How to hear God : What you must know
What if you could hear God perfectly and understand everything that he is telling you? Would that change your life? Would that make your life more joyful? Purposeful? Peaceful? Successful?It probably would! And what is God’s desire? Is he still speaking today? In other articles that I will be writing, I will go into great depth and look at some of these questions. But for now, It suffices to state that God like any good father speaks to his children and wants his children to hear him accurately. So yes, he is still speaking today.
But there is something that I have discovered that greatly impedes our ability to hear God. Many of us are unaware of the growth process of a christian .And because our ability to hear God is closely related to our growth in Christ, this adversely affects how we hear God.
Before I talk more about that point, let me share something about God. The Bible says clearly that God’s wisdom is higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth. God is supremely wise. He is transcendent, all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent). The question is, how does such a supreme, infinite and eternal God relate with a finite creature like me or you? The answer is found in what some experts call the anthropic nature of God’s revelation. That basically means that God is so high that we could never reach him even if we tried, so he has condescended himself and come down to our level. He talks to us in words that we can understand. He has to pass his infinite wisdom through the small finite channel of our human knowledge and our human language. If God were to speak to us in a heavenly language that may be more superior, we couldn’t understand. So God comes down to our level, he uses analogies that we can understand.
To hear God well, we must realize that we start of as newborn babies
One of these analogies was used by Jesus in John chapter 3 to describe the way we come to salvation. Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born again.The teaching that we are God’s children by birth, not merely adoption is repeated over and over again in the Bible. We see it again in John 1:12-13. God uses phrases and analogies in our language such “born again” to communicate something to us. God really means that we are born into the spiritual word and we become babies.
As babies, we must grow before Christ in the same way that a child grows before his parents. We must drink the spiritual milk of the word of God to grow. Here are some scriptures that make the point.
The apostle Peter says “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” 1 Peter 2:2
The writer of Hebrews says “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14
Here the writer is admonishing his audience who have stayed at the level of eating milk. In doing this, he shows the progression that we need to have: From milk toward solid.
John describes three groups of Christians in 1 John 2:12-14. The first is little children, the second is young men, and the third is fathers. Please read that scripture if you desire. Again here, he shows the progression. This is crucial to recognize in our Christian lives. We must recognize it ourselves.
What Paul says to the Corinthians about this issue is very telling. He says “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2
Here Paul clearly shows the following: 1) that there are infants in Christ. 2) That infants in Christ should be given milk, not solid food 3) When they grow up they can eat solid food 4) That not every Christian grows up as he or she should to eat solid food.
A fifth point that this verse doesn’t cover but which applies is that the Bible is both the source of milk and solid food. It depends on the person reading what revelation they will get. A person will keep getting milk from it until he grows to solid food.
Considering point 4 above, why don’t we all grow up as we should? The number one answer that I have seen is DENIAL! We implicitly or explicitly deny that we are infants and so see no need for growth from that stage. As such we never make any effort to grow. Many times, when we come to faith, we think that our age in the world should be transferred into the spirit. The truth is that, even if I have a doctorate degree and someone else has no education at all, when we become born again, we are all infants in spiritual things and both need to grow. Some people may grow faster than others (just like some children grow quicker than others) but we all start from the same place and have the same need, that is the need to grow.
If we don’t admit that we are infants then we cannot grow. The first step to solving any problem is to admit that we have the problem in the first place. When we admit that we are infants, the humility of the admission does two things. The scripture says God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. God is always willing to teach us, but this humility to realize where we are allows us to open up to receive his teaching. Also, it allows us to open up to other Christians and the local church whom God will use to teach us. God’s design is to use other believers and the church to teach us as we grow. Many of us are frequently arrogant and may admit that we need to grow. By this we don’t mean that we need to grow from infant to mature christian. We rank ourselves among mature Christians and say everybody needs to grow. Some of us expect to learn everything from God directly. God doesn’t do that. He uses the church because in learning from God and from one another, we become more humble. Of course, God is our ultimate source.
So, coming to the acceptance of where we are is the first step toward our growth. If I want to leave from Houston to New York city, I must first know where I am. If I don’t know I am in Houston, how would I find the way to New York? So we must assess the stage in our Christian walk that we are at. That takes humility since we all like to think of ourselves as expert Christians who really don’t need anyone to teach us anything.
We learn to understand God by listening to him. We can’t know how to understand him before we start listening to him.
Now, how do children learn to understand* their parents?This may be a simple question but it is profound. Children learn by listening. When Children are born, they come with the capacity to hear God but not the skills to listen and understand a human language. They have the potential and the build in inclination to listen. They turn their heads and follow sounds as soon as the muscles of their head allow it. They move their eyes and follow a moving finger or object in front of them. But to understand their parents, they start listening from day one. They listen even when they can’t process the information they get. When a child is first born, when he hears a sentence made by his mother such as “I am going to the bank”. He doesn’t nod his head and say “yes, I understand what that means”. No, he simply hears sounds. Even though he listens he doesn’t understand what it means. Their brains are still growing as children. Then eventually, the child begins to match action that happens with the sounds that are made either during the action or around it. Soon, the child is babbling and trying to make some of the sounds that he hears but it comes out as a mess. They keep listening and trying. But the key is this: children lean to understand their parents by listening. And it takes time to grow from “not understanding anything” to when they start understanding something and the learning process continues throughout life.
Many things about children are like that. Let’s take learning to walk as an example. An average child learning to walk falls about FORTY times per day! Yet the child gets up each time and continues to walk. That is great faith. They never give up. Soon the child starts walking and running. Many of us Christians would like to run without first crawling and falling down 40 times per day. But God uses words like born again for a reason. We are indeed born again and become babies in the kingdom of God who need to grow.
If you ask any medical doctor, he will tell you that when a child is having learning difficulties, one of the first things he does is check the child’s hearing. If a child cannot hear, the child cannot talk. The child’s ability to speak depends on his hearing. I have two young children, and they started off repeating many things that I said or did. Even when I coughed or sneezed! That imitation is how they learned to speak. That is only possible because they could hear the sounds that I make. The same is true of our spiritual walk. We hear God through the Bible and through him speaking directly to us using one of the many ways that I will describe in future posts. We talk back to God through prayer. It’s a dynamic process. We hear God talk to us, and then we talk back to God. We cannot talk to God well unless we hear God well also. So the ability to hear God well is profoundly important if we are to fulfill our purposes in life.
There are three things that I teach young believers:
1) Learn to hear God
2) Learn to talk to God. You learn to talk to God from hearing what God says and repeating it like a child will do. You learn by babbling to God what you hear him saying through the Word of God. Meditation is important in this. To learn more on Christian Mediation, check out Bible Study Corner.
3) You learn to work for God (to serve him).
The fist is the most important. You cannot talk to God if you don’t first learn to hear God. And certainly, you cannot be a good worker for God if you don’t hear him well and take instructions from him.
Children learn to hear their parents and talk to their parents. But they also learn to hear their older siblings and talk to them as well. In fact, they learn many lessons directly from the older siblings. You would be surprised that if you have many children in a household, the other children end up teaching the youngest children more than the parents would. That is how in works with God. We learn from God as our primary source, but we also learn a lot from our older siblings (other more mature Christians).
* Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, on the other hand, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain can process the meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. Most people tend to be “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing.” When we don’t hear God, it’s because we don’t listen not because we don’t hear God. We hear God speak all the time but just don’t pay any attention. Every now and then, God gets our attention by allowing something to happen to us, then we listen.