Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).
Sometimes we “hear” with our eyes. For example, we communicate to our children by the way we model our life. They hear us speak by how we live. Our God does the same. He often speaks to us by what we see Him doing among us. We hear Him speak by recognizing what He is doing—and joining Him. God is working continually in and through our life, and He wants us to link with Him in that work.
We must be careful not to assume that God will speak to us in one certain way. He may be speaking to you through hundreds of different ways. We simply need to look around us to see how He is working and learn to recognize the activity of God.
The prophet Habakkuk once said, “I will look to see what he will say to me” (Hab. 2:1). Many times, that which God is saying to us is right in front of us! A husband may be relaxing and feel impressed to help his wife with some of the maintenance around the house. He should not be too quick to rebuke that thought! It is probably the Lord speaking to him. A teenager listening to her favorite CD or talking to one of her friends on the telephone may hear a voice within telling her to clean her room. It is probably God speaking!
I know that if LaVerne is overwhelmed with a busy schedule and needs a break, I don’t need an angelic visitation before I am motivated to handle a task so that she can rest, or before I simply encourage her to sleep in. Because I know God’s character and can see Him at work in my wife’s life, I understand that He would want to speak rest to her soul.
When we want to give our opinion or counsel to someone the Lord has placed in our lives, we should keep our spiritual eyes open—the Father is always doing something, and we can easily miss it. We must find out what He is saying to them.
When I pray with people who are going through deep waters, often I literally keep my eyes open to see what the Father is doing as I pray. If they begin to get emotional and cry, this may change the way I am praying, because I am following what I see the Father doing in the person’s life.
In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby describes a time when his church sensed that God was leading them to reach out to a college campus. For two years they held Bible studies in the dorms, with no results. Pastor Blackaby finally pulled the church’s students aside and said, “This week I want you to go to the campus and watch to see where God is working, and join him.” He explained further, “No one will ask after spiritual matters unless God is at work in his life. When you see someone seeking God or asking about spiritual matters, you are seeing God at work. If someone starts asking you spiritual questions, whatever else you have planned, don’t do it. Cancel what you are doing. Go with that individual and look to see what God is doing there.”
On Wednesday, one of the girls reported, “Oh, Pastor, a girl who has been in classes with me for two years came to me after class today. She said, ‘I think you might be a Christian. I need to talk to you.’ I remembered what you said. I had a class, but I missed it. We went to the cafeteria to talk. She said, ‘Eleven of us girls have been studying the Bible, and none of us are Christians. Do you know somebody who can lead us in a Bible study?’ As a result of that contact, we started three Bible study groups in the women’s dorms and two in the men’s dorm. For two years we tried to do something for God and failed. For three days we looked to see where God was working and joined him. What a difference that made!”
I just returned today from a trip to India. The new church where I was ministering was filled with young people from the local college campuses, who came from many different nations. It was easy to see what the Father in heaven is saying to the leaders of this church. He is calling them to reach a younger generation, many from the college campuses from many different nations and train them to take the gospel to their own nations. It would be silly for these leaders to feel that they should abandon this vital ministry outreach in order to reach senior citizens. The Lord is working among international students in their church. As they observe what the Father is doing, they can hear His voice guiding their ministry.
We learn to hear the voice of the Lord through practice and obedience. Sometimes we may feel discouraged trying to discern what is the Lord’s voice and what are other voices vying for our attention; but as we continue to listen to the voice of our Shepherd, we will learn the difference.
We have to be willing to trust God and have faith in Him even when we do not understand His ways. Sometimes we do not know the meaning of what God says until we look back later in life. Even if God’s thoughts surpass ours, and we do not always understand His ways, God wants us to get to know His ways! That’s why we should intentionally listen for His voice and adjust our lives to Him in obedience to that voice.
Years ago, we were at a shopping mall with two young children. In one split second our then four-year-old daughter was missing from view. I instantly called out her name. Thankfully, she quickly responded to the voice of her father. I was so relieved to see her! Our heavenly Father longs for His children to heed His voice.
Lord, teach us to hear Your voice and obey it.
This article is reprinted from Larry Kreider’s book, Speak Lord, I’m Listening (Ventura, California: Regal, 2008).