Hearing God’s Voice Isn’t the Same as Obeying It

In my first semester of Bible class, the professor explained a misconception in the church today. He said we think we’re called to get people saved—to encourage people to accept Christ as their Savior—but that’s not true. He explained that God actually calls us to

make disciples, and that’s a different thing altogether. My first thought was, That’s blasphemy! It’s not even biblical. But then we read the Scripture, and I realized he was right. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). That realization rocked my world because I had been taught one thing my whole life, but here was a whole different concept. This challenged me and made me wonder what else had I been taught that wasn’t biblical.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it was huge for me. Remember, I had grown up already having issues with the church and Christians. This was a trust issue. If I had been taught something that wasn’t really what Jesus said, what else had I been taught that was wrong?

I knew from that point on I had to learn the Word of God way better than I ever had. I had a deep hunger to find biblical truth. I wanted to be a disciple.

I was learning so much so fast. We had chapel every day, and then I would go back to our duplex to pray and listen for God to speak to me. And every day, I ended my prayer time with disappointment, saying, “God, you didn’t speak to me today.” I was growing incredibly frustrated spiritually and thinking I just wasn’t holy or good enough. Maybe this is a me issue because of things I’d done or my family had done. Maybe I would never have that kind of relationship with the Lord.

Then within a day or two of hitting my lowest point, I went to chapel and that day’s speaker stepped up and said, “You know what? I think I’m going to go a different route than what I planned today. I really feel like the Lord is telling me that there are people in here who want to hear the voice of God, but they don’t know how. And I feel like God wants me to keep it simple and teach you how to hear what He has to say.” “We way overcomplicate hearing the voice of God,” he said.

He told us to “Go into a room and begin to pray, simply talking to the Lord like you would a spouse or close friend. When you finish praying,” he said, “sit quietly. Then start writing down everything that comes to your mind—everything you’re thinking.” “After you do that,” he continued, “see if what you’ve written lines up with the Word of God. If it lines up with the Word, there’s a fifty-fifty chance it’s God speaking to you.”

If you are genuinely and consistently trying to hear His voice, will that please Him? Of course, it will!” When I first started doing this, I would write a line and immediately ask, “Is this God or is this me?” I quickly learned that wasn’t a good way to do it. I set a goal of praying and writing like that five times a week. Over the months, as I spent more time reading Scripture and praying, my writing lined up more often with what God had said. I was doing it. I was learning to hear my Father’s voice.

When our son was born a few years later, God gave me a perfect picture of what this must have looked like from His perspective. Tracy had literally just given birth, and the doctor was holding our son, Austin. I said something to Tracy, and Austin turned his head toward me. Even though he had never seen me, he had been hearing my voice for months, and he recognized it.

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Now, suppose you have a son or daughter who plays football or is a cheerleader. You’re in the stands, and they’re out on the field. There may be hundreds of people in the stands yelling, but they recognize your voice even in the midst of that crowd. Then they’re in college, maybe in another state, and they’re facing a difficulty, maybe even temptation. And in an instant, they have a thought, What would Dad or Mom say right now? They think about what you have told them in the past and hear your voice.

That’s how the Spirit of the Lord works. With so many things going on, you can still hear and recognize His voice. If you first learn to hear Him during your one-on-one time with God in that quiet room with the door closed, then you’ll still hear and recognize His voice no matter where you are or what is going on. Understanding that I could hear the voice of God and having a method for doing that changed the trajectory of my life. My prayer time became more personal and more intimate. I began to dig deeper into the Word of God, because that’s the only way I had to confirm if what I was hearing was from Him.

The more I study and know His Word, the more the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to speak to me through what I am reading. God’s heart and character are all laid out in the Scriptures for me to follow. Now, my prayer every day is, “God, please don’t give me more than I can handle . . . but don’t give me less either. I just want whatever You want.”

You need to know that I struggled—and continue to struggle—with my sinful nature and my unwillingness to do what God wants me to do at times. Hearing God’s voice and heeding God’s voice are two very different things.


Excerpt from Finding My Way Back Home: A Journey to Discover Hope and a Life of Purpose by John Houston.

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