How to listen for God

Is that You, God? How to Be Sure God Is Speaking to You

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The kid Samuel wasn’t getting any sleep that night. Someone kept calling his name. Thinking it was Eli, he climbed off his straw mat and trotted down to Eli’s room. But Eli was asleep. Being awakened Eli snapped, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” After the third time, Eli, being a priest, guessed maybe it was God calling Samuel. You can’t blame Samuel. It’s so easy to get mixed up. Like Samuel many of us ask, God, is that you? 

How can you be sure God is speaking to you?

It's Hard to hear God

Is God Speaking? If It’s Hard, It’s Probably God

Turns out it was God calling Samuel. The fourth time Samuel answered as Eli instructed. “Speak, Lord, I’m listening.”  God tells Samuel to inform Eli that because Eli and his sons disobeyed God and abused the priesthood and God’s people, Eli and his sons would all die. 

That’s one reason it’s hard to listen for God. God often tells us hard things.

But if it is hard to do, that’s also one way to know it is probably God nudging you. In the resurrection life hard does not translate into grandiose. As I wrote in my last blog What Does Resurrection Life Look Like to Us Unremarkable Saints?, hard means doing something that does not come naturally but that you need the Holy Spirit to accomplish. Such as loving my perpetually angry neighbor, who, by the way, did not smash the bottles of wine I left her. I had resisted that nudge for three years. Finally, the Spirit turned me and I obeyed.

What Spirit empowered, resurrection life action is God calling you to?

Is that you, Jesus

Ask Is that You, Jesus?

As I’ve embarked on this resurrection adventure, my daughter’s suggestion “What if, we said yes to whatever we felt Jesus asking us to do?” thumped around in my heart when the Redheaded-Wildflower and I ate in our new favorite pizza place. Our waitperson was a lit M-80, sparking conversation and laughter as if we’d known each other since the beginning of time. He was young, small, hip, funny, and full of life. 

“I’m living the dream,” he said. Then he told a story that included buying a pack of cigarettes. “I smoke,” he said shaking his head. When he slipped off to put in our order, I thought, My mom and brother both died from smoking. Is that you, Jesus? Are you asking me to tell him that?

The Redheaded-Wildflower and I sipped our drinks and I wrestled with my thoughts. Was God prompting me? Was I just a busy-body? Probably. It was none of my business after all. The all too prevalent memory of sitting by my mom’s bedside as she struggled to breathe during the last days of her life resurfaced. Because of smoking, she died ten to twenty years before her time. I couldn’t make her stop smoking. I knew I couldn’t make him quit either. 

I remember how hard it was for me to quit. But if I said nothing then what? He wanted to quit, I knew. Maybe one caring, busy-body seed would sprout into health and help for him. Besides, maybe it was Jesus simply telling me to care for a near stranger. No matter the outcome. It seemed like a time to say, yes, Jesus. 

“It’s really none of my business,” I said when he returned. I squirmed in my seat. Just shut up. I decided for a loving boldness rather than fearful timidity. “But my mom and brother died from smoking.” 

He seemed to understood why I said it. We talked then. Both of us grew up in cigarette smoke filled homes and swore we would never smoke but did anyway. But I made no demands or judgements. 

“You know, when we come in again, if you don’t want to wait on us, I understand,” I said by way of weird apology.

“No, ask for me. I’m Josh.”

I left him a twenty dollar tip because he served us with excellence and personality. Plus I did butt into his business.

I’ll probably never know (in this life) if that was Jesus prompting me. How can you be sure God is speaking to you?

Is God Speaking? Listen with an Open Heart of Faith

When we are talking about the Spirit speaking to our spirits, it’s dangerous territory. It’s subjective and there’s no way to be absolutely, objectively sure. I suppose Samuel knew God spoke once Eli and his sons died. But even then . . . . 

Dallas Willard offers outstanding advice on knowing God’s voice in his book Hearing God.

But waiting for surety is what brings on what Paul calls “living in fear [rather] than the Spirit,” or how Eugene H. Peterson paraphrases it: living the “timid, grave-tending life.” (Romans 8:15 NIV MSG)  

The resurrection life is not grave-tending so that our tombstones read: 

Leave the grave-tending life

Here lies Eugene

Not a mistake he ever made.

Nor went out in public unclean.

He lived ever safe and afraid.

He failed to believe

 By Jesus resurrection

He was loved and  redeemed.”

Our desire for safety is deadly. Grave-tending timidity never let’s us experience God’s smile of grace when we listen and obey nor God’s tender touch of forgiveness and assurance when we take a mis-step.

Perfect love casts out fear.

When God Speaks, Trust in Jesus’ Perfect Love

 The Apostle John wrote “perfect love casts out fear. Because fear has to do with judgement.” (1 John 4:8). God’s perfect love does not shape safe, shiney perfection in us. It releases us to a wild, dangerous obedience because God’s love and grace is enough to cover even when we don’t get the message perfect. My blog “How Does God’s Perfect Love Drive Out Your Deepest Fear?” digs into this misunderstood verse more.

John’s assurance is not of fearlessness but rather a confidence in the resurrection life. Like Samuel God is calling our names. Because of Jesus resurrection we can boldly answer, “Yes, Jesus. I’m listening.”

Let me know how your resurrection adventure is going. What is God answering when you ask, “What’s next Papa?”

3 thoughts on “Is that You, God? How to Be Sure God Is Speaking to You”

  1. Georgie Ann Kettig

    so true, Eugene,… I have a similar 16-going-on-17 year old piano student at church (I teach free), who is very open about everything, and smoking did come up,… I chose “to be very honest with him”, and don’t regret it,… instead of being agitated and fearful (as a parent might be), I was extremely calm and soft-spoken, but “pulled no punches”,… it has not come up again, but I see no signs to cause me worry, and I’m glad I was honest,… and yes, I did feel like “being honest” was a little bit like “walking on water”, socially,… I saw no point in “being agitated” ~ it is not a point of “my will vs his will”, or “controlling somebody else”,… he has to make his own decisions and “do his life”, but offering him “truth” was absolutely the best move that I could make,… and the most loving,… which I think he felt,…

    as far as “saying yes to God and Resurrection Life”, I would say that I am noticing some good things,… for one thing, the simple-but-genuine response/interaction seems to be bringing about very appreciative results!,… who knew?,… are we all in this mood to escape “having our hearts in lockdown”?,… “listening for God to lead” lets my own “background mental commentary” take a backseat, and seems to give me more childlike simplicity, and dare I say, “trust?”,… wow!,…

    I find that this is “a very personal” exercise,… whatever questions or pathways that I explore, they are emerging from my own background, experience and formation,… God listens to me and leads me, personally,… it “feels right”,… and to be honest, people are responding in exciting ways,…

    (could we possibly be on the verge of a coming revival?),… dare I/we hope???,… (-:

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