Imagine with me that you are Samuel. You have been dedicated to God and lived in the tabernacle your whole life. Most of what you’ve been taught and what you know is how to be holy. You are lying down in the Holy Place to make sure that the lamps do not burn out. You are lying near the curtain veil, and on the other side is God Himself. You’ve lived near the Presence of God, but you’ve never heard or seen God Himself.
Suddenly, you hear a voice. It says your name. Although you do not necessarily recognize the voice, you assume it is Eli because he’s the only other person around. You go to him, and say, “Here I am,” while wondering why in the world He is calling you. Eli says, “Dude, I did not call you. Go lay back down.” As you lie back down, you hear the voice again calling your name, more urgently this time. So, you go back to Eli, wondering if the old man has gone senile and thinking to yourself, “Does he not know he called me?”
Again, Eli tells you to lie back down. You return to lie down only to hear the voice a third time. Again, you go to Eli who finally realizes what is happening: God is calling you. He tells you to lie back down; only this time he instructs you to acknowledge the Lord and let him know you are listening.
The fourth time it feels as if God is standing over you as he says your name not once, but twice. You respond, “Yes, Lord, I hear you. I am listening. I am ready to hear.” And then He gives you a message.
Have you ever heard the voice of God? If you have been raised in church most of your life perhaps, like Samuel, you’ve been taught how to serve him and follow his commands, but you’ve never heard his voice.
Just like Samuel, there was a time when I did not recognize His voice. I believe He probably spoke to me, but I was not equipped to recognize that He was speaking.
The point of the awaken series is to help you wake up and discern that He speaks, and to teach you to understand that He may be speaking to you and that He wants you to listen and respond.
I have heard and experienced God in a variety of ways. God has spoken to me through the following:
- an “inner voice,”
- people who gave me verses they felt led to share with me (which I consider to be direct Words),
- people who shared as they felt led with no Scripture attached (indirect Words),
- His created world,
- His Word.
One time, I thought I heard him audibly, but it was a louder “inner voice,” more urgent in nature than in previous times.
I honestly believe that God can use any means necessary to speak to someone. Certainly, He has used many ways to speak to me. Although I think it is harder to hear and listen to Him when we are more connected to our technology than our God, He can answer prayers using the internet, the TV, a movie or more. When we are hungry for Him, we will find him in the midst of our busy and technology filled lives.
I did not always understand and discern his voice. I was like Samuel. Even though I heard God’s voice, sometimes I doubted that he was trying to say something to me. Like Samuel, I believed there was another person calling me or that I was listening to myself, but discerning and listening has become easier over time as I matured and learned to listen to the Shepherd King.
In his book, “God is Closer than You Think,” John Ortberg says,
“…there’s one Voice above all to which we’re called to listen. Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd and that ‘his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Throughout history, those who have practiced God’s presence most have insisted that they hear his voice. They have learned, so to speak, to program their minds to be constantly receiving the divine channel.”
I don’t know about you, but as a mother, I find it interesting that the sheep follow Him simply because they know His voice, even to the degree that they do not follow a stranger’s voice. I’ve seen many a child walk behind another mother simply because he or she thought it looked enough like his mother to continue doing so. As young Christians, we often do this too. Satan disguises himself and we follow him the wrong way.
As a mom, I have to train my children to hear me, to listen to me, to trust me, and stay beside me, which can only be done by practicing how to hear, to listen, to trust, and to walk with me. As my children grow up, they more readily follow me, listen to me, and stick beside me, and I can, in turn, trust them to stay beside me in a crowded place, where strangers will be. So, too, we as Christians have to practice how to hear from, listen to, trust, and walk beside God. Until we learn to know His voice, we risk being led astray like the child who follows the wrong mother. We must be patient as we grow in maturity to hear, to listen, to trust and to walk with our God.
What is God saying to you today?
Ortberg, John. “God is Closer than You Think.” Chapter 5, pg. 79.