In the first book of Samuel, a young Samuel lives under the guidance of Eli, the priest. One night, Samuel hears a voice calling his name. Three times he runs to Eli, asking if he had called for him. However, by the third time, Eli, who is seasoned in his spiritual walk, discerns that it is God speaking to Samuel. Even though Eli didn't hear the voice himself, he gives Samuel the essential instruction to say, "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening." This pivotal moment beautifully demonstrates the importance of discernment in recognizing the voice of God.
The Complexity of Spiritual Discernment
Learning to discern the voice of God can be like learning a new language—taking time and practice. Initially, you might feel like Samuel, hearing a call but uncertain of its origin. To sharpen your spiritual discernment, practice listening. But listening for God, searching the silence for His voice, can be very challenging amidst life's distractions. Eli was so attuned to God's ways that he could discern God's voice without even hearing it. This is a critical lesson for us—discernment is often the result of a seasoned relationship with God and a deep understanding of His ways.
Seeking Amid Distraction
Seeking God is essential to an intimate relationship with Him. Drawing near to God promises that He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Still, it requires active effort to push through the noise. With endless activities and distractions, it's easy to forget to allocate time for God, yet it is crucial to our spiritual well-being.
Knowing God Beyond Intellectualism
The God of the Old Testament may seem different from the God of the New, but they are the same being. He's creator and judge, yet also father and friend. In Hosea, God compares his relationship with His people to a marriage between a prophet and a prostitute. God expresses heartbreak about being rejected, disrespected, and disregarded. In Jeremiah, He says how He made His people to cling to Him (Jeremiah 13:11), that He thought His people would call Him Father, and be loyal, but that they turned away instead (Jeremiah 3:19).
At the heart of getting familiar with God’s Spirit, is the acknowledgment of His personification. Because of God’s incomprehensible greatness, it’s easy to accept Him as the Creator and judge of the world, yet harder to grasp emotionally that He is also family and a friend. Engaging God emotionally, rather than solely intellectually, brings an understanding that surpasses all expectations.
While the audible voice of God is rare, His written Word offers constant access to His thoughts and intentions. The Bible isn't just a history book; it's a living document that reflects God's spirit. As we study and meditate on HIS-tory and His words, we become more and more familiar with who He is, how He is, and how He communicates. When we truly seek Him through the Bible, we invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding, to reveal who we are through God’s eyes, and to work in us to make us new. The experience of being examined and corrected and informed by His spirit is one of the ways God speaks to us.
Our pursuit of Him has to be founded in the scriptures. That’s where we start. If we don’t become familiar with the God of The Bible, then we will be misled. When uninformed, we fill in the gaps about who we believe God should be with our opinions or what we have heard from others.
The Authority of God’s Word
In a world filled with a myriad of voices, knowing God's Word helps us to discern the difference between His voice, our own, and those of other spirits. Paul likens the word of God to a sword for this very reason—it cuts through ungodly opposition, exposing deceitfulness within and without.
When God Speaks
There's no better reassurance than knowing you're on the right path, especially when the confirmation comes from God Himself. Just like Samuel who heard from God directly and Eli who discerned God’s call, you too can recognize God’s voice through various avenues, be it scripture, people, or personalized experiences. And just like with any other person, you grow more and more familiar with His “voice” the more and more you “hear” from Him.
The Accelerator of Spiritual Discernment
One effective method to fast-track spiritual discernment is through fasting, coupled with increased prayer and Bible study. Just like young Samuel, who was in a consecrated environment that allowed him to hear God, fasting isolates you from worldly distractions, making you more receptive to the Spirit.
As you continue to seek God's guidance, remember that discernment comes with time and consistent effort. Keep seeking, listening, and yearning for a deeper relationship with God, and you'll find your ability to recognize His voice will grow exponentially.
Prayer for Discernment
Lord, I love you. I'm so blessed to have a desire to seek you. I've sought you and found you, just as you've promised, and I am convinced that I am your own. You said your sheep know your voice, so why am I confused sometimes? There are so many opinions and instructions on what to do and how to do it but I want your way. Sometimes the path isn't clear to me. You said there are ways that seem right, but in the end they lead to death. Forbid me to walk in them. You said your word is a lamp unto my feet, so show me the scriptures that will illuminate the way forward. Grant me wisdom and sharpen my discernment. Expose and equip me to overcome all hindrances so that I can walk by the Spirit, in Jesus's name. Amen.