Last Christmas, God opened the door for me to share the story of His work in my life with a dear friend. At one point in the conversation, he looked at me searchingly and asked, “What do you mean God spoke to you?”
I understand why he asked that question. The truth that God the Spirit has chosen to live inside and communicate with human beings can be incomprehensible and, to some, unbelievable. And, when contemplating the Holy Spirit, a number of questions come to mind.
Does He speak to me, or is the Holy Spirit just for the super-spiritual?
Acts 2:38 says:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The truth is, every believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit living inside them. The very Spirit who knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11) communicates with our hearts on a daily basis. Jesus has always hung out with the regular folks, the average people who surrender themselves to following Him.
A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit,
The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.
How does the Holy Spirit speak? What does He say?
While God certainly could speak in an audible voice, I have found in my own experience that He usually chooses to communicate differently. Often, He has spoken to me in the form of a gentle peace settling on my heart.
After the traumatic birth of my second child, my husband and I prayed for four years about whether or not to have another baby. We never seemed to have peace about the decision at the same time. And so, after much prayer, we felt led to become foster parents. Just before we were given our first and only child through the state, I knew in my heart that God was telling me that I needed to change my priorities.
Instead of approaching foster care as my means of enlarging my family, the Holy Spirit was telling me to give of myself, without any expectations of my own. To let go of my desire to adopt a child and, most of all, to broaden my vision to love not only the children in the system but the families who were broken and grieving the loss of a child.
Did the Holy Spirit speak to me in an audible voice? No. But I was certain that He did speak. And so, having received what we knew was clear direction from the Holy Spirit, we obeyed. We developed relationships with Joshua’s biological family, meeting in parks, sharing meals, and opening our home to weekly visitors. Although we were told from the beginning that Joshua would never be a permanent member of our family, his family became our own.
And, after more than two years, when the state was deliberating over who would be Josh’s permanent family and out-of-state relatives were fighting for custody, they unanimously chose us. The reason they gave: our wonderful relationship with his biological family. The very thing the Holy Spirit had asked of us in the beginning.
In addition to giving direction, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in other ways. He speaks with a voice of conviction when we have stepped outside God’s boundaries for our lives. He speaks with the voice of a Teacher and gives us wisdom and understanding to grasp spiritual realities that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. He speaks with the voice of a loving Father, communicating His love to the hearts of His children. And He speaks through us to bring His gospel to the world.
How can I tell if it is the Holy Spirit speaking, or something else?
First and foremost, God’s Spirit ALWAYS speaks God’s Word.
If what you hear does not line up with Scripture, it is not from the Spirit.
Second, if you are seeking direction from the Lord, it is always wise to get the advice of godly believers. They will help you prayerfully evaluate your situation.
Third, the Spirit’s words bring love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Fear, anxiety, anger, despair, hopelessness, and the like are fruits of a very different spirit––one who would seek to distract you from the truths of the Lord by sinking you into a prison of your own feelings.
What if He’s not speaking? What can I do to hear from Him?
First, check your motives. Our goal in seeking God’s voice is not so that we can have a spiritual experience. Our goal is to seek the Lord Himself.
It is when we are drawing close to Him daily, surrendering ourselves to Him, that we will hear from Him. That being said, if you long for a closer relationship with Him, ask!
Luke 11:13 says this:
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Are you allowing yourself to be led by Him? The Bible warns us not to quench the Spirit for good reason. When we ignore His conviction or harden our hearts to His Word, we become less able to see and to hear when He does speak. In order to fully hear what God has to say to us, we have to come to Him ready to listen, humble, and willing to do whatever He asks of us. If our attitude is anything other than “Yes, Lord,” then we are in danger of missing His voice. Let’s not miss what He has to say to us because we’ve been waiting for what we want Him to say.
I didn’t tell my friend everything that came to mind when he asked his question. But I told him enough to let him see that the Holy Spirit is a reality in my life. I hope and I pray that what I did say is going to be just another piece of the puzzle falling into place to bring him into that reality with me.