"Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served
the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord
were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon." (1 Samuel 3:1
Hearing God's voice and seeing visions are again not common among believers. In modern times, there are several ways God speaks to us, and when he does it is often in subtle ways that are not nearly as dramatic as hearing a literal voice, such as in the cases of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9) and Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 3).
Two of the methods by which God appears to speak to us the most often are by signs (or external signals) and internal signals, both of which will be explained in further detail.
When God communicates to us with signs, they are often personalized signs that have a meaning for each of us specifically. For example, maybe seeing a particular number frequently indicates to you that God is in control. Imagine that the number 7 has a special meaning for you, and you end up in the hospital sick in room 7. You could have ended up in any room number, yet room 7 is where you have been placed.
For another example, maybe God indicates to you with a weather related sign, like a rainbow, that he will answer your prayer. In the bible, the rainbow represents God's promise to never flood the earth again.
Likewise, maybe you have been asking God to answer your prayer and suddenly you keep seeing a bunch of rainbows (real life rainbows, not just the colors), possibly along with a powerful feeling that God is communicating a promise to fulfill your prayer when the time is appropriate.
Another example of personalized signs may include you always hearing a particular song whenever you are in need of God's help, especially a song that speaks about God's love or promises.
These signs are different for everyone, because not everyone communicates exactly the same. It is important to realize that God knows all languages, and he knows each individual's heart, so he knows how to communicate to you specifically.
The second frequent way God communicates to us is with internal signals. These signal often manifest as a feeling of knowledge or reservation about a choice. Feelings and emotions, by themselves, are not reliable. Many times emotions will betray you, leading you to make sinful decisions that feels right emotionally even though you know it is wrong logically. However, these feelings of knowledge or reservation about a choice are different.
Oftentimes, a feeling of reservation is so powerful that it stops you in your tracks. Sometimes the feeling will even grow stronger if you attempt to fight against it.
For example, imagine you are planning on making a trip. You get ready to go, and as you walk out the door to your house you suddenly feel strongly about not going, for no logical reason. This may even be a trip you "need" to make, but suddenly you have this feeling that you should not go. As you walk to your car, the feeling grows stronger, making you walk slower and slower until you just stop before even reaching your car. This feeling is not one of dread, but instead it is characterized by feeling very sober, reserved, serious, and solemn. It creates an invisible barrier, preventing you from making this choice. Certainly, you can ignore it, but doing so would be unwise and could potentially have life-threatening consequences depending on why God is giving you this feeling.
If you were to get into your car and begin driving, you might not get far before you either stop or turn around. However, the feeling may also just disappear because you have chosen to ignore the feeling (God's warning) despite it's strength.
If you are uncertain about whether or not God is communicating to you, then ask yourself this question: "Is the thing I feel like doing, or not doing, holy or sinful?" You can also just simply ask yourself: "Is it good or bad?"
If you can answer this question by saying yes or no, then God will likely not make the feeling very powerful, because you already know it is something good or bad to do. He is simply giving you a very gentle reminder to do what is good.
However, sometimes you cannot answer this question, such as in the example above, because making this trip may not be good or bad. Many actions are neither right nor wrong, which is why God allows us great flexibility in making many decisions. In these kinds of situation, that are neither good nor bad, God will generally make the feeling strong enough to indicate the correct choice.
If you are still uncertain, and the feeling is not strong enough to stop you in your tracks, then you may ask God, "Heavenly Father, if this feeling is from you, increase it. If it is not from you, release it from me."
You can also ask yourself if you have a personal reason why you do not want to do something. Maybe the feeling is not from God, but instead it is from your own reluctance to do a task. If you have no personal reservations, yet feel suddenly very reserved about a decision, then it is likely from God.
Sometimes you will suddenly become aware of needing to do something that was not originally planned. One moment you will be following your normal routine, and then suddenly you will have knowledge that you are supposed to take a certain action. This feeling of knowledge is different than other thoughts you may have. If you have to ask yourself, "Is this from God?" then it probably is not, because when you have sudden knowledge, you are confident of the choice. One believer described it as this, "You just know, that you know, that you know."
Nervousness generally does not accompany the choice, because you will likely feel very serious. It is possible to feel joy along with this knowledge, and it is possible to feel nervous, but it is rare. The primary characteristic of this internal signal of knowledge is being absolutely confident, without a shadow of doubt, of what you need to do.
Internal signals of knowledge and feelings of reservation have slightly different characteristics. Unlike knowledge, where nervousness can sometimes accompany the decision, nervousness is almost never a characteristic of the feeling of reservation because the serious, solemn reservation is overwhelming. If you are feeling nervous about an action, then the action may not be from God.
However, it is important to mention that nervousness can come with doing God's will. Paul himself was nervous when he first preached the gospel to the Corinthians, as stated in 1 Corinthians 2:3, "I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." (WEB) So being nervous doesn't mean God doesn't want you to do something.
The reason why nervousness may accompany knowledge is because knowing God wants us to do something often leaves an emotional gap, which can become filled with nervousness.
However, when you have a sudden feeling of reservation, this emotion overcomes all other emotions, including nervousness.
Conversely, if you feel a strong compulsion (not knowledge, but compulsion) to do something, and nervousness is holding you back then it is likely that the feeling is not from God. Again, emotions and desires can betray us by themselves, leading us to do sinful acts.
Feeling God's communication is often very sobering, because God is very intimidating. If a person does not think God is intimidating, then they have not truly interacted with him. Consider what John says regarding Jesus, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. [Jesus] laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Don't be afraid. I am the first and the last.'" (Revelation 1:17 WEB)
This is Jesus we are talking about. John fell to feet of Christ like a dead man, and Jesus tells him to not be afraid, meaning John was so frightened by Jesus that he went limp with fear.
When Ezekiel meets God in the Old Testament, he says, "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke." (Ezekiel 1:28 WEB) Ezekiel was so overwhelmed with fear that he couldn't even get on his own feet when instructed to do so by God. Instead, God's Spirit lifted Ezekiel onto his feet (Ezekiel 2:2).
Anyone who teaches that meeting the Creator of the universe is exciting has never met God. God is downright frightening. There is a reason why the bible frequently speaks of the Fear of the Lord. We are infinitely small compared to him, and his power and authority are overwhelming for us who are so insignificant compared to his might. And it is worse when you compare his absolute holiness to our lack thereof.
Now, having said this, it is possible to feel joyful about God, and it is true that God's Spirit may make you feel overwhelmed with joy at his wonder. However, it is difficult to be anything except frightened and sober if meeting him or even when he is communicating with us.
Many believers would like to meet God, but are unaware of how terrifying the experience would be – not because God is bad, but because he is so greater than we are.
Sometimes God will actually make decisions for us by changing our environment and preventing us from making certain decisions. As mentioned in the previous weekly sermon, this includes closed doors in our lives, which sometimes comes from seemingly unfortunate events.
Feeling sick? Think it's of the devil? Think again.
Sometimes sickness is from an evil source, but sometimes God makes us sick to serve a greater purpose. Consider the man born blind in the gospel according to John, "His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither did this man sin, nor his parents. But, that the works of God might be revealed in him.'" (John 9:2-3 WEB)
Likewise, when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were hit by a terrorist attack in the United States of America in 2001, one Christian couple found salvation through unusual means. Both the wife and husband worked at the Twin Towers, although in completely different departments. The wife was home extremely sick (normally she would go to work if she only had a small cold). Conversely, the husband had intended to go to work, but had car trouble and was unable to make it to work. Both of them are alive today because of these unfortunate events.
Another example is a missionary who was attempting to witness to a secluded people. He became very ill, almost to the point of death, and found himself being taken care of by these people. While he was there, he witnessed to the people and many became believers. When the man finally left, he discovered that these people were hostile to outsiders, killing anyone who attempted to make contact.
However, the missionary had not been viewed as a threat due to his extremely ill condition. His sickness had made a way for the gospel of Jesus Christ to reach these people, and they were forever transformed because of it.
Sometimes God doesn't speak to us for a long time, although it is still good for us to continually communicate to him through prayer. God's silence is not necessarily a bad thing, because sometimes no news is good news.
If you are not doing anything wrong, and if you are following God's will in life, then he may remain fairly silent. As stated, God give us a lot of liberty in making many neutral decisions.
However, it could also be that you are not currently receptive to God's desires, meaning that communication with you would result in you still doing what you want to do. If God knows communication with you will fail, then he may not try. Paul reinforces this idea when he says, "Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness..." (Romans 1:24 WEB)
God "gave them up" to their own desires, because they were unwilling to repent. Likewise, if you are unwilling to repent or obey, then God may just let you do what you want and allow you to reap the consequences. Only once you are willing to listen will he again attempt communication, but even still he may not communicate if you already know what you should or should not be doing.
So therefore, as long as you know that you are obeying God, and if he is remaining silent even while you pray to him regularly, then it is alright to assume that no news is good news.
To summarize, while God does speak with a literal voice and with powerful visions, he most often speaks to us in subtle ways through external signals of signs and internal signals of knowledge and feelings of reservation. These signs that God is in control are personalized because God's intention is to speak to you individually in a way you will understand.
However, internal signals are typically more uniform. These feelings of reservations generally make you feel overwhelmingly solemn, and you suddenly feel like making a particular decision to do or not do an action.
If you can answer whether or not the action is sinful or not, then the feeling will likely not become very strong because you already know the right choice to make. However, if the action is normally neutral, such as driving your car, then the feeling may become increasingly powerful in order to communicate that you should or should not take a certain action.
Finally, internal signals of knowledge cause you to be absolutely certain of a choice or action. If you have to ask, "Should I do this?" then it probably is not from God. Sudden knowledge causes you to just, "Know, that you know, that you know."
All of these communications are unlike your typical feelings and emotions. They interrupt your day as a unique occurrence, and they direct your attention to God despite what you were thinking or feeling prior to the interruption.
If your are going about your day, and suddenly your feelings change for no apparent reason, and if you were not thinking about God, and you are now suddenly thinking about him because of the interruption, then it is likely God is communicating with you.
Consider carefully what he is attempting to communicate, because his communications are rare and priceless.
What signs does God use to communicate to you? Have you ever felt compelled to take action, or to not do something, only to find out it would have been life-threatening? Share Your Story
"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21 WEB)