Ways in which God "speaks"
Does God speak to people today?
Many people wonder if God still speaks to people in general and to specific people in today's world. In fact, God is always speaking, both generally and specifically. Some people cannot hear Him because they are spiritually deaf. These include people who refuse to hear, because they refuse to believe in a God who is intimately involved with His creation. Others are afraid to find out they have been wrong in their beliefs for many years. Some are angry because of experiences in their lives--they are wounded and refuse to enter into any form of interaction with God. These people usually scoff at the people who do converse with the Almighty, usually out of their own woundedness. Still others are afraid to converse with the Creator of the Universe. If you think about it, contact with GOD does inspire awe and even some fear. But God knows how to connect with those who desire to connect with Him, and He does connect with them. Some people have had divine intervention in their lives even though they are not tied to any professed religion or even certainty about God. They are left to wonder what it all means. The Christian does not have to entertain this confusion. But some may wonder, "Does He speak to me? And how do I know when it is God?"
So then, the answer is "YES" to the question posed above. God does speak to people. However, He speaks in many ways and He is personal in the way in which He interacts. He may "speak" one way to one person and another way to another. The way in which He communicates with you becomes one of the unique and personal facets of your relationship with Him. He has His own way of talking just to you...that is how He shows you that you are special to Him. But here are some of the ways God speaks to people, beginning with the more common ways and moving to the less common ways.
1. The Bible
One of the most common ways God speaks to people is through the Bible. The word Bible is "logos" in Greek, which means "God expressing Himself". This means God speaks through the Word of God. That is why we call it the Word of God. As you study the Bible, God reveals things to you. You can be reading a passage and suddenly something becomes apparent that you never noticed before. The scripture you are reading or studying may trigger thoughts about events in your life and you are left with new understanding about those events. In fact there are many things in the Bible you cannot fully understand until God reveals them to you. So in this way, God speaks to people through His Word, the Bible. Ancient people practiced something called "lectio divina" or divine reading in which they sought to interact with God through their Bible reading. This is a practice many Christians are trying to reconnect with so they can "hear" God through their Bible study. Out of the "logos" which is defined as "God expressing Himself" in general comes the "rhema" which is God speaking to you in your time and in your particular situation. The psalmist in Psalm 119:18 says, "Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law."
Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork. Day after day utters speech, and night after night reveals knowledge."
When you look at a beautiful sunrise, or sunset, or a mountain or the vast ocean spread out before you, you get a sense of the enormousness of the Creator God. If He can hold the entire world in the palm of His hand, then How big is He?!? If you spend some time thinking about this, it puts a lot of things into perspective. Some people believe the universe is all random chance and big bang and all that. But scientists themselves have said the a system left to itself tends towards chaos and disorder. Our universe is orderly and not random or chaotic. The sun, moon and stars follow a predictable course. The ocean only goes so far onto the land. Therefore, the system is not left to itself. Someone is keeping it in order. God lets us know He is in control. This gives reassurance in times of stress and distress. Every day he "speaks" to us, letting us know He is still running the big show.
God gives people impressions, urgings, unctions, and perceptions. You get a sense of something. Science has shown that the gut has its own nervous system which can operate independently of the brain. People say "I knew it in my gut" and they are right. They have a sense of something that they may not be able to describe. This can explain how you can meet someone and get an immediate good feeling about them, or an immediate danger signal about them and you don't even know them. Many times we talk ourselves out of these feelings and impressions only to say later, "I should have listened to my gut". You find yourself thinking about a person all of a sudden and you don't know why. Then you contact that person and find out it was important for you to do so. You get a feeling you should do something and find out that was just the right thing to do. Or you get a feeling you should NOT do something and find out that was also just the right thing to do. God often sends these impressions to people as part of His guidance system. The more you walk with God the more you will experience these urgings, until you get used to them and they don't even surprise you anymore. In Acts 27:10, On his trip to Rome to be tried before Caesar, Paul told the crew and captain of the ship he was to sail on, "Men I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also of our lives." Nobody listened to him, and later the ship was wrecked, but at the last minute God told Paul He would save the people but they would lose the ship and the cargo. And they did.
Him that has an ear, let him hear
Not so common ways God speaks
Above, we have three common ways God speaks to people. You don't hear that much about them, in part because they are so common and also because they are pretty mundane and ordinary. People would much rather hear about angelic visions, lights flashing, trumpets blaring and exciting things like that but these things are really quite rare. Everyone can read the Bible; everyone doesn't see supernatural beings. Here then are some less common ways God speaks.
There are many stories of visions in the Bible. Angels appeared to people, giving messages from God. They were pretty scary I'm sure, because the Bible says whenever they appeared people fainted and shrieked and they had to say, "Fear not" all the time. So God doesn't use this method so much. Too much drama. But some people do see angels. Other people see strange lights or symbolic things like trees, or landscapes. Usually in these kinds of visions what you see stands for something else. Then you have to pray and ask for understanding.
A lot of people have dreams. They are usually symbolic and full of hidden meaning. But sometimes dreams can be very direct. You might dream that you are going to be offered a new job. Then that week or the next week, Lo and behold! you are offered a new job. People tend to shrug off dreams, and say, I ate too much pizza. But God does speak through dreams and if it seems to be significant, maybe you should pay attention to it.
6. The Voice
There are a few instances in the Bible where God spoke directly to people. When people heard the Voice of God, there was no mistaking who it was. I don't think you would have any problem, either. Somehow, you just know it's Him. But again, that is kind of scary to most people and God rarely uses this method, even in the Bible.
Finally, I think the most common method is the one I will mention last.
7. The Holy Spirit
The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 2: 12 that we have someone the Bible refers to as "The Holy Spirit" to tell us the things God wants us to know. Jesus spoke at length about all the things the Holy Spirit does for us. He guides us, He teaches us, He reminds us of things, He corrects us. He uses our life events and circumstances to steer us in the right direction. He uses all the methods listed above and also speaks to our hearts and minds with the "still small voice", which is a calm and clear sound that we understand. Jesus said His sheep know His voice, and you find that something in you recognizes when you are being "spoken to". If you ever have doubt, you can pray and God will make Himself clearer to you if you ask Him to.
These are just some of the ways God speaks to people. There are others not mentioned here as well. Even though God uses all these ways to communicate with us, we can still be foggy and slow to understand. And we should never take one communication and just run with it. If God tells you something important, He will repeat it. And He will repeat it again. And again. We call this confirmation and you should wait for it before acting, especially when you are not sure. Communication with God is a kind of dance, in which there are many different steps, but the most important thing is to know and trust your Partner. The better you know Him, the easier it is to move with the flow.