One of the questions that I get asked often is, “How can I be led by God?”
Other variations are, “How can I hear the voice of God?” “How can I make the bible come alive and get wonderful insights from it?” “How do I know God is speaking to me and it’s not just me dreaming up ideas?”
As Christians, we all have a deep unquenchable yearning for an intimate connection with God. We want to know him and to recognize his voice. But so many are finding it a big struggle.
The truth is, as his child, God desires to speak to you more than you desire to hear him. Can you imagine having a child and not wanting to speak to her? That your daughter is right there in the room with you, but you turn to someone else in the room and you choose to talk to her through them? That would be silly! Well, so is the idea that God only wants to speak to you through other people.
God isn’t far away from any of his children. Not from me, not from you. The Bible says we are his temple, right? That means God is living right inside each and every one of us. And if he is alive in you, then he is closer to you than you can ever imagine.
Before I go on to share the four practical ways to sharpen your ability to hear from God, I want to address the most common hindrances to being led by the Spirit and show you how you can position yourself rightly.
To position yourself to receive from God, you need to do the following;
First, trust that God wants to speak to you. You have to believe that he is in no way making it difficult for you to hear him. Why would he? He certainly has nothing to gain from that.
Without a firm expectation that God is always looking for ways to engage with you and to be close to you, you won’t pay attention or invest in your relationship with him as you should. It’s a mindset shift that cannot be discarded if you truly want to be led by God.
Second, as with building any relationship, it will require an investment on your part – especially your time. The bible says where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be. If the only time you pay attention to God is during a Sunday service, then it’s going to be quite difficult to build a thriving relationship with him.
Beyond time, it will require investing in resources such as books, audios, etc. that will help develop your relationship with God.
Third, be willing to make mistakes. No one enjoys being wrong and that fear of making a mistake has kept so many people from even attempting to follow the leading of God. It must be spelled out in black and white before they ever take a single step!
But nobody starts out as an expert. You begin small and then you grow. Be willing to get it wrong. Because you will! Even though your spirit is perfectly aligned with God, the information coming out of it will still pass through your mind. And your mind is not 100% renewed.
The more you practice being led by the Spirit, the more accurate you will become. But don’t let the fear of getting it wrong keep you from trying. There’s no perfectionism in hearing God.
And last, be open-minded. God can speak to you in so many different ways. It doesn’t have to be during your time alone with him. He can speak to you through people, books, dreams, etc.
Also, don’t limit God by deciding ahead of time that he can only speak to you through specific people, for example, your pastor. God spoke through a donkey. He can speak to you in more ways than you can imagine.
Now, here are the four practical ways to sharpen your ability to hear from God
- Reading the Bible like it’s talking to you.
The bible is not a collection of stories or a book of historic events. It is the living word of God. It’s alive! So, when you read it, apply it to your current situations. For example, in one of David’s Psalms, he wrote, “You will not leave my body to rot in the grave.”
Hundreds of years later, this verse was quoted in reference to Jesus. But if you read that psalm in context, when David wrote it, he was talking about a situation he was going through at that time. But it was 100% relevant to Jesus all those years later. That’s how the bible is. It really is alive.
When you read about Abraham, don’t think, “Nice story” and move on. If you open up to God, he will show you practical wisdom from events that happened thousands of years ago that are relevant to your own life.
2. Follow the inward witness or what some people call intuition.
This is when you know something within you, with a degree of certainty; even when it doesn’t make sense to your logical mind. For example, when Jesus wanted to appoint his disciples, the bible says he prayed all night, came down from the mountain and then literally walked up to each of the twelve men he wanted to pick.
Jesus knew intuitively who to pick as his disciples. He had prayed to the point where his inward conviction was strong and he just went out and carried out what he saw inside him.
The more time you spend praying in the spirit, the better you’re able to rely on your intuition or the inward conviction to lead you in the right direction.
3. Pay attention to your deep-seated desires.
I’m not talking about fantasies. Or passing fancies. I mean the desires that grab hold of you and never let go. The bible says, if you delight yourself in God, he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:5) That means, he will implant in you the right desires for the future he has for you.
Of course, not every desire inside you is from God. That’s why the condition laid out in that verse is that you should “delight yourself in God.”
To delight in someone means to be captivated by them. It means you are giving your attention to them; you are hanging on their every word.
If you invest time in building an intimate relationship with God, you will increasingly find your desires being in perfect alignment with what he wants to bring into your life.
4. Document your walk with God.
Keep a journal. Write the insights you receive from God down. Why? For one, if you don’t, you’re quite likely to forget them. So many of us have let God-inspired ideas die because we neglected to document them.
Also, writing brings you more clarity. Let’s say you come across a verse or a story that touches you while reading the bible.
As you journal about it, you’ll find that more ideas and insights will flow into your mind and you will end up with far more light than if you had simply read it and moved on.
More light – understanding – comes from writing things down.