When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." John 10:4-5 (NIV)
Throughout my years of teaching—whether I was at a writers conference, womens retreat or a Bible study—probably the question I’ve been asked the most has been, “How do I know it’s really God speaking to me?”
The answer is at once very simple and very hard. You can tell it’s God’s voice, because you recognize it.
Voice is a technical term for writers and is the quality that makes an author’s writing unique. It encapsulates the author’s attitude, personality, and character.
As a writer, voice is vitally important in two ways:
We have to come to embrace and utilize the uniqueness of our own personal voice when we write. This is a topic of craft.
We also have to come to recognize God’s voice so that we can share what He has for us to share. This is a topic of the heart.
So back to the original question, how do we recognize God’s voice?
How do we recognize anyone’s voice—by becoming familiar with the timber, pitch and way of speaking.
I’m sure everyone’s had the unsettling experience of answering the phone and having someone launch into a personal conversation without identifying themselves. Sometimes I can spend several minutes trying to figure out who I’m speaking with.
This rarely happens when the person at the other end of the line is a good friend. The reason? Because I know the voice of those I spend time with. (The only time I don’t recognize a close friend is if there’s interference on the line…and that’s a subject for a future devotion.)
To recognize God’s voice we have to spend time with Him—quality time—in prayer, worship and study. With that commitment of time comes the reward of a deep relationship and the assurance of knowing whose voice we hear.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t still times when I question whether or not it’s God speaking, but I can say with certainty that those times become less and less, the closer I get to God.
What are some ways you’ve found to recognize God’s voice? I’d love to hear your stories.