How to Be Sure You’ve Heard the Voice of God So You Can Be Brave to Follow It
Sometimes God slices through our ordinary lives and mundane thoughts and calls us to follow His voice. How can we know we have heard the voice of God so we can be brave to follow it? Be sure to subscribe to get the free printable that accompanies this series on Hearing God’s Voice!
Several years ago, as I was reading the book of Ezekiel, God very strongly impressed upon me to encourage a young man in our congregation to read the first three chapters of Ezekiel. I knew Edward (not his real name) to be a man after God’s heart. Even in his teen years, God had clearly placed a call on Edward’s life to enter difficult and dangerous situations for the cause of Christ.
I tried to picture walking up to Edward and saying, “Hey, you should read Ezekiel.” Nothing about it seemed natural. Pictures of awkward church ladies came to mind. I tried to ignore God’s voice.
The impression from God was strong and did not go away. It was not lost on me that Ezekiel was asked by God to do extremely difficult things for the kingdom of God, and he was obedient. Surely, I could do this one uncomfortable thing.
The next Sunday morning, I found Edward in the church lobby. I had taught him in middle school Sunday school, when boys are gawky and unsure of their place in the world. Now, Edward was a tall, muscular college high school student, looking at a world of possibilities.
I fumbled through a clumsy explanation of why I was about to say what I was about to say. God had asked me to do this, I said, and I encouraged him to read the first few chapters of Ezekiel. Like Edward, Ezekiel had been called by God to do very hard things, and Ezekiel had done them.
I walked away and wondered, again, why God had asked me to do this strange thing.
The next fall, Edward and I ran into each other in the church lobby. We small-talked, and then he shared a heart-stopping nugget. He had worked at a drive-up restaurant that summer, and one of his regular customers had routinely called him by the wrong name: She had called him Ezekiel.
God had my attention now, as I’m sure He had Edward’s.
Back in Exodus 3 (ESV), Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, when Moses saw that a bush was on fire but not burning up.
Moses noticed God’s nudge!
3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”
Moses drew nearer to the bush, nearer to God. God did not speak to Moses until He was sure He had Moses’ attention:
4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
God now asked Moses to do something staggeringly difficult–overwhelming, really.
9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.
God asked Moses to do something that was outside of and beyond anything Moses would have thought to do. Earlier in his life, Moses may have correctly discerned that he would help deliver the people of Israel (Acts 7:25), but he had tried to take matters into his own hands, and it hadn’t gone well. Now he doubted his ability to accomplish this call.
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
He questioned God again in chapter 4, verse 1:
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’”
And again in verse 10:
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
And then Moses flat-out tried to get out of this enormous task:
13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
After each plea from Moses, God had proven He would be with Moses. He had given him words to say. He had given him signs and wonders to perform. When Moses begged to get out of doing this mighty task altogether, the Lord had about had it . . . and yet, He gave Moses the support of his brother Aaron.
14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
Read verse 14 carefully: Could it be that because God already knew this request from Moses was coming, He had already caused Aaron to be on his way?
The rest is, literally, history. Through signs and wonders from God, Moses convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go, and the Israelites were freed from four centuries of slavery.
This past year while on summer break from college, Edward risked imprisonment and death to smuggle Bibles into several countries in Asia. His stories are harrowing and inspiring. He will never doubt God’s provision for him.
I recalled our awkward conversations about Ezekiel and wondered what bigger story God was writing. Like Ezekiel, Edward had been called by God to do the difficult, he had obeyed, and God had blessed countless people because of it.
How Can You Know You Have Heard the Voice of God?
1. God will get your attention in an unusual way.
For Moses, it was a bush that was on fire but not consumed. For others in the Bible and in current day, it might an unusual dream or a thought that seems out of the ordinary, maybe even opposite of what you had been planning.
2. Nudges from God are different from our own inclinations.
Nudges from God will not be of your own making, and they may be uncomfortable. If you’ve been wanting to fire back at someone about an issue, God’s desire is likely quite the opposite. Firing back is something you have been wanting to do. You’ve been thinking on it, processing it. Instead, a nudge from God often comes out of left field. It is unexpected and not at all something you have been considering.
It’s not like Moses was planning on leading the people out of Egypt. The thought would never have occurred to him of his own accord. After his first ill-fated attempt to stand up for the Israelites (Acts 7:25), he hadn’t planned on ever returning to his home country!
3. God nudges us on purpose, to fulfill His purposes.
A nudge from God comes with the expectation that you will follow through on it. God doesn’t communicate to us randomly. He has a reason and purpose for calling you to do this strange thing. If you get a nudge to say a kind word or write someone a card, do it! If you get a nudge to hold your tongue, do it! Expectantly follow through on whatever idea God plants in your heart, and watch Him work.
You might also learn from the article on How to Get Better at Surrendering to God’s Will.
Digging Deeper: Is It the Voice of God?
Treasure this time with the Lord. Reflect on or journal about the following questions, listening for what God has to say to you.
1. I encourage you to read through chapters 3 and 4 of Exodus. They are too long to reprint here, but you won’t have any trouble staying awake while reading them! What do you learn about God’s character while reading these chapters?
2. Have you ever sensed a nudge from God and ignored it? Take time to confess this. Also know that you are not alone: Every human has ignored God on some level. Even the most devout could attest to times they knew God had asked them to do something and they had not obeyed. What if Moses had not gone over to look more closely at the strange bush that did not burn up? He would not have heard the voice of the Lord.
3. Has God brought to your mind a possible nudge? Test it, to make sure the voice is from the Holy Spirit and not of your own desires.
—If the idea popped into your mind from out of the blue—it is not something you have been processing for a while—God may be speaking to you.
—If the thought is biblical, and if it would build someone else up and not tear them down, consider that God may be speaking to you.
—Sometimes God calls us to be silent, to not speak, when with every ounce of our being we want to respond, especially in anger or frustration. Sense the nudge and keep quiet!
4. When God nudges you, follow through: say the kind word, send the card, run the errand, offer to help. Then watch to see how God works through your obedience. Participating in God’s plan will grow your faith by leaps and bounds.
5. As you have time today or this week, let God speak to you through these songs and hymns:
Speak, O Lord (Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townsend) (I love this hymn!)
You Make Me Brave (Amanda Cook, Bethel Music)
Word of God Speak (MercyMe)
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