There is an interesting account in Matthew 16 between Peter and Jesus. Jesus is asking His disciples what people say about Him; they respond sharing how some say He is Elijah or John the Baptist or one of the other prophets. In the midst of the discussion, Jesus has them answer the question personally, “who do yousay that I am?”
Peter takes up the challenge with the answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
While this is a wonderful declaration and gives us a clear account that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, I find what happens next highlights hearing the voice of God.
Jesus tells Peter that he didn’t come up with that answer himself, but the Father in heaven revealed it to him (Matthew 16:17). This is interesting because Peter is just giving an answer. Did he know that he was listening to God at that moment? How did Peter hear God speak and not know it?
Well, maybe Peter did know he heard from God in that moment. The Scripture doesn’t explicitly describe what Peter knew about the source of his answer. But, I don’t think he knew, and here’s why.
Once Jesus confirmed He was the Messiah, he then starts telling His disciples about how He needed to go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the leaders, and then be killed. Peter feeling encouraged by earlier being able to hear the voice of God, took Jesus aside and told Him how this should never happen.
Jesus immediately shuts Peter down saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! (Matthew 16:23)” Again, we see Peter making a statement, and again Jesus tells him that the source of what he was saying was not from him. Where before Peter was listening to the voice of God, this time Peter was listening to Satan.
What can we learn from this?
When we pick up on the spiritual voices around us, they seem like our own thoughts. Therefore being able to discern the source of these thoughts is important to hearing the voice of God. Secondly, it takes practice to know who is speaking.
The more we understand about God and are familiar with His ways, the better we are going to be at hearing His voice. This is why the Bible is filled with commands about how we are to think and taking every thought captive. God is always speaking, but He is not the only voice we can hear.
So, how do we get started?
I think the best place to start is John 10. Jesus tells us in this passage that His sheep listen to His voice. They follow Him because they know His voice, and they run from a stranger’s voice because they don’t recognize it (John 10:3-5). He then gives us what I feel is the best explanation of the two voices: John 10:10.
“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that you may life, and have it to the full.”
So, how does this help us discern who is speaking to us? If the thoughts you are having leave you feeling frustrated, scared, hopeless, or anything along these lines, then you can be sure that it is not from God! God doesn’t talk this way. He is encouraging and full of life. His words will leave you feeling hopeful and loved… even when you don’t understand.
In John 6, many people were following Jesus around because he fed the 5,000. Jesus seemingly wants to reduce the numbers and starts giving them some hard teaching. They grumble, complain, and begin to leave. Jesus’ disciples even seemed shocked at His words.
Jesus then asks them, “You don’t want to leave me too, do you?”
Peter’s answer is profound. He basically says he doesn’t have any idea how to process what Jesus just said, but Jesus had “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). God’s ways are not like our ways. His words will not always make intellectual sense. But, there is something attached to God’s words that adds hope, courage, and life.
Many of us are scared to listen to God’s voice because we feel that He will point out all of those things in our lives that He doesn’t like. God is not like that; He has an overwhelming love for you. Sometimes He may point out an area of sin, but it will be in a way that you feel completely loved.
If you feel condemned by something you have done, it’s not from God (Romans 8:1). Godly sorrow that is God’s word of conviction points to hope and a way out; worldly sorrow leads to despair (2 Corinthians 7:10).
These are some ways to guide you in hearing from God. Take some time right now to listen for His voice. Grab a pen and paper. Tell God that you love Him and then write down what you feel He is saying to you.
You are not writing Scripture; you are just having a personal conversation with God. Don’t worry about getting it ‘right.’ Just write what you feel He is saying and allow Him to speak to you. You will find that He really likes you.
Kevin Shorter is the author of the popular Prayer Coach Blog which has weekly articles to help you draw nearer to the heart of God through prayer. As a friend of James Robor, he will give you his talk “2 Ways to Add Power to Your Prayers.” Just go to Prayer-Coach.com/Robor.