The question is : how do we know God’s voice and discern His voice speaking to us? This challenge becomes greater for those of us who have been called to shepherd God’s sheep. We need to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd and His leading in order for us to lead His sheep.
It is a fact that sometimes God seem to be silent and sometimes what we hear seem to be conflicting and confusing because there are just too many voice within and around us.
As I reflect on this issue, what Dr Maggie Low wrote to our class in our magazine came to mind and I quote :
"When two different flocks of sheep gather at a watering hole, the sheep gets all mixed up. But when it is time to leave, the shepherds call to their flocks and the sheep are able to separate themselves and follow the right shepherd. How do they know who to follow? They know because they recognize the voice of their own shepherd: The voice that chats with them day and night, that soothes them in trouble, and that calls them when lost … "
To me, the key to listening and discerning His voice is constant contact with our Shepherd and fellowship with fellow believers with a good and clear conscious. Only then we will be familiar to His voice and our ears are attuned to Him, even if He whispers into our ears, we are able to hear Him. Remember, Jesus promise us that we will know His voice (My sheep listen to My voice, I know them, and they follow Me – John 10:27)
This means, we need to continually have an intimate communication and relationship with Him. Besides reading His Word, worshiping and praying, we need to come to God and ask Him to continually search our hearts, and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts (Ps 139 : 23). Many a times, our anxious thoughts are driven by our own selfish desires and will of wanting to be in control of our lives instead of letting go and allowing God to be in charge. When we allow God to search our inner man and test our thoughts, our conscious then is clear before God and man, hence, we are able to hear His more clearly and discern His will –no matter what His will is, His ways are, we are more open to hear Him rather than complaining we can’t hear Him because He is not answering or speaking to us they way we want Him to speak or as we willed or desired/hope the answer to be. How many times we have armed twisted God answer us and confirm what we have already decided in our hearts? What is your reaction when God’s answer is “no” or “not yet, not now”? Imagine a child’s reaction when you tell the child to stop watching TV or enough of computer or no, he cannot eat the sweet … now, honestly review your own reaction when God’s answer is “no” or “it’s enough, you don’t need anymore” or “after you have learn the lesson of humility or patience” or “it’s better if it is given to Sally or Jane who needs it even more”… Have you heard the voice of your Shepherd speaking to you?
The next thing that we need to have in order to recognize the voice of our Shepherd is to be in constant fellowship with other believers, especially the community of faith that He has placed us in. I think that we need to humble hearts, humble to acknowledge that we are sinners, we are definitely not perfect, humble to be open to others (and even to someone who is younger or “lower” than us spiritually) to speak to us, highlighting certain things in our lives and I think that the greatest challenge sometimes is to allow our closest or supposedly loved one (our spouse) to speak into our lives. Humble to be open to the correction of others because God does speak through others and many times He speaks through those who are closest to us.
It is very sad to see how a marriage break because the spiritually and officially trained husband refuse to take heed of the voice of the wife and others that God had send and the totally godly wife do not see anything wrong with her but everything else is wrong with the husband. Thus, both supposedly god fearing and god loving husband and wife find themselves trapped in the meaningless and hateful relationship which is not heading anything but waiting for the children to grow up and be independent so they can officially fall apart.
John Bevere said that pride keeps us from receiving God’s chastening, thus, we forfeit the benefit the work of His holiness. But if we humble ourselves and accept His chastening, we are enable to hear His voice with greater accuracy and see with greater clarity, positioning ourselves to mature in our relationship with Him.
Pride causes our hearts to harden to voices that are not in line with the way we think, the way we want things to be done, according to the timing that is best or most convenient for us. And sometimes, we miss the voice of God because God will choose to speak in the way that is most unthinkable for us or through the smallest insignificant person or through the person we hate the most.
So, the fundamental key to listening our Shepherd’s voice is to humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear us from heaven and will forgive our sins and heal our land (our hearts). God’s eyes will be open and ears be attentive to the prayers offered (2 Chor 7 : 14,15). Let our conscious be right before God and man.
Dr Maggie Low encourages those of us who have are called to serve Him to “always be listening to our Shepherd-King - that is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your congregation. Then, can you lead as He leads, calling each sheep personally by name, knowing when to prod and when to carry, by His love and strength that will be sufficient for you”.
As leaders of His sheep, if we cannot hear Him, how then do we know how to lead His sheep? So, make sure that we take time to be still before Him … be humble before Him and man so that our hearts are open and teachable to receive from Him what He willed for our lives and lives of the sheep that He has entrusted to us to care.