In Part 1, I mentioned that John 10 assures us we can know the shepherd’s voice. We can have faith that He will speak to us and that He will help us to know His voice. I also said, in Part 2, that reading the Bible consistently helps us to hear God accurately. How does this work?
When we absorb the Word as given to us in the Bible, we get a feel for how God thinks and how He speaks. We grow in wisdom through reading it. Scripture is also the standard against which we measure all revelation. If something we hear in our inner man does not line up with what the Bible says, it is not God – no matter how much we might think it sounds like Him.
Hearing God accurately and discerning (sorting out) what is from God and what is not is a maturing process. It doesn’t happen overnight. We all make some mistakes along the way. Our own emotions, ambitions, impure motives, and incorrect interpretations of what is going on around us can sometimes deceive us. Sometimes the enemy of our souls cleverly attempts to inject thoughts that sound somewhat like God’s voice. How can we tell the difference? Many times the differences are subtle, but they are there.
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help in the discerning process:
1.) How does what I heard make me feel? If an inner word strikes fear or condemnation into us, it is not from God. When God speaks correction, He never reviles us. He does not wound us by telling us how inferior we are. His voice may be firm in telling us we need to change, but it is always loving and encouraging. Fear is not of God. Even when He speaks about a difficulty ahead of us, He gives a peace with it. He lets us know He will be there for us through all circumstances.
2.) Does it line up with God’s Word? Sometimes our natural man wants to do things that we know are not according to what the Bible says. We seem to have a knack for rationalizing that because of our unique circumstances, God is making an exception in our situation. It doesn’t work that way. God will not make exceptions to what He has already said in the Bible.
3.) Am I trying hard to make myself believe I am hearing God? If we have to spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that it really must have been God speaking to us, it probably isn’t Him. We shouldn’t have to work it up inside of ourselves. If we’re honest with ourselves, there is a lack of peace inside that we are trying to overcome, because our flesh wants its own way.
4.) Is what I am hearing feeding selfish motives? We have to be careful with this one, because God does want to bless us by giving us the desires of our heart. He is the one that plants many of those desires in us. So, to want good things in our lives is not always selfishness. It could be God’s purposeful destiny for us. But why do we want something? Is it ultimately for His glory, or for our glory? Sometimes it takes a little time to sort out whether our motives are pure or not. If it needs time to be discerned, give it time. God will continue to speak, if the word came from Him in the first place.
5.) Does the inner voice sound demanding or insistent? At times God will speak urgently, for our own safety or if we need to pray for someone who is in trouble and needs immediate intercession. But if it is concerning a decision that must be made, and the voice is pushing us, it is generally not God. He gives us ample time to be sure we are hearing Him rightly. The enemy of our souls likes to push us into making impulsive choices that we will later regret.
6.) Am I afraid to ask the counsel of other godly people about what I am hearing? This ought to be a red flag every time! If we are truly hearing God, we should not be afraid to check it out with wise advisers. The devil will try to convince us that we are misunderstood, that we have a revelation so special no one else around us would understand, etc. Poppycock!
When God is speaking to us, His word will bring with it faith and peace, a desire for His glory, a mighty awe of Him and His plans, and humility in ourselves. It will be encouraging, and will lead us into a higher level of dependence upon Him. It will have His purposes at its core.
Next time we will talk about some more ways that God speaks to us.
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