that you can have faith that God will speak to you.
Jesus appeared to Saul, who later became Paul, and He spoke to him a definite word: “‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:4-6). Saul was not even a Christian at the time, yet Jesus spoke to him. How much more should you expect God to speak to you since you are a believer?
Another example is Ananias. He heard the voice of God, “The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight” (Acts 9:11-12).
Ananias was a believer, not a an apostle, so even ordinary disciples should expect to hear the voice of our Shepherd. God’s voice is not reserved only for apostles and prophets. God speaks to all His sheep, and that includes you.
People often think that all the past words of Christ recorded in the gospels are sufficient for any present guidance from God. While, I agree, the teachings of Christ are generally sufficient for living the Christian lifestyle, you still need present direction from Christ in your daily walk and you still need Jesus past words to come alive in your spirit, and that only comes when God speaks to you from the scriptures.
- God’s voice is to guide you, not to establish new doctrine.
The purpose of Jesus speaking to you is that you “follow him“, not establish a new, extra biblical doctrine. Jesus speaks to you in order to guide you in life.
Some Christians are quite concern about so called charismatics hearing God’s voice. They think these present words from God are establishing new, extra-biblical doctrines. But they are not. At least, they should not.
Here are two good examples to show that even foundational leaders of the early church received God’s present word, but only for guidance, not to establish new doctrine: It is the stories of Peter and Philip.
First, Peter falls into a trance and hears God telling him to eat unclean animals. After the trance, “The Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them” (Acts 10:19-20). Peter walked with Jesus in the flesh for over three years, yet, he needed a present word from God to give him direction.
This vision was to tell Peter to preach the gospel to Gentiles—that was not new doctrine. Jesus had already told the apostles to preach the gospel to all creatures. Sometimes God’s present word may unveil a past word that you are neglecting. Kenneth Hagin, I suppose of any recent minister, was used in this way. He received many visions of Christ with present words to him, but none of them established new doctrines; instead, his visions helped restore some of the neglected teachings in the Bible, especially concerning faith.
Let me give you the other example; it concerns Philip, who became an evangelist.
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it‘ (Acts 8:26-29).
This example shows how God may use various means to speak to you. In Philip’s case, God first sent an angel to give him initial direction. Then after giving him direction through an angel, the Holy Spirit takes over to give him direct communication, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
If God chooses, He can send an angel to you. There is nothing in the New Covenant which God removed the communication of angels to His children. Now angels of God would never communicate a different message from the Bible. Paul wrote, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8). However, in the case of Phillip, the angel did not communicate a doctrine, but simply direction.
- God’s voice is personal.
“The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). Jesus knows you by name. This means Jesus intimately knows you. He knows your temperament, your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, your background, your language and anything else He needs to know in order to communicate in a way that you can understand.
To shepherds Jesus talked about sheep. To builders He talked about construction. To religious leaders He talked about religion. To sinners He talked about a wayward son.
Parents know the differences between their children. Wise parents put that knowledge to work by speaking to each child differently. It is not that parents are showing favoritism, but they recognize that each child is different. They act differently, they respond differently, they like different things. Each child is unique.
God is the best parent. He knows how to talk to each child in a way they can understand. He knows you. He will talk to you in a different way than He might communicate to someone else.
For example, Jesus told Peter how he was to glorify Him in his death, yet said nothing to John. The first thing Peter wanted to know was how John would die. “Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22). Jesus basically said that it was not Peter’s business to concern himself with John, only that Peter “must follow me.” Jesus knows what to tell you and what not to tell you. For John, He never told him whether he would be martyred or live. Each person is different and the paths that each take will be different paths. One person is called to marry, another is called to be single. One is called into the ministry, another is called into business. Your path is different from mine. You have a unique call.
After the resurrection, Mary was looking for the body of Jesus. At the tomb, she turned back and saw, who she thought was the gardener, “She said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary” (John 20:15-16). When she heard Jesus call her by name, she recognized Him. Only Jesus said her name in that distinct way. This to me is quite touching. Jesus calls you by name. When He does, then you know it is His voice, not the voice of strangers.
- God’s voice is intangible.
“God is spirit” (John 4:24), and as such, He is not material. Humans are material beings, and as such, our voices are material. They are matter. Voices are physical sound waves. They can be recorded and played back later. They are tangible things.
Yet, God’s voice is intangible. This does not mean that God’s voice is inaudible. Inaudible means incapable of being heard. No! God’s voice can be heard, but not heard in the same way as the voices of humans.
Since God existed before the universe, He must of necessity be beyond time, space and matter. Paul described God’s uncreated nature in this words, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). Paul gives three description of God: First, eternal. This simply means that He existed before time began. He is before time and He will exist past the end of time. Second, immortal. Everything in the universe dies. Everything has a beginning and end, but not God. Third, invisible. Every created thing is material. Materiality can be seen. It might take a microscope to see it, but all things are seen. But since God is the Creator and not the created things, He is by nature invisible. This does not mean He is unreal. Only that His reality is not seen by the physical eye of man.
This invisibility includes His voice. His voice is real, just not heard by the physical ear. God made humankind in His image, so that humans have a spirit within in which God can communicate to. It takes the human spirit to hear His voice. This is why to hear God’s voice, it is best to be born again. When you are born again, your spirit within, becomes alive and in tune to God’s Spirit. This why Paul said that only God’s children can be led by God’s Spirit. “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
It’s worth noting that before Saul was saved and became Paul, Jesus did not guide him directly to being saved, healed or filled with the Spirit. Jesus said to him, “You will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Since he was not born again yet, he could not receive direct communication from Jesus as to what he should do. He had to receive that communication via a disciple of Christ. Afterward, however, Paul was able to receive direct communication from Jesus.
- God’s voice is often communicated through tangible means.
As the Hebrew writer said, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrew 1:2). How did God speak to us through His Son?
First point is that Jesus is the intangible Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The voice of God that created the universe was intangible. That voice was Jesus!
Second point is that Jesus became tangible. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Jesus made the intangible Word of God tangible. He made it heard in the hearing of the people. When people heard Jesus speak, whether they realized it or not, they were hearing the voice of God.
God made His voice tangible through Christ. Today, God uses that same pattern. He uses tangible means to speak His intangible Word.
For example, God uses the reading of the Bible to speak to you. The Bible is a tangible book. It is called the Word of God. When you read it, you are reading the voice of God. This does not mean everything you read, you are hearing God speak to you. However, while you do read it, God will take something you are reading and speak a direct word to you. Something in your Bible reading will stand out to you. This is the intangible Word coming from the tangible Bible.
There are other ways God uses tangible means to speak the intangible Word of God. The most common way is to hear the Word preached by a minister. His voice is tangible. He is human. Yet, God takes his or her actual vocal chords, uses the material sound waves coming from his or her voice and speaks an intangible Word to you. You feel at that moment that God is talking to you. It is not that the minister is God, only that God uses the minister to speak a word of direction to you.
You can also receive the voice of God through counseling, experiences, circumstances, and of course prophecy.
- God’s voice produces faith.
Many people ask me how they can tell whether or not God is speaking to them. It’s simple: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). When you hear God’s voice, faith comes into your heart. Doubt is removed.
If you doubt after you think God has spoken to you, then it is clear that God has not spoken to you. Someone might say, “I feel like God has spoken to me to go into the ministry, but I am afraid I may not be successful.” This fear is a sign that God has not spoken to you, because, if God did tell you to go into the ministry you would have faith and confidence to be successful.
When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he asked, “‘Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” The moment Jesus said to him, “Come“, Peter had faith. His faith was so great, he climbed out of the boat to walk on the water. None of the other apostles climbed out of the boat, because the Word Jesus spoke was only to Peter, not to them. (see Matthew 14:28-29) Only Peter received faith from that word. Yes, later Peter became afraid, and this can happen even after we receive God’s Word to us, but initially we will get faith when God speaks.
Early I told you that God spoke to me to start a church. When God spoke to me to start one, I did not doubt that it would be successful. His word spoken to me gave me faith to do it.
If you don’t have faith to do what you think God told you, whether by direct word or through prophecy, don’t do it. If God had really spoken to you, then faith would come.
Put your hand over your heart and pray this: Father God, I come in the name of Jesus. I am a sheep of Christ and I hear His voice. Voices of strangers I will not follow. Speak to my heart and I will hear. Give me courage to obey and faith to believe. Help me to be sensitive to your voice. I believe I hear the voice of the good Shepherd and I follow Him where ever He goes. Amen.