In the last post we talked about the connection between the depth of our relationship with God and how we hear from Him. If you think about it, this is true in any relationship. When we first meet someone and begin to get to know them, we may not be sure if a remark was meant as a jab, a joke, or sincere. But as we get to know them and their character better, our level of communication also improves.
Another way we hear from Jesus through His Holy Spirit is through other followers of Christ. Sometimes this is deliberate and sometimes the person speaking doesn’t even know the impact their words are having on us. This is yet another reason why relationships with other followers of Jesus are so vital to our spiritual growth and health.
As I think back over my life, countless individuals have impacted me profoundly. At times I was fully aware of the fact that God was speaking to me through them. For instance, early in our marriage, my wife and I had gotten in the habit of showing up for appointments a half-hour late. We always seemed to have a good reason for doing so.
But one evening some dear friends invited us to dinner. As usual, we showed up 30 minutes late, oblivious to the hardship this was placing on our relationship with them. They tenderly pointed out the impact our behavior had on them and others and we were deeply impacted. Their gentle confrontation changed our behavior and our lives for the better.
I also wager that many of us have heard from the Lord through a sermon, book, or a person’s testimony. The Lord also gets our attention and talks with us in our suffering and trials, in extremely joyful times, through His creation, and in virtually all of our experiences. In all these ways, the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
But let’s also look at some reasons we don’t hear from God.
- He chooses to be silent for our benefit. In Mark 4:35-41, we read about when Jesus was with His disciples in a boat. He was asleep in the stern while they feared for their lives in the storm. In this instance, He was present but silent. And when they woke Him in fear, He chided them for their lack of faith.
Sometimes for reasons we may not understand, the Lord chooses to be silent when we are in the thick of life and feel like we need to hear from Him most. In such instances, we need to rest in His care and trust that He is present even if He’s silent.
- We distance ourselves from Him by not being in His Word. When we read God’s Word, we should always go to the Word with the desire to meet with Him. We go to His Word expecting Him to speak to us. Too many Christians just study the Word to learn facts. The Bible is full of interesting truths, AND God speaks to us through His Word. So, spend time often in God’s Word.
When my wife and I were engaged, I was in Berlin, Germany in the Army and she was in Idaho. In the early 70s the only viable means of communication for us was writing letters, so we wrote to each other daily. But imagine how insane it would have been for me to receive her letters but never read them! Instead, I devoured her letters because I missed her and wanted to get to know her better. The Bible is God’s love letter to us.
- We are distracted. For various reasons I suffer some hearing loss. I find it most difficult to carry on a conversation with someone in a crowded, noisy room. Many of us are so distracted by the “noise” in our lives that we can’t hear God’s voice when He is talking to us. Almost anything can be a distraction in our lives, so you’ll need to figure out what those are for you.
One simple way to shut out distractions is to set aside a time alone with God each day. For me, this is early morning before anyone else gets up. Establish a time where you can shut out distractions and meet with the Lord daily.
- We are stubborn or fearful and don’t want to listen. I’ve had people say to me, “If I listen to God, He may ask me to be a missionary in Africa!” This is somewhat like refusing to go to the doctor about our illness, because we’re afraid he’ll tell us that we’re sick. “God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
Also, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) Trust Him! He always chooses what’s best for us. He is our loving heavenly Father.
- We don’t want to give up our sin. This is like two-timing with God. When we refuse to turn from some sinful practice, we’re in rebellion against God. We’re being unfaithful to Him. Our relationship is broken and therefore communication cannot take place on an intimate level. In fact, if we’re knowingly sinning, we probably don’t even want to hear from God!
If this is where you find yourself, please read Psalm 51. David wrote this after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. In David’s prayer of confession, he longs for his relationship with God to be restored and it was.
Sometimes our problem is not that we don’t hear from God but that we don’t heed what He says. The rich young ruler wanted Jesus to tell him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. But when Jesus told him, the man went away sad because he valued his stuff more than he valued relationship with God. “…If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts….” (Hebrews 3:15)
If we genuinely want to hear from God we will. He does not toy with us or withhold communication from us. Like Samuel of old, may our prayer be, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)