As we live by the Spirit, he will lead and direct us in a variety of ways. We can learn to increasingly hear his voice, discern his leading and step out in obedience to what we have heard.
Understanding What Is Meant
After Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, he said that ‘my sheep hear my voice’. There are numbers of different ways we can hear God speaking to us. We have his authoritative word in scripture, which is the standard by which any word from God is weighed. God also speaks to us through the wisdom of others, through creation, through spiritual gifts such as prophecy and words of knowledge, and through the inward guidance of the ‘still small voice’ of the Holy Spirit.
We see an example of this in the account of the temptation narrative of Jesus. As the scene is being set for what happened we are told that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit into the wilderness.’ Jesus had discerned the voice of the Spirit leading him to go to a particular place, and he obeyed.
Learning to recognise the voice of the Spirit is a gradual process, and is linked to our relationship with him. Cultivating a vibrant prayer life, with a particular emphasis on listening prayer creates the space to hear God, especially as we are able to lay aside the weights and distractions of life. Fasting is a discipline that is particularly linked to hearing God’s voice in the context of specific life decisions.
Being led by the Spirit involves the practice of discernment. Not every thought that enters our minds is the Spirit leading us, and care should be taken to discern what is God speaking and what is not. This discernment includes comparing the leading to what has been revealed in scripture, and often talking to trusted Christian brothers and sisters about what it seems like God is saying.
We want to encourage people to listen to the voice of the Spirit and step out based on what they hear. This will involve:
- Listening – Encourage people to take time in prayer asking God to speak and listening to his voice. Extended times of prayer and developing a practice of fasting are important habits in doing this.
- Discerning – Teach people some good questions to discern whether a leading is from God – including ‘is this consistent with what Scripture says?’, ‘does this ring true in my spirit?’ and ‘do other Christians see this as something from God?’.
- Obedience – Being led by God is about doing, not just hearing. Encourage people to step out as led by God and take action based on what he has said.
It would be good to give some time in the service to people listening for what God is saying to them, and where appropriate sharing what they have heard from him.