Are you married? I am. I have a relationship with my sweetheart that’s pretty special.
A relationship between a believer and God is kind of like that. We are the beloved, he is our lover, our fiancé.
I don’t know about you, but when my sweetheart and I talk, there are a whole
LOT of things that I really prefer she not tell the whole world about. Some of it, nobody else would understand; others are private matters. There’s a lot that really belongs just between her and me.
It’s that way with hearing God’s voice. Most of what we hear (I estimate something on the order of 90%) is just for us privately. It’s small talk, intimate talk, just between God and me. Some of it is an invitation for prayer. Some is just building a relationship.
That leaves maybe 10% of what I hear that’s appropriate to be shared. Most of that (I estimate 90% or so of what remains) is just for sharing informally with the people I have relationship with: visiting over coffee, talking on the phone, sharing in church or home group. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt God say something, and felt the freedom to share it, then I send an email or a Facebook message, and it was exactly what they needed to hear.
That leaves just a tiny fraction – less than one percent – of what I hear from God that’s for sharing with people I don’t have a relationship with. Most of the time, God has people who DO know them through whom He can speak; he doesn’t need to use a stranger. There are exceptions, but this seems to be a good rule of thumb: If most of what we hear from God isn’t for us personally, then there’s something wrong with our love relationship with him.
I run into people from time to time who think that they don’t hear God’s voice. (Frankly, I used to be one of them; I understand this position well.) The problem is that Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27) Are you his sheep? Then either you hear his voice, or he was mistaken, and I’m guessing he wasn’t mistaken.
Note that “hearing his voice” and “recognizing his voice” are different skills. You already hear his voice. He says so. Now learn to pick his voice out from the other voices. Hint: it’s not always in words; sometimes it’s in pictures, or feelings, or thoughts. He does things creatively.
Jesus taught more on this in Luke 11:
So if you’re asking God to speak to you, and if you’re pressing in to hear and to learn to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, what will he do? What does Jesus say he’ll do? Maybe he’ll give you a serpent or a scorpion? Probably not. He’ll give the Holy Spirit. If you’re asking, and you see a picture, ask about the picture.
English is not God’s first language, you know.
Now having said that, I need to add a limitation of the real world: The truth is that everybody who does work in a gift of God has a limited understanding of the gift. Some have more experience than others, sure. But anybody who thinks they have it down is mistaken. I know people who have changed the heavens with declarations, raised the dead, declared the future in detail, and the truthful ones admit their understanding is incomplete. Really, when you think about it, it’s kind of hard for a limited human mind to understand an infinite almighty God.
The other thing: just because someone knows how to prophesy doesn’t change their character, their nature. If they’re rude in their conversation, then their prophecy is probably rude. If they’re prone to a religious spirit when they’re talking, they’ll be religious in their prophecy. Prophecy – like any other gift – has nothing to do with the ooky-spooky idea of God taking over my body. It’s still me. I’m just listening to my dad. If I’m a jerk when I’m listening to you, I’ll probably still be a jerk when I’m listening to him. Unless I’m really religious, and then I can hide it.