When I was about eight years old, I remember laying in my bed while the rest of my family were awake in the kitchen. This was well before the genius of white noise machines. So I was trying to power down listening to dishes being put away and conversations I was missing.
As I lay there I wondered about God—was he really who I had been taught? Was he really who the Bible said he was? Was he for me, available to me, worth living my life for?
Like any eight-year-old, my prayer became “If you’re real, God, close the microwave door!”
That’s actually not a typo. I really asked God to prove himself by letting me hear the microwave door slam.
I laid there for what must have been 10 minutes until finally—slam! Somewhere in my little heart I rejoiced and at the same time, wondered if I happened to pray that prayer while someone happened to be using the microwave.
Could this perceived word from God actually be a coincidence? Could it be trusted?
As an adult, my prayers are less about household appliances and more of “If you would just speak audibly, God. . .” or “If you would just write it on a billboard for me or give me a vision or a dream. . .”
These kinds of prayers always leave me wanting.
For one, I’ve still never heard God’s audible voice. Second, when I do receive perceived signs, I’m confused with the same questions as my eight-year-old self.
Is this really God speaking? Or did I happen to pray a perfectly timed prayer yielding my desired answer? Even worse . . . if there are supernatural forces at work here, who’s to say it’s God?
I imagine we all deal with this to one degree or another.
Some of us may be begging God to prove himself by healing our loved ones, or by making a friend bring up a particular topic in conversation. When what we wanted happens, we rejoice. And when it doesn’t, we’re left doubting God. Maybe you pray so passionately and emotionally for something—a spouse or to have kids—that you confuse how you feel with what God is saying.
So, what do we do when we want to hear God’s voice? Does God still actually speak? Where can we go to hear his voice?
God’s Final, Authoritative Communication is Jesus
Sometimes I consider the ways that God revealed himself in the Old Testament and wish I could see him move like he did when he parted the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed on dry land (Ex 14). I think about God speaking through donkeys (Num 22:28) and feel like it would be pretty nice to receive such a miraculous and obvious word from God.
God, if only you could use my labrador retriever to speak to me.
But scripture is teaching me that what God reveals in Jesus is a better revelation.
In the Old Testament, they only had prophets and miraculous events. They only had the parting of the Red Sea, they only had a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud, they only had food falling from the sky (Ex 13). But we have Jesus—the full revelation of who God is, a final form of communication (Jn 1:1).
In Hebrews 1:1, the author breaks all of time in half; long ago God spoke through prophets, but in “these last days” since Christ came, he has spoken to us through his Son. What God communicates through Jesus is so complete that we don’t need another authoritative word. We already have all we need.
But how do we find Jesus’ help in life’s practical struggles?
How God Speaks through Jesus
When I want to know what God is like, what he’s commanded, what makes his heart rejoice, I need to look at Jesus—not just the words he spoke, but the life he lived. The clarity and help we get with Jesus is better than God speaking audibly; it's better than a flashing billboard pointing us in the way we should go.
It’s better because through believing in the life and death of Jesus for me, I receive his Holy Spirit to live inside of me (Jn 14:15-17, 16:7). This Spirit gives me Jesus’ very faith in his father, bringing me to spiritual life and over time, changing me to actually be more like Jesus in trusting God (Jn 14:18-21; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 2:8, 22). He guides me to understand and believe what God has said to me through his word (Jn 14:25-26). He applies Jesus’ work through applying God’s word to my heart (Jn 16:5-11).
In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem says that scripture “contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”
If I believe that the scriptures are without error (Jn 17:17), then I have to trust in them to be my ultimate authority. If I’m God’s child and I read his scriptures, then I hear his voice (Jn 10:27).
The Bible won’t always tell us the details we want to know in uncertain times—whether we should take a new job, move overseas, pursue fertility treatments or marry someone. But it does tell us about our hearts and how to test their desires for faithfulness to Christ in making these choices. It also tells us something better; that we can trust the omniscient God who does know these answers and the sovereign God who will complete his faithfulness to us regardless of what we choose.
When I’m desperate for some direction and clarity in my life, I can use the resources God has given me for discernment in my choices: his word’s wisdom, others’ godly counsel and of course, prayer. I can research online and read articles and books. But if I’m searching for an authoritative direction from God apart from Christ, I’m chasing after the wind, failing to leverage the powerful words he’s already spoken for me.
Today, if you want to hear God’s voice, read the word he’s absolutely given to us. Feast on it. Devour it. God’s word is the only place that does not dry up (Ps 1:1-4). It never fails; it never leads me astray; it can be trusted completely (Ps 19:7-10; Rom 9:6-8). It always delivers; it always yields fruit (Is 55:11). Because he who has promised is faithful (1 Thes 5:24).