Last time we talked about hearing God’s voice we closed with a passage from the Gospel of John.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
This passage illustrates that our relationship with Christ must be a lifestyle. In the same way a branch cannot continually remove and re-attach itself to a tree, we cannot include God in our lives one moment; then exclude Him the next. We’ve discussed that one of the key factors in our ability to recognize God’s voice is removing immoral and amoral things from our lifestyle. We cannot live a life that bounces back and forth between morality and immorality—and still expect to recognize God’s voice—any more than a branch could remove and re-attach itself to a tree—and still expect to grow and bear fruit. So how does one know what is immoral and what is amoral? The Bible.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
This passage shows us that God’s Word is, first and foremost, inspired by Him. Secondly, it is useful for four things:
- Teaching. The information or learned material.
- Rebuking. Providing evidence that proves a point.
- Correcting. Straightening or making something correct.
- Training in righteousness. Tutoring (which could include disciplinary action to correct).
Hearing God is the first step. Whenever we believe we have heard God’s voice we need to compare what has been spoken to what the Bible tells us. The Bible is the tool that contains the information we need to prove whether what we have heard is indeed God’s voice or not. The Bible is the instrument that determines whether the instruction we have received is correct. When we know God’s heart and His Word, we become equipped to respond when He truly speaks to us (also read John 8:31-32).
The next step is to pray about what you’ve heard. For two reasons: Firstly, to solidify in your heart that you have indeed heard God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5 (NIV)
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Approaching God with an open and honest heart about what we believe we have heard will enable God to speak to us with clarity and His Word reminds us that He has an open-door policy.
Secondly, we need to pray, depending on what has been spoken, to enable God’s Spirit to bring it into fruition.
James 5 talks about Elijah (a prophet in the Old Testament) and God spoke through him that it would not rain for a season and after that season that it would rain. Despite being told by God what would happen Elijah still prayed that God’s Word would come to pass. The principle here is that Elijah was just a person God chose—he was no different1 than you or I. Elijah recognized that God works through us and the element which empowers that movement is prayer.
It’s important that we understand that while God is all-powerful, He has made a choice to work through people. Our responsibility is to respond, and with that comes work.
James 5:17 ↩