The Holy Spirit over the bent world broods...Gerald Manly Hopkins.
I made the mistake once, of telling our leadership that God spoke to me. I am not ever likely to forget because no~one ever calls me *Dear Heart*. Well no~one bar God.
I was confused by the scepticism I met with because doesn't every Christian hear from God? Isn't that the idea?
So here's my soap box for to~day: hearing directly from God is not something confined to the first century church. This is what Christ procured for us with His death & when He ascended into heaven He left us with the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
Now I've run into people at different times who've said some really strange things to me along the lines of: "God told me to leave my wife". Um, no. Sorry. God didn't say that at all. How would I know? Because the Spirit that inspired the scriptures will always lead us in ways that are consistent with scripture ~ & God hates divorce. Scripture says so, so no, God isn't going to suddenly tell us to divorce our spouse.
Scripture also tells us to *discern the spirits* Now this is interesting because when it comes to hearing personally from God we often walk a razor fine line but there are tests to help us discern the truth. There are the outward tests: scripture, circumstances, reason, other believers. There are inward tests like promptings, *concerns*, personal integrity. There are exceptional tests: visions, dreams, signs, fleeces, angels. At different times God has used some or all of these things ~ as is His prerogative. It is up to us to discern what is going on spiritually.
Now I will grant you that discernment isn't always easy & quite frankly I prefer a clear directive backed up by scripture. That's pretty unmistakable. It is also a gift, & not always a gift for spiritual babies. As with so many things we learn, just as babies do, how to discern the voice of God amongst all the other racket that goes on inside our heads. This is why a solid knowledge of scripture is so important. This is our first line of defence for learning about the nature & character of God & dispensing with falsehoods. God never acts against His own nature. This is how we learn how to love God & serve Him; the Spirit nudges us along the right path & will confirm it with scripture more often than not & little by little we become accustomed to what the voice of God sounds like. Just as scripture has promised, His sheep know His voice.
The other thing I have learnt about discerning the will of God & hearing His voice is that I have to ditch my preconceived notions before we're going to get anywhere. If I try marching into the throne room with a list of demands I'm going to encounter a shattering silence. On the other hand God doesn't seem to mind me ranting & railing but pride & a haughty spirit will get me nowhere.
This is where I have found the spiritual disciplines of silence & meditation so helpful in my personal walk with God. They allow me to become calm & still. They allow the turbulence in my everyday life to ebb away. They force me into a place of submission where it is possible to say, "Not my will, but thine be done." They enable me to listen. It is only by listening we can hear.
Like so much else, listening for God requires practice ~ & patience. It takes time because we all cart so much baggage around with us. We clutch the tatters of our pride about us in a vain effort to cover our naked spirits. We try lying to the Holy Spirit in a vain effort to bolster our petty egos. Little by little God has to unwrap our clutching fingers & prise from our unwilling grasp everything that hinders us: the good things, the noble things, the right things & the sin that besets us.
And there it is; when we finally relax & rest in Him alone we hear his voice like a clarion call: unmistakable, like no other voice, ever.