That’s Not God
According to Williams, there are four ways you can tell you are not hearing God’s voice:
- God never says anything that contradicts Scripture
- God’s voice is not the voice of anxiety, unsettledness or exhaustion
- God’s voice is not the voice of obscurity – “Clear trumpet”
- God’s corrective voice is not one of guilt or condemnation but loving discipline and conviction of sin
Today, we’ll examine number three: God’s voice is not the voice of obscurity – “Clear trumpet”
Williams explains number three, saying,
We preach and teach a lot here about what we call the “Clear trumpet” call. Again, there’s no confusion, there’s no contradiction in the voice of God. When He speaks it will be clear and we will discern and understand and know that it’s the voice of God. If there’s confusion, if there’s a lot of static and a lot of different voices saying different things, that’s not God.
While I don’t necessarily think that number three is wrong, I think it is unclear, no pun intended. I admit ignorance, because I have not heard the specific preaching and teaching about the clear trumpet call to which Williams referred. His listeners likely have a better idea of what he’s talking about. But many readers of this blog have their own ideas about obscurity and clarity and hearing the voice of God. So my aim in this blog post is to clarify and expound on number three.
There are two ideas introduced…
…first, what God’s voice is not (obscurity), and second, what God’s voice is (clear).
There’s a paradox in proclaiming clarity.
Intuitively, in order for the statement, “God’s voice is not the voice of obscurity; God’s voice is a clear trumpet” to be true, anyone who hears the statement must possess all the knowledge necessary to conclude its truth. In other words, it must be something that is already apparent to him or her, before he or she hears Williams say so. Williams saying so just affirms what they already know to be true. Think about it. There’s a paradox in proclaiming clarity. If it’s clear, there’s no need to assert that it’s clear, because everyone already knows it’s clear. By proclaiming its clarity, we can assume that for some people (most of us, if we are to be honest with ourselves and with God), God’s voice doesn’t always seem clear as a trumpet.
I’m not saying that Williams is wrong. After all, God spoke, and the universe sprung into existence. Jesus spoke, and deaf people heard. What I am saying is that the clarity of God’s voice and the state of the listener are two entirely different concepts. Ultimately, clarity depends on both the speaker and the audience. With perfect listeners, God’s voice is perfectly clear. And since God’s audience consists of fallible human beings, clarity can and does get lost somewhere between God’s utterance and the audience’s understanding. Variables to consider when God speaks to us include:
- How receptive are we?
- How interested are we?
- How distracted are we?
- How confused are we?
- What biases do we have? In other words, how likely are we to discard or embrace what God says before we hear it?
- How skeptical are we?
- How hopeful are we?
Something else to consider… if God’s voice is clear as a trumpet, then why should confirmation matter at all? Isn’t confirmation a non-issue to one who has already clearly heard and understood the voice of God? Which leads to a couple more considerations:
- Do we rely too heavily on confirmation (scripture, preaching, teaching, prophecy, open and closed doors, pastors, teachers, elders, wise counsel, etc.)?
- Are we likely to assume too much, charging ahead, dismissing confirmation?
Perhaps some would say this blog post does more harm then good, causing readers heads to spin with contradiction and confusion, or leading readers in too many different directions at once. Since my goal is to clear away misconceptions…
Here are a few MISCONCEPTIONS:
- If you don’t hear God’s voice clear as a trumpet, then it must not be the voice of God.
- If you hear what you think is God’s voice from an obscure (not mainstream, nonorthodox, somewhat hidden, etc.) source, then it must not be the voice of God.
- If you experience any confusion after hearing what you believe to be the voice of God, then it’s not the voice of God.
- If you experience any doubt after hearing what you believe to be the voice of God, then it’s not the voice of God.
If you believe I am mistaken and that these are NOT misconceptions, a cursory reading of Matthew 13 may convince you otherwise.
If you think you are hearing from God, but you aren’t sure, you might want to consider what kind of listener you are during this season of your spiritual journey. There are times when we fully share God’s will, and it is oh-so-easy to accept what God says in the most natural and transparent way. There are times when we accept some social or emotional situation that puts us in oppositional relation to God’s will, and it is oh-so-difficult to understand what God says, so much so, that we think it can’t possibly the voice of God, because it is so unnatural and confusing.
So you think you are hearing from God? Ask yourself, “This thing God is saying to me, does it reflect my own position? Does it fit neatly into my own experiences and interests?” If you answered yes to either of those questions, you might want to ask the Spirit of God to examine your heart and reveal what kind of listener you are. Maybe you are hearing Him clearly, but it should seem a bit suspect if God never ruffles your feathers.
Here are some practical ways to practice being a good listener:
When you pray, you should be silent sometimes. If you are always talking, then you’re not listening.
Let go of preconceptions.
God might tell you things you don’t expect to hear.
If you feel confused, have doubts, don’t understand, or whatever, ask God specific questions. Ask hard questions — the ones you’re afraid to ask. God can handle it.
Write it down.
Keeping a spiritual journal helps you recognize patterns of behavior and thinking that break down communication with God. A spiritual journal also helps you recognize ways that God speaks to you that you never recognized before. A lot of people complain that God doesn’t answer their prayers, but a spiritual journal documents and clarifies God’s answers: yes, no, wait… and the most powerful, life-changing answers He gives are often in the form of questions — invitations to explore the depths and heights and dream bigger. Let Him knock your spiritual socks off.
Sometimes God communicates, well, inconveniently, and in ways that we least expect. Be receptive. Always. Don’t dismiss His message because it happens to be delivered by someone not in your tribe, for example, a pot-smoking, vegan transvestite.
Read the other blogs in this series here.