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, and apparently, everyone in my family thinks I read and talk way too loud! I think I read loud because I see my kids’ attention so quickly going away from what I’m saying! We were reading about the story of Elijah and what happened after 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, all of a sudden, became a fear-filled prophet. After his success, the wicked queen Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah and became so scared. In fact, 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 then 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 but really want to hear from God. For example, one year, I polled my church on any questions they had regarding faith and regarding God, and 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 this, “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 are struggling to hear the voice of God in our life, the problem is not that God isn’t speaking; it’s that we aren’t listening.
Here are 3 reasons why we struggle to hear God’s voice today:
Let me bold in saying this: 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 really about and spend our time, energy, and priorities on those things, and stop trying to do everything that everybody asks me all the time, we will burn out and be too busy.
Something has to change. And here’s a really practical thing that 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.
If you don’t have clarity on what it is you need to do, someone else’s priorities will quickly become yours. For instance, think about this. No one will ever ask you 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.
Where this falls into our topic for the day is if you aren’t careful and if you don’t schedule a time to BE with God (remember, BEING is one of the 5 targets of great disciples, and I would argue the most important), then how in the world can you expect to hear God’s voice. Be intentional about scheduling time with God. Amid your busyness, decide ahead of time when you will have your personal one-on-one time with God.
2: Competing Voices
God could be speaking to you very clearly, but if everyone else is screaming at you, you won’t hear him.
Usually, I don’t ever want to watch or listen to TV commercials. I’ll record something so I can fast-forward through them or if it’s a live event, I’ll mute them. The only time I really want to hear TV commercials is during the Super Bowl. But what’s crazy is I usually can’t listen to them because I’m surrounded by many others as we watch the “Big Game” together. When everyone else is talking, even though I want to hear the commercial, I’m unable to in the midst of 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 in the world can I expect to hear God’s voice in the midst of that?
Kids between 8 and 18 spend 7.5 hours a day, 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 time every day where 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 the screen time their children have. That’s not your child’s fault; that’s your fault as a parent. When that child is under your roof, you get to set the rules. Rise up! I’ve written more on how to master your smartphone and not be dominated by it in this blog.
To hear God’s voice, you have to turn down the world’s volume.
I’ve also noticed that the enemy’s voice is a lot louder than God’s voice. It feels like the enemy is shouting while God speaks in a still, small, gentle whisper.
Why is this? It’s because God is reminding you that He doesn’t need to shout. The enemy needs to 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, but I wonder how often we miss hearing from God because we don’t spend the time to quiet and listen.
There are many people who, truth be told, can’t hear God’s voice because they’re not sure if they want to. Deep down, they know they aren’t living in a God-honoring way, and so rather than coming close to God, they run further from Him. They are afraid that if God speaks, His voice will condemn them further and bring even more shame and guilt than they are going through already. This is a lie from Satan.
Much of the problems that we experience in this world come from when we listen to the enemy’s lies far more than the Gospel in God’s Voice.
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 been hearing God’s voice because you’ve been avoiding it, remember that God has been welcoming sinners back from the beginning of time, and 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. 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?
Want to study more on hearing God’s voice? Join us for a 21 Days of Prayer Challenge Bible Reading Plan. Every day of this 21-day challenge will feature Bible readings with devotion to help answer some of the biggest questions about prayer. In addition, each day will feature a prayer prompt and also a challenge to complete. It is our hope that your relationship with God will grow through this amazing gift of prayer.