How can I discern God’s voice – and why should I?

Last updated on May 25, 2021


Listening to God’s voice is important to understand God’s will for your life. But how can you discern God’s voice?

Old Testament

In the Old Testament, listening to God’s voice is a very important aspect in the life of God’s people. With respect to discerning His voice, Moses said: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer” (Exodus 15:26). And in Exodus 19:3-6, the Lord spoke to Moses: “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: […] Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples.

In these two passages, the premise of listening to God’s voice is followed by rich promises for the people of Israel. And for us as well, if we are willing to listen to Him, and are ready to let Him rule over all aspects of our lives. He asks us to complete surrender to Him. That is a personal decision, to which rich promises are connected, too.

New Testament

In the New Testament, in the teachings of Jesus, listening to God’s voice is very important. Jesus speaks in metaphorical language about the relationship between Himself (the shepherd) and the people who belong to Him (the sheep): “The sheep hear his voice […] he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

Hearing what God wants to tell us, requires a personal relationship with the Lord. We should read His Word, tuning in to Him. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes for the living Word, and guides us daily: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The Greek verb used in the original text is a present tense which stresses that we are led continually. In obedience to Him, we let Him steer our lives. We know that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

Check what you hear

How can we be sure that we understood God’s voice well, and in which direction He wants our lives to go? The following checks are utterly important:

  • First, we have to check our inner conviction against God’s Word, for God’s guidance never contradicts His Word. Since there are many voices around us, there is the danger of deception. Isaiah 8:20 contains an important warning: “If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no light of dawn.
  • If we are living according to God’s will, it might be that we see a confirmation of our choices in certain circumstances. Thereby the Lord wants to show that we are on the right track.
  • An important kind of confirmation of our inner conviction that God spoke to us, we receive from fellow believers (Proverbs 11:14). It is a wise thing to ask advice from people who have been walking with the Lord for a long time.
  • When we finally have to make a decision, if we are at a crossroads and wonder which way we should take, the experience of peace is crucial. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). The word translated as rule means something like a referee who makes a decision.

Of course, listening to God’s voice can bring about a certain amount of restlessness. For example, if a radical change in our life style is required. But in the end, the words of our heavenly Father will lead to deep inner peace. Therefore, don’t change the direction of your life if you didn’t yet receive this deep inner peace – “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

God’s promise

God wants the best for us, if we attend to His guidelines; if we hear His voice in the silence of our worship: “For God alone my soul waits in silence” (Psalm 62:1). That’s an attitude of humility and of being open to correction. “But this command I gave them: Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may go well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23). What an incredible promise by our Father, if we obey His voice and direct our ways accordingly!

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