I am currently reading a book titled Listening Prayer. It’s extra old (1987) and our copy is yellow-ish. I’m pretty sure it was purchased from a church booksale situation and the author is an old lady with huge glasses. HUGE. But the huge-glasses lady has a lot of wisdom. As I was reading, she quoted this passage from John 10 (verses 5-6, 27-28)
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:5-6, 27-28)
She went on to write that when we are listening in prayer for the voice of God, we will be able to distinguish God’s voice because we are his sheep.
Now, I have heard this passage before and read it, but this time it J-U-M-P-E-D (those letters are supposed to be “jumping”) off the page! Has that ever happened to you? You’re going along, studying the Word, when it all clicks – a different type of “revelation” about something you just read…? That’s because it’s God’s Word and it’s “living and active!” (Hebrews 4:12)
Anyway, that happened to me. The words jumped off the page and God showed me this very clearly: the sheep’s ability to hear His voice isn’t proof of belonging, but rather assurance of belonging.
I always thought that this passage was teaching that if I’m truly a Christian, I’d be able to hear God and if I can’t hear Him, then I must not belong; that the ability to hear is proof. However, I think Jesus used this analogy more for assurance – if I belong to Christ, I WILL be able to discern His voice from others – from voices of the world and from the voice of the great deceiver, the father of lies. Now, that is assuring. I have the ability to discern God’s voice if I’m a believer because He has given that ability to me. And, I can be sure of this because Jesus promised it.
What about the times when you’re unsure? Keep listening and waiting until you are sure – because you can be sure. “His sheep follow him because they know his voice…” Notice, it does not read his sheep will follow him if they can figure it out. Nope! There is no “if.” It’s just “his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”