It happens to me on almost a daily basis. I’m outside with Toby Dog and I call out to him, “Come on, Toby, time to go in!” and turn to walk in the house. As I reach the deck I glance back and he’s still in the same spot, his head turned away from me. I call out a second time, “Toby, Mama said come on!” Still not even the slightest move in my direction. He stands stock-still, head slightly lifted as he sniffs the air; the only movement is the breeze gently blowing the feathers (long hair) on his legs and tail. At that moment I am completely convinced I can hear him humming nonchalantly, saying to the bird that just flew past, “Did you hear something? Nah, didn’t think I did either.”
It’s at this point that I calmly, gently and in complete control yell at the top of my lungs, “Toby! Did you hear me? I . . . SAID . . . COME . . . NOW!” Most of the time that will put Toby’s feet into motion and he’ll coming running (but usually takes the long route), grinning as if he has not a care in the world (and he really doesn’t). He’ll lope up to me laughing in the way dogs do, tongue hanging out to the side, goes straight to the door and looks back at me and I know he’s thinking, “Well? What are you waiting for?”
Don’t get the wrong idea – Toby Dog knows Mama is the alpha dog. If he’s really misbehaving (which is a rare occasion), I don’t have to speak a word. I stand very close to him and give him “the look.” Within seconds Toby will slowly lower to the floor and put his head between his paws, never looking me in the eye, complete submission in a dog’s world.
It reminds me of how we are when it comes to hearing God and knowing when He’s speaking to us. Just as Toby does to me on occasion, we sometimes go into “selective hearing” mode when God speaks to us. We don’t want to hear what He’s saying so we tune out and play deaf. But sometimes we don’t hear Him because we either don’t know how to discern His voice from our own inner desires, we have issues that may be blocking us from hearing Him or maybe we haven’t talked with Him enough to be able to recognize our Master’s voice.
In last week’s Reflections, we talked about making the time for quiet time with God and the reasons we can be distracted from having time alone with Him. Other than making quiet time with God, free from distractions, it is also very important to have the right attitudes, such as humility and courage. Humility doesn’t mean to grovel, have low self-esteem and be a wimp. Humbling yourself before God is to come before Him free of pride and arrogance. You know that as a sinful human, in your flesh you are inadequate but you know who you are in Christ – valued, loved, cherished and made righteous through His blood sacrifice! Woohoo, can I get an AMEN on that one!
The second important attitude adjustment we need to make in order to hear God is to have courage. When we fully submit and surrender to God, He may call us to serve in a way that we’re not comfortable with. Or, when we ask for direction or the answer to a problem, He may give an answer that’s not what we want to hear. Not only should we come before him in humility, we should prepare our hearts to have the courage to do what He asks us to, no matter how fearful we are or how our selfish desires may try to lead us to do otherwise. God never wants anything lesser for us; He only wants to make our lives here on earth better, fuller and more joyful!
Another obstacle to hearing God – and perhaps the biggest one – is an unclean heart. If we go to God with unconfessed sin in our lives, He’s probably not going to answer until you deal with the sin first. Psalm 51: 10 reads:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
The sins that can cause us to be tone deaf to God’s voice are different for each of us and change with the seasons we’re currently living in. Here is a sampling of some of the things that may block us from a right relationship with God and keep us from hearing Him:
- Seeking/focusing on advice from others and ignoring internal/God-driven guidance.
- Becoming impatient that He isn’t answering quickly enough or isn’t going to answer at all and taking matters into our own hands.
- Holding on to resentment against others
- Holding on to things that we know are sinful, or having “secret” sins in our lives.
If you have read my testimony (http://inperfectunity.com/index.php/who-is-kim/), then you know that for many years I did not live a Christian lifestyle. While in this sinful lifestyle, I still talked to God but it was a one-sided conversation that took place only because I felt guilty if I didn’t. I was doing all of the talking and not even giving Him the opportunity to answer. I was like Toby Dog, I didn’t want to hear what God had to say because there was sin in my life that I didn’t want to let go of and had “convinced”myself that that in today’s world, it was okay. I listened to others who filled my ears with what I wanted to hear, that life was too short to not be happy (i.e. it’s okay to live by the world’s standards). I can tell you that while I was in this season God gave me a taste of my own medicine and turned a deaf ear to me; He would neither listen nor talk to me. God cannot be in the presence of sin, and it was only when I confessed, humbled myself before Him, asked for forgiveness and let go of those sins did He communicate with me again.
Not only do we have to have the right attitude to hear God as well as remove any obstacles that may keep Him from speaking to us, we also need to be able to recognize His voice. If you are a parent, you know what it’s like to be able to recognize your child’s voice, even if they’re in different room playing with other children. You know and are familiar with the pitch and inflection of their speech patterns and can hear it above all the other little voices chattering away.
It’s the same with you and God. If you have never taken the time to really get to know Him, it will be difficult to discern His voice above all the other chatter and distractions. Just as you have to spend time with anyone else to get to know them, you have to spend time with God to get to know Him better and strengthen your relationship. This includes not only prayer, but also through study of scripture, quiet time and learning from fellow Christians.
If you have asked God for direction and are not sure if what you’re hearing is from Him or your own emotions, the best test is that God’s voice will never contradict His word given to us in the Bible. If anything you’re thinking, feeling or being told by others goes against scripture it is not from God. This is why study of scripture is so very important – it enables you to clearly discern His voice and know His truths.
Scripture: John 10:27: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for loving me and wanting to be a part of my everyday life. There is no detail of my life that is too small to be of importance to you. Help me to focus on strengthening my relationship with You so that I will hear and know when You speak. Help me to examine my life and remove any sin that is blocking my communication with You. When You speak, give me the courage and faith to do as You ask. I love You, Lord.