One of the most remarkable verses in the Bible is John 10:27. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Clearly Jesus says that those who belong to him, who believe in him, are his sheep and hear his voice. What a promise! Jesus wants to speak regularly to his followers! It's an extremely encouraging statement for those who us who really want to hear and obey the one we call Lord and Savior. We are thankful for his inner testimony. We desire his incessant inward promptings.
Sometimes he speaks with a loud voice. It's an alarm bell that warns us to avoid something, or immediately calls us to do something. Sometimes it's more like an inward whisper. In my life, I've heard many more inward whispers than loud voices.
But how do we know if what we feel, sense and hear within is the Lord's voice or mere indigestion? Here are some thoughts that have helped me discern the difference through the years:
1. You need to get alone and be silent. You need to be calm and quiet. When we are still, we know it's the voice of the Lord (Psalm 46:10). If you're incessantly busy and in a hurry, it's very difficult to discern the Lord's voice from the cacophony of noise that surrounds us. When we're quiet, Jesus speaks the clearest and loudest!
2. Is the voice gnawing your insides? Is it persistently warning you not to do something? Is it continuing to prompt you to do something? If so, that's often the Lord's voice. When he yearns for your obedience, he is relentless. Incessantly, he pounds your heart.
Then, if the voice is clear and relentless, do whatever it tells you to do. Most often, for me, it's been a simple, clear command to obey. It's something like, "David, pray for ___________." Or, "Go to _______________ and tell him/her that I've burdened your heart for them. Ask what they may need of you."
In obedience, I go to the person. I say something like, "Please don't think me crazy, but I sensed the Lord wanted me to come to you and see if there's anything I can do for you." Most often, I see the person wide-eyed and amazed. Then he/she shares with me an area of need where I can at least pray for him/er. Often, there is something specific I can do to help him/her.
Learning to hear God's voice is a daily, spiritual discipline. When understood, it opens new vistas of faith and practice!
And you learn it's far more than indigestion.