Hearing God in our spirit or in our mind or through the wisdom of godly counsel is the privilege of being a child of God….. God equipped us with the capacity to hear from him through a variety of ways. I have heard from God through dreams, sudden “knowledge” that I had no reason to know, through thoughts suddenly in my mind that I did not will and which address questions I have put before the Lord in prayer, through the counsel of godly people in my life, through the Spirit’s illumination of Scripture as I read the Bible, and yes, by a clear voice in my mind that spoke with authority and was confirmed in the Word, and by reason as testified in my own spirit and mind, and in keeping with the church’s historic understanding of the character and nature of God. It took me a while as a growing Christian to learn to “discern” the voice of God and to know how to “test the spirit”. It is a gift and a skill that is acquired through spiritual discipline that maturing Christians cultivate through prayer, practice, knowing the precepts of the Bible, and being in accountable relationships with other Christians.
From time to time I write about ways in which God is speaking to me…..I am not bashful about telling others. I think people need to hear that GOD STILL SPEAKS! People in discipleship classes ask me about the topic, particularly about dreams. Here’s what I tell them. Yes, God can use dreams or even visions in our waking hours to speak to us. It is important to make a mental or written note of the details of a memorable dream. Then ask God to reveal its meaning. It may come quickly or it may come in a few hours, days, or weeks….but my experience is that it eventually comes. Oftentimes God-given dreams are the Holy Spirit’s work within the normal sleep-time processes of our brains to bring things to our consciousness and help us make sense of them. Here’s an example:
I was struggling with how to deal with a situation in which several people were chronically in conflict with one another in our women’s ministry…..I could see a pattern, but I couldn’t really put my finger on the cause or move forward in addressing it without more information. One morning at 4 a.m. I had a dream that helped me address the problem at work among the women involved. In the dream it was 4 a.m. Bill and I were awakened from sleep by a loud knocking on our door. He went to the door and I stood in the living room. Upon opening the door suddenly a pack of dogs…not vicious dogs, but energetic, neighborly, pet dogs of various breeds and sizes swarmed our home. With them was one of the women I had been puzzling and praying about. She was laughing and having a great time watching the chaos as the dogs knocked over lamps, left paw prints on furniture and just generally ransacked our home. I was waving my arms and trying to shoo them out of the house as she stood there laughing and Bill stood there in the foyer incredulous. That’s when I awoke and realized it actually was 4 a.m. and it was just a dream. It was a very vivid and memorable dream. I made a note of the details and asked God to show me how to interpret and learn from the dream. I was scheduled for a 10 a.m. meeting with one of the women to address some of the issues I had observed. Minutes before she arrived, I felt God press upon me….tell her the dream. That’s when the meaning congealed in my head, like realizing liquid jello has “set” and is ready to eat. It’s about an “alpha” personality that is comfortable in chaos and conflict and is a strong leader personality, but with inappropriate boundaries and lack of concern for the boundaries of others. Wow! Just wow! In fact, all of the individuals who were involved in the frequent conflicts are similar “alpha” personalities, but this particular one is the strongest and most extroverted and personable. She is naturally inclined to try to “lead the pack.” But with other strong personalities present in the group, that was not working. She was meeting resistance and it was causing conflict. In a communal environment where it is necessary to learn to get along, alpha personalities don’t easily surrender their assertiveness and become deferential and gentle toward others……except by the work of the Holy Spirit in them.
It was a good lesson for me on recognizing and addressing at least one aspect of the conflicts in this particular situation. It is a principle to be learned, not a universal application for every situation when conflict arises. It certainly helped bring some clarity and resolution to my desire to address it in a clear and biblical manner. God doesn’t always take my prayers and ponderings and give me a dream…Sometimes he uses a Scripture……Sometimes he uses the wisdom of a godly, confidential accountability partner…. Sometimes he just drops a word of knowledge into my head before I have even fully understood and articulated in prayer what I am thinking…..Sometimes he brings an unexpected message through a devotional…… God has many means to guide us into the path that takes us to the destination he has prepared.