How Does God Speak?
There are various ways that the Lord may choose to speak to us by way of revelation. We will examine some here:
The Word of God—The most important way we hear God is through His Word. As discussed earlier, the scriptures are the ultimate plumb line by which we measure other revelation. The Holy scriptures are able to make us wise (see 2 Tim. 3:15).
Still, small voice of God—Elijah did not hear God in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but only in the still, small voice (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). Often, the still, small voice sounds like our own thoughts as the Lord communicates to us subtly as His thoughts invade ours (see Ps. 40:5).
Visions / Pictures—We can see in the spirit through still pictures or unfolding visions as the eyes of our understanding are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. (More on this is in the section entitled, “The Seeing Realm.”)
Dreams—Dreams are an important way God speaks to His people.
Things in the Natural that speak of the supernatural—God can speak spiritual messages through nature. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” How can one deny the existence of God when you see the multitudes of stars, the complexity of human anatomy, or the beauty of a sunset? Additionally, the Lord can use seemingly ordinary things to speak to us: a newspaper heading, a billboard, or a particular object that crosses our path at a specific moment in time.
John and I were once driving on country roads while discussing our children’s department in the church we pastored at the time. We realized the department needed help and we were discussing if we should take turns leading kids ministry or what should be done. At that moment we came upon a car in front of us with the license plate ACTZ 636. Immediately we said to one another, “Acts 6:3-6! I wonder what that says.” I got out my Bible to read how the apostles were faced with a need for practical help in the ministry. They decided it wise to seek out others to lead this department and they said, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It goes on to say how they chose Stephen and six others and laid hands on them to commission them. Amazingly, it was a couple months after this incident where the Lord gave us a man named Stephen to lead our children’s ministry.
Word of Wisdom—When the Lord gives divine instruction, blueprints, or insight into certain situations, it can be called a word of wisdom (see 1 Cor. 12:8). As we ask for wisdom in life circumstances, we will receive it.
Word of Knowledge—A word of knowledge is simply insight or information given divinely (see 1 Cor. 12:8). This is particularly helpful in prophetic evangelism, where information divinely received about an individual often helps open their hearts to the revelation that there is indeed a God who knows all things about them (see 1 Cor. 14:24-25).
Discernment—Also referred to as impressions, discernment is the ability to differentiate what is of God and what is not (see 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 John 4:1). We can receive from the Holy Spirit discernment of gifts, spirits, actions, intentions, and discernment of the times we are living in (see Matt. 16:2-3). Especially as the evil one parades himself as an angel of light, discernment is needed to not participate in things not pleasing to the Lord. I have found that my discernment for which movies are okay for my children to watch and which are not okay has grown over the years. A check in my spirit will indicate what movie or music is not acceptable, often from just hearing its title or looking at an ad for it. We need to pay attention to our impressions (gut instinct) as we become more and more holy, given to the Lord, and sanctified, our impressions and discernment will increase in accuracy.
Years ago we started to experience money disappearing from our home. Our son was missing $400 from his room from the sale of his dog. Money was missing from drawers and wallets. It was troubling. After interviewing our children and the helper who lived with us, we knew no one in our home was stealing the money. We had next-door neighbors who outwardly appeared to have it all together. They were a good-looking family of four with a son and daughter who were friends with our kids. Their house was larger than ours; they drove fancy, new cars, and dressed impeccably. However, my discernment rose up and somehow I knew the wife in this family was the one taking the money from us. We had no proof initially but our helper had befriended this woman and sought to witness to her, having her over for tea when we were not at home. Sure enough, we did catch her stealing from us and it came to light that this woman was a kleptomaniac: someone who compulsively steals, not necessarily for personal gain but because an inner urge to steal is so powerful. Listen to the discernment God is giving you all the while not giving into unrighteous judgments. True discernment will be proven with time.
Peace or Lack of Peace—Since peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22) the Spirit will use peace as a way to communicate to us. Particularly for decisions that need to be made; do you have peace with a decision or path of action, or lack of peace? John and I have found a great safety in ensuring both of us have peace before proceeding in important decisions that affect our family. If one or the other of us does not have peace, we will not go forward. We have seen this save us from trouble time and again.
Circumstances—Doors that open and doors that close can be indications of God’s will. If we are banging on doors that simply refuse to budge, it isn’t always the devil holding it closed. It may not be the best for you or the timing may not be right. When the disciples would come to a city that refused them, they were instructed to shake the dust off their feet and go elsewhere (see Matt. 10:14). When Paul found himself shipwrecked on the island of Malta, it only opened up an opportunity to bring the gospel of salvation and healing to that land (see Acts 28).
Others—The Lord certainly uses other people to speak to us. They may be giving us a prophecy (see 1 Cor. 14), or they may simply be telling a story, or speaking to us in a casual setting but something they say resonates within us as being a word from the Lord. Preachers and teachers certainly communicate to us from the Lord. Sometimes we can receive words from less likely sources such as little children. When our daughter Zoe was six years old, she scribbled a note to my husband, “Dad I want you to come home.” It struck him powerfully that he was too busy and needed to prioritize his time to be home more with the family.
Angels—Biblical precedence for angelic activity is large in scope and amount. Angels are used to deliver messages (see Dan. 9:21-22), war with the demonic (see Dan. 10:13), protect (see Ps. 91:11-12), bring freedom (see Acts 5:19), minister to God’s people (see Heb. 1:14), worship the Lord and do His bidding (see Ps. 103:20-21). When I was eight years old, two individuals came to my family’s farm and spoke to me. They told me of things to come in my life, many of which have already been fulfilled. They also spoke of a great harvest of souls I would see in my lifetime. I never forgot the interaction as it branded me for the rest of my life to want to know and serve the Lord. When I asked my mother, working nearby, whom the people were who came to speak with me, she replied, “What people?”Later I would read in Hebrews 13:2 how angels can appear in human form.
Audible Voice of God—The Lord spoke audibly throughout the Bible. A significant interaction occurred at Jesus’ baptism where the Father affirmed His Son, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). My grandmother had been in great pain with arthritis for years. One day, she was praying on her knees for others as she did every day, when she heard the audible, booming voice of God say, “Pray for yourself.” She was stunned, and used to praying for everyone else; it took the same message to come three times before my grandmother did pray for herself and she was instantly healed of all arthritis for the rest of her life.