How to Discern God's Still Small Voice

Quiet. Stillness. Listening. These aren’t words typically associated with leadership. For most of us words like busyness, charging ahead, and verbal communication characterize our days. While there’s a place for full schedules and important dialogue, there’s also a place for slowing down and listening to God’s perspective. It’s a place where silence becomes golden as we commune with God and glean from His wisdom. Learning to discern God’s voice is a leadership discipline worth developing.

I’ll never forget the first time I sensed God’s specific direction for our ministry. It was during a monthly meeting where staffers and intercessors gathered to pray about new ventures. On this particular occasion, we were praying for a much-needed building to house a ministry expansion.

We believed the building would meet our needs, but we didn’t know God’s perspective on it. So we prayed along these lines – “God, You know we could really use this property. If it’s Your will, please give us favor at the zoning meeting.” After several of us prayed various versions of this prayer, one of our intercessors began reading Scriptures like, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). She read a dozen or so similar verses.

A long silence ensued, and then I sensed this phrase: “Ask Me for the building.”

My mind chatter went like this: ‘Ask Me for the building?!’ Was that God? Wouldn’t it be presumptuous of me to flat out ask God for the building? How do I know that’s really His will? And plus, if I start praying that way, others may jump on the band wagon, get all excited, and we may not receive the zoning permission to renovate. Aka: I’ll look like a fool.

“Ask Me for the building.”

Oh man, there’s no getting out of this. I tentatively prayed, “God, I believe You’re prompting me to ask You for the building, so I’m stepping out on thin ice and asking You. Please God, give us the building across the street from our current location.”

Dead silence.

Then one by one intercessors joined in, the band wagon started to roll, and by the end of the meeting we all pictured the building fully occupied by our ministry.

Two months later God not only provided the building, but also the one next to it. Together, they’ve been our ministry’s headquarters for over a decade.

So How Do You Know When It’s God’s Voice?

1) It’s biblically sound and wise. Hands-down, this is the most important litmus test. What you believe you’re sensing from God must be founded on the truth and principles of the totality of Scripture. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). Look at what you’re sensing through various lenses and scenarios – does it pass through this biblical grid of God’s wisdom?

2) It may be different from your typical vein of thinking. Oftentimes what you hear from God is strikingly different – purer, wiser, fresher – than your customary way of thinking about the topic.

3) Others concur. As you share what you’ve discerned with respected associates and leaders, there’s general agreement and affirmation. (See Acts 15:28.) This may happen quickly, or it may develop over time as God rounds out His direction.

4) The pathway opens up. This is commonly referred to as God opening and closing doors. Watch for evidence of God’s confirmation as He clears the way for you to move forward.

5) It requires faith, risk, and obedience. Following God’s voice often means taking a bolder step than we’d planned. That bolder step may be a giant leap or a season of waiting. Either way, when God indicates His will we respond in faith-filled obedience.

God says He’ll tell us great and unsearchable things when we call to Him (Jeremiah 33:3), and He assures us we hear His voice (John 10:27). The question isn’t whether God speaks, but whether we’re listening. Listening takes intentionality, time, and occasions set aside for being with God by ourselves and with others. And while hearing from God is a treasured and direction-setting occasion, simply being still and knowing Him is ultimately our greatest reward.

“The question isn’t whether God speaks, but whether we’re listening.”

- Lisa Hosler

How have you learned to hear God’s voice? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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