“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
John 10:2-5 (NIV)
How often have you witnessed or experienced someone saying, “I would recognize that voice anywhere!” Most of us have people in our lives that could be talking in the midst of a crowd and not even knowing they were there, we would immediately recognize their voice and know who is talking. That type of recognition doesn’t happen overnight. It requires much time spent conversing and listening so that we not only know the sound of the voice, we also know the character of the content of what will be spoken.
It is fairly easy to find people who want to hear from God. Hold a class or teaching series on knowing God’s will and people are quick to sign up. Change one word in the title and focus the class or teaching series on doing God’s will and all of a sudden participants are nowhere to be found. Is it possible that many within our modern Christian culture have such a difficult time hearing God’s voice because we have consistently failed to listen to the things we know He has said?
Rarely a day goes by but what I hear or read the statement, “My God would never ____________” with the blank being filled in by something that even a casual reading of scripture would show God has in fact done or said. I find it interesting that these statements are always “My God would never” and not simply “God would never”. We have indeed created God in our own image and often define Him in ways that make us feel comfortable and safe. In the midst of such a culture, it is no wonder we struggle with hearing and knowing the voice of our Shepherd.
It is in our quiet times with God and His Word that we become familiar with His voice and begin to recognize the things that He would say by understanding the things that He has already said. The quiet times are necessary so that we are prepared to hear our Shepherd’s voice even in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Scripture teaches us that Jesus would often withdraw to “lonely places” to spend time with His Father, but as you read about the life of Jesus it should be clear that He recognized and obeyed the voice of His Father even in the midst of the crowds. God expects and wants us to listen, to recognize His voice and to follow it, each moment that we live — whether in quiet times or in times surrounded by the crowds of this world.
Jesus says that His sheep will know His voice and they will follow Him. When you and I struggle with questions about hearing God, perhaps we need to seriously examine if the problem is really in the hearing or in the following. I pray that you and I are not only hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word as well.