JOHN 10:27 (NIV)
“'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.'”
My wife, Jamie, and I had been serving in full-time ministry together for six years when we began to sense that the season we were in might be coming to an end. Our then pre-marital counselor had told us that, when it comes to decision making, as followers of Jesus we should discern rather than decide. So we entered a discernment process to seek the Lord.
This is when things got a little tricky for me, because discernment is based on hearing God’s voice. It was dawning on me that I was not sure what God’s voice sounded like. I had told hundreds of kids about the relationship that Jesus was longing to have with them, but now I was looking at myself in the mirror wondering if I actually had a two-way interactive relationship with God. I prayed, but was it just me talking? Did I know him or just lots of stuff about him?
The answers to these questions were painful, but this was also the beginning of a beautiful journey.
I was a faithful and passionate full-time minister, giving my life to introduce students to Jesus. I loved God and served him well, and I had the best of intentions. But I actually didn’t know God, I had not heard his voice, and I really did not have a relationship with him.
So with this new awareness of the state of my beliefs, I began reading books on hearing God’s voice, asking many friends how they hear from God, studying the Scriptures, and listening myself. And guess what? God met me in the seeking. I came to distinguish the gentle nudges he would give me. He kindly started speaking to me in words and pictures that led to incredible transformation within me. As I began to have this experiential knowledge of the presence of the Holy Spirit and hearing God’s voice, my beliefs grew, and my relationship with God transformed.
Maybe your story is similar to mine. Maybe you have a lot of information and knowledge about God but not much experiential knowledge of him. Maybe you are longing to know him and experience an interactive relationship. Maybe you are wondering if it is even possible.
As you seek to grow in your discipleship of Jesus, my encouragement to you is simple: Learn to listen. John 10 is a beautiful passage describing the relationship between the Good Shepherd and his sheep. As you read it, you will discover that there is an incredible intimacy between the Shepherd and his sheep. You will also find that there are other voices competing with the Good Shepherd, those of thieves and robbers.
The reality is that there are many voices that beg for our attention. Whether we are aware of it or not, we end up choosing to listen to one of those voices.
So as you listen, I pray a blessing on you of discernment and courage — discerning ears and a discerning heart to draw close to the Good Shepherd and the courage to follow where he leads.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Can you recall a time when God seemed to speak to you, whether through Scripture, a friend, your own thoughts, etc.? How do you typically hear from the Good Shepherd?
- What other voices are vying for your attention, and what are they saying to you?
- Trusting that God speaks and with us, spend five minutes today alone with God. Taking a notebook and a pen, ask God a few direct questions like “How do you see me?” or “What do you have for me today?” Trust that whatever thoughts, feelings, or images come to mind are from him, and write them down. Share this experience with a trusted friend who can help you discern if are hearing the loving voice of the Father.
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Thrash has been with CRM since 2011. He currently serves as the director of the Partner Development Team. Mark and his wife, Jamie, live in San Juan Capistrano with their three young children.