In Pastor Jeff's Blog

God speaks in a soft voice I can hear better when I resolve to listen and stop putting words in His mouth.”  ― Elaine Orabona Foster 

I believe that God calls every one of us in many ways throughout our lives, just as surely as Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be disciples. But here’s the big question most of us wrestle with: how do we know when God is calling us from one thing and to another? How can we be certain? And the answer is…we can’t. Learning to hear God’s voice is an art to be practiced, not a science to be mastered. Here are four signposts that spiritual sojourners throughout the ages have used to discern God’s call in their lives: 

Pay attention to restlessness. In my experience a persistent sense of restlessness, or even a vague sense of discontent, is often on the front end of God’s call. I remember experiencing that sense of restlessness while serving a church in Illinois. It was a place I loved, and things were going well, but I noticed that I’d lost my passion for ministry there and I couldn’t figure out why. Looking back, I believe it was just the prelude to moving from that congregation to another. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed over and over. Pay attention to restlessness. 

Take note of nudges, those internal pushes in a certain direction. It’s that internal experience that leads you to say things like, “I get the feeling that I’m supposed to…”. When that feeling stays with you for a while and grows into a sense of conviction, don’t ignore it. I’ve often been asked how I knew that I called to donate a kidney to someone in need. I didn’t get an e-mail from God, but I did feel a strong and persistent “nudge” within.

Immerse yourself in Scripture. When I got married, I knew how to listen to the words that Nancy was saying, but it took years of practice to hear what her heart was saying. The same thing is true with Scripture. It’s one thing to read the words on the page of your bible. It’s another thing to learn to hear the Spirit speak through those words. The Bible is a platform for dialogue with God. It invites us into conversation. It encourages us to speak back. And it challenges us to listen deeply. God speaks through the words of Scripture if we are patient and persistent enough to practice really listening. 

Finally, listen to trusted community. So often I find that God speaks through the faithful friends in my life. For instance, remember that church I told you about in Illinois, the one where I started to experience a sense of restlessness and discontent? At just about that time a friend of mine said to me in passing, “You should think about being a church planter and starting a new church.” That’s something I had never considered before, but once those words were out of his mouth I couldn’t get them out of my head. And one year later I was planting a new church. I believe that God spoke through that friend, calling me to a new adventure that scared me to death, challenged me greatly and blessed me immensely. 

I challenge you to practice listening this week. Choose just one of the signposts above and practice being mindful, bringing your full attention to it. It isn’t easy, but the rewards of learning to listen are some of the greatest gifts along our spiritual journey. 

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN. 

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  • Zan Severson

    Question, are you still doing pod casts? I have been watching for the new ones, the last one I have seen is November.

    • Liz Ridpath

      Hi Zan! We had a few weeks of technical glitches, but we’re starting to add audio from January and February this week. We’ll be adding them regularly again moving forward.

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