Learning to discern God's voice
By Judy Turner
God communicates through something that turns our attention to God. This communication can be a gentle reminder of a loving Presence or a confrontation with the Awesome Other that can shake the foundations of our worlds. God’s communication can cause us to think about the things that really matter, touch our deepest feelings, make a life-shaping impression within us, cause us to see everything in new ways.
Let’s try to describe some of the ways God “speaks”:
God can “speak” through something we read, particularly a passage of scripture. The words capture our attention and their application to our present circumstances becomes apparent.
God “speaks” through knowledge which leads to growing understanding of the purpose of creation, the meaning of history, and our particular place in the Big Picture. As we are able to put together more of the pieces, we are left with an even greater appreciation of how great God is.
God “speaks” through other people. Someone says something that points us toward God and is very relevant to our growth in faith.
We may have a sudden flash of insight that “just comes.” Perhaps we were not even aware of seeking God, but we know we have been given a divine gift of wisdom or a message.
Sometimes God’s communication is not a “message” so much as a sense of God’s presence. God is letting us know, “I am here.” We may be alone and somehow know we are not alone. When we have a sense of well-being or inner peace, whatever our external circumstances might be, God may be communicating assurance.
We may experience the reality of God’s love when we are surrounded by Christian friends in a time of need.
When we feel drawn into “another realm” while listening to music or seeking a work of art, God may be inviting us into fuller awareness of Presence.
The sense of satisfaction that comes as we serve someone else or work for justice is another way God communicates.
We may look into the face of someone who has nothing in the world’s way of thinking, and see the God who is revealed in “the least of these.”
There are many sources of our inner impressions. They can come from God, from our human “stuff” (mind, psyche, emotions), or from evil. So, how do we discern the source? In discerning, there are some helpful questions and scripture passages for us to consider:
Is what you’re “hearing” consistent with the life, teachings, and Lordship of Jesus?
Scripture Passages: I Corinthians 12:1-3; I John 3-5
What is truly of God leads to increased faith in Jesus as Lord (the ultimate authority) and honors Jesus.
God’s communication affirms that God is in control and we are not.
God’s communication assures us of God’s love and helps us overcome fear.
Jesus came “in the flesh.” He was not above suffering, and neither are we. Be cautious of any message that seems like a formula for health, wealth, and success. God is always working for our good, and sometimes God works for our good through suffering.
Does what you’re “hearing” lead to love and the upbuilding of the church?
Scripture Passage: I Corinthians 13 & 14
The “gifts of the Spirit” of God are given for the common good.
Love, the willingness to give oneself for the good of another, is the greatest demonstration of the Spirit of God at work.
Any message from God will help the church grow in love and mission.
What are the results in your life?
Scripture Passage: Galatians 5:22-23
What is truly of God increases our faith, hope, and love.
What is truly of God helps us grow in Christ-like qualities.
A feeling of inner peace, rather than inner disturbance, is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
If we are truly seeking God’s will, we will be led by God’s Spirit. We need to be discerning, but not anxious. Jesus promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you….If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” Luke 11:9-13.