‘Listening to God’ – the title may seem a bit crazy or whimsical for some! Some others may think that it would be an article full of religious stuff. To help do away with your assumptions, let me assure you that listening to God is neither a crazy thought nor a religious supposition. It’s not a crazy thought because God does speak. It’s not a religious supposition because God has nothing to do with religion. Religions (there are uncountable many – and every other day new religions are born) are socio-cultural identities to which a sense of divinity has been pulled in to help make it sacred. God created no religion. He just created human beings and gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or to look the other way. And, that is how we have different belief systems, ideologies and philosophies about God the world over.
Having cleared the air a bit, let me ask you – have you ever listened to God speak to you? I have. And, that’s what makes me write this article with confidence.
THE WAYS GOD DOESN’T ALWAYS SPEAK
- God doesn’t always speak ‘what’ we would want Him to.
There are times we want God to intervene in our lives during tough situations. Desperate for a word of assurance from Him, we wish that He would speak a word of affirmation into our situation. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s because God knows what is best for us in the infinity of His wisdom than what we desire with the finiteness of our longing. His ways are different from ours. His thoughts are different from ours.
- God doesn’t always speak ‘when’ we would want Him to.
Living at a day and age of instants – instant Maggie, instant Coffee, instant Soups – and at a time when data gets downloaded in seconds and nanoseconds, it is quite understandable to want quick-fix solutions to problems and shortcuts to success. It is also quite understandable to want God to speak to us instantly as soon as He is called out to. At times, He makes us wait – the delay leading many to conclude that ‘God doesn’t exist’. However, we need to understand that God is beyond time. With God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
- God doesn’t always speak ‘where’ we would want Him to.
Most of us have this notion that God can be found in and would speak in serene tranquil surroundings, in seclusion, away from habitation – maybe on a lonely sea beach or a lofty mountain top. To get you right on this, God speaks to His handmade human beings at all places. He is Omnipresent. So, if you are thinking that you need to get away on a quiet vacation in order to have God speak to you, you are wrong. God can speak in the storms, in the tumult of crashing waves, in the whirlpool and in the wind. But, to be able to listen to Him, we need the silence of our hearts with our spirits attuned to Him.
- God doesn’t always speak ‘how’ we would expect Him to.
Not every dream is from God. Not every vision is from God. Not every prophetic word is from God. Not every voice from within is from God. Not every counsel received from trusted loved ones or experienced wise ones, is from God. Not every seemingly evident sign is from God. So, beware that you do not mistakenly assume that the voices of the world, of your own desires and of the devil are from God, thereby preventing yourself to listen to the voice of God.
HOW THEN, DOES GOD SPEAK?
- God speaks through His audible voice.
God is simply not a figment of human imagination. He is not a mere superpower, somewhere up in the high skies. He is a living entity. He is not a lifeless totem. And so, He speaks with an audible voice. Those who have heard Him speak describe His voice as thunderous, like the sound of many waters. At times, He speaks in silent whispers and at other times in a calm clear call.
- God speaks through nature.
Nature is God’s footprint on earth. The myriad animals, birds, fishes, insects, trees, flowers, seas, oceans, mountains, sun, moon, stars all bear the stamp of God. They are silent witnesses to the existence of God and God speaks through them. Nature is not God. But, it bears the impression of its Creator.
- God speaks through people.
While all human counsel is not from God, God does speak through people – at times through people known to us, at other times through complete strangers and sometimes through people whom we don’t seem to agree with.
- God speaks through supernatural means.
Again, while all dreams, visions and signs are not from God, God does speak through these supernatural means. He has been using these means from ages of old and does so even today to reach out to people.
- God speaks through His Word.
I believe in the Bible as the living Word of God. God has revealed Himself through His Word – not by the word of a human author/s. The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and God speaks out loud and clear to all humanity through His word.
HOW CAN WE LISTEN TO GOD?
- Tuning our spirits to God
When we tune our spirits Godwards, we train our ears to listen to God. A newborn baby knowing the difference between the mother’s voice and that of others, responds to that familiar voice while discarding others. With spirits tuned to God, His voice distinctly makes us listen to Him.
- Having a spirit of discernment
If all counsel is not from God, but some are; if all supernatural means are not from God, but some are, how do we know for sure which to listen to? This is when a spirit of discernment is needed and this is something given by God Himself.
- Spending time in the presence of nature
Nature speaks of the glories of God. Spend time in the quietness of nature and allow God to speak to you. Not the voice from within you, but the voice of God. You’ll hear Him!
- Quietening our hearts and seeking to listen to Him
When we quieten our hearts and consciously seek to listen to Him, there is no way we would miss Him speak. Hearing may be accidental, but listening is always a conscious choice. If we choose to listen to God, we will definitely listen to Him.
The digital age has made pep talks, motivational speeches and positive thinking lectures available at our fingertips. They do help pep us up for a while but pose as the biggest obstacles to desire to listen to God. So, while you feel motivated and pepped up by listening to experts, don’t allow those voices to cloud the voice of God – you’ll miss listening to the best motivator!
In this week, when we are writing about ‘Listening’, I chose to write about ‘Listening to God’ because this is the most important voice that every human being needs to listen to. And, this is the voice that goes unperceived the most leading to chaos in families, societies and the world over. I urge you to desire to listen to God speaking to you. When you do, you’ll know what I mean.
Stay tuned for articles this week that focus on the importance of listening in our day-to-day lives – in families, among friends, in workplaces and everywhere else!