Jonah 1:1-3
The lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

Jonah is a book about a man who isn’t sure he can obey God. This is something we all struggle with. 

All of us are more inclined to obey in life once we absolutely have no other choice.

  • We have no problem studying when the end of the semester is near and we need to bring our grade up.
  • We will treat our spouse better or go to counseling once we believe we could lose our marriage.
  • Living on a budget is welcomed after the house is foreclosed
  • We’re ready for a diet after the heart attack or rehab after the DUI

I’m thankful God gives us second chances, but what could happen in our life if we obeyed before we had to? What could our life look like if our first response was “Yes” when He gave us instruction?

All of us could improve and grow in the area of obedience, no doubt, but the first question we have to answer is not “Will I Obey?” it’s “What Do I Obey?”

  • How do we know what God want’s us to do?
  • What does God’s voice sound like, and how can I be sure it’s Him and not just something I’m making up in my head?
  • Is God trying to send me a message, and I am missing it?

The Bible doesn’t tell us how God sends Jonah a message, all we know, is that Jonah knows, God wants him to do something.

Have you ever felt like God wanted you to do something? I have.

I remember one night my wife and I were walking back to our car that was parked in a parking garage downtown. It was brutally cold that night, so cold that the event we were attending was almost canceled due to ice. As we hurried back to our car trying to stay warm we were walking in a pedway and passed a homeless man who was laying inside to escape the cold. I guess it was a little warmer inside but it wasn’t much better, it was still freezing!

As we passed him I noticed his shoes were off—he had taken them off and put them under his head to use as a pillow. As we got to our garage, just a few steps from our car I knew that God was telling to go and help the homeless man. I actually knew it the moment I saw him, and with every step I took farther away I could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me to go back. I was wearing my brand new North Carolina hoodie that my mom had given me for Christmas the previous week. I knew what I was supposed to do, so I told Andrea I had to go back and give the man my hoodie. Just then I remembered that still had a pillow in the car from the trip home from Christmas, so I grabbed the pillow, pulled off my hoodie and went back into the pedway to find the homeless man. When I woke him up he was startled, I can only imagine the experiences he had encountered in the middle of the night, I calmly told him that I wanted him to have my hoodie to help him stay warm and a pillow to rest on. He smiled and received my gift and I left.

I knew I had obeyed the voice of God, but I can’t tell you how I knew. I just knew.

The idea of God speaking to you may seem strange but it shouldn’t. When you are in relationship with God, he is trying to speak to you all the time. That’s what Job said,

Job 33:14
For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. 15 He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds.16 He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. 17 He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.

God is trying to speak to you all the time, the questions for us is are we listening, and how can we fine tune our hearts to hear and clearly articulate what he is saying to us?

Sometimes, God speaks to us to ask us to stop doing things. There are areas in our life where in order for God to do something better in our life we have to remove some things from our life.

Sometimes, God speaks to us and asks us to start doing things. I believe this is the predominant way God asks us to obey.

So how can we hear the voice of God? How can we know that God is guiding us?

There are 2 consistent ways that God speaks to all of us. They are not exclusive to any certain person, but are freely available to anyone who desires to hear God speak.

1. Reading of the Bible

When we read the Bible it reads us. It’s not just a book we read, it is a living breathing, supernatural experience where our hearts our being shaped to be more like Jesus. If you want a word from God, you have to get into the word of God. I have found that if I will read the Bible every day (as much as possible) and right down something that stood out to me, I will leave my time with God feeling like he spoke to me. But it never happens accidentally. It’s always intentional when I make hearing from God a priority in my day.

2. Paying attention to the Holy Spirit

The Bible gives us a daily opportunity to hear from God, but there is also another way that God speaks to us, and that is through the Holy Spirit communicating in different unique ways. It’s hard for me to explain how it might happen for every believer but I believe if you are looking for it you will see and hear it. It might be:

  • A recurring conversation topic with different people
  • A conversation in your head
  • Maybe a small insignificant thing in life that stands out to you.
  • Possibly someone else speaking to you with a message from God
  • A dream or a vision

There a endless ways the Holy Spirit can try to communicate with us, the key is for us to have our radar up to catch what He’s saying. The danger is a lot of people want to hang out predominantly in this area without being grounded in the Bible because this is more spontaneous and fun. It can be very dangerous, and you want to always check your motives, intentions, and heart. Make sure it lines up with the Bible.

That just leaves one more important question,

How can I be sure I’m hearing God, and not just some crazy idea in my head?

The truth is you can never be sure in the moment, it’s always clearer in hindsight. Even though it can be scary to trust and obey God when you’re not 100% sure you’ve heard God’s voice know that being grounded in the Bible will help protect you. You will never always be right, if you are doing your best to have a solid foundation of scripture in your life, you can trust your gut when you feel the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.

If it scares you take some encouragement from Acts 15. The church leaders were faced with a very difficult decision that effected thousands of people and they didn’t have a clear verse in scripture to give them the answer they needed, so after much prayer and conversation Acts 15:28 says,

Acts 15:28
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…

I love that! These are the most important church leaders in history and the best guarantee they can provide is, “we think we’re right. We feel good about it in our gut.”

If you will ask God to speak to you, and you will listen he will make his requests and instructions as clear as they need to be for you to take a step of obedience. Let’s end with this prayer.

God, speak to me, and show me where in my life I am not obeying?

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