Hearing God, Part 2
From the series When We Pray
When someone hears from God, they might say: ‘I had a prompting’ or ‘The Holy Spirit gave me a nudge’. But how do you know whether that is God or just you? In this program, guest teacher Ryan Ingram – lead pastor at Awakening Church in San Jose, California – will help us. As he wraps up his series, When We Pray, Ryan will talk about the still, small voice of God and how we can experience it today!
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About this series
When We Pray
Developing Intimacy with God
If you are like most Christians, praying is often a confusing, mis-prioritized, and forgotten part of our faith journey. But in this series, guest teacher Ryan Ingram will guide us to a healthier, more beneficial view of prayer. He will debunk common misbeliefs about talking to God, how to practice stillness, and what we are to do when our prayers seemingly go unanswered. If you genuinely want to strengthen your prayer life, this teaching will help!More from this series
The first way is God speaks to us through His Word. Like, He wrote it down. Like, God, just speak to me, please! And He’s going, “I did!”
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, training, rebuking, and correcting so that the person, the servant of God, might be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
God speaks to us through His Word and God speaks through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. Like the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives and dwells inside each of us.
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, the apostle Paul says it this way, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God, for who knows a person’s thought except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God,” now listen to this, “so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
The Spirit communicates with our spirit and verse 16 says, “But we have the very mind of Christ.” This is where we talk about the still, small voice of God. This is where we talk about and understand that inner voice, the whisper.
Some of you might think of it and you might hear someone say, “Well, I just felt like I had this nudge of the Holy Spirit.” And as you begin to respond to those nudges or those promptings, you begin to clarify His voice in your life.
See, if you have a thought that is for someone else’s good that is contrary to what you would naturally desire and it requires faith, chances are that’s the Spirit of God and not your spirit.
And as you become aware of that and recognize it in partnership with the Word of God, then you begin to experience the daily guiding and leading.
He also speaks through other people. God uses other people. I’m praying that God is using me right now in this moment to speak to you. And there are other people in our life that God uses and He brings a word.
That’s why 1 Corinthians 12 says this, that, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom for someone, to another a message of knowledge by the same means of the Spirit.”
Like God speaks through other people. And there are things and times where, as you are praying for someone, He gives you a word of encouragement, a word of wisdom, He might give you a picture for them.
Now, we’ve got to be so careful with this as well, because we can abuse that and it has been abused in the Church. “God told me that you’re supposed to marry me!” Like, “No He didn’t.” And if He did, hold that to yourself until after you get married and tell the story and it’s awesome. The other way feels like manipulation.
In fact, my friend Judy does this so wonderfully. She’ll often be praying for me and she’ll have a word and she writes it on a 3x5 card and she’ll go, “Ryan, as I was praying, this was just the word that God was bringing to my mind and I just want to give it to you. And you take time and you sit with Jesus and whatever is from Him, you know, allow Him to bring that to the forefront.”
Like not somehow I have a word and I’m going to drop this on you. But this is what I believe God was working in me. Far be it from me to know that I actually heard completely clearly and understand it fully, but I’m going to give to you and entrust that the Spirit of God is going to speak and work in you.
And God speaks through His Word, God speaks through His Spirit, God speaks through other people in our lives. And then He uses creation. The psalmist says it this way, Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, and their words to the ends [of the] world.”
There are many other ways that He uses to speak to us. The final one I’ll … is He uses visions and dreams. There are things, you see this throughout Scripture that He uses visions and dreams to speak to us and to tell His people some special things.
You know, the way God speaks actually to my wife often is God gives her a picture. She’s very artistic and visual and so God will give her a picture. And for me, I’m pretty cerebral and I’ve got my journal. God often is in His Word and kind of dropping some things to me that way.
Here’s one of the amazing parts is God meets us in the way He made us. And that He meets us individually in that way.
One of the things that doesn’t catch the headlines is the spread of the gospel in these countries. In these closed countries where they don’t have access to the gospel and Jesus just shows up at them. Not just Iran, but Afghanistan and other Muslim countries and
there are so many people coming to know Jesus because He shows up into a dream.
And you’re seeing the Church grow and spread in incredible ways in Afghanistan and Iran through and under incredible [kid hollers] persecution. And Jesus shows up and He meets people profoundly.
And so, how does God speak to us? Through His Word, through the Spirit of God, through other people, through creation, visions, and dreams.
But the question then is how do you know it’s God speaking to you? Right? How do you know that dream was God and not just, like, Man, that was weird. That was different. That hit different. Like, how do you know that?
Joyce Huggett in her book Listening [To] God, she’s an international bestseller. This is an old book. She wrote, “If you believe God has told you something ask Him to confirm it to you three times through His Word.”
Like, He will never contradict Himself. Get back into His Word. Do I see alignment here? “Through circumstances.” Like, God, You have called us to move and You called us to maybe change a job. Are You going to begin to lead me and show different ways that You have set things up as I’m taking steps of faith? “And through other people who may know nothing of the situation.”
Where you begin to go, okay, I’m not just going to run and just go, like, “I heard a word from God!” In fact, I get that sometimes. Especially young people will often come to me and, like, “God told me!” I go, “Well, that’s fantastic.” But when you say, “God told me,” and this is what you’re doing, you have now closed yourself off to the community of God of speaking into and bringing wisdom and any other things that God might want to say through His people.
Instead of, “God told me,” you go, “You know what? I’m really sensing God is leading in this direction, would you pray with me, and I’d love for you to discern with me and help me discover: Is this really the path He has for me?” And you begin to do this journey in community.
Five foundational truths: God is closer than you think, He’s in the everydayness, God longs to speak to you.
Number four, God will not compete for your attention. You ask the question, “If God is closer than I think in my everyday life and longs to speak to me, why don’t I hear Him more?” Right? Why don’t I hear Him more? Because He’s not going to compete for your attention.
Remember, think about this, I mean, this picture. Moses is seeing hundreds of burning bushes. He is at work! He’s doing his nine-to-five. And he’s probably got a couple sheep that are just annoying him. You know? They just keep wandering off. And then he sees this sight over here and here’s what had to happen. He had to not just see it but he had to actually take steps toward it. He had to stop what he was doing, stop his work. Not just take a picture, post it on Instagram, and say, “Oh, cool, burning bush.” Hello. But he had to turn and actually begin to move in that direction. And did you notice? It wasn’t until he got there that God spoke.
And so often, the reason we don’t hear from God is we don’t create space for God to speak. The whisper of God; the still, small voice. He will not compete for our attention. And we have so many things clamoring for our attention. The busyness of our lives, the constant, like, draw to our phones. The hectic pace that we live at.
And the noise of our life is louder and louder and louder and louder. And the still, small voice of God is still consistent and constant. We just don’t hear it.
Dallas Willard again said this, he said, “First of all, the fact that we do not hear God does not mean that God is not speaking. God will not overrun us. We must be open to the possibility of God addressing us in whatever way He chooses or else we may walk right past a burning bush instead of saying, as Moses did, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.’”
See, I think there’s a few reasons we don’t hear from God.
I think, one, we have hearing problems. I do. I just think we have hearing problems. You know, men, as we get older, we naturally lose our higher frequency of hearing. And women, as you get older, more commonly, you lose the lower frequency of hearing. And so, the older you get, as a couple, you actually hear each other less.
That’s going to be so used as a weapon this week in some marriage, I know it. “No, Ryan said my low frequency!” We’ve got to tune into the frequency of God. And we have so much noise in the background of our lives, so many things that are keeping us busy and inwardly dispersed and distracted. And that noise is turned on and we just can’t hear the gentle, the quiet whisper, the promptings of the Spirit of God.
See, I think we just have a hearing problem. We’ve got to go, “You know what? The noise is too loud. I’ve got to turn down the noise. I’ve got to pause and I’ve just got to stop for a second and just actually allow God to speak.” And we don’t want that because the minute you quiet the noise, then we recognize the ache of our soul and God says, “That’s the reason I want to speak to you, to meet you, and meet the very ache of your soul. But as long as you keep the noise on, you’ll never hear from Me.”
First, we’ve just got to say, we’ve got a hearing problem. We’ve got to turn down the noise.
I think the second is we have selective hearing. We have selective hearing. We actually hear from God what we want, but not really what we need to hear. I mean, truth be told, we don’t really want to hear from God, because we are afraid of what God might say, what might God might ask? And we are going, “Like, no, it would be nice but I don’t know. I just might have to change my life. I just might have to respond. I just might have to adjust.”
And so, we have this selective hearing where we really want to hear from Him, but we don’t at all. Am I tuned in to the frequency of God? Do I want to be about the business that God is doing in my life and creating space? God will not compete for your attention.
Finally, this is the great, beautiful truth that I don’t know we get in this passage on a first reading. And I believe this is not just a truth for those of you who are far from God, but this is a truth that needs to sink deeply into our souls for us who are followers of Jesus.
God invites you into relationship. God invites you into relationship. Moses goes over to the burning bush and then that’s when God calls and He says, “Moses! Moses!” And I don’t know how you read that or how you hear that or what comes into your mind. But the repetition of name feels a little bit like I’m going to get in trouble from my perspective. If my mom is like, “Ryan! Ryan!” you know, it’s like this escalation. You know? She never really used my middle name so I just, the double name would have been like, “Hello!” You know?
And yet here is what is so fascinating. Professor of Old Testament Douglas Stewart writes this, “In ancient Semitic culture, addressing someone by saying his or her name twice was a way of expressing endearment, that is affection and friendship. Thus, Moses would have understood immediately that he was being addressed by someone who loved him and was concerned about Him.”
God invites you into relationship. Moses is on the far side of the wilderness. And I don’t know, I think this maybe some of the reason we don’t turn down the noise is we are afraid of what God will say, afraid of what His first words will be. And He calls him by name. He knows his name. He’s like, “I know you, Moses. And I know who I made you to be.” By the way, Moses means “deliverer” and he is on the far side of the wilderness. He’s not deliverer. He’s a shepherd right now, right?
And He says, “I see you and I see who you are made to be. And I call that forth and I call forth wish such affection and love and delight. And I call you into relationship.” See, I think we are afraid of what God might say. You’re no good. How could you have wandered so far? What is wrong with you? What were you thinking? And God calls out his name, his identity, what is true of him, how He made him, and calls him into relationship.
And God invites you into relationship. Not into rules, not into somehow trying to work your way back to God. He says, “No, I am present right now with you in relationship.” And Moses’ response was, “Here am I.” “Here I am.” And that’s the posture if we want to hear from God is just simply, “Here I am.” And the beautiful part about that is God was saying, “Here I am,” before Moses ever said, “Here I am.” God was present and today He is saying, “Here I am,” and this is an incredible passage.
Revelation chapter 3, Jesus is talking to the church in Laodicea, to followers of Jesus. This is what Jesus is saying to followers of Jesus. “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with Me.” Here I am. I long to be in relationship. Not motivated by oughts and duties, I long to know you, to walk with you, to be with you, for you to experience My love, My great delight. For you to stop living out false identities and running and striving after all these things, but to have the security that your heavenly Father knows you and He has called you and He has made you and He has created you and He says, “Here I am.”
And He says the minute you begin to respond to that, He says, “I lean in.” In fact, in that culture, in that day, to eat with somebody was the sign of full acceptance, of friendship.
Maybe for the very first time, you didn’t realize, like, God wants to have a relationship with you. And you would say, “Here I am.” And Jesus made the way. He says, “I am standing right now. I want to have relationship with you.” And you just go, “Here I am. Jesus, would You come into my life and make me new? Would You meet me in this moment?” The reality is is many of us, we, like maybe the Laodiceans, maybe like Moses, we are in our own wandering, in our own place and Jesus is still saying, “Here I am. I am not down on you. I love you. I’m for you. Here I am.”