How To Recognise God's Voice - Michael Cooke
This page contains a transcription of the podcast episode entitled, “How To Recognise God’s Voice” presented by Michael Cooke.
God loves to communicate with us. From the prophets of the old testament to the red letters of Jesus in the New Testament. Angels or dreams, your conscience, or maybe even a donkey. He does that to build our relationship.
Hi! And welcome to the YWAM Newcastle podcast. In this episode, we’re focusing on the ways to recognise God’s voice. This is such a big topic that is so crucial to our lives. Given God is all-knowing, learning how to hear what he has to say seems like a good idea!
Our speaker this week is Michael Cooke, he currently oversees all of our training at YWAM Newcastle. Michael has led teams of missionaries all over the world in pursuit of the lost. He is also a very gifted teacher and he often speaks on topics about evangelism and intimacy with God. Ten years on the mission field has sharpened Michael’s ability to recognise God’s voice.
Now, let’s dive in and hear what Michael has to share!
We have a lot of evidence in the Bible that God communicates, God speaks, God leads, and God guides. In this session we’re going to look at some of the ways that God speaks, as well as how we can become more familiar with his voice.
God starts the Bible by communicating. In Genesis chapter 1, verse 3, we see that God said, “let there be light.” In this chapter, God “says” nine times, he “calls” five times. He is communicating with the environment around him from the very very beginning .
And in the garden of Eden, we see in the early chapters of Genesis, God reveals himself and his developing relationship with Adam and Eve there.
The book of Genesis is full of stories of God communicating, calling, leading, and speaking to his people.
God continues to speak throughout the Old Testament. We see the phrase, “God spoke to” or, “the word of the Lord came to” this person over two thousand times in the Old Testament. We see prophets and judges communicating God’s word to his people. He also gave the system of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus so that he could dwell amongst his people. God wants relationship with us and he communicates in order to make that happen.
God continues to speak throughout the New Testament. In the New Testament we have the red letters of Jesus, God in human form, speaking in human language. Countless examples of communication between God and man. Through the person of Jesus we have the clearest example of God working in mankind and people can interact with and touch and see and sit with God and I think that’s awesome.
Then in the New Testament we have the Holy Spirit come in Acts chapter 2, and the Holy Spirit is given to live within the believers, to be a constant ever-present communication and fellowship between mankind and with God. I think that’s so awesome that God gives us his Spirit so that we can communicate with him!
And God finishes the Bible by communicating as well. Revelation is essentially a long and drawn-out, freaky vision where God reveals himself to John. Now, bear in mind, that Revelation is a book of things that have happened and things that are still to happen, so God continues to communicate even to the end of the Bible, and the whole book reveals that God’s intention is to come and dwell with mankind forever. We see a picture of all the tribes and tongues and cultures and people groups before the throne of God in Revelation 7:9. Everybody together worshiping him. Revelation 21, that’s the last chapter of the Bible, we see a loud voice from the throne God communicating and it says, “behold the tabernacle or the dwelling place of God is among mankind and he will dwell among them and they shall be his people and God himself will be among them.” So we see this cool picture of God coming to dwell with his people. He wants to be with us, he wants us to have relationship and communication with him
In the Bible, where God communicates, he communicates for the sake of relationship. When God speaks, he’s developing relationship with us so that we would be more aware of who he is, so that we will be more aware of what he’s up to, and we develop a deeper sense of trust in him. In all our efforts to receive guidance or wisdom from God, we’ve got to remember that developing relationship and communion with him is the priority. Not so that we just have cool stories or cool ministries or cool healings or cool miracles, but so that we would know God, would develop this deep sense of trust in him and security in him, that we would know him more deeply and more intimately. If we lose track of that we lose the main purpose of our lives and of our ministries is to know him .
And through all of these stories and all of these adventures that I’ve been on in missions, my desire is to know God more deeply and that has come through communication with him and through relationship with him. We see that the God of the Bible wants relationship with us, he wants closeness, he wants intimacy with us and all of those things require communication.
So the question is, how does God communicate in the Bible? How does he actually speak to his people?
There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of examples of this stuff in the scriptures. We see God communicating through angels, like in the first chapter of Luke, God communicates to Mary, “you are going to bear a son and he will be called Emmanuel” and this, this communication happens through an angel.
We also see God communicating through dreams and visions. There’s so many of these in the scriptures. We think of Joseph, you know, interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought and famine. God communicating a vision for a leader of a nation and bringing an interpretation through a man of faith. There’s countless other dreams throughout the Bible as well.
God speaks through visions or moving pictures in our, in our mind’s eye, so many examples of that as well. God speaks through prophets in the Old Testament, consistently calling the nation of Israel back to himself. Prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel, people that would have visions or dreams of God and words from God and pass that on to other people.
We see God also speaks through creation. And for me, many times, like, I’ve been at the beach or looking at the stars and I’m just kind of blown away by the vastness or the extent of of God’s brilliance. In Numbers 22 we see God speak through a donkey, he opens the mouth of a donkey to speak to the prophet Balaam, and God trying to catch his attention when he couldn’t see or hear God in another way.
We also see people compelled by the Spirit in in the Bible. We see Jesus is compelled by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested for 40 days and 40 nights. And often I felt compelled by the Spirit to go a particular way or to say a particular thing, uh, when I’m teaching or leading.
We see God also communicate through the still, small voice. The gentle whisper of God into our ears. I think a lot of people long for the audible voice of God, which is another way he communicates, but I think the still, small voice is much more intimate, much closer. You know, when I’m trying to speak to one of my friends, I don’t like to shout at them, I prefer when they’re close enough to hear me. And I think God does the same, he prioritises the whisper over the shout a lot of times.
We see God also speaks through people’s conscience, you know, knowing what is right and what is wrong. We can damage that conscience by deliberately doing the wrong thing over and over and over again but God uses that conscience to lead us and guide us at times.
We see God speaking through the Bible, as well, through scriptures. You know, the Bible is such a great example of how God communicates and it teaches us so much about the character and the nature of God. And when God communicates to us it’s always consistent with his character and his nature and his ways that we see in the Bible.
God communicates through the life of Jesus, there’s so many examples of Jesus speaking and representing the heart of the Father. We see that Jesus did nothing on his own, he never acted on his own accord but he only did what he saw the father doing and he becomes the perfect example of what God looks like for us.
We know that God communicates also through other ways whatever he can use to catch our attention: songs or movies or quotes, things like this that draw our hearts into a position of wonder.
So, God is still speaking to us today through many of these ways that I’ve just mentioned.
We can become more familiar with God’s communication over time. The way that we do that is we surrender our hearts to God. Romans 12:1-2 gives us a picture of this, it says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” For me, this gives the picture of, you know, when we surrender to God, when we allow his preference and his priority to take a larger space in our lives, we become more and more familiar with God’s will and what that looks like. You know, it says we’re renewing our minds to think more like him.
As we offer ourselves to God more and more we become more and more familiar with what his will is and what his voice sounds like. This develops over time as we become more familiar with him, his character, his nature, and his word. Everything that God says is consistent with his character and his nature and everything he says will line up with what we see in the Bible.
So, where can we start today? If you’re wanting to figure out how God can communicate with you, I would start with three ideas.
The first is personal prayer. Tell God what’s on your heart. For a long time I thought I would have to figure out a situation before I could bring it to God. I would become anxious and stressed trying to work things out on my own, but I realised that God wants to know what’s going on with me and so I should run to him. God often loves to speak and give wisdom as I ask his perspective on things. So, personal prayer, tell God what’s on your heart, ask God what’s on his heart or if there’s anything he would like to say into a situation and take time to listen for the still, small voice.
The number of times I felt anxious or stressed out about the future, about finances, about a relationship, or about something to do with my ministry, whenever I take time to listen for that still, small voice I found God loves to speak, he loves to lead, and he loves to guide. Situational wisdom and understanding—“how do I react to this situation God?” and taking time to listen through his small voice. So the first way that I would recommend getting to know God’s communication is with personal prayer.
The second is through personal worship, and worship is simply a response to who God is or what God is doing. Psalm 100, verse 4, says we should enter God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving is thanking God for what he’s done in our lives and praise is declaring who God is. We see these things time and time again in the Bible, people reflecting on who God is and what he’s done for them. The journey of Israel leaving Egypt, we see so many times people are reminded that God has led us out, God has brought us to himself. And I love the, the revelation that comes with that. Personally I’ve, so many times I’ve reflected on God’s activity in my life and who he’s revealed himself to be and that leads me to a place of worship as well.
And the third way we can become familiar with God’s communication is personal Bible study, and there’s so many ways to interact with the Bible! We can read it, we can study it, we can memorise it, we can meditate on scripture. There’s so many different ways to read it as well, we can read it front to back, we can read it chronologically following along with the story. Some of these things help us get familiar with the big picture of the Bible and the main messages of the Bible. I think Psalms and Proverbs, they’re designed for us to sit and ponder and meditate on those things, chew on them and dwell on them throughout the day. This can give us a deep awareness of who God is in the midst of all of those things. Sometimes I write scriptures out because it helps me to remember them. We can read scriptures aloud or read the whole book at once or read the same book multiple times; these things help us to remember the main themes or the main ideas or the main communications of God and those things. We can also take time to memorise scriptures reading the same scripture over and over and over again until it gets buried into your brain and into your heart.
One of those scriptures I was meditating on was Matthew 5:8, it says, “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” For a long time I didn’t feel pure before God, I felt ashamed and guilty for all the wrong stuff that I’d done but meditating on this scripture and looking at the works of Jesus and what he did, reminded me that God had cleansed me and purified me and that meant that I’ll be able to see God at work in my life and get a deeper revelation of who he is.
Now, if you’re not great with reading or you don’t feel comfortable with that you can try the audio Bible there’s a number of different apps out there you can check out. You can check out The Bible Project as well, they produce a whole bunch of cool videos that help you understand the big picture of the main ideas of books. It’s cartoon drawings that are pretty easy to follow along with, I found that really helpful as well. Or you can read and study with a buddy, find a friend that can help keep you accountable and keep you on track.
With all of these things there’s no set pattern. It’s not like you have to step in two hours every morning or two hours every evening spend time with God. When it works for you, prioritise it into your schedule: if you’re a morning, person do it in the morning, if you’re an evening person, do it in the evening.
Interact with God and scripture says that when we draw near to God he will draw near to us, and all of the purpose of seeking God’s advice and guidance is so that we can develop relationship with him, develop trust in him, then we can more accurately reflect him to those around us.
As we want to develop relationship with God or we want to develop a familiarity with the way that he communicates, our mentality should be that of young Samuel in the temple, in the early chapters of 1st Samuel. When God was trying to speak to him, he didn’t realise at first that it was God speaking but eventually he realised maybe God’s trying to talk to me and then his mentality when God spoke to him next was, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” So, mentality, as we come to personal prayer or worship or Bible study, when we make effort to get to know God better, let our mentality be “speak lord for your servant is listening.”
So good! Thank you so much Michael!
I love the part where you said our priority is developing a relationship with God, if we lose track of that we lose the main purpose to our lives. Such a powerful reminder of why we are here!
It seems pretty clear God loves to communicate with us, from the prophets of the Old Testament to the red letters of Jesus in the New Testament, angels, dreams, a conscience, maybe even a donkey! He does that to build our relationship with him.
Now, after listening to that I have a few questions that I want to share with you. Take some time to think on these things and remember: knowledge and information will only change your life through practical application. So, my four takeaways:
Number one: When was the last time you asked God what you should do? It’s so easy for us to come to God with our lists; issues in finances, wanting a new job, this problem or that problem but when did you just ask God what you could do for him today? What is something that would make him proud and put a smile on God’s face?
Number two: A key to hearing from God is allowing him time to speak. If you’re always busy talking to God or you just rush through your time with the Lord, you may miss what he is wanting to say. So, slow down and give God room to reply. Maybe that means after you pray, just sitting for a little while longer or pausing after you read a scripture to see if there’s something that applies to your life. This may feel a little strange at first but give it some time and allow God to speak!
Number three: Is there something today you need God to speak into? Remember, surrender your heart and will and simply come to God, tell him what is on your heart, and ask him for help. Remember to allow God’s preference and priority in your life.
And number four: Remember God’s timing, just because you asked doesn’t mean God needs to answer that very minute. God moves in his own perfect timing, so be patient and persistent and trust in your all-knowing, loving God’s timing.
Well, thank you so much for joining us on today’s episode on the ways to recognise God’s voice. I hope this sparked your interest to better understand God and to realise the impact being able to communicate with God has on our lives.
Like Michael mentions, one of the ways God communicates to us is through the Bible. Over on our instagram we have a great resource to help you better understand the Bible with experienced and passionate teachers helping us engage with the truths of the Bible and giving us a great overview of God’s word. If you’re looking for a place to start or just mix things up with your time with God check it out and see what God might speak to you today.
We hope you will join us again next week for what I know will be another great message! Together, let’s keep discovering more about God.