Wouldn’t it be great if I could hear God like that?
That’s exactly what I thought everytime I hearda missionary talk about hearing God’s voice, I was amazed. People hearing God for direction, or to do some great act of surrender that was costly, only to be rewarded by God.
I was enthralled. Could God’s children really here his voice? Could I?
One of the missionaries I heard speaking on a cassette tape referred to people who asked her how to hear God’s voice. With a smile and tenderness in her voice, she said, “Because he uses my name.”
What a God!
That set me on my own journey to hear God’s voice. Even though I was in Bible college at the time, I didn’t know of any books on the subject and I never heard any teaching about it either. So I went to my college dorm room to pray. And I said something along the lines of Samuels words, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (1 Sam 3:7-11).
And after a few minutes of clearing my mind and trying to listen to God, immoral thoughts came to my mind.
That definitely wasn’t God.
So I left for a season and then revisited this desire, determined to hear God’s voice. I would sit in a manner of prayer, and tell God I was available if he wanted to say anything. Inevitably my mind would wander.
The Search Continues
Not giving up I decided to go ask one of my Bible College professors, Wilbur Fields. Wilbur at the time was my Old Testament history professor. He looked as old as the places he had excavated as an archaeologist, but had the persistent smile of someone happy in the Lord. Although I must confess his class was really difficult.
It wasn’t difficult because it was academically challenging, but rather that it was 7:00 am. Not only that but in almost every class session he would turn out the lights and show slides of big ditches in Israel (otherwise known as wadis). As soon as the classroom lights went out, I went out. Sound asleep.
My classmates beside me would tease me. “Wake, O Sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you!” I tried hard to rally myself awake.
Wilbur also tried to remedy my sleepy ways. My chair was right next to the middle aisle and oftentimes Brother Fields would stand next to me. He would then raise his arms and talk about Jay-ROOO0-salem in his sing-song joy-filled voice.
It didn’t work. Almost nothing could raise this one from the dead.
But when it came to a gentle, quiet faith, Wilbur Fields had all that. He loved the Lord and talked to him constantly, typically out loud. So much so that one of his teaching colleagues said he had learned not to answer when Wilbur spoke unless he was addressed by name because Brother Fields was typically just talking to God.
So one day I knocked on his door and entered into his office. Even though he was an older man, he was one of the first to use a computer. He swiveled his chair toward me, smiling and asked, “What can I do for you today, dear Melissa?”
I then proceeded to ask him my question.
“Brother Fields, how do we hear the voice of the Lord? I read many missionary books and I hear speakers and they all talk about hearing the voice of the Lord. But how?”
“Well, dear sister,” he replied. Then he reached for his Bible and opened it to Hebrews 1.
“The Bible says that God speaks “at many times and various ways”” (Heb 1:1).
He spoke a little more and that was it. That was my lesson.
I didn’t know whether to be amazed at his wisdom, that God spoke in many ways. Or confused because that verse goes on to say, “but in these days he has spoken to us by his Son” (v. 2). Or still wondering, because I didn’t know what all that looked like in walking it out.
I pondered these things, and then let it go for a season. I still was unsure how it all worked.
I still believed God spoke. In fact, the most common verb associated with God in all of Scripture is that “God spoke…”
There was also the testimony I saw to this in Scripture where Jesus said his sheep hear his voice (Jn 10:27-28). Even in the New Testament, God speaks to his people and leads them (at many times and various ways). He spoke to them through angels who woke Paul and Silas up and led them out of priso (Acts 12:7), the Holy Spirit later led Paul and his missionary team by blocking their way to Bithynia and showing them a vision of a Macedonian man (Acts 16:6-10), and he seems to have led Paul as to when to play the citizenship card and when not to for the sake of the kingdom (Acts 16, 22).
I believed clearly that God has spoken throughout the millennia to his people, I just didn’t know how to listen myself. Although there had been a few incidents where he had clearly spoken to me in my childhood, even before I knew him. So I knew God spoke, but I wanted to hear more, and more clearly.
But I didn’t know where to proceed in my journey, so for the next decade, I dropped the subject. That is, until I picked up a book.
I was working in a Bible bookstore with some other believers who had worked at a missionary organization that sounded intriguing. Hearing from God was an essential part of their ministry. The founder had written a book called, “Is that Really You, God?” I ordered the book and began to read.
I still believed that God spoke to his people and led them in various ways. Yet I wondered if it was only for the super-spiritual. Such as those people who prayed 50 hours a week night and day and walked so closely to the Lord that his voice and his ways were obvious.
My search began to be rewarded. In this book it addressed those very issues and how to protect ourselves by walking with the body of Christ. It also taught about what to do when people hear different things from the Lord.
But more than that the stories of hearing God’s voice and obedience were enthralling to me. God led him and others through amazing journeys of ministering the gospel and finding the lost ones. I wanted to know God this way and experience his leading in my life.
A year later I found myself in the Pacific islands working with this very ministry. But before anyone could work with them, it was required that I attend a 5 month Discipleship Training School. Each week we would have various lecturers come in and teach for a full week at a time, all morning long. They would address different topics that they had experience in. And in the school was a whole intensive week of teaching on hearing the voice of God.
To this day I remember our instructor (Donna Jordan). She stepped up and her opening words were, “How do you know what I’m saying to you is true? You have your Bible, but even satan uses Scripture. So if what I say sounds good and I use a Bible verse, is that all you need?”
She had my attention.
For the rest of the week she taught on hearing the voice of God, but more important than that, she had us go practice. At first we practiced praying and hearing alone. She asked us to get by ourselves and to ask God, “What do you think of us?” And then to write down what we heard. I thought God spoke to me but honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was me or God.
Later that night when I was sound asleep, I suddenly had a terrible leg cramp. My leg was twisted with the severe muscle spasm. I can’t remember if I tried straightening it or bending it, but whatever I was doing was wrong. With no thoughts of even praying, all of a sudden I heard God’s voice clearly telling me to move my leg the opposite direction. I did and my leg spasms immediately halted. His voice was so clear I marveled at it.
The next day we were sitting in teaching when my friend and roommate next to me was visibly moved by the instruction. The Lord spoke so clear to me to tell her to stop fighting God and receive from Him. I leaned over and told her.
“You’re right,” she said.
A few minutes later I clearly heard the voice in my spirit lead me to tell her again. But this time I didn’t. I was afraid of what she would think. At this point I discovered that just because one hears God’s voice does not take away the fear of man and or slowness to obey or disobey entirely. Hearing God did not make me more righteous. It was still up to me to do something with it.
Our training continued. Later in the day we were next taught about how to hear God as a group. We had been tasked with asking God about where we were to go for outreach. We had two choices- Thailand or the Philippines. I was clearly thinking Thailand before we prayed. So did the dozen others in my group. But as we prayed together, almost all of us got a sense that we were to go to the Philippines.
When we reported this to our leader, he said, “That’s good news,” he ported. “Because circumstances have come up and we won’t be able to go to Thailand.” I was absolutely amazed that God could speak to a whole group like that.
The group next to me had been tasked with praying for an outreach team that was in another country where political turmoil had erupted. They and their 80 member team were getting ready to take a train ride out of the country, but they had called the home location first and asked others to pray about it, as they weren’t sure if it was the safest way for the teams to exit the country.
So the students next to me, brand new in hearing from the Lord, prayed together. And almost every one of them felt, “Don’t take the train.” Again, I was amazed that God could speak like this.
And so began my journey of hearing the Lord. It has completely changed my life as I intentionally look to be led by Him, listen to him, and obey.
Honestly there are many times I don’t know if it’s me or the Lord. But like a child learning to walk, fall and get up again, I’m growing in my understanding and my attentiveness to His voice. And my ever-present need to obey him and not drag my feet in doing so.
When I think of my journey in hearing God’s voice, I can look back and see that even when I had stopped searching for understanding in this area, God saw my heart and met me. He led me to gain understanding from people who walked in these truths with wisdom.
And you know what I learned? Wilbur Fields had always been right. God still speaks “at many times and in various ways” through his Son. That God speaks is one of his greatest gifts to mankind. I am grateful.