Updated: Sep 29, 2020
“Holy Spirit? Sounds scary and way too churchy.”
“Hearing God’s voice? People will think I’m losing my mind.”
“How would I know if I'm hearing God's voice or my own?”
“I think I’ll skip over this part since it’s so confusing.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!
If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
The other day I heard my kids talking to each other about Jesus. My 3yr old said, “Jesus lives in our hearts!” And my 6yr old said, “Yeah, that’s how he can learn [teach] us things all the time. We know things we didn’t know!”
When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, he had big things in mind for us. The Holy Spirit descended onto the apostles like “a mighty windstorm.” We see the epic stories in Acts where the apostles utilized its power. Jesus even said that having the Holy Spirit is better than having HIM walking the earth. (John 16:7) So, if the Holy Spirit is our most intimate part of the Trinity (The Father/God, The Son/Jesus, and The Holy Spirit), why do we have so much confusion surrounding it? I remember, growing up in church, feeling such a comfort in my relationship with God. I didn’t really have a lot of questions. Sure, I didn’t know much, either. But I didn’t need to know. I didn’t analyze every inch of my faith. I just rested in the arms of Jesus. As I got older, I wanted to understand the details. I wanted to know things, like if evolution could exist in the same world as a creator God, or “where do we define the limits of sin?” and “how exactly does the Holy Spirit work?” I questioned if what I was hearing was my voice or the Holy Spirit’s, or even the enemy’s. I felt pretty clueless, and subpar in my faith because of my lack of answers. Why do we lose our childlike trust? Why do we insist on knowing everything? Didn’t we learn anything from Adam and Eve when it comes to seeking knowledge over relationship with God? Once we’ve broken the threshold from childlike to cynic, it’s a tough road going back. Almost impossible. So what’s a cynic to do?
Once we’ve broken the threshold from childlike to cynic, it’s a tough road going back.
In Francis Chan’s Basic series, he talks about the Holy Spirit and how it was supposed to change everything, and yet we don’t seem to see that happening in the lives of people who call themselves Christians today. We don’t see people casting out demons or healing the sick. He thinks part of that has to do with the control we hold over everything in our faith lives. We control and plan church services down to the minute, we meet in groups and have planned, orderly discussions, and we often get in a routine of how we pray. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t operate on formulas. Francis had the idea that if we let go of control and allow ourselves to experience the Holy Spirit rather than try to force its hand, we will enable ourselves to be more clearly guided, and we can feel its power in our lives. It will be like waiting for a wave to come so we can hop on and surf. We can’t create the wave, or plan the timing, we just jump on and let it happen to us. We just need to recognize it and know when to get on. Author and editor Rick Lawrence likened this idea to holding out a catcher’s mitt and waiting for the Holy Spirit to pitch something to you. You have to be in the right position and posture to receive it. You can’t be looking off into the crowd or at 1st base. You need to be laser focused on the pitcher, ready to receive what he has for you.
In John 10, Jesus demonstrates his role as shepherd and ours as sheep when he says, 4 “After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice...10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life...14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. John 10:4-15
I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much the podcast, “Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus,” by Rick Lawrence and Becky Herrington, has changed my relationship with Jesus. In one of my favorite episodes, “What does it mean to hear Jesus’ voice,” they talk about how to train yourself to recognize Jesus’ voice, just like sheep would recognize their shepherd’s. They compare it to exercise. If you want to get stronger, you have to move. You have to practice. Try experimenting in non-pressured situations, like if you’re walking in public and pray, “God, if there is someone I see who needs prayer, please prompt me on how to pray for them,” or “God, show me the things in my life that you have provided, and I will give you my thanks.” Becky had the idea of praying over guidance for food choices at the grocery store, lessening her pressure over diet choices. She also had the fun idea of “God, if someone compliments something of mine, I will give them that item.” When you start hearing/feeling more promptings, you can start asking God things like, “Who do you say I am?” “What do you love about me?” and “What do I need to do better?” In the podcast they emphasize that hearing no response does not mean you’re lacking spiritual maturity or that God isn’t listening. Remember, it’s all about waiting for the wave, not forcing it. These exercises are mainly about achieving a better receiving posture. All of this is training us to recognize God’s voice so that when a situation arises where it’s vital for us to hear him, we already know what he sounds like.
...hearing no response does not mean you’re lacking spiritual maturity or that God isn’t listening.
One common question is, “How do I know I’m hearing God’s voice and not my own?” Part of knowing God’s voice is recognizing his tone. He will not speak like the enemy, who as Jesus said, is here to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus’ voice will not tear you down or lie. He will certainly give you conviction and he has a tendency to be blunt, but he is relaxed and loving. Another great tip from Rick and Becky was to utilize the authority God has given you when you pray. Say in your heart, “In the name of Jesus, I silence my voice and Satan’s voice. I will only hear the Holy Spirit.” Using Jesus’ name has such a real power and authority (See Matthew 8:5-13 for a great authority story), way more than we can understand. Be confident in this, and those voices will silence.
When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”
“Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.” Luke 10:17-19
If you’re going to build muscle, you will not do it with positive thoughts and good intentions. You do it with repetition, trial and errors, and a determination to succeed. If you don’t try, you will never strengthen your “hearing the Spirit” muscle. Let go of control. Position yourself so you are able to hear him, ready to surf the wave. Practice hearing God in the little choices so you know what he sounds/feels like when it really matters. Don’t put weight on your experiments and don’t give up if you don’t hear him right away. He is there. He loves you, and he loves that you’re trying to hear him. I promise, if you keep trying, you will find that he was always there, your ears were just tuned into the wrong station.
Ashlee is a wife and stay-at-home mom, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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