By the power of God’s word, all of creation was formed. Simply by speaking, God separated the waters from dry land, lit up the night sky with stars, and gave life to every creature that crawls, walks, slithers, and flies. Out of a burning bush, the voice of God commanded and comforted Moses regarding his plan of deliverance. He spoke of judgment and redemption to the prophets. The living God has been speaking since the very beginning. He has always communicated with his creation and his people.
There is no doubt that the living God is a God who speaks. But what was so clear and evident in scripture brings about a lot of questions for people today.
Does God still speak today? How do you know if God is speaking to you? What does his voice sound like, and can you trust someone when they tell you God spoke to them?
There are some Christians who will never utter the phrase, “God told to me.” Then there are some who have seemingly no reservations about declaring, “God said.”
There are some aspects of the voice of God and the way he communicates that we know are true. Certainly, God can speak to anyone in any way he chooses. But there are ways we can test the validity of a claim that God is speaking.
Through the Bible
If you want to know who God is and what he has to say, the best place to start is with scripture. The Bible is the Word of God. He moved through people to deliver his word. He did this through the prophets of the people of Israel, and he did it through the authors of each book or letter in the Bible. What we have is the inspired word of God.
The Bible contains the revelation of who God is and allows us to know him in a personal way. It allows us to know him as he reveals himself to us. You can get a general sense of who God is by looking at his creation, being in awe of his craftsmanship, power, and creativity. But this doesn’t show you his heart. He has given us the Bible for that.
This means we can use the Bible to gauge the validity of any personal word from God. If you or someone else hears from God and it runs counter to scripture, then you can be certain it was not the word of God.
For example, if God tells you to divorce your spouse and marry your coworker, I can assure you that is not a word from God. This is not wisdom from the Lord, because it is in direct conflict with the instruction and guidance God has outlined for all of his people in scripture.
Understanding that God is no longer revealing new things about how he relates to his people, his plan for redemption, and how his people ought to live, you should question anyone who shares that they heard a new word from the Lord. Throughout history there have been many who call themselves prophets of the Lord, claiming to bring a new and unique revelation that has never been heard before. This is not the way God is choosing to operate. He has fully disclosed all he will until the second return of Jesus.
Nevertheless, this also means you can look to scripture for God to share what he has to say on many situations in your life.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
God wants us to look to his word to teach us, correct us, and even train us in how to live the life he has called us to. Even if it doesn’t have a one-to-one correlation of how to respond to workplace conflict, there are guiding principles in scripture to lean on. The Bible has a whole lot to say about how we are to relate to God and to others. Just about every life situation falls under one of these categories.
Turning to scripture will help you know what God is saying and what he is not saying. This should always be your starting point.
Through Other Instruments
God is known for using people to share his word. After all, he worked through people to give us the Bible. So he most certainly uses the wisdom and guidance of people to speak today. Again, we have to always weigh the words of others against what is provided to us in scripture. But God will use others to warn, encourage, or even bless us.
This is the beauty of how God works. He continues to allow broken and damaged vessels to be part of his glorious work. God might use a parent, coworker, friend, or even complete stranger to share a word with you.
I used to subscribe to a publication that was filled with stories of people encountering angels. I was obsessed with this magazine and would read it from cover to cover every month. There was something captivating about hearing stories of people encountering the spiritual realm and hearing the voice of God. I always longed to be greeted by an angel—that was until I actually understood the typical response to angel encounters in scripture.
I don’t want to discount the story of anyone claiming to have been greeted by an angel, but just about every story in this publication was filled with joy, peace, and excitement. Yet the majority of the angel encounters in scripture begin with the angel saying, “Do not be afraid.”
God can speak directly to you from an angel, but this doesn’t seem to be the common means people hear from God. Often he speaks in the stillness, in the simple, and the mundane. We’d love for God to make it so clear that he is speaking through an audible voice or an angel greeting us in the night. I think he chooses to speak to us in simple ways because that requires us to listen. It requires us to seek out his voice and to even wait for him to speak.
God uses people, songs, sermons, books, and many other avenues to speak to us. I think we often focus so much on how God is going to speak to us that we don’t pay attention to the instruments he’s using that are right in front of us.
Through the Holy Spirit
When Jesus left the disciples, he told them not to worry, because another advocate would be sent to help them. Jesus promised not to leave them alone. The way the Holy Spirit works is difficult to wrap my head around, but he is the one who was sent after Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in you.
You can trust God will speak to you through the Holy Spirit. Again, the Holy Spirit will not tell you anything contradictory to scripture. This is a great way to know whether it’s your own voice you are hearing or truly the voice of the Holy Spirit. There is an aspect of trust that we have to employ in order to believe God will use the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Through other spiritual disciplines like prayer and reading scripture, you will likely hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.
For some, this might be audible. But this is not anything I have ever experienced. Oftentimes, I will hear God speak to me as something I read in scripture pertains to the situation I’m waiting to hear from God about. Sometimes, there is something I have been praying about for months and months. My prayers have led me to tears, as I’ve begged God to guide me in a certain area in my life. One time, I was reading out of James, and it was as if God was speaking directly to me. My heart knew the words on the page were a reminder that God hears me and he will guide me. It wasn’t a blatant answer to the situation, but it was an encouragement that I can trust God to move in this particular situation.
We shouldn’t be people who walk around proclaiming all of the things God told us yesterday. Equally we shouldn’t shy away from allowing God to speak to us. We serve a God who cares about you as an individual, who wants to be in relationship with you, which means he wants to speak to you.
Hearing the voice of the Lord is less about how God will speak and more about whether or not we will posture our lives in such a way as to hear him.