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How Do I Discern God’s Voice from the Rest?

Photo of Joel SingletonJoel Singleton | Bio

Joel Singleton

Joel Singleton is the Lead Minister of the San Jose Church of Christ in Jacksonville FL. Joel is married to Alison and they have two children, Truitt and Quinn. Joel has served in full time ministry for the last 14 years and in that time he has written several resources devoted to disciple making and family. His desire first and foremost is for Christians to relearn how to make disciples in the home and in the church.

How do we know when God is speaking? How do we know it is Him and not some misguided internal voice of our own making? When we make big decisions, how can we know we are making the right choices?

When I was in high school, I played the trumpet in the jazz band. I know, I am admitting I was a band nerd. No matter the venue we were playing, I would often ask my parents, “Could you hear me?” They almost always said, “Yes.”

With so many instruments playing simultaneously, how could they possibly distinguish my sound from all of the others? They heard me practice. I feel sorry for them now when I think about the hours of practice and the sounds they were forced to listen to. They listened to my playing exposed in the otherwise quiet setting of our home.

It was hearing my practice in the quiet moments that allowed them to distinguish my sound in the crowd.

If we have learned to distinguish God’s voice in the quiet moments, we will be able to hear Him in the chaos of everyday life. God’s movement, direction, detours, shortcuts should be felt by laser-focused disciples. Many Christians don’t expect to hear from God. Many have to think back a few years ago to remember a time when God’s voice was clear to them.

Is God’s guiding hand just occasional? Should we only expect God’s guidance and voice every few years?

The quick answer is no. In John 10, we discover that even those standing right in front of Jesus struggled to hear His voice.

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:24-27 NIV).

If there was anything that God was going to announce with pomp and circumstance, it would be about the identity of His Son Jesus. Yet many of God’s people missed it! The audience in this story weren’t sure. They wanted a plain “yes” or “no.”

I guess the miracles and the teachings weren’t enough for them to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

After all they had seen, how could they not know? Jesus says they weren’t His sheep. They didn’t believe; they didn’t even know what God’s voice sounds like!

The crowd in this story didn’t ask for God to reveal His Messiah. They didn’t search the scriptures to find out if Jesus was the kind of Messiah God would send. They didn’t pray for God to reveal Jesus’ identity. They didn’t take a listening posture to watch, marvel, and wonder at Jesus.

They rushed toward Jesus with all the grace of a charging bull and asked Him with doubting hearts for a blunt answer. I’m afraid we are often guilty of this too. I know I have been.

If we don’t spend time in prayer, we won’t have His voice revealed. We cannot have a 5 minute-a-day prayer routine and have clarity of God’s voice as our everyday companion. We cannot reserve our Bible study for one-day, one-hour a week, and still expect to know the shepherd. If we don’t spend time quietly asking for the guidance that comes from the Spirit, then we may miss quiet nudges to move in His direction.

How do we know if it is really Him nudging us in a direction? Read the Gospels. Scripture will reveal to you what thoughts belong to you and which ones belong to Him.

The more you read, the easier His voice is to distinguish from your own.

We cannot have a 5 minute-a-day prayer routine and have clarity of God’s voice as our everyday companion.

Pray anytime you face a big decision, conflict, or uncertainty. God doesn’t drop a magic 8 ball to answer every situation correctly.

Instead, I have found the best advice is to follow God’s peace.

The psalmist tells us:

 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly (Psalm 85:8 NIV).

Are you facing a conflict? Pray until you have a path forward that has God’s peace on it. Not sure if you should move or stay put? Pray and listen for whichever decision gives a sense of peace.

Peace is different than comfort.

Seeking comfort alone can lead to selfish choices. Comfort asks, “How can I have more (fill in the blank)?” Peace asks which path, decision, or choice leads me to God’s peace. Don’t make the decision until there is peace.

Don’t attempt to manage the conflict until God’s peace rests on your approach to solve the conflict. Don’t take a step until God’s peace rests on your path forward. His peace accompanies His voice.

If we have learned to distinguish God’s voice in the quiet moments, we will be able to hear him in the chaos of everyday life.

Get out your biggest problem. Where do you need God to speak to most in your life?

Begin praying for God to speak clearly to you and reveal His peace. We don’t always have a command from God. We don’t always have a Biblical mandate of right and wrong for all of our decisions in life, but discipleship is wanting God’s direction in everything! A disciple wants to move where God moves and live where God lives.

(For more from Joel, visit Used with permission.)