Almost everyone I know struggles with this question: how do I hear from God?
Is God’s voice:
That warm feeling inside that tells you what you’re thinking about is the right thing?
Big and thunderous, and bascially only heard by 0.031% of the population (who might be the crazy ones)?
A series of signs – like you hit all the green lights in a row so that must mean God is in favour of whatever you’re thinking of doing?
That sense of assurance you get when you just know it’s the right thing?
I’m only being a little facetious here.
If you have hung around the church for any length of time, you know people – even leaders – are confused about it. (And curiously, the people who often claim to have heard from God aren’t always the most stable.)
The problem with all of the above ‘methods’ of hearing from God is that they are subjective and mostly unhelpful. They’re also unreliable.
Now let’s raise the stakes.
Hearing from God is a big deal for those of us in leadership.
There is weight on our words (James 3.1) that comes with leadership. We need to be especially careful how we listen and how we speak.
Because we lead others, we can also mislead others.
Without careful self-reflection, leaders can claim to speak for God too much.
The new vision for the church is a ‘vision from God’.
My call is a ‘call from God’.
We need to do this because ‘God told me to’.
Well, let me ask you a question: how do you know? How do you know if you’re hearing from God?
Here’s how I’ve learned to listen for God:
1. Scripture First. Many people think God doesn’t speak anymore. Just the opposite. He has spoken volumes. It’s called the Bible.
The problem is most Christians barely read their Bible.
The Bible addresses so many life and leadership issues it’s almost impossible to keep count. The first place I go to hear from God is in scripture.
Because the hunt and peck method of trying to find a verse to solve a crisis is not the wisest approach, I try another tack. I try to read the Bible every day.
If you make daily scripture reading a habit over a period of years, you’ll be amazed at how well you learn the will of God and learn to hear the voice of God.
For most of my adult life, I’ve used the One Year Bible.
Reading the Bible from cover to cover every year over time really acquaints you with how God operates, what is close to his heart, and leaders handled the same problems you’re facing in life and leadership.
Scripture takes so much of the guess-work out of what to do.
Sure, there’s mystery and majesty associated with God (it leads you there too – very deeply), but you don’t need to flounder in day to day decision making the way you think you do.
Start with scripture.
2. Prayer Second. You can pray “God show me your will”. And that’s not a bad prayer. But it’s even better to find scripture passages that speak into the situation you’re facing and instead pray “God, show me how to apply this in my life.”
When you realize someone doesn’t like you, you can pray “God, what should I do?” But the truth is, God already told you what to do.
Instead, you could pray for your ‘enemy’ and bless him and serve him. And then pray for the strength to go do it.
And yes, I do pray before I read the bible. But prayer after is more challenging. Because then I have to do what it says. That takes prayer.
3. Wise Counsel Third. One of the best investments you can make in life and leadership is to surround yourself with at least a handful of people who are wiser, more mature, more godly and smarter than you are.
Just go find them. Have them over for dinner. Buy them lunch. Hang out. Ask them to mentor you. Hire them (pastors). Appoint them to your board. Select them as key volunteers. Get them in your life. Whatever you need to do, get wise counsel around you and hang on to them like gold.
These are the people in my life I process the “I don’t know what to do moments” with. They’re also the people I look toward to affirm, confirm and correct the things I think I’m sure of (based on scripture and prayer) but check with just in case.
I don’t do anything significant organizationally without running it past the wise counsel in our church. I’m fortunate to have elders who all fit this bill and staff who do too. Plus I have a handful of others in my life I regularly turn to for advice.
Every once in a while you might be called to do something everybody else thinks is a bad idea, but if you make a life of it, the bible has a word that describes you: fool.
That’s how I hear from God.
It’s a lot less mysterious than some methods. And it’s more challenging, because often what God has said and what others say is not what necessarily what you want to hear, but it’s wiser.
How do you hear from God? What would you add? What would you challenge?