When we talk about “hearing God’s voice”, we are really talking about friendship with God. It is natural to understand that friendship is based on two-way communication. My 6-year-old daughter would be quite challenged if her best friend never listened or tried to communicate with her!
It has been an utter joy and privilege over the past 28 years to see children and young people come alive in their faith and confidence in God through simply experiencing John 10:10; “my sheep hear my voice”. I suppose we need not be too surprised. God’s word states: “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17). This has been particularly powerful when coupled with the opportunity to step out and obey what they have heard him say.
This blog and the next give some concrete ideas on ways to teach all ages to discern God’s voice and listen to him, based on how we have taught this over the years.
Teaching One: “Three Voices”
Aim: To understand the differences between the ‘voices’ we can pay attention to.
Game One “Distraction zone”
You will need:
A pre-prepared obstacle course
6-8 “distractors” (people ready to shout out random and confusing instructions)
A pair of volunteers (the blindfolded and their guide)
The blindfolded volunteer needs to complete the obstacle course, listening to his/her friend’s voice to get to the other side, while 6-8 other voices are trying to put them off!
Game Two “Listen Up!”
You will need, for each pair:
A different paragraph for each pair, photocopied from a story book.
A plain piece of paper
A pen or pencil
Warning – this game is noisy! Ask for any number of volunteers you want. They need to be in pairs. If the group is small enough then everyone can take part. If not we suggest 5 pairs out front demonstrating to the rest. Each pair has to stand with a good distance between them.
The idea is for one of each pair to write down what their partner is saying, listening above all the rest of the noise.
After a few minutes, stop them to find out who has written down their partner’s words most accurately.
There are many voices we can listen to, some which can distract us, but God has given us the ability to recognize his voice. There are three voices we can listen to – God’s voice, our own inner voice, or the enemy’s.
The enemy’s voice
Some might find this a strange thing to say; that the enemy can ‘speak’.
Activity: Have your group look up the following Bible verses, in groups (without the descriptive words we’ve added here).
Tempter – Luke 4:1-13
Accuser – Rev 12: 7-12; Job 1; Zechariah 3
Deceives – Genesis 3
Intimidates – 1 Peter 5:8
Lies – John 8:44
Get each group to share back what their scripture tells them about how the enemy speaks to people. They may use different words to the above, which is fine if they show understanding. (It might help visual learners to have the words written or stuck up in some creative way)
Teaching point: Satan brings condemnation and shame, which can lead us to shy away from God.
Learning to recognise how Satan lies, tempts and accuses us is important. When we learn his tactics it can be very freeing.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we can tell the enemy to be quiet. We can also use the truth in God’s word to defeat his lies, just like Jesus did in Luke 4:1-12.
Reflect: Do you think you have believed lies about yourself?
Our Own Voice
Teaching point: Our own voice is our thoughts and imaginations, which can
a) agree with truth, or
b) agree with lies, or
c) be led by our own feelings and attitudes.
In other words, all kinds of good, bad, encouraging or distracting thoughts can pop into our heads and sometimes it can feel like we don’t control what plays in our “mind cinema”.
Look up: 2 Corinthians 10:5 says: “… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.
God has given us the authority to arrest our thoughts and interrogate them.
Mini “on the spot” drama: appoint two “Thought police”, ready to apprehend wandering thoughts at the “Mind check-point”. Have a few volunteers take it in turns to embody different kinds of thoughts, eg “I’m rubbish at everything”, “I wonder what to have for dinner?”, “I wish I was more like So-and-So”, or “I have a cunning plan to bless someone!”
Let the “Thought Police” capture each “Thought” and question them to discover where they have come from, how much they reflect God’s truth and whether they are appearing at the right time.
Have fun with the whole group to decide on the treatment each should receive (eg “get out of here and never come back” or “come back later, nearer dinner time” etc)
Thoughts can come into our mind, but we choose whether they stay there and become beliefs.
Teaching point: Learning to discern The Shepherd’s voice is part of our joy as his sheep.
John 10:27 says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me”.
We don’t need to be anxious about figuring out when or how he’s speaking – he has made us to know when he's speaking to us.
Activity: Either - starting with the below words, groups think of and find scriptures to demonstrate that part of his character, or they investigate the list of scriptures and present back words to describe God's character from their what they've read.
Presenting them visually is great - particularly to contrast with the character of the enemy's voice.
God’s character and his attitude towards us will shine through his communication with us, so we will find him:
Loving (Psalm 86:15)
Fatherly (Matt 7:9-11)
Encouraging (Joshua 1:9)
Kind (Romans 2:4)
Exciting, marvelous (Job 37:5)
Inspiring (Rev 22:6)
Peaceful, strengthening (Daniel 10:19)
Convicting (Psalm 51:5-6, not condemning – see below)
In agreement with the Bible (2 Tim 3:16, Matt 5:17)
Wise (James 1:5, Colossians 1:9)
Creative, life-giving (John 6:63, Genesis 1:3)
Teaching point: We may not sense all of the above; maybe one or two of them.
Sometimes we don’t feel much in our emotions when we hear from God, but we need to know he doesn’t make us feel:
Condemned (conviction spurs us towards God to receive his forgiveness, condemnation pushes us away in shame)
Concluding activity: At the end of this teaching you could play a “Vote with your feet” game, with 3 zones to run to (enemy’s voice, my voice, God’s voice).
Read out statements, and the young people run to the zone whose voice they think it sounds like.
Make time to discuss their reasons (there could room for debate between our thoughts and enemy’s lies sometimes).
I can’t hear God’s voice
I’m accepted and loved
I can’t concentrate because I have too many things to do
I was unkind to my friend and I need to say sorry
I’m worthless and hopeless
I’ve got to figure this out by myself
The next session (Hearing God’s Voice 2) will take us deeper into learning to hear God’s voice.
(Rachel Turner has some helpful guidance for parents and children’s workers in what she calls “catching” from God in “Parenting children for a life of faith”)