Before working through this Guide, make sure that everyone has caught up through the teaching on May 1, 2022.
Begin your gathering by taking communion together, whether as a full meal or some version of the bread and the cup that proceeds the meal. If you don’t already have a Communion liturgy, pray these words from Paul to the church in Ephesus:
I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3v16-19)
Read This Overview Aloud Together
What does God’s voice sound like? And how can you even know? Why does it often feel so difficult to know what God is saying (or if he’s even saying anything at all)? These are some of the most important, confusing questions we can ask in our apprenticeship to Jesus. In John 10, Jesus tells a crowd of curious onlookers that his sheep know his voice. This would suggest that as we grow in discipleship to him, we will also grow in being able to recognize and know his voice. But, if that’s the case, where do we start?
The Bible is a collection of scrolls spanning well over a thousand years that exists as God’s self-revelation to us; meaning, we can learn what God’s voice sounds like by learning what God has already said. In the same way that you can learn the way somebody talks by reading their memoirs, you can study the cadence of their voice by listening to their podcasts, and explore their passions and interests by being close to them, we can learn what God is like by meditating on the Scriptures.
In fact, in his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul writes that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” This means that we can understand what God himself is like as we read about, study, and meditate on the stories of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus, we find, reveals to us what God thinks about us and how God sounds. Through Jesus, we learn significant truths in discerning God’s voice, things like: God’s purpose for us is always “life to the full,” whereas the enemy only ever “comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” So, we conclude, if the voice we’re hearing leads to fear, guilt, or shame, it will always belong to the enemy. God’s voice as revealed through the life of Jesus, though, may bring conviction, but it will always have within it a way forward, a way back into life. The enemy is for our death; God is for our life.
There are so many other truths about God’s voice hidden in and revealed through the life of Jesus – he is tender and compassionate towards us; he is patient and slow to anger; he does not want any to be lost and goes out of his way to find each person; disease and death are always his enemy; and more. The lifelong task ahead of us is to mine the depths of the Scriptures for the treasures revealed there about what God’s voice is like, and to practice again and again to hear God’s voice, to know his will, and to live life to the full.
Discuss The Following Questions
- Why would it matter whether or not we can hear God’s voice? What benefit is there in it? Why would God want us to know his voice?
- Do you have (or have you had) a rhythm with reading, studying, or meditating on the Scriptures in your discipleship? What is (or was) that? And what do (or did) you notice it do in your life?
- What kinds of things or themes have you heard God say to you (or through you to other people)? How do you know they were from God? How do those themes connect with how he reveals himself in the Bible?
Do This Practice Tonight
In Psalm 119, David prays, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Hiding God’s word in our hearts by meditating on it, excavating it for truth, and (with the help of the Holy Spirit) applying it to our lives, is the way that we follow Jesus. When we study God’s voice, we are more likely to know what his voice sounds like in each moment and less likely to fall prey to the evil around us – which seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.
Tonight, we are going to practice learning what God’s voice is like by meditating together on a parable Jesus tells the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law in order to reveal something about the character of God. (Leader’s Note: It can be helpful to read all of the following directions out loud to the group before beginning, so each person knows where the exercise is going.)
1. Settle in & Welcome the Holy Spirit – Go ahead and settle in and get comfortable. It could help to position yourself into an open or receiving posture (e.g. hands open on your lap, eyes closed, feet on the ground or crossed in front of you). Once you’re ready to begin, invite the Spirit to reveal to each person what God is like as you read Jesus’ words. Invite his creativity to stir your imaginations and his comfort to meet each of you.
2. Read Luke 15v1–7 & Keep Silence Three Times – Next, slowly read Luke 15v1–7 out loud three times, being sure to spend a minute or two in silence between each reading. This silence will give space for the Spirit to bring the story to life in your imagination, to reveal to you what God is like, and to speak anything else he has in mind to say.
3. Thank God & Discuss – Finally, after spending sufficient time in silent prayer and reflection, break the silence by thanking God for speaking and revealing himself. After ending this prayer, open a conversation about what God revealed. If conversation feels stuck, feel free to use the following questions.
- What stood out to you in the story Jesus told?
- What was Jesus trying to reveal about God? Is this different from what you assumed? Is this different from your personal experience with him?
- How might you pray differently in the future with these attributes of God in mind?
Read The Practice for the Week Ahead
If it’s true that we can learn what God’s voice sounds like through what he’s already said and done, we want to be people who soak themselves in the Bible. Tonight, we practiced meditating on Scripture through contemplative reading. Another way to meditate on Scripture is memorization, which is a way of getting Scripture so deeply into your mind and soul that it is what surfaces in moments where you feel stuck or at a loss for how to pray or think. Whether through contemplative reading or memorization, the invitation this week is to meditate on one of the following passages:
- Psalm 130
- Isaiah 43v1-3
- John 15v1-8
- Philippians 2v5-11
Begin Your Day With a Quick Meditation: This week, start your day out by slowly reading or reciting one of the above passages three times. Each time you do, draw your attention to what it reveals about God and what he sounds like. Ask yourself: What does this passage reveal to us about what God is like? How does this inform what his voice will sound like to me?
Reflect On These Truths at Normal Parts of Your Day: Then, set aside normal moments in your day to remember these themes and ask God to help you live in light of them – moments like the short walk from your car into the office, the final moments of your child’s naptime, as you ride your bicycle home, as you make dinner or eat your lunch, as you walk to your next class, as you brush your teeth, etc. Doing this will help us to connect what we are learning about God into the normal and mundane parts of our lives; it trains us to look for God in each moment.
End in Prayer
Close your time together by asking for God to help you all become better students of his voice, learning to grasp how wide, long, high, and deep Christ’s love is for you and our world.