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We are currently in the middle of a series where we are answering your most common questions.
Basically, a survey was sent out to a large audience asking what topics they would like to see discussed here at church. And we picked the top five.
In week one, we talked about overcoming stress. In week two, we learned how to survive life’s worst moments. Last week, our founding pastor, Mark Young, gave us some Biblical tips on dealing with difficult people.
Next week, our small groups leader, Chris Wills, is going to help us with sharing our faith. But today, we are going to tackle one of the most common questions:
How do I hear God’s voice?
There’s actually a great theological debate out there about God speaking. Some believe He still speaks to us today, while others believe He doesn’t.
But the truth we find in God’s Word is that He actually speaks to us now more than ever. We know this because He sent His Holy Spirit to be our guide, our comforter and our companion.
A guy named Dallas Willard wrote a book called, “Hearing God”, and I want to show you a quote from the book that really drives this home:
“If God doesn’t speak today, then the greatest disservice we could ever do to people is to tell them they could have a personal relationship with God.”
In other words, how can you tell someone they can have a relationship without conversation? A key ingredient of any relationship is healthy dialog. And it is no different with God.
God’s been speaking since the very beginning. He spoke the world into existence. And if you visit the end of the Bible, one of the last things you see is, “Let anyone who hears come to Jesus.”
So we believe God speaks. Here’s how Jesus explains it:
John 10:3-5 NIV – The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
This is the kind of relationship God wants with you, where He calls you by name, you listen to His voice, and He leads you where you need to go. And I imagine you want to have that relationship too.
John 10:3-5 NIV – When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
There it is again. He’s out ahead of you, which means He is leading you and has already prepared the way. But in order for you to follow Him, you need to get to a place where you know His voice.
That’s what I’m going to help you with today so we can all get to this place:
John 10:3-5 NIV – But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
So, I believe that God is speaking to all of us. This is something I know to be true because I’ve experienced it over and over again.
He definitely speaks in the small stuff, like helping you solve a problem at work, but I want to share with you two of the most prominent times I remember God speaking in my life.
Both times were extremely pivotal decisions I was facing, and I can remember God speaking so loudly that there was no way I could get away from it.
In high school, I was way off-track and pursuing relationships that were never meant to be part of my life. And I remember my junior year when God seemed to take me by the shoulders and say, “Wake up! If you don’t change direction right now, you are going to destroy the life I created for you.”
In that time, I remember making a commitment that I wasn’t going to date anyone else, I wasn’t going to be with anyone else until God showed me who I was supposed to marry. And I was serious.
I completely checked out of the dating world. I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t interested. I was done with the heartache and wasting time with the wrong people and was content waiting for God’s direction.
That was towards the end of junior year. And I remember the first day of senior year, I met Beth. To be honest, it wasn’t love at first sight. I noticed her and I talked to her, but that’s because it was a small school and I’m pretty sure she was the only new kid that year. So everyone swarmed her like fresh meat.
I introduced her to my friends, they became friends, and so we ended up hanging out quite a bit. But, she was seriously just a friend. I wasn’t thinking anything else at this time.
A couple of months passed and I had the most vivid dream. It was Beth walking down the aisle in a wedding dress towards me. I woke up and it’s almost as if God yelled from heaven, “There she is! She’s the one you’re supposed to marry.”
And here we are twelve years later and I can’t imagine life without her. Y’all, I wouldn’t be who I am today if God wouldn’t have led me to marry Beth. I needed Beth in my life. And the reason we’re married is because God spoke.
The second pivotal moment in my life was when God led me to become lead pastor of this church. For years, people told me it would happen. But I never believed them because I just couldn’t see myself as a pastor.
And then one day, almost out of nowhere, it’s like the vision of this church fell out of heaven and knocked me to the ground.
Have you ever been filled with this great idea and you couldn’t write fast enough to get it all out of your head and onto paper? That’s exactly what happened. God was speaking the vision of the church and I couldn’t even contain it.
My dad was lead pastor at the time, and when I told him what had happened, he knew it was time to transition. So here we are today. I’ve been leading the church for a little over a year now because God spoke.
And I know it was God because when I used to preach on occasion years ago, it was the most stressful thing ever. But now, God’s grace is on me to lead this church and preparing these messages is my favorite thing to do.
I tell you those stories to prove to you that God still speaks today. And He doesn’t just speak to me, He speaks to you too.
But the reason this is a common question, how to hear God’s voice, is because a lot of you struggle to hear His voice. So I want to give you three things that keep you from hearing His voice, and three ways ways to help you hear His voice.
Let’s call these first three things:
Weapons of Mass Distraction
The truth is, God is speaking. But there’s a lot of other noise going on as well. Here’s the first one:
It’s very difficult to hear from anyone when you are busy. I mean, how many of you have been busy with your phone and you totally miss what the person sitting right next you just said?
Or, how many of you have been so busy in your mind that you walked away from church and couldn’t even remember what the message was about? If that’s you, I want you to stand up right now so we can discipline you.
Take a look at this story:
Luke 10:38-40 AMP – A woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities.
Notice the contrast between these two sisters. Mary was listening; Martha was busy and therefor distracted. In other words, you can’t be listening and busy at the same time. You have to choose one or the other.
I’d venture to say that most of us here today are Marthas. Martha, Martha, Martha. We think we’ve got all this stuff to do and it needs to get done before we can take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.
But Mary made a decision that, even though there was stuff that needed to be done, it was worth her while to set aside the busyness and listen to Jesus.
Here’s the bottom line. You have to make time for God. Because if you don’t, busyness will always take the win. And that’s why it is so important to put God on your schedule first thing every day. Because, here’s the deal:
If God’s not first on your list, He’s not on your list.
If you don’t put God first, the busyness of life will swoop in and steal all your energy and you won’t have anything left to give God at the end of the day.
Has anyone else done that besides me?
Make an appointment with God first thing every morning. It’s the only way to show busyness who’s boss. Here’s what you need to do during that time:
Psalms 46:10 NLT – “Be still, and know that I am God!”
If busyness is a major problem in your life, I encourage you to go listen to week one of this series called, “Overcoming Stress”. We really dug into the issue of business and how to restructure your life to get things back in balance.
Alright, here’s the second weapon of mass distraction:
Have you ever been in a packed football stadium to where you couldn’t even hear someone two seats down? Yeah, that’s because everyone else is talking so it is hard to zero in on just one.
But, if the stadium was empty except for you and another person clear on the other side of the stadium, you’d be able to hear each other because the shape of the stadium would allow your voice to echo through.
This reminds me of a story Jesus told when a man prepared a great banquet and invited everyone to come and enjoy the feast. And here’s how they responded:
Luke 14:18-20 NLT – But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
So, Jesus was inviting these people to come spend time with Him but they all had other stuff to do. “Sorry Jesus, there’s this other thing that seems more important, so I’ll have to catch you next time.”
What would happen if we all took a moment to think through the things that are competing with God? I bet we’d find that a lot of them should be eliminated from our lives, and at the very least, restricted.
You all know what we’re talking about. And there’s a good chance it’s something digital. You’re on your phone, you’re watching Netflix, you’re playing Xbox, or you’re working after hours on that darn computer. Gotcha.
I mean, come on. If Facebook is the first thing we do when we wake up, we might have a problem. If we can’t sit on the loo without pulling out our phones, we might have a problem.
Raise your hand if you think you could benefit from restricting the amount of time you spend on your phone? Now everyone look around. We all want to do it. Now, we just have to do it.
One of the best ways to keep digital in its place is to make a commitment not to turn on anything digital until you’ve first spent time with God. Leave your phone on your nightstand, tell work it’s going to have to wait until you first spend time with God.
I love how the Apostle Paul says it:
Hebrews 12:1-2 GW – Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus…
We can sum this up into one simple statement:
To hear God’s voice, you have to turn down the world’s volume.
You know exactly what this is in your life. And I encourage you to take steps towards restricting those competing voices so you can hear God more clearly.
Here’s the last weapon of mass distraction:
An Unprepared Heart
In other words, sometimes God is speaking to us but it doesn’t sink in. It hits us and then slides right down onto the ground because it couldn’t be absorbed.
There’s a story in the Bible called the parable of the sower. It talks about how the ground has to be just right for you to plant seeds and grow a harvest.
The story makes a point that when you plant on hard ground, like if I threw seeds out on this cement floor, we could come back in a few weeks and there wouldn’t be any plants and the seeds would be gone as well.
So, how does this relate to our spiritual lives? Well, here’s the parallel Jesus makes using this story:
Matthew 13:18-19 MSG – When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart.
If our hearts are not prepared, the things God speaks to us won’t stick. It just left out in the open and the devil comes and steals it.
But, if we prepare our hearts, it’s like planting seeds in fertile ground. You come back in a few days and see a sprout. You come back in a few weeks and see a growing plant. Come back in a few years and you’ll find a mature tree.
How do we prepare our hearts?
2 Corinthians 7:1 MSG – Let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.
This is why it is so important for us to live our lives like God asks us to. Because we want our hearts to be prepared and ready for Him to speak to us.
1 Samuel 3:1-11 MSG – The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen.
Samuel was a young boy serving under a mentor, another prophet, Eli. And this was in a time where people weren’t regularly hearing from God. It’s probably not because God wasn’t speaking. They just weren’t listening.
1 Samuel 3:1-11 MSG – One night Eli was sound asleep. It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.
Notice where Samuel was. He was in the Temple of God. In other words, he intentionally put himself in a place where people historically had encounters with God. We’re going to come back to that, so remember that.
1 Samuel 3:1-11 MSG – Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did. God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.) God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.” That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, “Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”
This is some good advice right here. If you don’t get anything else, I want you to get this. When God is trying to get your attention, quiet yourself and say, “Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”
1 Samuel 3:1-11 MSG – Samuel returned to his bed. Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention.
It’s interesting how Samuel was the one hearing the voice of God where the more mature one, Eli, wasn’t hearing anything.
And in this story, you will find three things that will guide us into creating an environment where you can hear God. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are, we can all take these steps.
Here’s the first one:
God speaks as we read His Word.
“The sanctuary lamp was still burning…”
When we read it earlier, you may not have realized the significance of Samuel laying by the sanctuary lamp as it continued to burn. But, take a look at this:
Psalms 119:105 NLT – Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
The Bible doesn’t exist to give you a historical record. It’s not even there just to give you great spiritual ideas.
The Bible exists to illuminate the best path for your life. It guides you on the journey to your best life.
But, you have to keep it lit! Because, while you are walking down this path, life is going to show up and try to blow out the candle. And when it does, you can’t see the path anymore so you start straying from your best life.
So, how do you keep it lit? You read it, every day. Even when it’s boring, even when you feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it, read the Bible.
And when a big wind of life comes and blows out the lamp, you light it again by reading the Bible. Don’t do what most of us do by wandering around in the dark for a few weeks or months first. No, light it as soon as it goes out.
If you have a hard time with the Bible, I encourage you to go on our website and find the series we did back in March called “It is written.” Seriously, this 3-part series will cause the Bible to come alive in your life.
What would it look like if we all made a fresh commitment today to get in the Bible every single day?
You don’t have to waste time in regret for not doing it until now. Simply see today as your fresh start.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. You can start by reading one verse every day. Simply open up the Bible app on your phone, read the verse of the day, and take a moment to let it speak to you.
For me, I’m currently reading a chapter every day as I work my way through the New Testament. I started in Galatians earlier this year and I am currently in Hebrews. It takes me about 5 minutes every day to do this.
But, don’t overthink this. You don’t have to do what I do. Simply make a commitment to get in the Word every day and when you do, the Holy Spirit will guide you in the right plan for you.
If you are reading one verse a day, don’t get caught up in the idea that it is insignificant because I’m reading a chapter a day. Or because someone else is reading several chapters a day.
This isn’t complicated and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. The most important thing is that you are consistent and read it every single day. And there is a best time of the day to do this:
Psalms 119:147 NIV – I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.
If you want to hear God’s voice, spend time in God’s Word. He will speak to you through His Word, I can promise you that.
Here’s the next one:
God speaks as we cultivate His presence.
“Samuel was where the Chest of God rested…”
I know, this one sounds a little churchy. But hang with me because you’ll grab ahold of what this means as we move through this.
In the story we ready earlier, it said that Samuel was sleeping where the Chest of God rested. In other translations, it was called the Ark of the Covenant.
In the old covenant, the Ark of the Covenant is where the Spirit of God rested. That was the only place you would find Him.
Because of Jesus, we’ve entered into a new covenant, or a new agreement with God. He’s no longer contained to a chest or an ark. He’s come to live on the inside of those who believe in Jesus.
This happens the moment we say, “I believe in you Jesus. Come lead my life.” In that moment, God comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit. And although He is always there, we have a part to play in experiencing God’s presence.
In other words, the Holy Spirit is in us. God’s presence is in us. But if we want to experience it in our lives, we must cultivate His presence. You’ve got to develop those spiritual muscles.
And the best way to accomplish this is through worship. The best way to experience God’s presence in our lives is to get our minds and words off of ourselves and towards God.
If you’ve been here for long, you’ve experienced this during worship here at church. We’re all singing about the goodness of God, and all of a sudden, you feel something you can’t explain.
Your problems become small and your emotions don’t know how to handle what you are experiencing. Y’all, that is the presence of God. And we experience it here at church because we cultivate it through worship.
You don’t have to wait for church to experience this. You can experience it in your car on your way to work as you begin to worship God by elevating Him above everything else in your life.
In these moments, God is going to speak to you. He’ll speak to you through His Word. He’ll speak as you worship Him. And here’s the third one:
God speaks as we get planted in the church.
“Samuel was in the Temple of God…”
This may seem obvious for a pastor to say, but it is true. Getting planted in a church is vital to the life of a Christian. And it doesn’t have to be this church. I get excited when people get planted in any church.
There’s a lot of great churches out there. And you need to find a church not where you just attend once in awhile, but where you get engaged and prioritize it on your schedule.
If NoLimits is the church you choose, we want you to be with us as many Sundays as you can. Because Sundays are when you get to know God in a deeper way than you did before.
We want you to get plugged into a small group. Because small groups are where you build relationships and find freedom from all those things that are holding you back from your best life.
We want you to go through Growth Track, which is a simple 4-step process where we help you discover your purpose. Because God put you here for a reason, and Growth Track is where you can figure out what it is.
I can actually give you a guarantee. If you go all in here at NoLimits by engaging in Sunday Services, Small Groups and Growth Track; If you do this for a year, you are going to get to the end of the year and be blown away by how far you’ve come.
Seriously, it works. And if you want it to work in your life, then you need to go all in. All I’m asking for is one year. If it doesn’t work, you can come tell me all about it. But, I know what you are going to be telling me: how much better your life is.
Let me show it to you in scripture:
Psalms 92:11-13 NIV – My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the retreat of my wicked foes. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
This is the amazing life you live when you get planted in the Church. I know, culture is telling you that real life is outside of the church. But, I’m here to tell you they’re lying to you.
If you are going to prioritize something, prioritize church because that is the only way to flourish. You’re not going to find God’s best by overworking or spending all your time in other activities.
You’ll find your best life when you read God’s Word, cultivate His presence through worship, and get planted in the Church.
God speaks to you through His Word. God speaks to you when you worship. God will speak to you through our Sunday services, and through small groups, and through the Growth Track.
You know, there’s a lot of things in my life that I wish I’d never done. There’s times I give too much of myself and my time to my work. I’ve spent money on things to try to bring happiness, but it never lasted.
And more recently, I’ve went to way too many business conferences to try to educate myself for the next level.
But, you know what I’ve never regretted? Spending time in God’s Word. Spending time talking to God. Being here with you on Sunday mornings. Hanging out with my small group every week.
Come on guys. This isn’t a ritual or something we do to earn God’s approval. Church is something that we need to live our best life. We can’t do it without each other.
If we want to hear God’s voice on the regular, we must stay in the right environment.
Now, I encourage you to take some time to talk to God. Here’s a good way to start: “Speak, God. Your servant is listening.”
You might be thinking right now, “Yes, I definitely want to hear from God, but I don’t even know Jesus yet. Well, we can get that taken care of right now.
It’s as simple as believing that Jesus died to give you salvation. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. It’s all Jesus. And all you have to do is recognize that and receive the gift of new life in Jesus.
If this is you, I encourage you to say the following prayer out loud:
Jesus, I’ve been living without you and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve done a lot of things wrong and I need your forgiveness. I accept Your love and grace for me and ask that You would be my Lord. Thank you for making me new. Thank you for washing away my past. I hand my life over to you and ask that you’d help me walk out your plan for my life.