Have you ever felt like a second-class Christian because you hear people talk about how God speaks to them, but don’t hear God speak to you? Well, read on dear first-class Christian because God is speaking to you; you might not recognise it as God.
Not recognising the voice of God is nothing new. Consider the crowd who were with Jesus one day when the Father spoke to him, “I have glorified [my name] and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him (John 12:28-29).
God Speaks Through Jesus
God speaks in many and varied ways, but the primary way he communicates is through Jesus. Jesus is God’s final word to humanity, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). Studying the life of Jesus, how he interacted with people, how he conducted himself, what he did, and said, is God speaking to you. In Jesus, we see what God is like: “The Son is…the exact expression of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is God’s Word (John 1:1). Jesus is the Father speaking to you and saying, “Be like my Son.” Bayside’s vision, “to courageously love and empower people to become like Jesus,” embraces this truth.
Jesus is the living word, and the Bible is the written word. God will never speak to you something that goes against or contradicts His Word! God’s Word is “a lamp to my feet [Immediate direction] and a light for my path [Future direction]“ (Ps 119:105). So, I encourage you to be consistent & organised with your Bible reading & study. Be open to the Holy Spirit, guiding you to a book, chapter, or verse that speaks to you.
Dreams & Visions
God also speaks through dreams & Visions. The Bible is full of accounts of God speaking to people this way. Visions are pictures you see when you’re awake, while dreams are images you see while you’re asleep. Apparently, “young men will see visions and old men dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). I’m happily still seeing visions.
In the first year of Bayside Church, I had a vision of a map of Bayside Melbourne. While I looked, spot fires sprang up all around the Bay. God spoke to me about Bayside Church springing up all around Bayside Melbourne. Over the past 28 years, we’ve seen that happening with connect groups multiplying. Today this is still the case, and, in the current crisis, this is happening even more as we reach into people’s homes online.
A vision or dream from God will have a profound effect on you and you will remember the details of it for years to come. It is so much more than a natural dream, during which your mind is merely processing recent events.
Knowing the Voice of Whom Speaks
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” There is something very distinct about a voice. When you hear the sound of a friend or loved one, you know immediately who it is. I’ve heard the audible voice of Jesus twice in my 40 years of following him. One time was in the early 90s when I was praying for a wife. The words, “it won’t be long” were audible to me. I’ll never forget the kindness, encouragement, and understanding in his voice. It wasn’t long after this that a certain Christine McClay came into my life, and the rest is history. The other time was when God spoke to me about getting Bayside Church into its own building.
The voice of God isn’t always loud. It’s invariably a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) into your mind or spirit. Amid our fast-paced, noisy world we must find times to be calm to hear the still, small voice of God (Ps 37:7, 46:10).
How Events Speak
God also speaks through events and opportunities (Rev. 3:8). It was many years ago when I was driving to church on New Year’s Eve. On the way, every traffic light turned green as I approached it. It had never happened like that before, and I heard the gentle whisper of God in my heart: “this is a new season Bayside Church is entering where all the lights will be green.” It was an incredible time in our church as opportunities came, and we embraced them.
God Even Speaks Through People
God will also speak to you through his appointed leaders that he has placed over you in the church you’re part of. There are two aspects of Australian culture that we must be careful not to emulate. It inhibits our ability to hear God speak through his appointed leaders ~ Individualism and Egalitarianism.
Individualism is all about “me and Jesus,” and it’s sad when God’s people acquire this attitude. The New Testament never entertains the concept of a Christian who doesn’t connect with other Christians. Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “God told me,” way too many times. This language sounds so spiritual but is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is also impossible to argue with. Who am I to disagree with God? I believe it’s better to say, “I think God may be saying such and such to me. What do you think?” “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Egalitarianism is all about equality. It’s one of our greatest strengths in Australia but also one of our most significant weaknesses. Now, everyone is equal, but there needs to be a functional authority for the orderly operation of any society, community, business, or church. Repeatedly, the Bible teaches us to have respect and regard for those who are in authority. Peter is very blunt about this (no surprises), “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority“ (2 Peter 2:10). The opposite of despise is appreciate (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Be open to God speaking to you through His appointed leaders.
But That’s Not All
There are many other ways God speaks to us:
- The gifts of the spirit (2 Timothy 1:1-7)
- Repetition – i.e., when you keep getting the same message over and over from different sources (Phil 3:1)
- Angels (Hebrews 1:14, 13:2)
- Nature (Romans 1:19-20)
- Circumstances ~ What is it God that you want to teach me in this situation? (Numbers 22-24)
- Conscience – the moral monitor, inner voice of the human spirit (Romans 2:15)
- Other People – have you ever had the experience of someone talking to you, and you become aware that God is speaking?
- Songs, music, poetry, stories
Many years ago, when I was working at Light FM as Music Director, one of the songs I programmed was “Can we still be friends” by Todd Rundgren. It was a hit in 1978 and speaks about the end of a relationship. One day, after the song was played, we received an email from a woman who wanted to let us know how God had spoken to her through this song. She and her husband were going through an acrimonious divorce, but after listening to this song, they decided to take the bitterness out of their communication with each other. The relationship was beyond repair, but God used a secular song to speak kindness and grace into two people’s hearts and change things for the better.
I encourage you to listen to how God is speaking to you.