Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Those who are victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. – (Revelation 2:11)
The voice of God can be heard and understood if we apply certain biblical principles to hearing what the Holy Spirit of God is saying. Jesus challenges those who heard his message to really listen — not just with their ears, but also with their hearts.
Just as the Holy Spirit decides to give different abilities to different people (1 Corinthians 12:11), he works with us in different ways. A person with the gift of miraculous words is likely to hear the Spirit in a different way than a person with the gift of compassion. The Spirit will lead a teacher in a different way than a server, because he has different jobs for each person.
For some people, he speaks subtly, in general principles; for others, he must speak with unmistakable details. Each of us must listen in the way that God has made us, in the way that he chooses to deal with us. The important thing is that we listen—that we are ready and willing to hear what he says. We should be looking for his leadership rather than ignoring it.
No Idle Words
Some people would like to have the Holy Spirit as a conversational companion to keep them company. They want to chat, but the Holy Spirit isn’t involved in idle words. He does not call attention to himself (John 15:26), and is often silent because he has already given us enough information and advice. He wants us to use what he has already given; he has been training our conscience to respond rightly to what faces us. That does not mean that we rely on ourselves, but that we rely on what God has already done in our lives and what he has already taught us.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us primarily through the Scriptures that he inspired to be written and canonized. This is our foundation of faith and life, the word that everyone has access to, the word that can be studied and discussed most objectively. Often the word that we need to hear has already been written, and the Spirit simply needs to bring it to mind. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, for example, his responses were quoted from Scripture. He had studied and memorized those words, and in each situation the Spirit led him to the appropriate response.
We can also hear the Holy Spirit through experience. God sometimes changes his methods with us, but most often he works with us in a similar way from one year to another. Through experience, we see how he has answered our prayers and led us in past situations. This will help us recognize his “voice” when he speaks to us in the present. Experience comes through time, submission and meditation. The Spirit helps the humble, not the self-exalting.
Sermons are a common means of spiritual speech. Those who speak should strive to speak the words of God (1 Peter 4:11), so those who speak in church should strive to listen to God as they prepare the sermons, and those who hear the sermons should likewise listen for the words of the Lord. We need to let our worship services be times of listening, of thinking, of communing with God so that we are letting him change us to be more like Christ. Let us draw near to him, and he will change us.
Responding To Holy Spirit
If we want to hear, we need to listen. But if we want to hear in the biblical sense, we also need to respond. If we hear his voice, if we believe that God is telling us to do something, then we need to do it. We need to do what he has gifted us to do. We are to submit to God, for what he says is for our own good. We bring him honor, and we bring ourselves blessings, by doing his will. It begins with listening. Can you hear the Holy Spirit? It is something worth thinking about.
Let’s be God’s people who hunger to hear what the Spirit is seeking to say to us through Scripture!
Father, forgive us — forgive me! We have very seldom sought to hear your voice and your Word and the message the Spirit has for us in that Word. More than forgiveness, O God, give us a yearning to hear the message the Spirit has for our congregation at this time, with our challenges and opportunities. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.