How can managing our thoughts help us hear God’s voice and grow spiritually? What role do fear, negative thoughts and anxiety play in our ability to hear God’s voice and to grow spiritually? What happens when we don’t feel God emotionally and we’re not sure if we can still hear His voice? These are important questions about how our mindset can affect our ability to hear God’s voice!
Bible study and prayer are two main ways we can hear God’s truth, but our mindset plays a critical role in how we’re able to receive and apply His call. Let’s talk about practical ways to test our thoughts to make sure that they’re in line with God’s promises so that we can best hear God’s voice.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- 5:08] The More Time We Spend with God The Easier It Is to Hear God’s Voice
- [6:52] #1 Way to Hear God’s Voice
- [8:32] Understanding the Difference Between Conviction + Condemnation in Order to Hear God’s Voice
- [11:36] Hearing God’s Voice Through the Christian Influences In Our Lives
- [13:03] Managing Our Minds to Hear God’s Voice Loud and Clear
- [15:39] What “Soil” Have Our Thoughts Created for God’s “Seed” to Plant in Our Minds?
- [19:51] Other Obstacles That Keep Us From Hearing God’s Voice
- [25:29] Why Do We Sometimes Not “Feel” God’s Presence or Hear His Voice?
- [28:05] How Can We Renew Our Thoughts to Better Hear God’s Voice?
[5:08] The More Time We Spend with God The Easier It Is to Hear God’s Voice
In John 10 Jesus shares how He is the good shepherd and that His sheep know His voice. In ancient Israel a shepherd would often be in the fields with other shepherds and their sheep, so there would be a lot of intermixing between the flocks. How could a shepherd tell the difference between his sheep and his neighbor's sheep? Shepherds would train their sheep to be able to respond to their individual call (a whistle or a horn or something that made a specific noise) and the sheep would come to that call.
That story of how a shepherd calls his sheep is a beautiful and simple view of what the call of God is. Learning to hear God’s voice is just learning to hear the master’s call. The more time we spend with him the more we’re able to discern between what His call is, what the world's call is, and our own desires. The more we hear His voice the more familiar it becomes and the easier it is to detect.
If my husband were to call me right now, I would instantly recognize his voice. If my husband were to call you right now, you wouldn't recognize his voice because you don't hear it everyday like I do. And vice versa with those people you hear everyday, right? We know these voices because they're in our lives, which really leads to this very first point, and probably the most important point.
[6:52] #1 Way to Hear God’s Voice
The first way to really hear God's voice, to understand what He would want for you and your life is to be in His word everyday so you can get to know what His voice sounds like. We must read the Bible for understanding and application, not just read it and let it wash over our heads and not really think about it. We must read it to learn to hear God’s voice and to take action in obedience to His call..
In the Bible we can see different facets of who God is. We can hear different aspects, so to speak, different tones, maybe of His voice throughout His word. And they all, somehow by the amazing power of God, they all come together and create this perfect sound. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God the Father—all three of them together. We can hear that voice and it is the same voice that has been speaking since the beginning of time and spoke through Jesus. But now we get to hear through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus encourages us by saying that He will not leave us alone and He will send an advocate, which is the Holy Spirit to encourage us and to lead us in all truth. So the way to lead us into all truth–number one– always is reading the Bible. You'll not only have that character of God, the understanding of who God is layered into your heart, but you'll discern how your thoughts, how your actions, and maybe that of others may or may not line up with what God is teaching you. And you'll be able to say, “okay, if I want to obey, this is what God says. This is the way God works. This is the way I can be more in line with the way He is.”
[8:32] Understanding the Difference Between Conviction + Condemnation in Order to Hear God’s Voice
If you want to learn how to hear God's voice, the second thing I’d recommend is to understand the difference between condemnation and conviction. Both condemnation and conviction are forms of correction, but they come from different motivations.
Condemnation's goal isn't to offer a solution, but to kind of pepper you with reminders of your inadequacy. Condemnation uses phrases like, “there's no hope for you” “you're an idiot or not a very nice person” and “Why, why can't you learn? Why, why haven't you got past this? What's wrong with you?” It’s very mean and accusatory. Some people will describe condemnation as that or the inner critic. It’s a voice that–and this is the key part—is not meant to help you move forward. Condemnation is the voice of the enemy. There is no hope in condemnation. It is just showing you what you did wrong, rubbing your nose in it.
Conviction on the other hand says, “yes, you made a mistake” but it offers hope. Conviction recognizes that you did something that was wrong, however it believes that you can be different and can change in the future. Conviction believes that you can use this as a way to grow and to move forward. Conviction says, “I want to help you get there.” and conviction is the loving voice of God.
Condemnation will accuse you, tell you you're without hope, and insist that you can never change; while conviction offers gentle, loving correction that gives you a second chance, shows you healing, and it shows you a better way.
It’s important we understand this distinction because there’s a constant war in our thoughts and we need to decide what thoughts we’re going to listen to. Are we going to listen to the thoughts of our own sinful nature or some thoughts of the enemy; or are we going to choose to listen to God's thoughts?
And in our modern culture, we have been told that if it feels good then it's right for you. We’re taught that feelings trump everything. We make mistakes every day, and we aren’t perfect, and we need to be honest about that.. But what do we do with that sin? Do we let it simmer in our hearts as it continually condemns us; or do we let it move us towards healing and change?
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we don’t have to live in shame and we can find healing and redemption. Conviction’s job is to get us back in alignment with God so we can live a different life.
Therefore in order to discern God’s voice we need to continually ask “is this God’s conviction that’s designed to lead me to correction? Or is this the voice of the enemy telling me I'm wrong, I'm stupid and I'm bad and that I’ll never change? Understanding this helps us hear God’s voice and grow closer to Him as we stay obedient to His correction.
[11:36] Hearing God’s Voice Through the Christian Influences In Our Lives
So the third thing is to stay curious about what God may be bringing up in your life through the godly influences you're hearing or you're leading or where you're listening to. It can be fun to play detective and begin to notice how God continues to speak to us about a certain topic by bringing up that topic through various avenues. For example, lately I really feel like the Lord is speaking to me about generosity. I've noticed that through some sermons I've listened to, word of the day calendars, something on Instagram or somebody I'm listening to, or on another podcast. Because I'm hearing the Lord speak to me about being generous in several different ways I've been chewing on this topic in the back of my mind. We can start to hear God’s calling by noticing and putting these things together.
As you are thinking about and hearing God's voice, start to just make space in your day, in your life. Maybe take five minutes in the morning when you get up or five minutes, take a five minute tea break or something in the afternoon. Begin to notice and to write down the things that you’re hearing over and over, and perhaps journal about them so you can process them before God to see what He may want to be saying to you.
[13:03] Managing Our Minds to Hear God’s Voice Loud and Clear
Let’s shift gears from talking about common ways that we can hear God’s voice to understanding the importance of our mindset in order to receive God’s messages.
Picture a communications tower, where God puts out the signal and we receive His words into our hearts. Whenever there is any form of communication happening we know there has to be both a clear message going on and a strong ability to receive that message. There has to be clarity on both sides. We trust that God’s message is clear because He is God. But since we are imperfect humans we need to look at our “receiver” (our minds) and ask if there is anything that is getting in the way. We have to consider whether we have the right mindset to accept His gifts of forgiveness or healing in the words He is sharing, and we have to believe that it’s real.
In the Christian Mindset Makeover, this is one of the first lessons we talk about. We have to understand the lies we have allowed to creep in and really begin to reformulate the promises of God. When we go through brain priming, we literally rewire the subconscious in this area to be in line with the promises of God.
There is an intersection between God trying to connect with us and our minds being able to receive these blessings and promises. Sometimes several things can get in the way. One of them might be a false mindset about who God is, or it might be a false or tweaked mindset about who we are. That can be understandable if we have been wounded by other people or shaped by certain life circumstances.
[15:39] What “Soil” Have Our Thoughts Created for God’s “Seed” to Plant in Our Minds?
Jesus’ very famous parable about the sower is a great illustration of the importance of making sure our mindset is right in order to hear God’s voice. In this parable in Matthew 13:3-9 Jesus talks about the seeds being scattered on different types of soil and how the seed falls differently based on the type of soil it is falling into.
It really stands out to me when He talks about the seed that fell among the thorns representing those who hear God’s word, but the message is soon crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth and no fruit is produced. How often do we let worries steal what God may be trying to tell us?
This isn’t to incur shame. Instead, I’m saying that we are responsible for maintaining the soil in our minds so that we can receive God’s voice when he speaks. What does the soil look like inside of our hearts and minds? What are the thoughts we are thinking to be able to receive the message? Our thought life is what determines the soil quality, and the Holy Spirit’s job is to lead us into truth. John 14:17 talks about that. How can He lead us into all truth if our minds are clouded with thoughts that prevent us from receiving and soaking up His wisdom? We cannot produce good fruit, or things of value, without staying plugged into the vine as well.
There is another famous parable in John 15:1-11, where Jesus talks about how He is the grapevine and His father is the gardener. If we remain in Him as a branch producing fruit, then we can produce the fruit He has for us. If we stay plugged into the vine, we are able to keep ourselves pure and open to hearing God’s word. I have definitely noticed that it’s much easier to see God around me and to hear His voice when my heart is already in a place to receive.
[19:51] Other Obstacles That Keep Us From Hearing God’s Voice
I really want us to focus on how we can put our hearts in a place that is going to be most open to receiving God’s word and hearing God’s voice. We talked previously about that connection with God that we need to have through daily prayer.
We have talked about knowing God and walking with Him every day before, but I wanted to share Episode 91 with you – What Does it Mean to Know God? If you’re in a place where you go to church but you aren’t sure what it means to know or have a relationship with God, this is a great post to check out.
It is important for the mindset element to be strong, so that we have those “five bars” like on our cell phones and we can do our best to receive God’s “message” as clearly as possible. In the Christian Mindset Makeover and the Calm your Anxiety Toolkit, we talk about ways to manage our thoughts so we can listen to and obey the Holy Spirit’s voice.
In future episodes, I want to spend some time talking about obstacles that cause that signal to go offline. Even if we are reading the Bible and praying, there can be interference from our own thoughts and issues, and we will talk about how to deal with some of that. From the brain science and Biblical perspectives, whatever we focus on and repeat in our minds is going to become our reality. We are charged with taking control of our thoughts and making them obedient. Our subconscious patterns will override our logical minds, so we need to get to the root of those thoughts.
We have established patterns based on our early and identity-forming experiences, and those determine how we feel worthy, enough, and loved. We have to get to the root of that. While we can logically know the truth about God, we won’t be able to understand and hear God’s voice if we don’t work things out on a subconscious level. It is our job to keep our mindset in a place where we can align with what God says.
The good news is that, yes, we have control over that. We have the authority as believers. We have the mind of Christ. We have the Holy Spirit speaking truth into our hearts. We have the authority and the power and the ability to recognize what is happening, and we also have to have the understanding and the tough love side to know that we are the only ones who can make those changes in our minds. God is not going to force us. He will never walk away from us, and we certainly cannot lose our salvation unless we deny Him. He can encourage us to do it, but we are the ones who have to actively determine what our thoughts are going to be about. We can choose different thoughts and we can choose where we dwell.
Now, we aren’t talking about perfection or being completely in line with God’s voice, because we are never going to be perfectly united with God in all things on this side of Heaven. We live in a sinful world, and we have sinful bodies and sinful minds. We do, however, have the power to take control and to rewire our mind to make it subservient and obedient. We also have the love of God on our side to woo us back.
I love the stories of the book of Hosea. It is the allegory of a faithful husband continually going back to an unfaithful woman. God is there, but we have to take action to move forward and make it happen. The connection issue and the responsibility ultimately is with us taking those actions to connect with Him, to be in His word, to pray, and to do those kinds of actions – but also to take care of the mindset piece.
[25:29] Why Do We Sometimes Not “Feel” God’s Presence or Hear His Voice?
I want to address this concept of feeling God’s presence, because that’s often something that comes up when we think about hearing God. We think that if we hear God, we should feel Him as well. We are at a time in society where feelings have trumped everything. If we have a feeling, it’s true – but our feelings aren’t always true.
God is true. God is real. God is powerful. God is in your heart. If you have prayed to receive Christ and you have a relationship with Him, God is in your heart. The Holy Spirit is in you. You are forgiven, and you are saved as his daughter. That cannot change whether you feel it or not. Feelings go up and down, but nothing changes the truth behind that. It is plausible and possible for us to not feel God. We may be going through things that are clouding our ability to feel Him or He is not showing up as we expected Him to in a situation.
There are many mysteries behind God, and we have to come to that understanding. When we approach the throne of grace, we have to understand that this is not a “genie God” that we have completely figured out. Our God is a mystery, and honestly I think that’s a good thing. When we serve something that is bigger than us, that’s working all things out beyond our understanding, that tells me He is the king of the universe.
I caution you about feeling like you are doing all these things but not getting what you want from God. We cannot base our ability to hear God’s voice on our feelings, or on whether or not we feel Him there. The truth is what we always stand on. If you want to learn more about that, I recommend checking out Episode 57 – When You Don’t Feel God and You Wonder Where He Is.
[28:05] How Can We Renew Our Thoughts to Better Hear God’s Voice?
I also want to make sure that we talk about the Christian Mindset Makeover, because the underlying truth behind what we talked about today is what is going on in your head. If those thoughts don’t line up with God’s promises for you, it will be really hard to receive and hear God’s voice. If there is interference with the “cell phone tower”, that will impact the clarity of the message.
To get to the root and put the thoughts about God’s truth in your mind, we go through a specific scientific process called brain priming. The first four weeks of the Christian Mindset Makeover dig into the root of the thoughts, how they got there, and how they have been impacting your life. We look at what you can control to help get your mind in a different place. In week 5, we use brain science to create a different mindset from the inside out so that your perspective changes.
When you change on a subconscious level, you can absorb and receive God’s voice. It’s such a beautiful experience to see women walk through this, and they experience a new freedom in their abilities to hear God’s voice clearly. They are able to align with who they are in Christ and to catch themselves before they engage in those negative patterns. It changes their confidence, and their ability to not let the things of this world to get to them. We really want to be able to exist in this world and enjoy the gifts that God has given us.
We cannot change the fact that there will be hard things, but when we are close to God and we can hear His voice, He can guide us. We can be the light and find the peace. We can have the fruit of the Spirit that God wants to bless us with as His children.
If you feel like there is mindset interference happening for yourself, I encourage you to join me in the Christian Mindset Makeover. It is a hybrid program that provides both on-demand and live components. You can go through the modules in your own time, we work together on the brain priming, and then there are live calls twice a month. Along with the 9 teaching modules and homework, we also have a Facebook group and a Bible study. The material is all created based on my years of working with women around issues of perfectionism, anxiety, comparison, people-pleasing, and workaholism. We use brain science to help us align with God.
In the next two episodes, we are going to talk about some mindset issues that keep us from being able to connect with God and hear His voice and His promises of love. I look forward to digging into that with you soon!
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON HEARING GOD'S VOICE:
- Ep 57: When You Don’t Feel God and You Wonder Where He Is
- Ep 91: What Does it Mean to Know God?
- Ep 95: 3 Categories of Spiritual Growth Obstacles: Pt 1: Connection with God Issues
- Ep 97: 3 Categories of Spiritual Growth Obstacles: Pt 2: Life Rhythm Issues
- Ep 99: 3 Categories of Spiritual Growth Obstacles: Pt 3: Your Relationship with God
- Ep 106: How to Hear God’s Voice (5 Tips)
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