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, there’s one question I get asked the most.
“How do I know the voice I’m hearing is really God?”
The answer is at once very simple and very hard. You can tell it’s God’s voice, because you recognize it.
I’ve come to realize that voice is vitally important to a writer 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 move forward when He calls, and share what He has for us to share. This is a topic of the heart.
That’s brings us back to the original question. How do we recognize God’s voice?
How do we recognize anyone’s voice? We do so by becoming familiar with the timber, pitch and way of speaking.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve answered the phone and the person at the other end launches directly into the conversation without identifying themselves. Sometimes I can spend several moments wondering who they were. I’ve found this doesn’t often happen when the person on the other end is a close friend.
The reason? I recognize the voices of my friends because I spend a good deal of time with them. I know the tone of voice and I know the way they speak.
To recognize God’s voice we have to do the same thing—spend time with Him. We must invest quality time in prayer, worship and study with Him. With that commitment of time has come the reward of a deep relationship and the assurance of knowing whose voice we hear.
This doesn’t mean I always get it right. there are still times when I question whether or not it’s God speaking. But God knows me and knows how to get my attention if I’m unsure. And I can say with certainty that those times have become less and less, the closer I get to God.