How do you hear the voice of God?
The best way to begin is by sitting on a warm beach with white sand on a beautiful island as you gaze at the setting sun (see image).
If that's not an option keep reading...
Seriously though, I have hearing problems.
It’s been a thorn in my side for as long as I can remember.
They first started conducting hearing tests in 4th grade and I distinctly remember being the only classmate called back for a second test. I have a condition that audiologist call “genetic nerve deafness” and outside of a miracle from God, it will probably get progressively worse. It’s something I inherited from my father.
What was that dad? You’re sorry? No worries. It’s actually a wonderful excuse when my wife asks me to do chores around the house. Thanks a lot.
Every year like clockwork I get my hearing tested and they sit me down in a tiny sound-proof room to limit the background noise. Audiologist call it an anechoic chamber and even the name sounds a bit spooky, like something out of a thriller movie.
The Anechoic Chamber…coming soon to a theater near you.
The truth of the matter is, it is a bit creepy. I’ve only experienced the smaller version with a window to the outside world, but the largest of these chambers are designed to be completely sound proof. They often use fiberglass wedges on the walls and ceiling and many are encased in cement a meter or more thick. The experience of being inside one can be quite frightening. Why?
Because it is so quiet.
A technician for a popular speaker company was accidentally locked inside a chamber one weekend and when they finally opened the door a few days later they found a man psychologically scarred. You can scream as loud as you want inside of an anechoic chamber and hear nothing.
In fact, the only sounds you can hear are those that originate from within.
John Cage, a composer in the late 1940’s was visiting the anechoic chamber of Harvard University and thought he heard “two sounds, one high and one low”. The first was a very high pitched sound almost like electricity and the second was a low thumping or rushing sound. A colleague later commented, “The high sound that you heard was your nervous system in operation. The low one was your blood in circulation."
That revelation of silence led to the recording of 4’33”, a symphony of silence and rumor has it that 4’33” was at one time popular on the juke box as it gave customers relief from an otherwise relentless soundtrack of rock and roll.
Silence. Relief from the noise.
Psalm 46 has become my go-to-global-pandemic psalm and it reads,
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
It ends with the famous line…
"Be still and know that I am God”.
The image of chaos and noise in this psalm mirrors our current reality. Mountains are quaking, waters are surging, the virus is spreading, nations are in uproar, kingdoms are falling, people are dying, social media is blaring, deaths are mounting, economies are dying, and in the middle of the commotion and distraction and danger, God speaks and he tells us to be still.
How do you hear the voice of God in a global pandemic? It starts with stillness.
Be quiet. Stop. Be silent. Listen.
Come into my spiritual anechoic chamber and find relief from the noise. This is how you begin to hear from God.
Silence is the think tank of the soul.
The quieter you are, the better you will hear, but don’t be surprised if the loudest sounds are the ones that originate from within. It may take a while to extinguish the noise in your heart.
Katie and I have four children and one of them was not only born with colic but she was also a light sleeper. Trying to get through those early years of raising our daughter was tough. Fortunately, we received one of the best pieces of parenting advice we have ever been given...
“You need to buy a sound machine”.
I literally paid $35.99 for a white canister that does one thing and one thing only. It produces white noise. It nearly saved our sanity and also our marriage (moderately joking).
Almost immediately after plugging in the white noise maker at bedtime our child fell fast asleep. Why? She could no longer hear the sounds of the night, the opening of doors, the thump of footsteps, the click of a switch. It deadened her sense of hearing.
Life is a white noise maker.
The 24/7 news cycles, smart phones, busyness, and social media apps have deadened us to the still, small voice of God. If we aren’t able to cultivate silence, we won’t be able to hear from God and if we aren’t able to hear from God, then how will we ever know how to follow.
Can I make a big statement?
Learning how to hear the voice of God is the greatest skill of a disciple and you can’t follow Jesus if you don’t know how to hear from Him.
Do you know how to hear the voice of God?
We don’t live in the 1st century anymore. In the 1st century, the disciples actually heard the audible voice of God. Jesus spoke to them in the flesh. Just once I would like for Jesus to show up in the flesh and map out the next few years of my life...or explain how the internet works...or hand me the winning lottery numbers.
Unfortunately, 21st century disciples don’t have that luxury. Instead, we’ve been given something else. We've been given the Spirit of God and we’ve been given the Word of God. This is most often how God speaks.
It is true that...
He speaks through our desires.
He speaks through our circumstances.
He speaks through our pain.
He speaks through our children.
He speaks through our dreams.
He speaks through our friends.
He speaks through our opportunities.
But most often, God speaks by his Spirit and through his Word. It’s the Rosetta Stone for hearing his voice.
The Rosetta Stone was one of the most important archaeological objects every discovered for translating ancient languages and it now sits in a British museum. The Rosetta Stone offered the key to understanding and interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphics and unlocked the incredible wonders of the ancient world.
The Bible is the Rosetta Stone for interpreting the voice of God. It is living and active and makes sense of competing voices you might be hearing. The better you know and understand his Word, the better you will be able to discern his voice.
God is speaking and we need to learn how to listen.
The prophet Elijah had hearing problems and in 1 Kings 19 God brought him to Mt. Sinai, the same mountain he spoke with Moses. Moses needed to see the glory of God and hear the thunder in his voice. Elijah needed something else. Elijah needed to learn how to listen and lean in and experience intimacy with God. The Bible tells us that “after the wind, after the earthquake, and after the fire came a gentle whisper”.
"A gentle whisper". I love that.
Don’t let the white noise of the world deaden you to hearing the gentle whisper of God. Your future is at stake.
Don’t live on second-hand spirituality.
Don’t go through life on spiritual fumes from a few months ago or a few years ago. God has a FRESH word for you today and nothing will determine your destiny more than your ability to hear his still, small voice. If you can’t hear from God then how can you know where to follow?
I want to encourage you this week.
Create a spiritual anechoic chamber, a place to block out the noise, a time and setting where you can be alone with God and spend a few moments in silence. Quiet the noise inside of you and then ask the Spirit of God to speak. Ask him to speak deep into your soul and give you a new revelation and then when you are ready, open his Word and simply listen.
God has something important he wants to say to you.