Probably the most important single piece of practical advice for anyone hoping to survive what lies ahead in the world, is being able to LISTEN… not just to what others are saying, but to God himself.

If I told someone that God speaks to me and tells me His will, they would probably think I was crazy. But The truth is that God can speak to us, and he will if we're sincere about listening.

Not much has been written on the topic of how to hear from God. Churches give some clues, but they tend to focus on one area to the exclusion of others. This study is an attempt to share my experience and the experience of others in hearing from God, so that you can make practical use of this information for yourselves. I’ve listed eight different ways God can speak to us, so that you can get a more reliable understanding of what God specifically wants you to know… personally.  You may think of other ways than what I have listed below, or you may word some of the ways listed here slightly differently. That's fine.  The main thing is for us to get a general idea of where to look for leadings from God.

In my opinion, not all eight ways that I have listed here are equal in value, so I’ve listed them roughly in order of importance.

1. Jesus' Teachings
Jesus, the Word of God, was God's mouthpiece on earth. If you want to know God's will, that is the first and best place to start. (John 14:6-7) If Jesus told his followers to do something, then you should seriously consider doing it too.  We can’t really say we are followers of Jesus if we are not, in fact, following what he has told his followers to do. So, if you are considering doing something that goes against what Jesus taught, then you should seriously question it. It's as simple as that. Jesus gives us great guidelines around which to build our lives. However, the Bible doesn’t include instructions for specific circumstances that we often find ourselves in, and that is where the other seven ways to hear from God can be helpful.

2. Your Conscience
This one is almost as important as the teachings of Jesus. However, a conscience can be "trained"-- for bad as well as for good (1 John 3:20). So we need the teachings of Jesus to train our conscience at times. As you study the teachings of Jesus, you will see that they speak to your conscience. God's Spirit, speaking through your conscience, will tell you that what he is saying is true (John 14:26). You should heed that voice and not sear your conscience by listening to arguments against what Jesus has said. (Romans 1:18-21)

The next five categories are all similar in importance. Problems can result with any of them, if any one is followed to the exclusion of the others.

3. Advice from Godly People
We should listen to the advice of godly people such as those who wrote the Bible or people around us who have proven themselves to be trustworthy spiritual advisors. It's easy to become a "loose cannon" and want to do things "our own way", but by accepting advice from others, we can get a "second witness" about God's will for us (2 Corinthians 13:1).

The weakness with this way of listening to God is that someone you've trusted in the past could give you advice contrary to the rest of what God is saying. What they say may go against ( or at least appear to go against) your conscience or against the teachings of Jesus. St. Paul said, for example, that if he or an angel from heaven should say anything contrary to the gospel of Jesus then we should reject it and curse him in preference to rejecting Jesus (Galatians 1:8).

4. Direct Revelations
God can speak to us through dreams, visions and prophecies. We should take the time to listen to what he has to say. Ask God to give you dreams when you go to sleep; and each day when you pray take time to clear your mind of its busy thoughts and allow God to speak to you.

When you do this, you may see a picture, have some words come into your head or have a little daydream which you have not consciously created yourself. In direct revelations God often speaks in "parables". In this way, he can get a message through to you that you may have resisted when it came through other means. Once you have the revelation it is important to ask God for an interpretation of the lesson behind it and then to pray for an application of that lesson in something that has been happening in your life. You will need to do so with a willingness to accept the truth of the revelation, no matter how difficult it may be, because often the things God most wants to tell us are things that we are most likely to resist.

A weakness with direct revelations is that they may just be an expression of our subconscious, or in the case of dreams, they could actually be an attack from the devil (e.g. nightmares). A dream that is from God will provide a solution, and will not cause us to experience irrational fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

A combination of methods 3 and 4, can be quite reliable. If several godly people receive similar revelations in a group setting, where you are all opening your minds to direct revelations from God, you can feel pretty confident that it is from God.

5. Circumstances
God can set up circumstances to assist you in doing the right thing. We sometimes call these “open or closed doors”.  Circumstances can often make God's will quite obvious. If, for example, you think God wants you to walk on water, but you try it and it doesn't work, then he probably wasn't the one telling you to walk on water in the first place! Easy, eh?

The weakness with this approach (if followed exclusively), is that there is a chance that God will want you to persevere under difficult circumstances and the devil will tempt you to give in, just on the grounds that it is too hard. Or the devil could tell you that a golden opportunity to do something that is wrong amounts to circumstances that have been sent from God when it isn't at all. You can't rely entirely on circumstances, or you will end up just doing whatever is easiest.

6. Coincidences
Coincidences are a bit like circumstances, except that they are a lot more subtle. It has to do with the timing of a circumstance more than the significance of the circumstance itself. For example, if you're considering visiting relatives and you happen onto something in the Bible or elsewhere where it talks about families drawing closer together, you could take it as a confirmation from God that you should go. Under other circumstances the passage in the Bible would not have had the same meaning for you.

It's easy to become side-tracked by coincidences though. Some crazy people spend their whole lives looking for God to speak to them through coincidences for every little thing they do. You don't need to create the coincidences. They will happen by themselves when they are from God, and it will be clear when they are.

7. Desires
God can speak to us on an emotional level through his Holy Spirit. This may be expressed in subtle ways, such as an interest in a particular activity. God wants us to enjoy what we do and we will do best what we enjoy doing most.

This one is similar to conscience (when we feel a strong conviction to either do something or not to do something), but it is more passive. If, for example, you like working with children, and if there is an opportunity to do so, and if God does not use some other direction to stop you from doing that, you should not feel bad about doing what you like doing.

The weakness with this is that the devil tempts us by making sin look enjoyable. Our interest, or motivation, in doing something will not always be pure; we need to recognise when that is so. Following our desires should only be used when it does not contradict other leadings from God.

8. Miracles, or "Signs”
God may choose to use a supernatural experience to reveal His will to people. At times people have asked God for a "sign" to confirm His will for them (e.g. Gideon, in Judges 6:17, 36-40). But I have mostly discouraged from using this, because it can easily turn into "tempting" God, and people have been punished for doing that. The only times that God seems to have tolerated people asking for a sign, have been times when he was asking them to do something that goes very strongly against their natural reasoning.

Jesus warned that an evil generation seeks a sign. He said that instead of seeking signs or miracles, we should rely on the words of God's messengers to know God's will (Matthew 12:39). If God has already spoken through other means, then it is wrong to demand that He do a miracle to confirm it.

SUMMARY

When trying to hear what God is telling you, it can be helpful to list all eight ways that he could speak to you, and compare them. There will not always be unity between all eight ways (and some will not even apply in any given decision situation), but there should be a fairly strong leaning in one direction or the other, if you do such a comparison.

It’s important to seek God's will honestly and sincerely, with a willingness to do anything He asks of you, no matter how hard it may be. These eight different ways can provide an overall idea of what God is leading you to do and then you need to act on it. If you do that, God will do his part. Jesus said if we ask for the Holy Spirit (his ‘voice’ in the world today), it is like a child asking her father for a fish. He will not give us a serpent. (Luke 11:11-13).

However, if you consider only one way of hearing from God, to the exclusion of others, you can easily delude yourself into thinking God is saying something that he is not.

Once you know what God is saying to you, you have a responsibility to follow it. If you ignore what He says to you, then chances are that you will gradually stop hearing from God at all (because you will have destroyed your ability to hear him) and you will become dead spiritually (1 Timothy 4:2).

So what are you waiting for?  Tune in to what God wants to tell you today.

*For more information related to this article, please check out the following video: Bro Dave Ch #5 - Hearing from God