I hear people talk about how God speaks to them, and they make it sound like He is speaking audibly to them. What is this still small voice that people are talking about that I am supposed to hear? I know that God talks to us through His word, and the Holy Spirit will guide us, but are there any other ways that He will communicate with us? I have meditated on His word, and listened intently after praying, but nothing happens. Am I doing something wrong?
First, God is capable of speaking to man in dramatic, supernatural ways. He spoke to Abraham by voice and by angels, He spoke to Joseph in dreams, and He spoke to the Israelites from thunder. In Numbers 22:28, God spoke to Balaam through a donkey, and in the desert God spoke through fire on the mountain and to Moses through a burning bush.
The Bible teaches us that the Lord can communicate through a variety of means, including through an audible voice at times, but more often the Lord speaks through nonverbal means. The Bible teaches us that since Jesus has appeared, God no longer speaks to us apart from communicating through Jesus Christ:
So how does the Father speak to us through His Son? First and foremost, God speaks to us through the Bible, which is the Word, the written revelation of Himself in Christ:
The Lord uses His word to communicate timeless spiritual truths to us, and as we submit ourselves to all that scripture teaches, we will inevitably grow closer in our walk with the Lord. Though the Bible may not speak in specific terms about every issue we face in our daily lives, the word of God transcends daily life and speaks to principles of godliness, holiness, obedience, and love that regulate our thinking and actions under all circumstances. As Paul says:
If we you are endeavoring to hear from God but you are not regularly and consistently studying in His word, then you may be missing what the Lord has already provided to you in His word. God will rarely give us a "personal word" much less a burning bush when the answers we seek have already been provided through Christ's word. This is why Paul reminds us to seek the scripture for all our needs:
Secondly, God can speak to us through the example of Jesus living as a man. Men heard God in the form of Jesus and saw His heart and understood more of who He was. By observing the examples Jesus provided, we gain a better appreciation for the Lord's desire for how we live our lives. As John tells us:
Thirdly, God speaks to us through nature and His Creation. We can “hear” God’s voice through the details of His creation and better understand His infinite power and divine plan. The more we understand about God's greatness and power the more we will see our own unworthiness and weaknesses, which will help contend with pride. As Paul wrote:
Fourth, God speaks to us through other people. We can “hear” God’s voice through the counsel and teaching and prayers of other believers. Throughout the New Testament, the Lord uses His disciples to share His message of truth. By this community of workers, we can gain a clearer understanding of Christ's will for our lives. As Paul commanded:
In a personal way, we can sense the Lord's leading in our prayer life. The Bible talks about the importance of prayer and fasting to clear our minds and prepare our hearts for God’s voice. Often, the Lord's direction can come in the form of prayer requests we never expected to make but they came to mind as we prayed:
These moments of personal revelation are made possible by the Spirit. God’s Spirit was with God in the very beginning waiting to breath life into His creation, and now the Spirit serves as an advocate for believers and gives them direction.
Finally, the Lord can speak to us through our circumstances. The Lord is sovereign over all that transpires in our life. Every event comes under His hand and His control, so we must recognize that everything that happens is according to His will. As you witness the events of life pass by, do you stop to consider what God is telling you?
Consider the example of the Prodigal Son in Luke 16. After leaving his home and taking his inheritance in a shameful act of selfishness, he enters a downward spiral of sin and debauchery. As he bottoms out eating the food of pigs, the man comes to his senses, repents and returns to the father. The circumstances of his life trigger an awareness that he should change his ways.
Similarly, we can learn many things about God's will by observing our circumstances carefully and making wise, biblically-informed conclusions about what we see. For example, are you suffering from the consequences of sin? Perhaps the Lord is speaking to you about the need to repent. Has the Lord brought you through a sickness or financial trial? What did you learn as you persevered through the trial? Did you receive a financial windfall? How does the Lord want you to use it for His glory?
Sometimes God speaks so loudly and clearly through circumstances, prayer, other believers or His word that we are tempted to think we heard God's voice, but even if we think we've never heard from God, you can be sure that the Lord is not silent. Our Lord is a Lord who delights in revealing Himself to His people, reflected by the name He gave Himself in the Gospels: the Word.
Usually, our inability to hear God isn't a issue of God's silence. Instead, it's a problem of overlooking the many ways and times God does speak to us, because we're searching for something more dramatic and supernatural. Practice the routines of healthy Christian discipleship, and you will hear the Lord more and more, as He guides you into all righteousness. This is the full sense of living by faith and not by sight.