Lesson 5 - Obstacles to Hearing God's Voice - Part 1:

In the Course Introduction we mentioned the following typical obstacles that block people from hearing God's voice:

  • A belief that God no longer speaks as he once did will make it difficult to hear.
  • Some people believe God speaks, but not to them - perhaps because they are unworthy or forgotten.
  • A faulty belief will distort God's voice when he speaks.
  • I won't hear God's voice if I don't want to listen to him. Or if, when he does speak, I do not obey.
  • I will find it hard to hear God's voice if my mind is cluttered with other things.
  • Time is needed to be able to get to recognise and hear God's voice.
  • If I am harbouring sin or unforgiveness he doesn't hear me. (Psalm 66:18) Because prayer is a two-way conversation the channels of communication need to be clear.
  • Physical, emotional or psychological illness may impede our hearing.

In the previous lesson, Lesson 4 - Ways We Can Hear God's Voice, we provided a biblical overview to lay down a foundation that clearly showed God spoke to people in both the Old and New Testament times, and sufficient examples to be assured it also happens today.

Therefore we can be sure that God does still speak today. After all, "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed." (Malachi 3:6) and "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8).

This answers the first of the above obstacles. The solution to the remaining ones will be found in the following sections.

A: God's Father heart

By far the biggest blockage to people hearing God speak to them personally is our belief that God does not know us, love us or care about us because we are not worthy. Sometimes when the Lord does speak we do not believe it because of our own low opinion of ourself. When the angel came to Gideon with a message from God (Judges 6:11-24) "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Gideon's response was, "Who me? I'm the least in my family. You can't mean me."

Many do not know their worth as beings created in God's image who have infinite value, proved by the fact that God asked his own Son to die for our sins to enable us to be restored to fellowship with him.

Floyd McClung tells the story of a guy he met in Afghanistan.

I'll never forget the time Steve asked me if I wanted to know the happiest day of his life. Little did I realize the shock awaiting me as I expressed my eagerness to know more about this young man who until that time had remained closed, and unwilling to talk about himself or engage in normal conversation. The locked-in pain and hostility seemed to explode in a torrent of anger: 'I'll tell you the happiest day of my life,' said Steve with a strange smile on his face. 'It was my eleventh birthday and both my parents were killed in a car accident!'

I could hardly believe what I was hearing as Steve rushed on. 'They told me every day of my life that they hated me and didn't want me. My father resented me, and my mother continually reminded me that I was an accident. They didn't plan on me coming along, and didn't want me either. I'm glad they're dead!'

The average parent in Europe watches television three-and-a-half- hours each day and spends thirty seconds communicating with his children! (The Father Heart of God: Experiencing the Depths of His Love for You, pps. 14-15)

With such experiences it is not surprising that so many feel that God is remote, disinterested, uncommunicative, hateful, angry or uncaring.

Tracy Williamson tells us that God wants to be a Father to us. He wants to talk with us, to tell us how much he loves us, to guide us, to share in our tears and laughter... God our Father has called us into relationship with him as his children and it is as a Father that he calls us to listen to him. He does not want us to mindlessly respond to his commands out of duty and guilt, but to have an ongoing relationship with him of love and respect. (Voice of the Father (Hodder Christian Paperbacks), p.13)

Childhood wounds impair our understanding of God as Father and consequently our relationship with the God who loves his children and delights to be intimately involved with them.

Father as source of spirit

If we look at the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, we find only a few words used for most cases where a father is mentioned. There is the Hebrew 'b meaning father, fathers, forefather, and ylad meaning to father, bore, gave birth, born. In Greek we have pataer meaning father, fathers, forefathers, patriarchs, ancestors, and gennao meaning father, born, become father. Another important word is the Hebrew ytm meaning fatherless, orphan, orphans.

When Jesus speaks about his Father - God - in every case he uses the common word for father - pataer in the Greek NT, although Jesus probably spoke Aramaic - perhaps abba. For Jesus, 'Father' was not a special, religious word or title - it meant his dear, beloved Daddy.

For the Hebrews, a mother is a provider of nurture, while a father is the source or origin of the person, and God the Father is the source of a people. This idea of source has tended to be lost today. In particular, we have forgotten that just as God is the source of Adam's human spirit, so too is our earthly father in some way the source or generator or mediator of a child's spirit.

A father and the spirit of a child

One of the major roles of a father is to tell a child who he or she is. He is responsible for drawing the child into life as a unique person. When a child is in the womb, it is part of the mother. After birth, the child does not know anything about relationships - as far as the child is concerned, it is one with the mother. God's intention is for the father to be the first person the child encounters who is not part of the mother-child union. The child encounters a being who is separate from itself and begins to learn what it is to be an individual.

The father's task is to affirm the child and encourage it to enter into life as an individual, to take risks and explore the world from the safety of its father's protection. And so the child's spirit is drawn into life and grows until the child can fend for itself. For the child, father represents God. And the father is to introduce the child to what God the Father is like, and eventually introduce him or her to Father God himself.

The Father and Jesus

Notice some of the things that happened in Jesus' life. At his conception, in Luke 1:35, the angel says to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

At Jesus' baptism, Luke records (Luke 3:21-22), "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

The Father communicated with Jesus and he responded in obedience to all the Father said. Jesus demonstrated the love of the Father. God looked like Jesus when He blessed little children, when He healed, when He delivered, when He wept, when moved in compassion, when He walked on earth. He could say:

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known". (John 1:18)

"Jesus answered, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)

At his death Jesus cried out (Luke 23:46), "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." This is a quote from Psalm 31:5. And earlier in Psalm 27:10 David had already said that even if his father and mother abandon him, the Lord will receive him. The Father cared for his Son in life and in death.

About Jesus' resurrection Luke writes (Acts 13:33), "What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'"

Jesus' first life and spirit, his new spirit, and his second life all had their source and destination in God the Father. The Father and Us

His intention was that humans would walk in communication with the Father. So in the beginning, the Lord breathed his Spirit into Adam and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Then, in Ezekiel 36:26-27 God says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you."

God made a covenant with Israel based on love. Numerous Old Testament verses speak of God's love for his people. Exodus 20:6, Exodus 34:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, 1 Kings 10:9, 2 Chronicles 6:14, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 13:5, Psalm 25:7, Psalm 42:8, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 89:28, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 136, Psalm 145:8, Isaiah 43:4, Isaiah 54:10, Isaiah 63:9, Jeremiah 31:3, Lamentations 3:22,32, Daniel 9:4, Hosea 14:4, Jonah 4:2, Zephaniah 3:17. In spite of their waywardness he continued to love them and planned the coming of the one who would deal with sin once and for all, so that intimate communication with the Father could be restored.

"Still, it's what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he'd see life come from it - life, life and more life. And God's plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many 'righteous ones', as he himself carries the burden of their sins." (Isaiah 53:10,11 The Message)

Living this side of the cross, resurrection and Pentecost we can enter into this same intimate relationship that Jesus enjoyed with his Father. J.I.Packer gives a wonderful definition in Knowing God:

"a Christian is one who has God for his or her Father."

Ephesians 1:4-6 says, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." The Authorised version of v. 6 is "he hath made us accepted in the beloved."

"God is love." He made us in His own image, like Him. He created us with the unique capacity to know Him, talk with Him, and enjoy Him. Most importantly He created us for love - and then He gave us the gift of free will!

What is God like as a Father?

"Is He not your Father, your Creator who made you and formed you?" (Deuteronomy 32:6)

He is Someone Who understands, is always there, always interested, always in control.

  • We are created in His likeness, His image. (Genesis 1:26,27)
  • A glorious Father. (Ephesians 1:17)
  • He is a compassionate and comforting Father. (2 Corinthians 1:3)
  • An unchanging and consistent Father. (James 1:17)
  • A Father who is aware at all times of our every circumstance. (Matthew 10:29)
  • We have a generous, personal Father. (Luke 11:13)
  • He is our Father. (Matthew 6:8)
  • An understanding Father who knows our needs. (Luke 12:30)
  • A Father who loves us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 3:1,2)
  • A Father who disciplines his children in love. (Hebrews 12:7; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12)
  • He is an Abba (Daddy) Father. (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6)

Knowing this we can come to our Father with confidence, knowing we'll receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrew 4:16). So why do we often find this so hard to do? Because the heart of the Father is hidden behind our faulty image of father gained in childhood.

Consequences of an earthly father's actions

  • Children need more than the intellectual knowledge that he or she was loved.
  • If a father was affectionate and loving, the child will have a natural inclination to trust God.
  • If a father was dysfunctional, with erratic behaviour through mental problems or alcohol dependency for example, the adult may find it hard to trust God and depend on him.
  • If a father made promises to the child and they were not kept, the adult will find it hard to believe God's promises.
  • If a father was absent (physically or emotionally), the adult may find it hard to believe that God will be there for them or enter into the love and blessings of God.
  • If a father was too busy with no time to talk with the child, the adult may believe God is not interested in the things that concern them.
  • If a father ignored the child, favouring other children, the adult may find it hard to believe that God doesn't have favourites, or that they are special to God.
  • If a father failed to affirm the child the adult may be lacking in confidence, unable to take risks and withdrawn from life.
  • If a father was a perfectionist, never satisfied with the child, the adult will believe God is never pleased with them and they must try harder to earn his love.
  • If a father is abusive a child may grow up with a distorted image of God, a God who is hostile and could not possibly love them.
  • If a child has not known the love of a parent, the adult may be unable to receive or express love, and will often seek relationships in inappropriate places and ways.

The Unchanging Love of the Father

"What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to. But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we'll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him - and in seeing him, become like him." (1 John 3:1,2 - The Message)

For too long we have mistakenly believed we can enter into intimacy with our heavenly Father by begging for forgiveness and by being 'worthy'. Wrong!

  • We do not ask for forgiveness in order to have a loving relationship with our Father. We are already in a loving relationship with Him. We ask forgiveness because we love Him and are truly sorry that we have hurt Him.
  • We do not pray, read His word and worship in order to enter into a close relationship with our Father, we pray, read His word and worship because of the close relationship we already have with Him.

On the cross Jesus said the words, "it is finished", at that moment our acceptance was complete, love had triumphed. See Resource Sheet 9 - God our Loving Father to assist in building a closer relationship with Father.