How do you hear and discern the voice of God and how should you respond? I was recently at our local Costco store to purchase some items. While walking the aisles in the midst of the bustling mid- Sunday shopping crowds, I spotted a middle-aged woman with a sad, forlorn look, slowly pushing an empty cart. I had just about walked past her when I heard in my spirit, what I perceived to be God’s voice saying, “Go to her and give her $20.” My initial reaction was that perhaps this was my imagination and I put it out of my mind. Like most people, I did not feel it appropriate to approach a stranger in a crowded store and offer to give them money no matter how discrete I would have thought I was being. I proceeded with my shopping and soon graduated to the other side of the store. The problem was, I could not get the woman out of my mind. I kept feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit to go back to her and give her the money. Interestingly, a few minutes later, there she was again close to where I was standing, but this time she was talking to a man in a wheelchair, who I presumed was her husband. I still strongly felt the nudging of the Spirit to go give her the money, but I now reasoned that for sure, if she was with this man, I could not possibly just go to her and offer her money in his presence. This time, I quietly prayed to God that if this was Him asking me to do this, He should make it obvious by letting me see the couple again at the checkout prior to leaving the store.
I finished my shopping, checked out my items at the counter on the far side of the exit and was pushing my cart towards the exit when I looked at the checkout aisle to my right, and – you guessed it, there was the couple waiting to check out. Strangely enough, this time around the man was standing up and the woman who had been slowly pushing the cart was now the one in the wheelchair! I thought this was really weird, but also felt it was very plain now what God wanted me to do; I did not hesitate anymore. I went over and greeted them. The man barely acknowledged my presence, turned away from me as if to say “I have no time for you right now” but he said clearly to the woman, “I do not know how I am going to pay for these items”. That was all the confirmation I needed. I faced the heavily burdened looking woman and said; forgive me ma’am, I do not mean to intrude or be insulting, but I feel God asking me to give you this $20 bill. The woman looked at me for a moment that seemed like an eternity, then reached out her hand and said – thank you very much, with a look of great relief on her face. The same man that had brushed me off also looked at me and thanked me, then turned to the woman and said, “Is that really a $20 bill? Let me see what it looks like!”
Having obeyed, I felt my part was done, and I moved on with my cart and headed towards the exit on my way back home.
Hearing the voice of God takes knowing Him. Spend time with Him in prayer, reading His word and meditating on it. God’s voice is always in line with His written word and His character. It always edifies or builds you or others up, it is never destructive or harmful to you or to others. If what you are sensing is not in line with God’s character, contradictory to His word or destructive in nature, it is not Him you are hearing, and you may need help or counsel from a professional.
- God always confirms His word. In the Costco scenario, I asked God for confirmation of His word, and He gave it. Also, the words of the man to his wife themselves were confirmatory. If there is no confirmation, or if what you are hearing creates turmoil in you, you need to reconsider. God is not the author of confusion. His way always leads to peace.
- God desires obedience once you have confirmation. While the amount of money I was asked to give was not much to me, it was obviously a great amount and need to the couple. Obedience is preferred by God to sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; I Samuel 15:22) and is the tool for Christians to be the hands and feet of Christ on earth. While I did not know what the couple’s situation was, and was even apprehensive about the significance or motivation behind their switching seats on the wheelchair, God clearly had plans for them that a $20 bill was a part of. They clearly had a need that God needed someone’s hands and feet to meet.
If you love God, you should strive daily to hear him and to obey His commands. Had I chosen to disobey the prompting to give $20, but later on my own accord decided to donate a larger amount to someone else unprompted, no matter how much I gave, it would not have been as pleasing or not pleasing at all to God. Doing good based on your own understanding is not equivalent to doing God’s will.
I strongly encourage you to practice listening to and hearing the voice of God, and then learning to be obedient using the principles above.
Read and meditate on the following verses: 1 John 2:3, 1 John 3: 24, 1 John 5: 3, 1 John 2:4, and 2 John 1:6.