How can I learn to hear God more? Part 4

Hearing God book cover jpg

The session entitled, “The Still Small Voice and its Rivals,” provided a wonderful “ah-ha” revelation for me. I saw that for many years, I had viewed my relationship with God as a project, an external study. In my eagerness to catch up with young people who had grown up in church and were familiar with all the Bible stories, I turned what started as a relationship into a study project. I endeavored to depersonalize God.

Dr. Willard takes quite a bit of time encouraging the listener to move away from depending on outward signs and external information to confirm God’s guidance, and get to know the “still small voice of God.” He stresses the importance of making the Bible central, and taking into consideration external information, but never to the exclusion of learning to hear that personal voice of God.

I realize that I didn’t trust any voice within me because I came to know the Lord later in life and so I just had to study. I think the enemy relishes in that belief system and does whatever he can to steer us away from an intimate conversational relationship with God. I still hear people saying things like, “I don’t think I could say that to God or I don’t want to be too informal with God.” Do we think He doesn’t know our heart and thoughts anyway? Wouldn’t being honest save allot of time and heart ache. (My husband Mark has another wonderful series that teaches on this subject, Honesty with God, yourself and others. It is available upon request.)

Thankfully, the Lord has used trials and “hard times” to create such a need for His love and Presence that I was forced to put the study of God on the back burner while I just needed Him to hold me. I am so thankful for the influence of my husband Mark, many loving people and the teaching and worship within the Vineyard church to help steer my ship in a better direction.

I fully see the need for study and the place for understanding our firm foundation, but never to the exclusion of a deep personal conversational relationship with the Lover of my soul.

Video Notes: Quote from the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” a hymn with words taken from a longer poem, The Brewing of Soma by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier –

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

There are various ways in which God speaks to people, but they all have in common one thing. That is they each contain a message. Sometimes people need to be addressed in one way or the other to bring the message. This can cause problems because the way the message comes can confuse the meaning, The Scripture is plain, the less dramatic the message comes, the more the content, and the more mature is the condition of the person receiving the message. It you study life of Moses, Abraham and Jesus you see that is true. One phrase comes to be used about the usual form of the message and that is, still small voice.

1 Kings 19:11 And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: 12 and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”KJV

The use of “still small voice” in verse 13 is difficult to translate. It could translate to read: “no voice at all, could be just a thought or a whisper.” The passage is very instructive because you can hardly imagine more dramatic events than described in 1 Kings, and yet God chose to speak through a still small voice.

“The three lights”:

  1. Circumstances
  2. Impressions of the Spirit {which in and of themselves are not easy to read,}
  3. Passages from the Bible

Comments from Dallas concerning “the three lights:”

  • Not enough/adequate to understand conversational relationship with God.
    • Tend to be limited to guidance and conversation is not just about guidance.
    • Are often taught in a mechanical way which is not helpful.
    • Are factors that you will consider in forming a responsible openness to God’s teaching.
    • Should not disregard circumstances, impressions and passages. But, without God’s voice you cannot rely on them.
    • They will not substitute hearing God’s voice. You have to be sensitive and sensible. They are conditions, but will not substitute the voice of God coming to you that you will learn to recognize.

How do you learn this still small voice? You will learn to recognize it by experience. It is a special type of thought. You do not learn by getting a bunch of signs you can test, but rather the same way you learn in others talking to you, by experience.

It is very important to understand the role of the Bible in this. A wonderful man named Scott Hillborn, a Presbyterian Minister, said that “Ninety five percent of God speaking to me comes in class time – ninety percent of study is not about what to do, but to encourage and enlighten”

Most have had that experience with the Scripture, suddenly it is not the words, but as if the words are leaping off the page and grabbed us. The Bible is very central. For many of you, you have already learned to recognize that and you know that is God speaking to you.

If you are uncertain you ask for more light, more conversation, being uncertain doesn’t mean you lack faith, don’t run from it – embrace it – say, “Lord, speak to me again.”


1)         What is your experience of discerning the “still small voice” of God?

Video Notes:

Three factors in the voice:

  1. Tone – The emotional tone, the effect it has on us, builds experience. The voice can come in many ways, but you learn to recognize that and you will find that you hear a certain tone. That is one of the most important things for us to identify, a tone or quality. For example, it has a certain weight to it. It impresses you and this is connected with the point of the spirit of the voice, but weight is the best term to use to indicate this. Confidence, it comes with confidence. It comes without thinking it up, you don’t think it up. Very often you are quite surprised by it, both in terms of it coming up and what it is to say. You don’t sense it is coming from you or another person, even if another person is speaking. In regards to the still small voice of God, E. Stanley Jones says, “Perhaps the rough distinction is this: The voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks and it is self authenticating. It has the feel of the voice of God within it.”
  2. Spirit – The spirit is peacefulness, joy, a sweet reasonableness, goodwill, a warm but firm presence in your life. This is described in James 3:17 and other places in the Bible, about what the voice is like. The wisdom that is from above. One of the phrases that is used is it is easy to be entreated. It is not the voice of a bully. The spirit that comes with God speaking is not something that is not going to run over you.
  3. Content – absolutely important – there are allot of things you know God is not going to say – keep to the principles in determining God’s speaking – if the Bible says something once – don’t worry about it – if it says something twice – think about it twice – use it as a guideline to understand what comes to you as the voice of God. What is taught on the whole you should receive that as God’s teaching and used as a standard for everything else you have.

You learn to know the voice of God by experience. It is after all a conversation and a conversation is something you do not want to try to force.


2)         How would you describe to someone what Dallas means by the three factors {tone, spirit and content} of God’s voice?

Video Notes:
Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893-January 17, 1941) Published American Educator and Philosopher. Quote: “God never guides us to an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.”

Richard Foster points out that one of the deepest problems we deal with is distraction, constant agitation. Dallas answers, “We need to tell them and exhibit the calming of effects of hearing God speak. Encourage them to believe that is for them also, that is the part of their feverishness that anything can come to them from God and this will stabilize them scrambling that they don’t believe anything can come to them from God.”

John Ortberg comments, “We are so afraid of boredom, I think it was Eugene Peterson that said the ancient Greeks did not have a word for boredom. We need to find ways to learn and let go of the scramble.”

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”― Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Dallas comments, “Once you take yourself off of the outer stimulation then you discover a whole different world and there are few things that help you with that more than learning to hear God’s voice in your heart and mind. Because of all of a sudden with that kind of word comes substance again, boredom is actually a reflection of emptiness. Activity is a distraction. Kings needed to have people around them, but it doesn’t heal the problem, just puts it off.”

When you begin to experience your own soul and God speaking in your soul, suddenly you are not empty.

We always learn people’s voice by experience

Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is serene and radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time, making our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. Love is at the helm. And when our little day is done, we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.” A TESTAMENT OF DEVOTION by Thomas Kelly


3) How would the practice of disciplines such as solitude and silence help you to better hear God’s voice and to live from what Thomas Kelley would call “the Center”?

Notes from Book: (page numbers may vary with versions. The first number shown is from 1999 version and the second number is from 2012 updated and expanded version)

Chapter 5: The Still Small Voice & Its Rivals – discusses ways God communicates with individuals today

One aspect of hearing God is receiving His guidance…God addresses us in various ways. P. 86/114

The Primacy of the Inner Voice – “Far be it from me to deny that such spectacular experiences occur or that they are at least, given by God. But a major point of this book is that still small voice – or the interior or inner voice, as it is also called – is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God’s purposes. God usually addresses individually those who walk with Him in a mature, personal relationship using this inner voice, proclaiming and showing forth the reality of the kingdom of God as they go. P. 89/118

Reaffirming Our Participation in Biblical Experience – Generally speaking, God will not compete for our attention. Occasionally a Saul gets knocked to the ground and so on, but we should expect being most cases God will not run over us. P. 91/120

The reality of God’s voice does not make seeking for it unnecessary. When I seek for something, I look forward everywhere. It is when we see God earnestly, prepared to go out of our way to examine anything that might be his overture towards us including the most obvious things like Bible verses or own thoughts if she promises to be found Jeremiah 29:13 P. 91/120

Of course there is an important point in all of this that stress is the difference between God’s view of things in the view of the normal person apart from God. But this point must not obscure the simple fact that God comes to West precisely in and through our thoughts, perceptions and experiences and that he can approach our conscious life only through them, for they are the substance of our lives. Therefore we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Romans 12:2 God’s gracious incursions into our souls can make our thoughts his thoughts. He will help us learn to distinguish when I thought is ours alone and when it is also His. P.102/135

God Speaks Today – There is no foundation in Scripture, in recent or in the very nature of things why any or all of these types of experience might not be used by God today. But there is nothing in Scripture to indicate the biblical modes of God’s communication with humans have been superseded or abolished by either the presence of the church or the close of the Scriptural canon… It is true that the existence and history of the church and the presence of the full written scripture change the circumstances or a give new dimensions to the way in which God deals with human beings. But a biblical Christian is not just someone who holds certain beliefs about the Bible. He or she is also someone who leads the kind of life demonstrated in the Bible: a life of personal, intelligent interaction with God. Anything less than this makes a mockery of the priesthood of the believer. Surely one of the most damaging things we can do to people’s spiritual prospects is to suggest that God will not deal with them specifically, personally, intelligibly and consciously or that they cannot count on him to do so as He knows best.  P. 103 and 104/137

The “Signs” Are Not the Reality – Bob Mumford remarks, “God wants to bring us beyond the point where we need signs to discern His guiding hand. Satan cannot counterfeit the peace of God or the love of God dwelling in us. When Christ’s abiding presence becomes our guide, then guidance becomes almost unconscious response to the gentle moving of His Holy Spirit within us. P. 113/150

We begin to understand God’s whole purpose is to bring us to the point where we can walk he can walk with us quietly calmly and constantly leaving a space to grow to be His {often fumbling} collaborators – to have some distance from Him and yet united with Him because we are conformed to be much of His Son, bearing the family resemblance. P. 115/151

Chapter 8: Recognizing the Voice of God

The doctrine of the inner light is not sufficiently taught to the individual believer, who is, by the very fact of relationship to Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the Spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of his will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for. G. Campbell Morgan, God’s Perfect Will

When a word or thought comes to us – through others, the inner voice, some special voice, the Bible or circumstances, how do we know whether or not it is a word from God to us? We can discern if it agrees with Scripture, beyond this however, how do we know? By experience. As we have learned, we must certainly go beyond, though never around the words of the Bible to find out what God is speaking to us. 167/217

“The three lights” (circumstances, impressions and Scripture) are not to be used as a formula, but in their interdependent function, they can dispose us to hear well. 173/222

The Conditions of Responsible Judgment – A life lived by listening to God speaking is not one that excludes our own judgment. Listening to God does not make our own decision–making process unnecessary. 173/225

Three Factors in The Voice – To say we learn to recognize the voice of God by experience is not, however, all we can say or must say. Certain factors distinguish the voice of God, just as any human voice can be distinguished from another. One of those is a certain quality of sound. This is mainly a matter of tones and the manner in which they are modulated. Quality at the human level also includes the style of speech. For example it is slow or fast, smooth or halting. There is also a certain spirit attached to the voice. It may be passionate or cold, whining or demanding, timid or confident, coaxing or commanding. Finally there is a matter of content or of information conveyed. 174/228

In my own experience I first became aware that it was God’s word that was coming to me by the effects it had on myself and others around me. 176/230

The voice of God speaking in our souls also bears within itself a characteristic spirit. It is a spirit of exalted peacefulness and confidence of joy, of sweet reasonableness and of goodwill. It is, in short, the spirit of Jesus, and by that phrase I refer to the overall tone and internal dynamics of his personal life as a whole. 177/230

Even when we have apparently had much success in discerning His voice, we can still be wrong. God does not intent to make us infallible by his conversational walk with us and our walk with the Lord does not exempt us form the possibility of error, even in our experienced discerning. 182/237

The Centrality of the Bible (again) – It is again by experience that many have come to know that there is all the difference in the world between an experience of the Scriptures in which a word of God seizes me and an experience in which I am simply seizing the words on the page, however interesting this may be in the process of biblical scholarship. In the former case I find myself addressed, caught up in all the individuality of my concrete existence by something beyond me. God acts toward me in a distinctively personal manner. I think it is this sense of being seized in the presence of Scripture in a manner widely share, that gives the Bible its power to assure us in the face of our continuing fallibility. We stand within a community of the spoke to. 184/239

Those who know all about eh word of God may yet never have heard it and recognized it. And those who have heard it and who recognize it readily may have little to say about it. 184/239

Practical Results in Everyday Life

  1. Direct, daily kingdom access for all believers.
  2. Provision of confidence, comfort and peace. Certain communication is absolutely necessary to our having the kind of confidence and peace appropriate to a child of God. God intents for us an abundance of life that Jesus came to make available.
  3. Protection from mad religionist and legalist. – recognize when people in positions of power and authority do not, even with all their authority know what they are talking about or event when they are being guided by evil.
  4. Realization of a biblical quality of life. Understand of God’s voice can alone make the events of the bible real to us and allow our faith in its truth to rise beyond mere abstract conviction that it must be true. 185-187/240-242


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