Hearing God is about just that; hearing from our Lord and Savior.
Does Dr. Willard acknowledge other voices?
Yes he does…he acknowledges that Satan has a voice too.
In my life I have heard that voice.
I have friends who refuse to believe that Satan exists. I have one friend who got angry when a discussion of Satan came up. He left the discussion.
Is he real?
Dr. Willard seems to think so. He states “Satan…will speak in our heart once he sees he no longer holds us in his hand.”
What do we do when this happens?
First of all acknowledge that this is really happening. Turning your back on evil will not defeat evil. Joking about evil will not defeat evil [the “devil made me do it”].
What happens when this happens?
You have a thought or perception and it is not from God.
Is it some manifestation of Satan in the form of an evil figure? No it is just a thought or perception…but it is opposite of the thoughts and perceptions of God.
As Christians we must be ready to identify this voice. The appropriate term may be “discern.” The dictionary definition of discern is “to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend.” This is something that happens over time as a Christian develops a strong sense of God, through study of the Scripture, attending church or hanging out with other intelligent Christians.
New Christians may have problems with discernment. They just don’t have enough experience with God to know His principles.
As a child I was told by my parents about the concept of conscience. That was a helpful concept, a helpful lesson. You know the story. The angel is on one shoulder telling you to do the right thing. The devil is on the other shoulder telling you to do the wrong thing. The devil is red with pointed ears, carrying a pitchfork and he has a tail with a pointed arrow tip on it. It was a story and some may have thought it funny but underneath the story is a serious message.
Satan wants us to listen to him.
Just because we are believers, we are not immune to the powers of Satan. We are fallible. Dr. Willard says “Our walk with the Lord does not exempt us from the possibility of error, even in our experienced discernment of what His voice is saying.”
We can fall to evil.
When I see a person who performs some action that I don’t approve of and I think horrible judgmental thoughts, that is not the voice of God working in me. When I say something to my spouse that is not positive, that is not the voice of God working in me. When I pass along information about another person to someone and I don’t have the whole story, that act is not of God. I could go on and on but you get the point.
I am far from perfect.
I am subject to fallibility.
Some would say, “I wish I weren’t so fallible”.
But that would put us in the garden with Adam and Eve wouldn’t it? The world would be perfect and we would never tempted. We have a flawless relationship with God. He loves us; we love Him and we know no wrong.
But God has put sin into our lives. The human element gives us the power to choose. It is in the choosing that we demonstrate our love for God, for He knows we have other choices that we can make.
Jesus was tempted and He successfully resisted temptation. In Matthew 4, Jesus encountered Satan at a time of dire need. He was terribly hungry and in need of food. He could have turned stones into bread but He had a laser vision of what God wanted from Him. He had a special Divine Connection. Dr. Willard says “He refused to allow Himself to be turned away from learning that God’s word is sufficient for His every need.”
If Satan is an active force in this world, what does all of this mean for us?
We need to make the best choices we can as we make positive responses to the voice of God. We need to be in charge of our own growth or spiritual formation if you will. What this means is we need to seek after the Lord and the more we seek Him, the more we will get to know Him. This concept of discernment does not happen overnight. It happens over time as we spend more time with our Bibles, in Bible studies and going to church. The more you have a hunger for God, the more you will be able to discern.
As Christians we want to hear the voice that offers us the bread of life; we want to ignore the voice that destroys.