We live in a time where everything that once seemed settled is shaking. A time in which we as Christians are faced with many and important choices. It might be tempting to approach a leader and ask what he/she thinks is best. But God wants to equip us to hear His voice ourselves. This will help us to persevere and stand firm when things get tough. Tony and Dwee Cooke are directors of Streams Training Centre England, part of Streams Ministries International founded by the late John Paul Jackson. They train people in hearing God’s voice in general and through dreams. Revive spoke with them about the importance of hearing God’s voice in this time and season and how to grow in that.
“It is important to first relate to God and not to ministry”, says Dwee. “Because when people take instructions from leaders, but don’t take responsibility for their own walk with God, they will crumble when things get tough.”
Rooted in God
“This is also very important for young people,” Tony adds. “Sometimes you see ministries that attract a lot of young people. But does anyone teach these young ones how to hear God’s voice for themselves and how to live from a place of rest in Him? Or do you exploit them to make the ministry look good? It is important to teach young people to be rooted in God Himself and to be strong. Because if they just follow ministries and then would get disillusioned, they can lose their faith.”
“The problem is that people are often born again into a (church)system rather than into the heart of the Father. People learn to participate in a system or join a movement, but aren’t taught how to hear God’s voice and grow in that. Training people to hear His voice is vitally important”, says Dwee. “It is a process. By stepping out, you grow in trusting God and you will get more confidence.”
Knowing your identity
So how can we step out and what are some things that can help us? Tony: “Discover who you are in Christ. When you discover that, you will know that you are capable to hear God’s voice yourself. That is a huge encouragement. If you don’t know who you are in Him, you will remain immature and be tossed around like a wave in the sea (James 1:6). You also won’t live from a place of authority in God’s Kingdom if you don’t know who you are. We haven’t just become a better person than before we were saved. We are a new creation in Christ. Our identity is very powerful.”
Something else that helps to hear God’s voice is knowing His ways and His character. “If we don’t know the Bible, if we don’t know what God loves and what He doesn’t love, we are much more likely to believe anything people say,” Tony says. “Spend time in God’s presence (prayer), in His Word, in worship and in fellowship with other believers. The more you hang out with the real deal, the less you get fooled by what is not real.
If you spend a lot of time with God, read His Word, worship Him, and have fellowship with other believers, you get sharper.”
The more you relate to the authentic, the easier you recognize what is counterfeit. A forger was once taken on to track down other forgers. They showed him the original notes month after month. In the end he recognized what the originals looked like so well, that he could easily tell it when a note was counterfeit. That’s how it works with hearing God’s voice. If you spend a lot of time with God, read His Word, worship Him, and have fellowship with other believers, you get sharper.”
Soul or Spirit
Something a lot of Christians struggle with, is recognizing the difference between our soul (mind, will and desires) and the Holy Spirit’s voice. Dwee: “Our mind often tries to rationalize God’s voice. It tries to tell us that what we hear from God is not really possible. Our will and desires come out in emotions and that can be dangerous if we confuse them with the Holy Spirit’s voice.”
Tony: “I once bought a guitar. It was so expensive, we couldn’t afford it at all. I thought God wanted me to have that guitar. I told myself the guitar would help me worship Him. But of course that wasn’t true. My mind, will and desires got in the way. So those three aspects of our being together can sometimes get us into trouble.”
So how can we get discernment in this? “For example, with my guitar, I could have decided to put a deposit on it in the store first and wait until later to decide if I would really buy it. Then I could have gone home and talk to my wife. If she’d also sense that it was from God, we could have prayed about it together. And in light of Scripture, God tells us in His Word not to get into debt. God is very practical in that sense. His ways are very practical.”
Potatoes and rice
“When you find it difficult to discern God’s voice on a specific matter, think of the following example. Suppose you have a jar. The task is to put all potatoes and rice in it. If you put in the small grains of rice first and the large potatoes on top, it won’t fit. However, if you put in the large potatoes first and then throw the rice on top, all the rice will fall into the cracks. That’s how it is with hearing God. If you put the Lord, His Word and worship in place, all the other things will fall into place as well”, Tony explains.
“As you grow in hearing the voice of God, you will also discover that His words carry in them all the resources to fulfill them”, Tony and Dwee conclude.“Because when God speaks to us, He will also provide what is necessary to fulfill His word.”
What a wealth to be able to hear the voice of God!