In the journey of hearing God’s voice today effectively and accurately, you need the practical and personal work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus clearly told his followers that those who hear His words and put them into practice are wise!

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.” Matthew 7:24–25

To avoid error in the day in which we live, it is vital to grow in the submission to the Holy Spirit and learn to depend on Him. As you do so, you will find yourself walking squarely and safely in the center of the path He has for you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

guardrails for hearing god's voiceHere are 10 essential and practical guardrails that will keep you on track as you learn to master the art of hearing and following God’s voice:

1. Don’t Make It Complicated!

It is not hard to hear God. We tend to overcomplicate the whole matter.

The following three simple steps will help you in hearing God’s voice:

Step 1: Submit to His lordship.

Let’s ask Him to help silence our own thoughts, desires, and opinions. We want to hear only the thoughts of the Lord.

Take the advice that is given in Proverbs 3:6–7: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

George Müller was an Englishman, one of the great evangelical champions of the faith. He lived this first principle. By faith alone, he supported vast orphanages. He would pray daily for the provisions to feed these hundreds of children who were under his care. One of the secrets in George Müller’s walk with God was so simple, yet it is rarely taught today: He told his followers that if they wanted to hear from God and pray in faith, then they first would have to cleanse themselves of their own opinions. Another word for this is “submission.”

We can’t hear God if we have a preformed opinion on an issue. We must submit to His lordship. We need to consciously submit our thoughts, our opinions, our preconceived attitudes, and notions, and even our traditions, to the Lord.

Step 2: Resist the enemy.

We can use the authority Jesus Christ has given us as His disciples to silence the voice of the enemy. We can stand firm in our position as God’s own children. We need to learn what it means to apply the blood of Jesus over our lives. We can resist the enemy, who comes to our mind with all sorts of fears and plausible doubts. God’s Spirit in us will make us able to do what we can never do solo, and Jesus’ powerful name will convince Satan to leave.

The apostle James wrote, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7). Submit first; then resist. 

Step 3: Ask a question and expect God’s answer.

We should ask the very question that is in our heart, bringing it before the throne of Almighty God. Then we need to wait for Him to answer.

We should not expect to get an answer to pop right up (“You’ve got mail!”); rather, we should wait expectantly, believing that as we have submitted to God and resisted the enemy, we will be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

At times, an immediate reply may come. The vital third step after submitting and resisting is to expect God to act.

2. Allow God to Speak However He Chooses

yield to God's voiceWe should not try to dictate to God the guidance methods we prefer; rather, we must listen with a yielded heart.There is a direct link between yielding and hearing.

He may choose to speak to us in a method that we are not accustomed to. He can speak through His written Word, through a person, through dreams or visions, or through a quiet inner voice.

Having submitted to Him, resisted the enemy and asked for an answer, we should not dictate the way we want Him to respond to our request. Let’s receive grace from His storehouse, the grace of expectant yielding.

We need to always allow God to speak in the way He chooses.

3. Confess Any Known Sins

A clean heart is a prerequisite to hearing God.

We read in Psalm 66:18: “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”

If the Lord doesn’t even hear us, then we’re not going to receive the answer that we’re hoping for—because He hasn’t even heard the question yet.

The third tool for hearing God’s voice is foundational to the ABCs of Christianity—the confession of sins.

We need to confess our sins to our Father in Jesus’ great name. He is waiting to forgive us.

4. Obey the Last Thing God Said

Why would God give us new orders if we haven’t obeyed His last ones?

He’s waiting for us to do what He’s already told us to do. This alone could be a primary roadblock.

If He has already spoken, and we already know what is required of us, then we should go do it—for Jesus’ sake! It’s an issue of obedience.

5. Get Your Own Leading

God will use others to confirm our guidance, but we must learn to hear the voice of the Lord for ourselves.

God is a jealous God. That means He wants to talk with us personally. We need to become secure in our own identity in Christ. We must realize that we are sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe and that He wants to relate to us in our own right.

We should not be wrongly codependent on others. At the same time, we should not jump the tracks by cultivating an independent and rebellious spirit.

We need to hear God for ourselves.

Stacey Campbell quote

6. Don’t Talk About Your Word Too Soon

I wish I had known this one a bit earlier in my life! I think the dreamer Joseph might have wished he had heard this one too!

Waiting helps us avoid not-so-obvious pitfalls. When God tells us something, it’s as if He is sharing a secret with a trusted friend.

ask before sharingWe should consider asking permission before opening wide our mouth and repeating everything we supposedly know.

Here are four traps I have discovered:

The Trap of Pride

Just because we’ve heard the Lord doesn’t mean that we have developed the character to carry out the action. We might think, Man, am I a hotshot! I heard God today. We center more around ourselves and our gifts instead of the Master and His ways, becoming prideful.

The Trap of Presumption

Presumption makes us act as if we know it all. After all, we’ve heard God! Could it be that we heard only part of what God wanted to say? One portion could be coming through some life experiences and another part through other people. We need to pray for the word we hear to be informed by a living understanding of how and when to act. We should stay humble, remembering that even though we are special to God, we aren’t the only spokespeople He has.

The Trap of Missed Timing

There is a kairos moment (perfect timing) for all things. If we talk about our word too soon, we might miss the Savior’s timing and end up attempting to fulfill our word with second-rate results. We should remember what happened to Abraham and not birth an Ishmael because we just couldn’t wait for an Isaac.

The Trap of Confusion

“God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33 nkjv). Premature public chatting about all we have heard in private can result in confusion for ourselves as well as for others. To avoid the trap of confusion, we can set a guard over our heart and mouth and speak only those things that build up our hearers.

Oftentimes, God does tell us something ahead of time, before it comes into being. His word comes to prepare us and to change us to be the vessel qualified to do what has been spoken. We all seem to need to learn the hard way not to talk out of turn.

7. Know That God Will Confirm What He’s Telling You

God will give us our own stuff—there is plenty to go around, but we can depend on the fact that God does use others to confirm His word.

It’s a part of His safety net of protection (2 Corinthians 13:1: “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses”).

If it really is God speaking, He will speak the same or similar thing more than once.

I sigh with relief over that one. It helps to take the pressure off. In other words, you and I don’t have to try to figure out what to do with a one-time word!

If it really is from God, it will be confirmed. We can rest in that fact.

We can trust that the Lord will speak through those in authority over us.

If we are children living with our parents, we should pray for them. We can pray for our elders and pastors and those who are over them. A married woman should pray for her husband to have wisdom.

Everyone should pray for those with whom they are going to take counsel. We need to bathe each situation in prayer. We can ask the Lord for trusted channels of authority in our life by which we can receive correction, encouragement, admonition and confirmation of what we believe God is saying.

God will confirm His word to us through others. There is safety in many counselors (see Proverbs 15:22).

8. Beware of Counterfeits

Satan is a counterfeitSatan loves to counterfeit. He is not the Creator, so he has no originality; he’s just a copycat!

Think about what a counterfeit means. It implies that there’s something authentic and real out there, something worth copying. There is counterfeit money because there’s real money, and it has power.

The enemy counterfeits God’s voice and he counterfeits experiences, even rare supernatural experiences.

Why are the psychic hotlines so popular? Why does the New Age movement seem to have so much influence? People turn to psychics and New Age thinking because they so hungrily want to encounter the supernatural.

People want guidance. People are born with a void that only the voice of God can fill. You want to hear His voice, or you wouldn’t be reading this book.

But beware of counterfeits from the dark side. Our vigilance is an important part of our equipment.

While we remain vigilant, we can find reassurance in the fact that the very existence of counterfeit guidance proves that the Lord of hosts, who has the real power, also has the real thing: the real voice, the real dreams, myriad real angels and the true guidance system.

9. Practice Hearing God’s Voice

Yes, practice hearing the voice of God, and it will become easier. It’s like picking up the phone and recognizing the voice of a friend, whose voice you know because you’ve heard it so many times.

Years ago, I learned a lesson about this the hard way.

I am the youngest of three children. My oldest sister is six years older than I, and by the time I was in high school, she was long gone out of the home. Naturally, I did not know her very well. Later, when I was at college, the phone rang one night and I went out into the dorm hallway to answer it. There was an unfamiliar woman’s voice on the other end of the phone: “Well hello, James. How are you?”

“I’m fine. Uh, who is this?”

It was the voice of my older sister, Sandra, but I did not recognize it. I think it might have hurt her a bit that I did not recognize the voice of a member of my own family. I determined that I needed to get to know her voice before she called again!

If I want to know the voice of the Holy Spirit, I’ve got to spend some time with Him. When I said, “Uh, who is this?” I felt a tiny bit of what the Holy Dove of God so often feels when He is overlooked and unrecognized.

I want the voice of the Holy Spirit to become lovely to me. I never want to grieve Him. (By the way, I have a wonderful relationship with my older sister now because I know her dear voice and the heart with which she speaks.)

Get to know the voice of your Master by spending time with Him. Practice makes perfect.

10. Cultivate an Intimate Relationship

From God’s perspective, the most important reason for hearing the voice of God is not so that we will know the right things to do but so that we will know Him, the source of the guidance.

True guidance involves getting closer to the Guide.

We grow to know the Lord better as He speaks to us. As we listen to Him and obey His Word, our relationship with Him goes far beyond information, guidance, dreams, visions, angels and all the other wonderful supernatural stuff.

The gifts of the Spirit are appetizers to whet our desire for more of God Himself.

The voice of God creates a deeper hunger within us so that we might come into closer communion with Him.

The primary reason we need to hear His voice is really simple: to cultivate the intimate relationship with our Abba Father that He wants us to have.

Our Daddy wants to commune with us even more than we want to commune with Him. Draw near, for He draws near to us.

Hearing and Following God’s Voice!

James W. Goll 

This article is adapted from Chapter 6: “Ten Practical, Personal Tools” in the Hearing God’s Voice Today book by James W. Goll.

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