When Jesus sent out His 12 disciples, He said this to them:
Matthew 10:27: What is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
The other day I was reading a devotion for my children at the breakfast table. Apparently, everyone in my family thinks I read and talk way too loud! So I read aloud because I see my kids’ attention quickly going away from what I’m saying! We were reading about the story of Elijah. He had single-handedly defeated hundreds of false prophets in a duel to prove who the real God was (found in 1 Kings 18-19). It’s a fantastic story of a faith-filled prophet who wouldn’t take anything from anybody.
But amazingly, after this incredible victory, this faith-filled prophet suddenly became a fear-filled prophet. After his success, the wicked queen Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah and became so scared. So he went on the run and contemplated suicide. Eventually, he ran to a cave where amazingly, God visited him.
As he was in the cave, there was an earthquake, a giant wind, and a fire. But God didn’t speak to Elijah in the earth, wind, and fire. Instead, His voice came to Elijah through a gentle whisper, and the whisper said to Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So after some back and forth, God sends Elijah out again by encouraging him, and then this faith-filled prophet is back on his way.
Many people struggle to hear from God even though they want to hear from God. For example, one year, I polled my church on the most important questions they had regarding their faith. The number one question they were seeking an answer to was, “How do I hear God’s voice?”
I believe we have a God who loves to relate to His children.
Dallas Willard says, “If God doesn’t speak today, then the greatest disservice we could ever do to people is to tell them that they could have a personal relationship with God.”
If we struggle to hear God’s voice in our life, the problem is not that God isn’t speaking; it’s that we aren’t listening.
Here are three reasons why we struggle to hear God’s voice today. Additionally, here’s a sermon of mine about hearing and discerning the voice of God.
Let me boldly say that you can’t do everything you are currently doing. We are more and more stressed today than we were a year ago, and the statistics are only getting more discouraging. Until we figure out what life is about, spend our time, energy, and priorities on those things, and stop trying to do everything that everybody asks us all the time, we will burn out and be too busy.
Something has to change. Here’s a practical thing I’ve implemented in my life that I learned from Carey Nieuwhof’s High Impact Leader Course: Decide what you will do ahead of time.
Someone else’s priorities will quickly become yours if you don’t know what you need to do. For instance, think about this. You will never be asked to complete your top priorities. They will only ask you to achieve theirs. That’s why they email you, right?
As a pastor, I’ve never gotten an email from anyone saying, “Hey Zach, will you make sure you spend 5 hours today working on your sermon so that it’s awesome on Sunday?” Instead, the emails I get are “Hey, can I meet up with you,” or “I need to talk, can you meet,” or “I need help with this….” And if you aren’t careful with your time, you won’t get your stuff done because you’ll be completing other people’s stuff.
If you aren’t careful and don’t schedule a time to BE with God (remember, BEING is one of the five targets of great disciples, and I would argue the most important), how can you expect to hear God’s voice? So be intentional about scheduling time with God. Amid your busyness, decide ahead of time when you will have your one-on-one time with God.
2: Competing Voices
God could be speaking to you clearly, but if everyone else is screaming at you, you won’t hear him.
Usually, I never want to watch or listen to TV commercials. Instead, I’ll record something so that I can fast-forward through them. The only time I may want to hear TV commercials is during the Super Bowl. But what’s crazy is I usually can’t listen to them because many others surround me as we watch the “Big Game” together. When everyone else is talking, even though I want to hear the commercial, I’m unable to amid the competing voices.
This is a small picture of what it’s like in our world today. There are so many competing voices that we often don’t hear God’s voice in the midst of it. Perhaps there are no louder voices than the digital ones coming at us: iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch (you can tell I’m an Apple fan, huh?!), social media, etc. It’s all right in front of us, and it’s hard to drown out those voices when we are constantly “on” to the world’s voices. If I get a notification on my wrist every minute from my Apple Watch, how can I expect to hear God’s voice in the midst of that?
Kids between 8 and 18 spend 7.5 hours daily, 53 hours a week on screens. Then some of us will bring our kids to 1-1.5 hours of church on a Sunday. God barely has a chance with all these other competing voices. Social media and the digital world need to have their place.
What rules can you set in your house?
- Screen basket
- Set a time every day when your devices are off
- No devices until you’ve spent time with God
Find something that works for you. And, as a side, one of my pet peeves is when parents complain about their children’s screen time. That’s not your child’s fault; that’s your fault as a parent. You get to set the rules when that child is under your roof.
I’ve written more on how to master your smartphone and not be dominated by it in this blog.
You have to turn down the world’s volume to hear God’s voice.
I’ve also noticed that the enemy’s voice is much louder than God’s. It feels like the enemy is shouting while God speaks in a still, small, gentle whisper.
Why is this? It’s because God reminds you that He doesn’t need to shout. The enemy must shout because he is busy prowling around, seeking someone to devour. He doesn’t want to get close to you or spend time in a relationship with you. No, he wants to shout something so loud at you and then keep moving on. But God, He’s right by your side. He’s close. He’s near. His voice is still speaking, but is your life so filled with distractions that you can’t hear him?
God can speak to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Still, I wonder how often we miss hearing from God because we don’t spend time quieting the noise of this world.
Many people can’t hear God’s voice because they’re unsure if they want to. Deep down, they know they aren’t living in a God-honoring way, so rather than coming close to God, they run further from Him. They fear that if God speaks, His voice will condemn them further and bring even more shame and guilt than they are going through. This is a lie from Satan.
Much of the problems we experience in this world come from listening to the enemy’s lies far more than God’s truths.
I have good news for you. When our God speaks, he speaks words of encouragement meant to save you, not to condemn you (John 3:17).
It is, after all, God’s kindness that leads us to change.
If you’ve not heard God’s voice because you’ve been avoiding it, remember that God has welcomed sinners back from the beginning of time. You, my friend, are no different.
There is nothing too big or extreme that you could have done that God wouldn’t welcome you back home. So today, hear God’s whisper to you: “Come back. I love you. You are my child. I’ve got big plans for you.”
Which of these three, busyness, competing voices, or fear, do you struggle with the most?
21 Days of Prayer Challenge!
Want to study more about hearing God’s voice? Join us for a 21 Days of Prayer Challenge. It’s starting this Sunday, January 8th-28th. You can join me on YouTube daily at 6:33 AM as we grow in prayer together. So, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and let’s start the year hearing the voice of God! For more info on the FREE challenge, go here.