Several years ago I led worship at a small, intimate women’s retreat. It took place in a beautiful setting where we had a lot of time to listen and contemplate what God was saying to us. On the first evening of the retreat, we were guided through an activity where we wrote a letter to God. On the last morning, we were encouraged to write a letter from God to us. I had never heard of such a thing and approached the exercise with some doubts. What if I didn’t hear anything from Him? What if it all came from my own imagination rather than from the Holy Spirit?
But when I sat down to listen and write what I heard, I was absolutely blown away by the words that flowed from my pen. It was like I could not write fast enough. The thoughts coming into my mind were God pouring out his heart for me, tenderly speaking words of life and love and identity over me. The things I was writing brought tears to my eyes, they were so loving and beautiful. At one point, He even began to speak about my future and about His calling on my life. I wrote down things that I never would have or could have thought up myself; things that are still dear to my heart. By the time the exercise was over, I had tears streaming down my face and my body was trembling at the power and nearness of God that I had just experienced. I was in awe that God would choose to speak to me. Hearing Him had been easy when I sat down to listen.
During that season, I began leading the women’s ministry at my church. I spent time each morning sitting quietly with God, praying about how I should lead the women’s Bible study each week. I would have ideas, thoughts, or Scriptures come to mind that would then become a part of what I would share. I would never have said during that season that I was “prophetic”. I just acted on the thoughts or prompts that came into my mind during prayer. I didn’t realize that because I was practicing regular confession and prayer and I was immersing myself in His Word daily, my mind was beginning to be joined with the mind of Christ. I realize now that many of the thoughts I would have taken credit for were actually from God. His Spirit was partnering with my thoughts to bring encouragement to the body of Christ.
…these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. (emphasis added) – I Corinthians 2:10-16
Stewarding His Words
There’s been something powerful about not just learning to hear God’s voice, but also to obey it. I’ve been finding that the more I obey Him, the more I hear Him. It is possible to tune out His voice so much that you stop hearing Him. I did not start out by hearing huge pieces of revelation from God. I started out by listening for the simple things and then being willing to take a risk and share it, whether it was a picture, a word, or Scripture.
The revelations got bigger and more significant when I learned how to steward what I heard. I steward His words to me by trying to write down everything I hear Him say. His words are precious to me, and I don’t want to miss a thing!
This practice began in earnest when I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. Every believer receives the Holy Spirit when they choose to make Jesus the Lord of their life. But there is a greater, deeper, filling of the Spirit that many call Spirit baptism. This is a filling and indwelling of the Spirit that is powerful and all-consuming. It is like a baptism of fire and power, and you are never the same afterwards. This is what happened to me in 2018. God overwhelmed me and His Spirit filled me in a powerful, physical way, and I have not been the same since. I am living my life in the power of His Spirit now. I’ll share more about this experience in detail later, but for now, just know that I live with passion and fire in my heart, a deeper understanding of His love for me, and a greater clarity and ease in hearing His voice.
Having such a close encounter with God’s presence made me want to respond some way, but I wasn’t sure how. Every time I asked God what I was supposed to do now, I’d hear Him say, “Write what you hear.”
So for about a month, I would send my kids off to school, spend time in worship, and then begin writing. I was not hearing an audible voice, but I was having very clear thoughts in my mind that were affirming, original, and true. So, I wrote every day, all day, until they returned from school. For the first month, I wrote by hand and filled up multiple notebooks. The revelations were amazing. I knew it was His voice because I’d already been practicing listening to Him for several years. Everything He said lined up with Scripture, but it brought a depth to my understanding of Scripture that I had not had before. I could hear His still, small voice in my mind, essentially dictating paragraphs and pages to me. The journaling I did during that encounter set the foundations for my upcoming book.
That season began a whole new discipline for me. Whereas previously I had always journaled my prayers, about ninety percent of what I journaled were my words to God. Now, that changed. I greatly valued hearing from Him – after all, what He had to say was GENIUS, and what I had to say was not. I began to start each day by sitting at my computer, spending time reading the word and worshiping, and then just sitting and listening to Him. I still present my requests on occasion, and I still engage in intercession for others. But I have found that His thoughts are so precious to me. I love to just sit and listen, and type what I hear.
Most of my ability to hear God’s voice has come from sitting with Him in those early morning hours, before the sun is up and household is awake. Sometimes He speaks to me through His Word. Usually, it’s that still, small voice in my head. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit partners with my imagination to give me a picture or vision. If I dream during the night, I’ll write it down the next day. Sometimes, I will have a strong feeling or “knowing”. All of these are different ways of hearing God’s voice. The Word of God is my measuring stick. If something doesn’t match up with the Bible, I toss it out. His voice is always kind to me. If He brings conviction, it’s for something very specific that is completely taken care of the moment I repent. If I’m feeling shame or condemnation, I know it’s not from Him. Sometimes He says things that challenge me to further consecration or that delight me with encouragement and identity. The more I practice listening, the more familiar I become with His voice. He says in John that His sheep know his voice. I’ve gotten to the point where I am familiar enough with his voice that I even know where it comes from – there’s a place in my head somewhere near my right ear and that is usually where, if He chooses to communicate with words, I will “hear” words from Him!
It has taken faith to trust that I do indeed have the mind of Christ. It has also taken humility to admit when I’ve gotten something wrong. That has happened to me before, too. If I am feeling judgmental or critical, or there is unconfessed sin in my heart, it is going to affect how clearly I can hear God. Some of my most painful lessons have come from sharing with people what I thought I was hearing from God, only to realize later that the word was from my own heart, not God’s. If I am feeling judgment towards a person rather than love, chances are the words I’m going to “hear from God” will be full of judgment. I have a responsibility to make sure I am walking in humility and love, regularly practicing confession and repentance, so that I do not taint anything I may be hearing from the Holy Spirit. I have had to repent to people for being judgmental and lacking love in my words.
John 3:17 tells us that Jesus came into the world to save it, not to condemn it. If people are consistently feeling judged by my words, I need to examine my heart. The Old Testament prophets were fairly harsh and judgmental, but we are under a new covenant now. Back in Old Testament times, prophets were to be put to death if they gave a false word that was not from God. I am so grateful that thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, we are under grace now rather than under the law. Under the new covenant we are to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and test the words we hear, but there’s grace now to cover us as we prophesy, and thankfully no need to put anyone to death!
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
God is love. When He speaks, it sounds like love. I have a responsibility to make sure there is love in my heart before I speak on His behalf. If I speak without love, it will be irritating and grating on the ears of those who hear it. Having love in my heart first and foremost will help me to see myself, others, and every circumstance through His eyes. Only then can I hear from Him and speak what I hear with purity.
Hearing God is hearing love.
*This is the fifth post in a blog series I’m calling, “Hearing God’s Voice”. Each child of God has a unique history with God, and unique ways to relate to him. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of my journey of learning to hear God’s voice, and the ways that’s impacted my life and that of others, too. Join me each week as I share stories from my life that will hopefully encourage and inspire you to listen to him more – because he wants to speak to you!
To read previous posts in the series: