If I gave this post a title like, “Three Steps to Make God Talk to You,” do you think it would be popular? We want that kind of approach, don’t we? God does xyz so, to get Him to do xyz for you, all you have to do is abc. A nice formula. Formulas are great. If this, then this. Works every time.
Except that God is not subject to a formula. He doesn’t always do xyz, so all your abc may not get Him to do what you want. Formulas seem right and they seem easy, at least understandable, but formulas have no place in a relationship with a real person. Real people are far less than predictable, and without serious deception or coercion, far less than controllable. And God is a Real Person who cannot be deceived or controlled.
Because God is a Real Person and greater than us and in authority over us, it isn’t for us to make Him speak to us our way. We need to learn to listen as He speaks to us His way. Under grace, we are free to stop looking for formulas and control. We are free to listen and trust.
The title I did give this post asks a question that really cannot be answered. How does God speak? Well, I don’t know how He speaks to you. I am barely beginning to understand how He speaks to me. I suppose there is a generic answer where I could list as many ways of communication as I know from God. I know He speaks to us through the Bible, although I also believe that the Holy Spirit connects with the truth of the Bible to get that message into our hearts. He speaks to us through circumstances, through other believers, and through that small voice in our hearts. And, yes, sometimes He speaks in audible or nearly audible words. But sometimes He speaks in odd ways. In the Bible He used donkeys and birds and a whirlwind. And some people see visions or dream dreams in which He speaks to them. And, at times, God has spoken through prophets and elders and preachers.
But none of that is particularly helpful if you don’t know how He is speaking to you. And I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is that one of the most important activities of the Christian life is to listen. He is speaking. Trust Him and listen for Him.
The past few years have been a season for college in our home. I am amazed at the breaks these kids get with their professors. If they don’t like a test grade, they negotiate. They might be able to get a few points added to the grade or they might get a chance for some extra credit or even some sympathy points. (I don’t remember anything like this when I was in college.) I can just imagine a student walking into class on the first day and telling the professor, “Well, I am a visual learner, so you will have to use a lot of visuals to get your message across to me.” Who knows what the prof would say today, but I know what mine would have said: “Well, son, you are going to have trouble in this class.”
Those who wait for God to speak their way might be waiting a long time. I have heard people complain about this. “I never hear God’s voice.” “I don’t get anything out of the Bible.” “I can’t listen to a sermon.” Well, maybe you should ask God how He wants to speak to you. Have you ever asked? He may never speak audibly to you. That’s true for almost all believers. Nor is it extra special or superior when He speaks to someone that way. It’s just one of the ways.
So, how do you discern God’s voice in whatever way He desires to speak to you? Ask Him! Tell Him you want to hear Him, you want to follow Him. If you look to Him as a sheep to the shepherd, you will learn to hear His voice. (John 10)