Still, Small Voice
Dave asked this: But Thomas... please go after this one... the "still small voice" This was a big deal in the Nazarene Church I grew up in. I find it impossible to trust the voices/words floating about in my head. Seems like they are "all me" I am comfortable getting discernment communally and tend to work out God's intention for me in dialog with others but as for me hearing the still small voice.... nope... Maybe what I need to hear is a big loud voice.
In I Kings 19. Elijah meets God in a cave on a mountain. The coming of the Lord was preceded by a great wind and a great earthquake. The KJV says that "the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (I Kings 19:11b-12) There is no indication this voice was "internal" to Elijah. Rather, it was an external voice. Not a great voice, as Ezekiel described the voice of God--"and his voice was like the noise of many waters" (Ezekiel 43: 2, KJV) But still, a voice that, like the earthquake and the fire, was external.
We only know of three times in which Jesus Christ audibly heard the voice of God. Interestingly, when he spoke of knowing the Father's will, he usually spoke of the scriptures. He described his mystical experience with the Father, he used words like love, know, and see, not so much "hear."
It is the opinion of my branch of Christianity that we hear God's voice primarily in the Bible (especially as interpreted through the Universal Church), then tradition, and Spirit-inspired reason. We also hear God's voice through creation, community, conscience, events, coincidence, etc. All of these must be read through the lens of scripture. If we hear a big, external voice, we must also read that through this lens. Just because it is still and small, or big and loud, does not mean it is God.
Now, what of the inner voice? I personally pay attention to it through the lens of that hierarchy. If my inner voice tells me to hit my kid, for instance, I know that it is wrong because this is not the way of love that Jesus taught us. If my inner voice wants another donut, that is a bit harder to discern, but tradition tells me gluttony is a sin.
When I prepare a sermon, I am utterly reliant on my inner voice. I pray, I study, I prepare, and then I seek God in prayer and listen to that inner voice. Whether it is God, or me, or some combination, it helps me greatly in writing my sermons. Has it ever said anything wrong? You bet. But, I can also trust it to be helpful.
My inner voice, my intuition shall we say, has helped me avoid traffic accidents, fights with my boss, and paying to much for things. Was it God? I don't know if that's even an important question. All I know is that when I listen to my inner voice on matters that can not readily be discerned through the Bible/tradition/reason route, I am most often happy with the results. When I violate my inner voice, I am most often unhappy with the results.
I think it important to be in contact with that inner voice. However, it is also important not to assume that it is God, or the devil. It is part of how God made us, and God can speak through it as he can speak through anything at all. It is not the deciding factor in my life, but it can be a factor. I don't totally trust it, or totally distrust it. I accept it as another source of options.
I have not babbled on. I don't know if that is at all helpful.