Thursday, November 5, 2015

31Days - Me Not Hearing

In my last post, I started with the fear of not hearing God's voice. I quickly realized there were actually two parts to that fear: God not speaking; and me not hearing. I also discovered that what I had planned for one day was actually going to require two.

First, I tackled "I am afraid of God not speaking to me." I was a little surprised by the direction it took, but I was also extremely excited. If you haven't read it, I hope you'll go back and start there.

But what about the second part of that fear? What if I don't hear Him? Or what if that little voice I hear isn't really God, but is just me? What if I am trying so hard to hear something... anything... that I hear things He isn't even saying? What if it's just me, knowing what I think I should hear and forcing it... just like I faked healing in yesterday's post?

God may speak to me, but...

My fear for Day Twenty-Six:

I am afraid of not recognizing God's voice.

Tucked inside my heart is a little girl whose abuser taught her not to trust her own judgment. I know now that the "decisions" I made weren't really mine; they were my abuser's. But deep inside is still the little girl who saw with horror the mistakes she'd made; the incredibly bad judgment she'd used and trusted. As an adult, I know it wasn't my fault, but I still have a hard time trusting myself or my judgment. I'm always second-guessing myself. It makes sense, then, that I don't trust myself to hear or recognize God's voice.

So it's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

"When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
(John 10:4)

The sheep will know the voice of the shepherd.

From the previous post, I know God has chosen me. He is my shepherd. And Jesus says in the verse above that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. So... I'll know His voice. That's it. The Truth. Pretty simple, right?

Does that do it for you? Honestly? I have to admit that it doesn't for me. I know my own ability to mess things up. So how am I supposed to really know?

When my phone rang this morning, the screen said it was my niece. The voice that replied, though, wasn't hers. It was my sister. How did I know it was my sister? The answer seems obvious. But... is it? Until my nephew's voice changed, it sometimes took me a minute to figure out if it was him or his sister who had answered the phone. I know them both, but sometimes (much to his consternation) "hello" wasn't enough to discern which one I was talking to. It's easier for me to distinguish between my niece and my sister, though. Why?
  1. My sister and I have spent more time talking. And I don't just talk, I listen. So I know what her voice sounds like.
  2. I don't just know her voice, I know my sister. I know the way she talks: the words and phrases she uses; the way she initiates conversation. My niece's voice may be similar, but she starts a conversation a little differently. The first word this morning threw me and I wasn't 100% sure if it was my niece or sister. But with the next words of greeting I knew it was my sister. It wasn't just the sound of her voice, but what she said and how she said it.
So how do I get to that same place with God? How do I know Him and His voice well enough to discern whether I'm hearing Him, myself, or even satan? (And make no mistake about it, satan IS a deceiver!). I get there through practice and experience:

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
(Hebrews 5:14)

We train our senses to discern through practice!

We usually focus on the first part of that verse and the need to be mature. But look at the second part: we train our senses to discern good and evil through practice. We're in training, folks! We can improve our senses – our taste; smell; sight; touch; and hearing – through exercise! I'd never thought about the fact that we have spiritual senses! But realizing that we can train them made me want to explore....

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(Psalms 119:103)

Taste and see that the LORD is good!
(Psalm 34:8).

We are to taste the character and the word of God.

Taste is an intimate, personal experience. Taste isn't just looking at food or reading a recipe. I can read a recipe and think it sounds good. I can even salivate over a picture. I can file it away on Pinterest to try sometime later. I can share it on Facebook where someone else can tell me how much they enjoyed it. But I don't experience that scrumptious-looking food until I've tasted it – really tasted it.

Our dog will do anything for food. But he swallows it so quickly that I wonder if he even tastes it. Tasting involves more than just swallowing, right? I swallow a medication. But I taste my dessert. I chew it, move it around and let it flow over my tongue. I take the time to enjoy it.

The character, gifts, and word of God shouldn't just be collected for later use. We can't experience them through someone else's knowledge or description. Nor are they medication to be swallowed without tasting. They are meant to nourish us. And they are meant to be experienced on an intimate, personal level. Use your palette to know them, consider them, and enjoy them. Next time you're reading scripture ask yourself: Am I just reading the recipe?

Don't just read the recipe – enjoy the feast! Taste it!

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

And He will delight in the fear of the LORD
(Isaiah 11:3)

We are to smell the sweet aroma of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.

The word translated as "delight" in Isaiah 11:3 literally means "to perceive odor... savour, scent, smell." Strong's dictionary explains that the root of the word can figuratively mean to anticipate or enjoy. So we are to take in and enjoy the scent of God's awesomeness (the fear of the LORD).

In the first verse we also see that the knowledge of God has a sweet aroma. We carry that aroma with us! And knowledge of Him comes mainly through studying the scripture: tasting it, not just reading it.

So with practice and training, we will know when something just doesn't smell quite right!

... open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light
and from the dominion of Satan to God....
(Acts 26:18)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,
so that you will know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints...
(Ephesians 1:18)

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.
(Psalms 119:18)

We are to see God's light; His hope; His Glory; and the wonder of His word.

The word "open" in Psalm 119:18 has the connotation of removing a veil. It's not that God's word needs to be changed or made easier to understand – it's that we need to be changed. We see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). We need the veil removed. The psalmist knew that without God's help, he wouldn't see what he could or should see in God's word. He didn't need new revelation; he needed to see the revelation already given. He knew that while there are wonderful things to be seen in God's scripture, not everyone sees it. So he prayed for God to open his eyes.

Prayer is a vital part of seeing God.

If you want to see the wonderful things God reveals in scripture, though, you need study as well. The psalmist declared that he wanted to behold the wonderful things in God's law. To behold is to look intently.

We need to peer deeply into the word of God.

The Holy Spirit (our Helper) helps us to understand, but He won't do the study for us! God wants to hear us giggle with delight when we catch Him! (See I am afraid of God not speaking to me). As I've prepared for each post in this series I have been actively engaging and searching, and tasting scriptures. I've seen things that I've never seen before. They've been there all along and I've read it before. But... I've been going beyond just reading the recipe. And because of that, my eyes have been opening and I've been seeing more.

"Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD.
(2 Chronicles 34:27)

We are to feel – keeping our hearts tender and humble.

Josiah (the king being spoken to), kept his heart soft towards God. He also had a tender heart towards those around him (the place and its inhabitants). Not only does God hear our tender hearts, but a tender heart makes it easier for us to hear Him. We can harden our hearts (Proverbs 28:14, Hebrews 3:8). But that hardened, calloused, exterior keeps us from hearing God clearly (Mark 8:17). We need to keep our hearts tender and soft and full of humility.

Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the LORD'S contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments.
(Exodus 35:21)

The Spirit can touch our tender hearts, stirring desires for God's purposes.

"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalms 37:4) is sometimes used as a health and wealth gospel: God will give us everything we desire if we just delight in Him, right? But then how do we explain James 1:14 which says "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire"? God will never contradict Himself and He will not tempt us. If we are delighting in Him, though, the Spirit will move within our hearts; stirring us and giving us desires that are of God. We need to keep our hearts tender; soft (malleable) before God and open to the movement of His Spirit.

Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
(Isaiah 55:3)

This isn't the type of listening or hearing that most of us do naturally. Most people listen to reply. This verse calls us to listen to understand. It is active and intentional.

  • The word "incline" carries the meaning of stretch toward. God wants us to stretch towards Him. We need to put effort into it! Stretching can be uncomfortable, but it is good preparation for any training.
  • The word "come" carries the meaning of walk and is sometimes translated in other verses as "walking together."
  • The word translated as "listen" has the meaning "to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc." Again, this is active, intentional listening with the intent to follow in obedience.

We are to listen attentively; stretching toward God and walking with Him.

God can speak through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13); the counsel of others (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 15:22); creation (Romans 1:20); dreams and visions (Joel 2:28); and through circumstances (Romans 1:13). He can speak to us through the desires He places in our hearts (Exodus 35:21); and through the gifts He's given us (Romans 12:6). He's even been known to speak through a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28) and from a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5). His voice comes to us in many different ways.

His word, though, is constant and is the way we test all other ways we think God might be speaking to us. John implores us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). In other words, whatever we hear must line up with what we know of God from His word. Who He is... How He talks... What He says... It's all there in scripture for us to discover.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The primary way God speaks to us and prepares us is through His word!

By spending time with God in His word and in prayer, we can exercise and train our spiritual senses to discern His voice. Just like I know my sister not just from the sound of her voice, but from what she says and the way she says it, I can also learn to recognize the voice of God.

Father God, thank you for developing in me a taste for Your word. Help me to continue to cultivate that hunger and to carry the aroma of You wherever I go. Help me to keep my heart tender, Daddy, and open my eyes to see You – and the wonder of You – all around me. Thank You for speaking to us in so many ways. Help me to hear You clearly. And, Daddy... thank you so much for being a Father who wants to be known; for promising to speak to us; promising us that we can learn to recognize Your voice.
Thank You for the Helper – the Spirit of Truth that You give each of us.
I want to taste and see that You are good!

Fear: I am afraid of not recognizing God's voice.


  • The sheep will know the voice of the shepherd. (John 10:4)
  • We train our senses to discern through practice! (Hebrews 5:14)
    • We are to TASTE the character and the word of God. (Psalm 34:8; Psalms 119:10)
    • We are to SMELL the sweet aroma of the knowledge and fear of the LORD. (2 Corinthians 2:14; Isaiah 11:3)
    • We are to SEE God's light; His hope; His Glory; and the wonder of His word. (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18; Psalms 119:18)
      • Prayer is a vital part of seeing God. (Ephesians 1:18; Psalms 119:18)
      • We need to peer deeply into the word of God. (Psalms 119:18)
    • We are to FEEL - keeping our hearts tender and humble, (2 Chronicles 34:27and feeling the Spirit TOUCH our tender hearts, stirring desires for God's purposes. (Exodus 35:21)
    • We are to listen (HEAR) attentively; stretching toward God and walking with Him. (Isaiah 55:3)
  • The primary way God speaks to us and prepares us is through His word! (2 Timothy 3:14-17)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).