There's not much that's more fun than reading a good book. But not all books are created equally.
As my pastor likes to say, There are noble vessels for serving food, cooking, etc. And there are ignoble vessels for dealing with waste.
Guess what! We use both. And so does God. Learning how to discern God's voice is critical.
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Hearing God's Voice When Reading for Pleasure
If God can use People like Xerxes, the Assyrians, Babylon! Then he can use anything you pick up for entertainment, too.
That's not to suggest that its ok to indulge in inappropriate entertainment, just because you know how to discern God’s voice. You don't really want to set yourself up for a scolding, right?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV
As Christians, we should be continually learning how to discern God's voice in everything we do. I have a free printable for you today, that will help you do just that, with any book you read. (works well with movies too!)
Sometimes hearing God's voice simply means that authors have included applicable scripture.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
But often, if we pay attention, listening for God's voice, he will whisper to us through the character and choices of the characters in the book.
Both the noble/wise decisions and foolish/selfish choices.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
How to Discern God's Voice When Reading Fiction
My personal preference is to read fiction. I love to get lost in someone else's adventures. But, how to discern God's voice? Well, as situations happen, I find myself hearing God's voice sometimes. Just a small whisper.
“Would you be willing to do that?” or “How would you handle that?”
Maybe “Have you considered that this could be why so-and-so did that?”
Or even simpler:
When you open any book or push play on a movie, go into it intentionally listening for God's voice. You might just be surprised by what you hear.
The Light For Christ Trilogy is a recent example. Hearing God's voice reminding me that fear of God vs fear of man = no contest. Both the benefits and risks involved, well, God wins every time. (Go check it out, there's a free printable of all the verses I could find on Fearing God.)
While Reading Secular Fiction:
I'm reading ‘The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle‘ by Hugg Lofting with my son (fantastic series!!). The other day, the good Doctor was learning a new animal language, and it “reminded him of ancient Hebrew!” Now that made me smile. A simple, but logical statement, that has me eagerly listening for God's voice as I enjoy the adventure.
And then there's Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax. She makes no pretense of being a Christian, though in book 2 she sees her pastor as she dashes off to the airport on her latest secret CIA courier assignment. And there's a small amount of ‘bad words' which is unfortunate.
Wondering how to discern God's voice when reading something like this?
Look at character traits.
- Emily Pollifax is loyal.
- Her one-anothering is genuine, even in very difficult circumstances.
- She is even kind to her enemies on more than one occasion.
This lady is committed to following through on her mission, even at the risk of her life. Even at the risk of someone close to her.
How to discern God's voice? Well, do you feel a small whisper asking you, ‘would you stand firm in your faith, at that price?' makes me think. And pray.
I'll admit sometimes I find myself listening for and focusing on how to discern God's voice while watching Star Trek or Star Wars. Usually “yeah right” or something, but still… They face moral dilemmas too. Just look at the saga that played out with Captain America and The Avengers! God's voice is all throughout those movies!
I hope that doesn't sound “over the top” super-spiritual because that's not my goal or my point.
My point is you can have an ongoing conversation with God, and continue learning how to discern God's voice when reading for pleasure.
[bctt tweet=”Listen for God's voice, even when reading for pleasure! ” username=”kingdomblogger1″]
Bible Stories About Listening to God
The examples that fill the Scriptures, men and women who served God are a great place to start.
I love listening to my audio Bible as I fall asleep, or when I'm up in the night with the baby.
But I also think there are some amazing Biblical fiction authors who flesh out those Bible stories about listening to God.
Lynn Austin's Restoration Chronicles for one. Zechariah, Ezra and Nehemiah's unique stories lend perspective into the timeline and culture. And I definitely had moments of discovery, lessons on how to discern God's voice, hearing Him whisper words of compassion, obedience, and courage.
Mesu Andrews' Of Fire and Lions is another. This tale of Daniel and his friends never grows old. And every version I've read challenges my faith.
Or Nathan Crocker's new book, The Loyal Angel. This one pulls back the veil into the unseen /spiritual warfare. It's fun, sometimes hilarious, but I couldn't help but hear that still, small voice as I read.
(Don't miss the free reading journal below, to help you do the same!!)
Hearing God's Voice While Reading Non-Fiction
I'm currently deep into the new book by Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North: Finding God's Life for My Will. I love how he changes the typical focus of “Finding God's will for MY life”
And he seems to know something about how to discern God's Voice:
I don’t know how you hear the voice of God or even if you believe it’s possible. But for me, when a word, phrase, or idea that aligns with Scripture grabs hold of my subconscious and won’t let go, I can’t help but feel it’s from Him.”
This explains how I read. How listening for God's voice becomes a natural part of living.
And here, in his chapter on following. God calls us to follow him, which totally lightens so many burdens!
When we realize that true leadership is a byproduct of following well, we can exchange all those anxieties for something lighter. We can conserve all that frenetic energy we used to expend trying to live up to a label and be what everyone needed us to be. We can let go and focus on the voice of God. Then we can begin asking the right questions, such as: “What is Christ saying to me right now?”
Hearing God's Voice and Not Listening
Mike Donehey is genuine and vulnerable in his book. His transparency encourages me (and hopefully others!) to be honest.
I missed what was right in front of me because most ministry opportunities have a way of disguising themselves as inconveniences.
Sometimes hearing God's voice looks like a rainy commute to work. You see this older lady with a cane getting her newspaper most mornings and you feel like maybe today you should pull over, dash out and carry that newspaper to her doorstep.
In the rain.
Yeah. Nearly 8 years later, and I still regret the missed opportunity to serve. To listen and obey. Maybe bless someone who needed a reminder that God loves them.
God isn’t inefficient. Why else would He use us?
I was recently reminded of the fact that God doesn't need us to do something for him (big or small). But he delights to work through us, and what a privilege it is. A source of joy for sure!
“Yeah, I’m praying God doesn’t grow my church right now, because we don’t have enough laypeople to effectively disciple people.” Chuck sees things differently. He recognizes he isn’t here to build his own private kingdom; he’s part of a much bigger one.
I include this particular quote because wow! He definitely spends time listening for God's voice, to have this perspective!
Anyway, if you want a solid testimonial on living God's life, the life God's laid out for you, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat.
?I did receive a free copy of this book through NetGalley and chose to share my honest opinion with you here.
Wondering How to Listen to God?
If this all sounds interesting, but you're wondering how to listen to God while enjoying your current read, relax.
It's not as hard as you think. If you spend time reading your Bible (or listening to an Audio Bible like me), then you start to filter everything you encounter through that lens.
Of course, The Holy Spirit is happy to bring truth to mind if you are one of His. We can rest in Him, and He will guide us.
How to Listen to God While Reading Fiction
My hands-on method for making sure that I keep my ears tuned where I'm supposed to is to use these great journaling pages. As I read a novel, I highlight things and take a few notes. Then when I finish reading, I will go back through those, and sit with these Getting the Most out of a Good Book journaling pages I created.
As I write, my heart draws closer to God and it's not usually hard to start a 2-way conversation. Applicable verses come to mind, that I memorized as a kid. Whispers of challenge and reassurance enter my heart. The experience of how to listen to God and get the most out of what we are reading anyway is awesome!
Be sure to grab your copy before you leave! It's free ????
Say a Prayer to Hear God's Voice
I'm not going to give you a magic prayer to hear God's voice. I don't know one. Sorry!
I do know, however, that if you approach your day with an attitude like Samuel:
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10
Then the likelihood of learning how to discern God's voice increases.
In other words, ask Him what he has to say, and then PAY ATTENTION!!
When that quiet thought pops into your head and won't go away, and it lines up with scripture–
When your lifestyle makes a habit of listening for God's voice–
You'll know when he is asking you to get up and leave that movie, or close the book and play with your kids. When you read a scene, and suddenly have compassion and understanding on a situation that's been bugging you.
Those moments, you are experiencing exactly how to discern God's voice.
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