I think people hear God more than they realize, but for various reasons, don’t recognize Him. They assume it’s just their own stream of consciousness, or that they’re crazy, or worse, possessed by Satan. Hectic life-styles can also drown out the voice of God.
Lack of interaction is just one more way to be robbed of our inheritance. So let’s examine the two most common views, centuries old, that persist today in rendering God’s voice unrecognizable.
1. The Impersonal God
God currently communicates only through His written Word, or, alternatively, through the clergy/church. God doesn’t speak directly to ordinary people.
It’s been said that Christians have a better relationship with their Bibles than they do with the Author. For all the talk of walking closely with God, many treat “extra-biblical” communication like extra-marital affairs: both are “whispers of the devil.”
It’s amazing how much personal distance is actually infused in Christian culture. God dwells somewhere in outer space. His kingdom is strictly future. He can’t stand to be in the presence of sin(ners), as if sin is the Almighty’s kryptonite. Church leadership often states that, because God is so pure, we can’t relate to Him.
Half-truths pick our pockets every day.
The Good News is the opposite. God relates to sinners even in their sinful state. Unlike elite-minded religious experts of his day, Jesus walked among sinners, dined and spoke with them, even touched them without holding his nose. The very name Immanuel means God-with-man.
Relationship involves communication, interaction, and recognition. Isn’t their absence the definition of no relationship? God wants to be sought and delights in being known. Like a Bluetooth device, He’s discoverable and forms a direct, ongoing connection.
If invited, God is the still, small voice in your “house,” i.e., you. It’s internal, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as clearly heard as anyone living in your regular house. According to Jesus, “If anyone loves me…my Father will love him, and we will make our home with him.” (Jhn. 14:23)
Also, “What I whisper in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops.” (Mat. 10:27) “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jhn. 10:27) “I in them and [God] in me…I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known… that I myself may be in them.” (Jhn. 17:23, 26) The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ continuing presence and voice.
There’s no reason to assume that God, like Elvis, has left the building and bequeathed to us only stone tablets, holy manuscripts, or certain spokespeople. We have those, plus prayer and direct access. So God’s voice isn’t “just imagination.” But neither is it on-demand, which brings us to…
2. The Nanny God
God currently speaks to the heart, but if you don’t hear Him every day, your faith must be weak.
This hand-holding God is either angered or worried by all we do. Rather than teach us trustworthy rulership, He seizes our will and does our thinking for us even in the most trivial matters. I suppose it stems from the crippling belief that people are incapable of ever making decisions without sinning. We’re no-good sinners and will always be no-good sinners in this life.
First, I think Christians confuse “conviction of the Holy Spirit” with condemnation of the Holy Spirit. But if the voice is condemning, it’s the Accuser. The Holy Spirit is your Advocate and Comforter, not your blamer. And shame/humiliation shouldn’t be confused with humility.
Conviction of the Holy Spirit is better understood as convincing of truth and good will, a welcoming call and sense of place with God. There’s no condemnation, neither giving nor receiving it, for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) because the priority is to love God, self, and neighbor.
Second, if my grown kids still need me to tell them how to get dressed, brush their teeth, and which bus to get on each day, I’ve done something wrong (assuming no medical impairment). We teach and expect our kids to grow into wise, capable people of sound judgment and good character, so isn’t God at least as competent as we are?
Why do we assume He’s pleased with daily questions about what to do and what color shirt to wear? That’s a fairly distorted view of surrender.
Obviously, we want God involved in life’s decisions. But to be paralyzed if He doesn’t dictate all of them, including who to marry, what career to pursue, or whether to buy that house or not, isn’t what He wants.
We need instruction, but the idea is to “graduate” as we go along. God has already revealed His will that we learn to rule and serve appropriately, so He doesn’t speak as frequently as some might claim. In fact, He periodically lets go just as any parent lets go of a toddler’s hand so she can take a few steps on her own. It’s an empowering act of love, not abandonment, called “testing.”
I know that if we ask, seek, and knock through prayer and careful consideration, God may very well have something to say, whether through the Bible, a spokesperson, or directly. But if He doesn’t speak within maybe a week (depending on the situation), don’t panic. That’s a good sign! The more trustworthy the servant, the more God gives.
So, in those times, walk in faith. Thank Him for the practice opportunity, and make your best choices in whatever you face. Afterwards, you’ll likely hear either “Well done!” or “What did you learn?” Either way, I believe you’ll be much richer.