Business owners make hundreds of decisions each week. Many are made without much thought, but others are made only after careful consideration. A few decision may require weeks or even months of consideration.
Christian business owners will need to hear God’s voice in making decisions if they are going to follow the Lord as He directs the affairs of their business. To those who don’t believe in God, this would be a preposterous idea. But for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, consulting with the Lord when making decisions is a core way of following Him.
The Bible teaches a firm foundation for hearing the voice of God:
Isaiah 30.19-21: “People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. 20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
Hebrews 3.7-8: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness. . . .’”
John 10.1-5: “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
These passages show the ease with which you can embrace the idea that God speaks to us in our personal relationship with Him—not just through the Bible but through our regenerated spirits as we commune with Him. Many shy away from this theology, however, believing that it opens them to following deceptive voices. This is a possibility, but we are not taught to flinch from hearing the voice of God simply because the enemy may, at times, deceive us. Over time and with practice, one can become sensitive to the Spirit’s voice, recognizing when it is the Spirit speaking and when it is the enemy.
I hear the voice of God as thoughts in my mind. For example, sometimes when I’m praying I ask the Lord if He has anything to say to me. Almost always I first hear, “I love you,” and often there is more He wants to say to me as well. His voice is in keeping with the story of how God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 19.9-12. By contrast, if we were to use pop culture as a basis for learning how God speaks, then we would end up with an impersonal God who has a very deep male voice, booming and thundering as He talks. But the Bible shows God speaking to us in a different way.
1 Kings 19.9-12 says:
“And the word of the Lord came to him: “what are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your profits to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me to.” The Lord said, “go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire and after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
In this passage we have a contrasting picture of how people think God should portray Himself versus how God chooses to portray Himself. Our Hollywood notions of how God communicates with us are completely wrong. Throughout the Scriptures we find God coming to us in humility and gentleness. We find Him walking in the cool of the garden with Adam and Eve, talking with them like a good friend as they walk along the road together. It is true that God led the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, but He also came to Elijah in a gentle whisper as we see here in 1 Kings 19. We also find Him coming into this world the baby of a poor and humble couple who had little, if any, political and economic standing within the Israelite community. In Philippians we are told that Christ gave up His glory for a period of time, making Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to death on a cross. In Revelation we find Christ coming back in power and glory, but during this dispensation, He comes to us with gentleness and humility and calls to each of us to follow Him.
Christ talks with us through our spirits. While it is true that you can mistake a deceptive voice for the voice of God, it is also true that your spirit—the same spirit that has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit—will put checks inside you, letting you know when you are listening to a deceptive voice and confirming when you’re listening to the voice of god. In my own experience, when I compare the message of the deceptive voice to that of the spirit, I always find that the deceptive voice is feeding me a message which is either out of character for God or inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture. The truth does set us free.
You might recall the beautiful hymn In The Garden written by C. Austin Miles. I remember singing this hymn as a boy, but at the time I didn’t understand its’ full message. I was taught that God speaks to us only through the Bible—the written word. But now that I have learned that Christ can and does speak with us in many other ways, this hymn takes on new meaning:
I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses;
and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses
He speaks, and the sound of his voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing
and the melody that he gave to me within my heart is ringing
I’d stay in the garden with him though the night around me befalling
but he bids me go, through the voice of wall, his voice to me is calling
And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own
and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
Pragmatically, how do you hear the voice of God? Well, here’s a track for you to run on. It’s not so much the words that are used as it is the intention and motivations of your heart. So, while I present some phraseology to use, it is presented only to help you get started. You’ll likely modify this and make it your own over time – which I encourage you to do.
Step 1: Confess Your Sins and Get Right with God
First, when you want to hear God’s voice, simply go to prayer. Start by praising Him and confessing any sin that you have. I usually ask God if there is any sin that I need to confess – which is, by the way, a great way to learn what the voice of God sounds like. Satan never wants you to confess sin, so he won’t be able to imitate this or deceive you on this. Instead, he’ll try to distract you or place “noise” in the communication pipeline. I’ll deal with these two things in a moment.
The reason we confess our sin (and presumably repent of it) is because God can’t fellowship with us when we’re living in sin. So, while the confession of sin is seen as old fashioned and perhaps not hip or cool, if you want to hear God’s voice, you’ll do so on His terms, not yours, and confessing your sin is something He requires.
I usually just ask: “God, is there any sin I need to confess?” Then I wait and let Him direct my mind to events in the last few hours or days. He’ll show me where I was rude, arrogant, discouraging, coveting and so forth. Then I name the sin for what it is – I don’t mince words or minimize in any way. If I looked on a woman with lust, I confess that I committed adultery. It’s not complicated. It might be hard. But it’s not complicated.
Step 2: Take Authority over the Demonic
Secondly, use your authority as a child of God to command the demonic forces to be silenced. Here, I use phrases like this: “In the name of Jesus, I command all the demonic forces to be silent.” I have learned that the demonic can fill your mind with “noise” – I don’t know how else to describe it – but it’s a type of spiritual noise for which I don’t have a good English word to describe. Also, at times, there is an oppression that I feel, depending on the type of decision that can accompany the noise. Silencing the noise usually removes the oppression too. If not, I pray against the oppression by asking God for the freedom that is due to me because I’m living in and focusing on truth.
Step 3: Ask God for Sensitivity to His Voice
Overtime, you’ll need to ask for this less and less, but in the beginning, I found this was an important step not to miss. So, not only do I come against the demonic, but I also draw near to God by asking for sensitivity to His voice as spoken through the Holy Spirit (John 16). I usually phrase it like this: “Lord, I ask for unusual sensitivity to your Spirit and pay attention only to your voice.” Again, over time, I’ve learned to sense a change in the spiritual realm around me as I pray through these steps.
Step 4: Ask Clearly and Directly
“You have not because you ask not” says James in chapter 4, verse 2. So again, just like Step 1 where we don’t minimize or “beat around the bush” when it comes to confessing sin, we also don’t mince words here. We approach the throne of God boldly and place before God directly and clearly what our request is.
Step 5: Wait for an Answer, but don’t wait too long
As you develop this skill of hearing God’s voice, you’ll learn that God speaks pretty quickly when we approach Him and ask for His will. I’ve witnessed people sit for several minutes waiting for God to speak. What I find they are usually doing is trying to discern if the voice they are hearing is that of God or they don’t trust themselves, so they keep trying to listen for more after they have heard an initial message.
From where I sit, it seems to me that what you hear the first time is usually the voice of God. So perhaps I’m naïve, but I step out and say that I’ve heard God’s voice – especially if the message doesn’t contradict Scripture. It’s not anything to puff up about – in fact – it’s a humbling experience. But a joyful one too. Almost always, when I hear from God, I receive a type of confirming peace in my spirit and soul. I may not understand how all of what God is telling me will work out, but I can be confident that what He has said will come to pass.
Troubleshooting Hearing the Voice of God.
For some, there will be some problems implementing this (or another) method of hearing God’s voice. Let me cover some common problems that Christians encounter and then offer some ideas on how to resolve those issues.
“I didn’t hear anything”
This is not uncommon, when starting out, to not hear anything. You try, you pray and still you don’t hear anything. When this happens, I’ll suggest that one of two (or both) things are in play. First, you have unconfessed sin in your life or an unresolved area of sin in which you’re unwilling to submit that area of your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Unsubmitted parts of our lives can and will get in the way of hearing God’s voice. You can’t expect God to lead you intimately when you’re in rebellion before Him.
Secondly, you may not know how to discern His voice. So, I’ll suggest that you run through these steps outlined above with the intention of asking God to give you someone you should pray for this week. The enemy doesn’t want you praying, so he’ll not give you any names. Whatever names you do hear will be from the Lord and this will give you an introduction as to what God’s voice sounds like.
Now, if your life is submitted to Him and if you can’t discern His voice, then ask God why you’re not hearing. Paradoxically, He’ll tell you. You may need the wisdom and mentoring of someone who knows how to hear God’s voice to help you at this point. But with some persistence, you’ll begin to hear and discern His voice.
“All I Get is Confusing Thoughts Racing Through my Head”
Some of this can be due to unconfessed sin or to interference by the enemy. But some of it might be you getting in your own way. If you’re high control person who naturally needs to figure things out or you like to analyze situations to the nth degree, then you’re likely getting in your own way. So, as part of your learning process, commit your trust and confidence to God and His methods and set aside, for a time anyways, your own need to control and have it all figured out.
The truth is that most serious ministry requires serious risk in which God Himself is the only one who can provide for that risk and/or protect from that risk. Just look at all the risks our forefathers in the faith took when they moved out for God. None of them did so having everything figured out and yet, their faith was commended to them as righteousness (Hebrews 11.4).
“God’s Answer Doesn’t Make Sense” or “He’s Told Me ‘I’ll Tell You Later’”
I’ve actually had the latter in an answer. Much of what we need to know in order to live blamelessly before God is already given to us in the Bible (Psalm 119.1). Asking God for direction and hearing his voice is no substitute for studying and knowing the Word of God. We are not looked on favorably when we’ve not first studied God’s word and then we go to ask Him for directly.
To be a bit facetious, if I were to ask God about a decision to rob a bank, I doubt I’d hear much back from Him because that question has already been answered in the Bible. It’s usually best to first understand what the Bible has to say about a particular decision and then go to God and ask for His guidance. Not only have we learned what God has already said, but we have a knowledge of the Bible that will keep us from being deceived when the enemy tries to plan in our heads messages that contradict God’s Word. It’s more difficult to understand deception when one first doesn’t understand the truth.
Often, the reason God’s answer doesn’t make sense is because we don’t understand the Bible and what it teaches about how God operates. Let us not be slothful in know the Word of God.
By the way, knowing God’s word is one of the best guards we can have against sin. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee”. Amen.
“My Friend told me they heard from God for me”
I usually take these types of messages from loving friends with a grain of salt. If God can speak to them, then why doesn’t he speak directly to you or I? When people tell me they’ve heard from God on my behalf for me, I usually find they are strong-willed people who want to tell me what to do, but they don’t have the courage to come out and say it, so they couch it in Christian language. And even if God did speak to them about me, it’s just another data point for me to consider. I’m not obligated to follow them, I’m only obligated to follow God, so I’ll usually say “I’ll take that to prayer and see if I hear the same thing from God as you have heard”.
Then I pray and ask God and follow what I hear.
Is this Method Practical?
I can hear people saying – “I’m not going to stop and go through these steps when deciding which Jimmy John’s sandwich I want for lunch!” I agree. But this pushback is usually something that comes from those who don’t like this theology in the first place or they have a rebellious heart against God.
Mature Christian Business Owners will be able to discern when to use this method vs. when to just ask God for guidance quickly vs. just making decisions on their own. But even in the latter case, God is watching and He will place a check in your spirit if He knows you should make a different decision.
And over time, as you learn to practice this method, you’ll be able to discern more and more quickly what God is saying and how the enemy might be trying to deceive you. Don’t let the perceived impracticality of this method keep you from trying it out.
In business, we need to hear God’s voice in order to run our businesses God’s way. This is a core aspect of stewarding that which He has given to us. For the Christian business owner, running a business is filled with decisions. May you hear the voice of God as He leads you in stewarding the business that He has given you.