How Do We Listen to God and What Keeps Us from Doing It?
Written by Celine Alava
June 20, 2022
We may not hear the actual voice of God spoken out loud, but He does speak to us in lots of ways.
“Could you please repeat?” A few students would ask this to me, their English tutor, after the first question for a listening comprehension exercise. They requested for me to read the text again because they probably didn’t understand it completely as they listened for the first time. Listening can be hard. For language learners, it could be harder, but it’s also not easy for someone preoccupied.
We live in a busy world. Students have piles of school work. Workers have loads of tasks. Some work multiple jobs. Even the rich labor to keep their wealth. A lot is going on in our lives, but it’s important to have some time every day to listen to God. Being guided by Him would set our minds on things above, which will lead us to wise decisions. Everything we do affects how our lives will turn out. That is why it’s important we let God lead our every move.
How do we listen to God?
We normally don’t hear God audibly, but it does happen. We read it from the Bible. We hear of saints such as Augstine of Hippo and Francis of Assissi who heard from God. Even in our generation today, there are people who say they have heard God’s voice. Some of them are even atheists who after hearing became Christians.
We may not hear the actual voice of God spoken out loud, but He does speak to us in lots of ways. Pastor Marty Ocaya tells in his message “Listen Well, Listen Right” from the Storytellers series the three steps on how we should listen to God.
1. Listen to the Right Source
Once you know who the true God of the universe is, you realize that it’s only Him worth following. It’s only Him worth living for. He is the only God who reveals Himself to humanity. He is the only God who lived as a man, humbly faced death, and rose victoriously. He is therefore the right source to listen to.
Pastor Ocaya said God speaks through the Bible, His Word; His Holy Spirit; authorities such as our parents, teachers, pastors, and Dgroup leaders; other people; and circumstances. This is in an order of descending priority, meaning the Bible is the top reliable source for hearing from God. Though it is the Holy Spirit who “breathed” His Word into existence, it comes in second place because what is being referred to here is the prompting we believe is from God directly. This always has to align with the Bible; otherwise, it’s not the Spirit talking to us. That’s why we should have knowledge about the whole Bible. It’s a must-do to read it regularly over and over again your whole life that you may nourish your soul and not forget.
Once you know who the true God of the universe is, you realize that it’s only Him worth following. It’s only Him worth living for.
2. Listen with an Open Heart
Now, we answer the actual how: We should listen with a heart open to all that God says. There are things in the Bible that people don’t want to read or hear or find hard to follow, things like being honest, turning the other cheek, suffering for Christ’s sake, or whatever it is they feel unable to agree to in their situation.
Yes, following everything is humanly impossible, but Jesus assures us in the story of “The Rich Young Ruler” that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:27). It’s not that we will be perfect, but that we’ll have Christ as our righteousness. That is why Jesus answers this assurance to the question that goes like this: If it’s hard for the rich to be saved, then who can be? We see it in the lives He has changed. They’re enough proof to testify that everything is indeed possible.
The moment we come to Him and submit our lives, His Spirit starts working in us. We’ll become more receptive to what God tells us. Let’s also be intentional in praying that we have open hearts to be more obedient to Him. It’s only through Christ that we become Christlike.
be intentional in praying that we have open hearts to be more obedient to Him.
3. Listen and Obey
The last thing we do to perfect the listening process is to obey. This is what the Book of James says:
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. (James 1:22-24)
It’s illogical for a person to forget how he looks, the same way it’s illogical to not do what you listen to. I’m talking about Christian hearers who are not doers. I don’t think they have a real relationship with Christ when they do nothing.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).” When we listen and obey, we’re placing our lives on a firm foundation. Our faith becomes strong enough for us not to falter when facing trials.
These three steps remind me of the song “Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis. This is the chorus: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Step 1 is trusting the right source, which is ultimately God. Step 2 is trusting Him with our whole heart. Step 3 is obeying. I believe doing all these will bring joy in our lives.
What Keeps Us from Listening to God?
We know life on earth isn’t perfect. It’s not always joyful because there exists the original killjoy, who literally kills, Satan. He’s the number one rebel who rounds up people to be rebellious along with him. He causes us to not hear God.
I’d like us to look at the hindrances the devil puts so we won’t listen. In the first installment “Make Excellent Decisions, Run Away from Distractions” of Storytellers, Pastor Ocaya gives the top 5 distractions to young people.
Materialism might seem like rich people’s issues, but wanting possessions is a common thing for humans, even the youth.
1. Love for Money
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10).”
Materialism might seem like rich people’s issues, but wanting possessions is a common thing for humans, even the youth. A 2006 U.S. survey by Harris Interactive showed that 71% of people aged 8-18 said they would be happier if they had more money to buy things for themselves. To this same statement, a 2015 study in Thailand showed that university students gave the average score of .767 on a scale of -1 to 1 and a 2018 study in Hungary showed that high schoolers gave the average score 4.22 on a scale of 1 to 7. These mean young people have the tendency to be materialistic.
This reality isn’t shocking at all but is a sobering reminder for us Christians to keep our lives in check whether we’re serving God or mammon because we cannot serve both (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).
keeping up with whatever “ideal,” while disregarding what God thinks, is not going to satisfy you the way having God’s approval does.
2. Focus on Image
“God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”
Image is not only how we are seen physically but also how we are regarded by people based on how we present ourselves. We see in pop culture how teenagers are concerned with their image. The movie Mean Girls and the TV series Gossip Girl glamorize the world of high school where the popular girls try to maintain their ideal of having a slim figure, the perfect boyfriend, and minions who obey their orders. The song “Cool Kids” by Echosmith expresses the wish to be like the popular kids.
Like money, image can be an idol, so we must be careful. Whether seeking the approval of the whole student body, your social media followers, or even just your close friends, keeping up with whatever ideal, while disregarding what God thinks, is not going to satisfy you the way having God’s approval does. Paul says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).”
3. Unmanaged Emotions
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”
Whatever the heart is going through, the brain would be too distracted enough to not pay attention to what the ears are hearing. Feelings that weigh the human soul down include anxiety, fear, depression, anger, jealousy, and shame. I see that these emotions come when our wants aren’t met. We get anxious because we want to live up to our ideals or we want safety and prosperity but we’re not sure we’ll have them. We fear when the safe environment or situation we want doesn’t seem to be before us. We feel depressed or angry when our circumstances aren’t what we want. We feel jealous when we want to have what others have. We feel ashamed when we fail to do something that we want to have been done right.
The human heart is like a machine of wants, but I believe it’s made to find satisfaction in God. Jesus came that we would have abundant lives (John 10:10) and that our cups overflow (Psalm 23:5).
4. Mishandled Problems
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”
In Science, it’s the experiment’s question. In Math, it’s the equation with variables. In English, it’s the story’s conflict. In life, they’re problems. However, would you believe the concept of the Christian life having no problems at all?
Dr. Bill Bright said, “I am a slave of Jesus. It is not the slave’s responsibility to be successful. The only responsibility of a slave is to do what the Master asks him to do. When you understand this, you also understand that a slave doesn’t have problems; a slave only has opportunities to see the Master work.”
Who knew being a slave has the best perk? Not claiming problems as yours may make one seem uncaring, but claiming God has overcome the problems of the world should make you hopeful in the sense that you’re praying and watching out for what solutions God has for your situation.
The human heart is like a machine of wants, but I believe it’s made to find satisfaction in God.
5. Wrong Relationships
“Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).”
I mentioned earlier that God speaks through people. Remember I wrote that all the listed sources for hearing from God must align with the Bible, so let’s find friends who will bring us closer to God and not farther away. Let’s not surround ourselves with people who conform to the wicked ways of the world. “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20).”
I praise God for CCF focusing on discipleship. It is after all Christ’s Commission, and we get fellowships out of it. Having a Dgroup has been a wonderful blessing to me. I get to have Christian friends around my age. We study God’s Word together, discuss CCF sermons, have accountability, pray for one another, and encourage one another.
If you don’t have a Dgroup yet, visit this page to join an Elevate group: https://elevate.org.ph/index.php/elevate-groups/
Letting money, our image, emotions, problems, and wrong relationships take over our decisions will affect our lives at large. Don’t let these things distract you from listening to God. Listen to Him through the right sources, those that agree with the Bible. Listen to Him with an open heart. Listen to Him and obey what He says. It’s the key to keep our lives set on solid ground.