Hearing God 101



Barbara Edtl Shelton


NOTE FROM BARB:  I wrote this article with homeschoolers in mind, but anyone, homeschooling or not, will get plenty out of it, as the principles apply "across the line" to anyone!




Whether we need it for homeschooling, a job, witnessing, or direction in life, every Christian wants to hear God. Not only is this a lofty desire, but it is the very most basic privilege of being a child of God. Indeed, it is a must if we are to not merely meander through life, "hitting and missing" God's best, but if we are to become "fit for the Master's use," our "faculties trained."

I believe with all my heart that God has a unique plan for each one.  There is a "river of living water" that He wants to release into and pour through each parent and each student as they seek His will for these vital years.  And that "river of living water" is the Lord himself!


Typically what happens is that we just get our Christianized curriculum and assume we are educating God's way.  Unfortunately, it may take several years of pursuing the wrong thing, and discovering to our grief that we are not getting the fruit we had so desired to see in our children and our home when we first started out…  This is because all we were really doing was just following a Christianized version of the world's methods; we never really sought God on what HIS plan for us is, or sought to hear His voice on "the way we should go."


We must be willing to come to the feet of Jesus, lay our ideas of "education" down there, and let all that we think we should be doing rest, or better yet, DIE there at His feet.  He may very well give us back portions of what we had in mind for "school", and we can certainly glean a few things from those in the pro­fessional teaching business, (and I do mean "a few"), but I do not ~ I repeat ~ I do NOT believe that the so-called "educational experts" are the final authority when it comes to defining educationGod is! … And therefore we need to hear HIS Voice above all the others!  (I say "so-called educational experts" because what they are is experts at "schooling" ~ not truly *educating* ~ the masses.  This is not an insult to them; simply putting things into what I believe is a correct perspective.)


Contrary to popular assumption, we really can hear God's voice!  It's actually a very basic aspect of being a Christian, not something just for the "spiritually advanced"!  Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (Jn.10:27)


And this isn't just for "religious" or "spiritual" stuff!  If hearing God doesn't have to do with REAL LIFE, then it's pretty useless and pointless.  But God is totally practical!  If something is truly spiritual, then it is totally practical!  The two are not exclusive of one another.  "She's so heavenly minded she's of no earthly good" doesn't really hold water.  If "she" is of no earthly good, then her spirituality was not birthed in or by God.


God wants to be an integral part of our daily lives, the homeschooling of our children; not just in our "churchy" activities.


A major aspect of "hearing God's voice" is the ability to recognize who is speaking. Do you want to learn how to hear God better? And to KNOW that it is HIS voice ~ when He is speaking?  And recognize the voice of the enemy ~ obviously for the purpose of exposing and rejecting it?  Then you are wanting a good thing, and it IS within your grasp!  So let me start by asking you a few questions…


~ How well do you want to be able to hear God? 


~ How well do you think you need to be able to hear Him as you raise your children and grow in the Lord? 


~ How much easier do you think your life and homeschooling would be if you could hear Him well? 


~ How much more peaceful would your home and your life be if you knew you were hearing Him on a regular basis?


Well, let me first assure you that "hearing God" is not an "all or nothing" thing.  It's not a matter of "either you do or you don't"; it's something you grow in. 


As I was reading in John 12 one day, verses 20-36, in particular, it jumped out at me that there were three very clear and different levels of hearing God going on in this passage…


The scene was at the time when Jesus' trial and death were approaching, and a few were gathered with Jesus.  He had just said something ~ exactly what isn't relevant to the point I am making here, so I will skip right to what happened right afterwards.  John 12: reads: "and then a voice came from heaven saying 'I have glorified it and will glorify it again' The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said 'An angel has spoken to him.'"


You can read the whole passage for the whole story, but what I want to focus on here is the three different levels of hearing God. Did you catch them?  Let me read that again: "and then a voice came from heaven saying 'I have glorified it and will glorify it again' The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said 'An angel has spoken to him.'" Okay, let's take that apart... 


What I see as being Level 1  was…

(Level 1) THUNDER.  The lowest level of hearing God was the thunder. These people heard something, but they had no idea that it was God's voice. The thunder they heard was neither good nor bad, only indiscernible and "noisy." (Sound a bit too familiar?)

Level 2: The next level I noticed was that of recognizing that the voice was "heavenly."  These "level 2" people in the crowd thought an angel had spoken! They had more discernment than those who just heard the thunder in that they could tell it was something good, but they were still unable to perceive the specific words that were spoken. Definitely a step up from just hearing thunder, but still not the ultimate!

Level 3: And "the ultimate," of course, was hearing the actual words of the Father and recognizing that it was Him who had said them. It doesn't do a lot of good to hear words but not know whether it is Satan or God or "Self" speaking, right?!





So how do we get from the ever-so-common "Level 1" to the coveted "Level 3"?  I believe it is by developing our "spiritual eardrums."  An odd thought, I know, but a very true analogy.  At "Level 1" we might say that we have spiritual eardrums the size of an ant's.  Pretty small.  At "Level 2" they are bigger, but not big enough to discern spiritual truth as specifically as we need.  At "Level 3" we have reached more maturity and depth in the Lord.  So, again, how do we get there?  How do we learn to "hear God" and to discern His voice among the many voices speaking to us in the world? 


I believe there are a few different methods ~ or tools ~ that God uses to teach us how to hear His voice. Of course, there are two very foundational elements to this, and they are both contained in this verse:


"If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart."



It starts with God calling. God is calling us. This is all through the word:


"Come let us reason together…


Come to Me all who labor and are heavy-laden… and learn from Me...


Come to Me with your ears wide open…"



And then the other element, of course, is us listening!  If we hear Him calling us ~ and, by the way, He always is ~ then we need to choose to listen! Even if we don't think we can hear Him very well. We start by obeying!


Would you like some ideas and tips for learning how to increase your ability to hear God? ….. Here are ten things God has used in my life to help or to teach me how to hear His voice…


1Read God's Word.  Of course, you have to READ it for this one to work. "Thy word have I hid in my heart." Notice WHO is doing the hiding. YOU. This one is up to YOU.  God will give you the interest and desire, if you lack either, and if you want ~ and ask ~ Him to give it to you, and He will give you the self-discipline, if you lack ~ and ask Him ~ for that.  But YOU have to actually DO it. 



2Prayer. This is two-way conversing ~ where we TALK with God, and practice LISTENING to Him. (And that "listening" part, of course, is what we're working on honing here.)  "Pour out your longings before Him, for He can help." (Psalms 62:8)  Just as with the conversations we have with people, there are a few different angles to prayer.  They are: 


~ Giving Thanks - "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart..."  Having a thankful heart actually opens up the way to getting into God's presence.  It makes sense...  When I have gone to a lot of trouble to give someone a gift (and I've done NOTHING compared to what GOD has done for us!), and the recipient thanks me for it, my heart immediately opens up to them!  This pre-supposes that one's heart is already right with God.  If it isn't, then the next angle is necessary, and should be taken care of first...


~ Repentance - In the Lord's Prayer it says: "Forgive us our sins..."  Be specific as the Holy Spirit reminds you of what you need to ask forgiveness for. Consider this verse: "Who shall stand in God's holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart." 


~ Petition - This is probably the most common form of prayer.  Even non-Christians do it!  This is because our human nature is inclined to ~ and adept at ~ ASKING for things!  Here's how you can pray another portion of the Lord's Prayer:  "Give us [me] this day our [my] daily bread" ~ which is whatever needs You, Lord, see that I have spiritually, emotionally, physically, health-wise, time-wise, etc."  We also pray for family, friends – saved and unsaved – the Body of Christ, etc. as Jesus prayed in the garden: "Keep them from the evil one...  May God's joy be fulfilled in them...  Keep them in God's Name...  Sanctify them in the Truth."  Pray favorite Scripture verses over them.


(These ideas are borrowed from my "Commune With Me" Guide.")



3Worship.  This could be considered another aspect of "Prayer," but it's so important that it merits its own separate listing.  Worship involves focusing on GOD, not on us. True worship involves both SPIRIT and TRUTH. True worship is getting our eyes OFF of ourselves and ONTO God. And there is something transforming about this! 


"But we know this, that when we

He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see

Him as He really is."

(I John 3:2-3)


Notice it is the very looking at God that changes us?!?!?!?!?  The converse of this is that it's actually a principle that holds true in a negative way.  The more we look at ~ and listen to ~ worldly music, television, books, etc. the more we will become like those.  So even our seemingly "neutral" choices greatly affect our ability to hear God!



4Obedience. Think of your own children for a moment… How likely is it that you will be inclined to tell your child something else to do if they haven't followed through on the last thing you asked them to do?  John 4:34 reads:


"My food is to do the will

of Him who sent me and to

accomplish His work."

(John 4:34) 


Doing God's will is not only very satisfying, it is also FOOD ~ and is nourishment to our "spirit man" ~ which includes our spiritual eardrums!



5)  Mentoring/Discipling/Study/Reading. Reading books is actually "mentoring" on a one-way basis. When you read a book, you are actually studying under the person who wrote it. Discipling is mentoring on a two-way basis. Unfortunately, though, we have a great need for mentors. You can be in a church or support group without one person who understands where you're at with homeschooling or your walk with God. This is not a pride thing; it is a pure and simple matter of "like-mindedness." If you do not have a person in your life with whom you can mentor ~ and it can go both ways ~ then God will provide what you need in another way. It may be that He doesn't even want you to have contact with people. After Paul was knocked off his horse with the blinding light, it says that he "did not confer with flesh and blood" for quite some time.



6)  Die to Self. There is some "old" stuff in you ~ in your thinking, your heart, your belief system, your attitudes ~ that God just plain wants to deal a death blow to, but "old" seldom dies a quick, easy death! It takes time. You may need to allow God to take you through a season of drawing close to Him for the purpose of letting Him do the needed work (surgery) in your heart. And THAT is the exact purpose behind my Season of Re-education and Renewing of the Mind!



7)  Rest in the Lord.  This is a hard one for those who are the "take charge" type, yet it's where the most power lies, and where the most work will be done in us!  A perfect example (and the very first one we have from a human) is:  How did Adam "hear God" on who he should marry?  He went to SLEEP!  He didn't look at all!  He just slept, and "while he was sleeping God formed the woman... and brought her to him."  This "resting" also involves just "resting our case" before the Lord ~ so that He is free(er) to have His way.



8)  Delight yourself in the Lord.  How does THIS one help hone your ability to hear God?!?!  It is where our HEART gets lined up with God's HEART.  And it is in this alignment that we are the most receptive to ~ and able to hear ~God's voice.  Our worldly desires not only distract us, they also dull our ability to hear God, because they pull our attention and focus away from Him.

     (Are you beginning to see how much of "hearing God" has to do with "clearing the path" ~ so that He has a place to access our hearts and lives?!?  Or we could use the analogy of "clearing the runway so He has a place to land. )



9)  Walk in and by the Spirit.  This has to do with not only what we DO and SAY, but how we RESPOND and THINK.  It is our connectedness to the Holy Spirit that affects that first response, not just repenting over and over for the same thing.  Yes, repenting is good, but walking in and by the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out.  We need to grow up into the full stature of the Lord, not just stay on milk all our lives.  (See Marilyn Howshall's article "Walking by the Spirit" for much more in-depth study of this!)



10)  Adverse Circumstances.  I can pretty much guess that this is the LEAST favorite means of learning to hear God, yet it is one of the most effective!  Of course, this isn't something we DO, it's something we YIELD to, and walk with God through. Because this one is SO important, and yet probably the most misunderstood and least talked about in Christianity today, I'm going to camp here for a bit… How you see and respond to this could actually be the very thing that will bring a breakthrough in your ability to hear God…


The idea of God allowing suffering or bringing "negative judgment" upon our lives raises questions that go far beyond the realm of homeschooling. It is not a popular topic within the church today, as suffering is often associated with God's judgment, and we much prefer to live in "grace," me included!  But we need to remember this:


"Know then in your heart that, as

a man disciplines his son, the Lord your

God disciplines you."



There are times that an erring child will do as he/she wishes, and the parent will allow him or her to suffer the natural consequences of their choice(s)…


But there are other times when this isn't appropriate, and specific action – which I'm sure my child would interpret as "negative judgment" – is necessary. It is actually grace that I do this because allowing the error to continue uncorrected would result down the road in much more serious consequences than merely my "negative judgment" now.
A verse in Isaiah startled and unsettled me when I first read it, and I just chalked it up to "Old Testament thinking."  It is Isaiah 30:20, and it starts out: "And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction..." Woah! The Lord gives adversity and affliction?! This certainly didn't fit in with my view of God!
But that's not all! It even goes so far as to call adversity bread, and affliction water! Bread and water! – the two most basic necessities of life, aside from air! Is this verse saying that without adversity and affliction, we will not grow or experience life?! As I have come to know God a little better, it seems to be so to me. However it was the last thing I would have preferred as my flesh cringes at suffering of any kind!
But let's continue on with this verse, because it does get better: "(And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction,) yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
Do you realize what this verse is saying?!  Are you wanting to hear God more in the day-to-day education of your children, wanting Him to speak clearly to you, telling you which way to turn? According to this verse, this wonderful ability is the end result of having walked through adversity and afflictions!
And this is not merely "old covenant" thinking. God seems to believe in administering appropriate consequences where needed. Look at this verse in 2 Thes.:10: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat." Wow, seems awfully severe – not even allowing someone to eat! And their only sin was idleness! Fairly "negative judgment," wouldn't you say?
Look at James 1:2-3: "Do not be surprised at the fiery trials (or in another translation it says "Count it all joy when you meet the) fiery trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." God's goal is not our comfort; it is making sure that we become "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:4) Including an ability to hear His voice.


Before going on, let's define what we mean by "adversity" and "affliction."  A few examples are:  Illness, accidents, jobs being lost, your house burning down, a child dying, a parent losing their memory or ability to function. The attacks on 9-11.  War.  ...  There is nothing that can happen to me that God does not allow. Look at Job ~ Satan had to get permission from God before he could do anything…


There are also "sin situations" that are extremely painful and difficult to go through… Like a spouse having an affair, living in known sin (like pornography), or wanting a divorce. Or being victimized by crime, such as your home being burglarized, a rape, etc. These were obviously not governed by God. He has given us a free will, and therefore we are all free to sin or walk righteously. But if you are the victim of such a circumstance, God has not abandoned you; He wants to carry you through it!

While I believe that God causes affliction, I know it is only for good reason; never to tear us down.  We know that "God cannot be tempted with evil and He himself tempts no one..."  But this does not say He doesn't bring affliction. In fact, the Word indicates that He does indeed do so!  What we all too often fail to understand is that God's discipline is always out of a heart of pure love for us; never out of exasperation or retaliation..   

I don't think that God causes every "bummer" that comes into our lives, but at the same time I am confident that no matter what comes my way, and no matter whose hand it came from ~ God's, the world's (persecution), or my own ~ it is all under God's ultimate direction.  Again... there is nothing that can happen to me that He does not allow.





It is actually simple:  if we just press in to God, get to know Him in the Word, become intimate with Him in worship, obey whatever we hear Him say (entire books have been written on each of these!), we WILL grow in our ability to hear His voice.  Simple, though not easy if our "flesh man" is still ruling our lives.  THAT ~ dying to our SELF ~ is the hard part, but after that decision is made, it only gets better!  Once we "taste and see that the Lord is good" ~ and that hearing and OBEYing His voice is good, the pull toward going back to the world lessens.  "More of Jesus; less of me"!
So the best thing I can do is to let God do His work in me, no matter what I go through. He is trustworthy!  I really don't have to know who is causing what in my life, other than to repent from my own sin as the Holy Spirit reveals it. And we can be certain that Satan will not ever convict of sin, but he does play the role of "accuser of the brethren" quite well.  So we have to be able to discern whether it is conviction or condemnation we are experiencing. 


"What the enemy intends for evil, God will turn for good" is all I need to know.  I just need to walk in relationship with Him!  The joy of it – the absolute thrill – is that the more we walk with God through all the good stuff and the hard stuff, and the more we yield to Him on every point and every time He "points out anything He finds in us that makes Him sad," the more capable of discerning His voice we will become!




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