Our culture, more than ever, is demanding our attention. Multimedia screams for our focus, commanding all five of our senses. Our jobs, family obligations, and giant to-do lists pull at our attention every moment of the day. People, things, and activities want our undivided attention. They want us to listen to no one and nothing but them.
Unfortunately, God’s voice can be heard in very few of these things. In fact, they often drown Him out, as if they are the most important voice to be heard. We would hate to admit it, but most of them would be classified as a “stranger.”
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1-5)
Every day, at all times, God is calling our name. His voice holds words of encouragement, promises of provision, and direction for our lives. He’s constantly guiding our way toward life and success. The question is, while we are forever capable of hearing His voice . . . are we willing to hear it?
Though God’s desire is that we immediately flee the voice of a stranger, over time, our ears can become calloused. We become so accustomed to counterfeit voices that we get them confused with the true voice of our Shepherd. Soon the overwhelming voices vying for our ear melt into a mass of options, and God’s voice is lost in the noise.
The tragedy of turning off God’s voice, or not recognizing it, is found in John 10:10:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
The “stranger” Jesus first talked about is the devil, the one who is constantly sending other voices to distract us from God’s. He knows that if we listen enough to those other voices, we will eventually follow them. Once we follow the voices away from the “sheepfold,” we are free game to wolves that will “steal, kill, and destroy” us.
Destruction is not God’s desire! Though we love to say “God is in control,” God has actually given us a will to choose to listen to or ignore His voice. We could be a rebellious sheep and wander from the fold, and He could do nothing to stop us except to attempt to call us back with that same voice. Wandering off in rebellion is especially dangerous because rebellion immediately puts us in the devil’s territory.
Sometimes, however, we do not intentionally wander of; we simply get distracted by many other things that over time take higher priority than Him. Eventually we become a “distracted” sheep, jumping from one pointless voice to the other. The voices often seem harmless – relationships, events, hobbies, and work – but they can be just as dangerous as willfully leaving the fold. Instead of hearing His voice daily to grow in our relationship with Him, we scurry off to listen to our latest “need.” Rather than seeking His will on a decision, we run to every other advisor around. The final result is a sheep fallen in a ditch and crying for help.
The only way we can continue to accurately discern between God’s voice and the other voices is by staying close to our Shepherd. Though we may not see them physically, we recognize someone’s voice over the phone because we have spent time with them. The same is true in recognizing God’s voice. The more we communicate with Him through prayer and Bible-reading, the more we’re able to tell His voice from all the others. His voice brings peace and not anxiety. His voice brings correction not condemnation. His voice brings confidence and not doubt. His voice brings accurate direction and not misleading instruction. Most of all, His voice will reflect only His infallible written Word.
If we have focused on other voices so long that even in God’s presence we can’t tell the difference, then it may be time to remove those voices altogether. As innocent as they may seem, extra voices in our ears could mean the difference between peace and anxiety, provision or lack, and even life or death.
We have the challenge of discerning what voices are tripping us up and hindering us from hearing God’s voice. Is it the TV screen blaring at us most of the day? Is it our favorite hobby demanding our time? Is it our friends constantly drawing on our attention and energy? Is it our job and desire for money and success pulling at our focus? Is it the excessive value we place on the government, news media, and “specialists” to give us advice? Whatever the voices may be, our success in life and our walk with God is determined by their ranking in our lives. Who and what are most important, and who or what are we listening to the most?
My son, give attention to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them,
and health to all their flesh.