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Discerning God's Voice

How do you hear from God? A friend asked me that question one day out of curiosity. As I fumbled to come up with an answer, shame, embarrassment, and confusion paralyzed me. I stared at her with a blank face. No answer came to mind. Surely a child of God ought to be able to answer such a simple question. But the truth is, I didn’t know how I heard from the Lord. I felt like God spoke to me, but I had no words to describe how I heard from a God who was not of this earth.

My inability to answer such a direct question caused me to wonder if I had ever heard from God or if I could ever discern God’s will for my life.

I wish I heard from God the way Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets of the Old Testament did, where God spoke with detailed instructions that left no doubt about what to do next.

It would be nice to have dreams and visions with vivid pictures of what the upcoming days hold. But, unfortunately, that’s not how God chooses to speak to me.

When frustration mounts about what I need to do to hear from God accurately, the prayer of Paul encourages and gives me hope.

The Apostle Paul often prayed that the people in his care would be filled “with the knowledge of [God’s] will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9). Paul was confident that God had already given believers everything they needed to discern God’s will.

Once I started to believe the same for myself, I began to tap into the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit placed within me provides (1 Corinthians 2:1-12).

My prayer time looks different now that I believe the Spirit speaks to me. Sometimes, I sit and imagine the Spirit whispering life instructions into the ear of my heart. Surprisingly, the first thing I hear isn’t something to run off and do. Instead, what I see are images of Jesus.

God sent his beloved Son Jesus to us to reveal God's will. Jesus models for us what God’s will for our lives should look like (John 5:19). I had somehow overlooked the fact that the most valued tool for discernment is paying attention to the life and work of Jesus Christ.

By changing my starting point for discernment, I realize the most critical question isn’t how do I hear from God? Now, my most pressing question for the Holy Spirit is, does my life look anything like Jesus’ life? From there, new questions come.

Am I living in the freedom available to me as a child of God?

Do my behavior and service look anything like the life and work of Jesus?

Do I recognize and live out my calling with the gifts God has placed within me?

Questions like these prompt me to look over my life, listening for how God speaks through everyday occurrences. As I look and listen, the Spirit reveals circumstances for rejoicing, confession, repentance, forgiveness, healing, service, and so much more. As the Spirit leads, I follow, and my life slowly resembles Christ's.

The Spirit of God reveals God’s will for my life whenever I stop to ask, “where does my life need to look more like Christ?” As the Spirit guides me to those moments, I look for opportunities to participate with God as he works to bring forth his will and purpose for creation.

What questions come to mind for God as you look at your life to see where God is actively working?

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