“How do I know if I’m hearing from God or just being influenced by my own thoughts?”
“How do I learn to hear from God?”
“I think I’ve heard the voice of God, how do I keep from doubting that it was really Him?”
Have you wrestled with questions like these? If so, today’s Dashing Devotional is just for you!
When I mentor people in their walk with the Lord, questions like these are the most common I hear. Know this though, you were made to hear from God. I pray today’s encouragement and guidance offer you peace and assurance.
Believe He WANTS to speak to you
You've got to be honest. Ask yourself, “Do I BELIEVE that God wants to talk to me?” Many times, when I “push” people on this question a little, doubt is revealed. Doubt is the obstacle standing in their way. It’s ok if the answer is,"No, I don't really believe He wants to or cares enough to speak to me." The important point here is taking the step of faith required to be honest with yourself (and with God - trust me, He can handle it). If the answer is no though, it does have to be reconciled before you can reasonably expect a thriving two-way conversation with the Lord. If this doubt is an obstacle for you, simply confess it. Tell God that you doubt His desire to speak to you personally. Ask Him to forgive any doubt that's keeping you from hearing and ask Him to replace doubt with assurance. Will you allow me to speak to your heart on this matter as well? Friends, I can tell you with absolute certainty that God desires relationship with you. He wants you to talk to Him. And, He want to talk to you. How can I can be so confident of this? I can because the Word (God Himself) tells me so. If you wrestle with doubt, if you wonder whether or not God really cares so intimately about you that He longs to speak into your life, you’ve got to start here. Start by really allowing these truths from His word to wash over you to change your heart and mind. He wants to talk to you – you can hear His voice.
Scriptures to help you overcome doubt and believe that God can and will speak to you:
- Hebrews 10:19-20
- Genesis 3:8 (still how He desires to relate with His children)
- John 10:27
- Romans 8:14
- Jeremiah 29:12-13
- Isaiah 30:21
- John 10:4-5
- Proverbs 20:12
- Proverbs 22:17-19
For me, one of the greatest obstacles to hearing God is, well - me! Pride, disobedience, stubbornness, intentional and unintentional sin, they all cloud my ability to clearly hear God’s voice. They “interrupt” the relationship. When I really desire to hear from the Lord on something in my life, I first spend time preparing my own heart. I ask the Lord to search me and know my heart. I ask Him to reveal any sin or disobedience that may have come between us. I confess offenses I’ve been harboring toward other people or situations. I confess any hardness in my heart and ask Him to soften it. I ask Him to prepare every part of me to be fertile soil and a nurturing place for His Word. Finally, I ask God to bring up anything else that needs to be settled between us that may keep me from receiving the two-way communication I desire. Sometimes I’ll put it this way;
1.) God, how am I with me? In other words, is there any area where I’m getting in my own way?
2.) God, how am I with you? Am I in right standing with Him, is there any hook the Enemy has baited me with to keep me from the closest relationship possible with God.
It’s not one or the other
“How do I know if what I’m hearing is God’s or my own voice?” In my experience, this question is by far the most common obstacle keeping people from enjoying thriving communication with the Lord. They are so concerned with positively identifying the voice and message they hear that they literally miss the entire translation. Now, it’s a critical point and I don’t mean to dismiss it. I do believe however, that this degree of uncertainty is a scheme of the Enemy intended to keep God’s children from all He desires for them. Let’s look at it.
In my opinion, there are three possible “voices” we might hear – the voice of God, the voice of our flesh, and the voice of the Devil. My counsel though is this. Hearing the voice of God and hearing your own voice are not always mutually exclusive. Sometimes, it’s the same voice! We know as believers we have the mind of Christ. He dwells within us! To assume that our own voice is always opposed to the voice of God is a lie intended to cause us doubt. Many times, your own thoughts will not only be influenced by God, but also fully aligned with His. You can breathe a peaceful sigh of relief knowing this. You have a sound mind governed by the Lord Himself.
That said, our thoughts are not always His thoughts. The flesh is strong and can speak to you in ways that don’t line up with God. Finally, there is the voice of the Enemy. This voice can be loud! It can feel like the most deafening at times, I know. There are several promises in the Word though to reassure you that you need not fear the voice of the Enemy, you simply need to learn to discern it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“…and the sheep follow Him, for they know (emphasis mine) His voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
So, how do we test the message we receive to know that it is indeed God we’re hearing? There are several ways:
Consult the word
The Bible is our source, our guide for how to do life. Within the Word of God is everything we need to live a victorious life. The Bible is also God's primary method of speaking to us. Why? Well, in the same way we use spoken words as our primary mode of communication in relationships, so does God. The Bible is His actual spoken word. Can God use other ways to speak to us? Yes, some of them we’ll talk about here. However, when we truly desire growth in our ability to hear from God – to become fluent in the language of the Spirit – we must be “listening” to Him through the Word.
When you think you’ve heard from the Lord, simply consult the Word to see if that message lines up. The Lord will never contradict Himself. He will never speak something to your heart and then counsel you differently in His Word. The Word is a trustworthy sounding board. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 assures us that, “All scripture is given by inspiration by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
He confirms His word
The Lord will also confirm His words to us. Such loving character of the Father heart of God isn’t it? So gracious. The Father knows our weaknesses. He knows we enjoy a degree of confidence when things are confirmed to us. When you hear from the Lord, you will likely receive that same message again. It will be unmistakable. You will experience one of those, “Wait! Whoa!” moments we’ve all had. Confirmation can come by means of worship, blessings, signs and wonders, other believers, even trials. The Word tells us though that, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” Matthew 18:16
Seek peace and pursue it
The voice of God will never, I repeat, never cause any of the following – fear, dread, anxiety, panic, confusion, need to lie, worry, self-harm, or discord. If the voice you hear leads you into any of those areas, you can be CERTAIN you’ve either been influence by your flesh or the Enemy - period, end of story. If you hear a voice that stirs up anything opposed to the fruit of the Spirit you can confidently turn and run straight the other direction. You can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was not God.
Now, will the Lord lead us in ways that cause us to be stretched, convicted, even uncomfortably reliant on Him? Absolutely. They will however, always be accompanied by a deep, all-consuming sense of peace that will steady you, calm you, uphold you, refresh and guide you.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called to one body and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
“Turn away from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” Galatians 5:22
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the One whom Jesus promised to help us know the voice of God. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, the Counselor, the One whom the Father sent to dwell within each of His children. The Holy Spirit helps teach us, guide us, and enables us to recognize and understand the Word (voice) of God. His whole gig is to communicate the Word to us! Incredible!
If you find yourself struggling to recognizing God’s voice, simply ask the Holy Spirit to increase your ability. Ask for stillness that allows you listen. Ask for the desire to seek and understand truth. And, ask for increase in your measure of faith to clearly recognize and trust the voice of God.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:13
Finally, it’s wise to consult other believers whom you trust. Sharing what you’ve heard from the Lord with someone who knows Him is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, they can help encourage you. Second, they can help redirect you. It’s not at all uncommon for people to reach out to me to simply say, “So, this is what I believe I heard from God, does that sound like Him to you?” The word is chock full of scriptures and examples that point us toward seeking godly counsel!
- Proverbs 11:14
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- Proverbs 27:17
- Ephesians 6:4
- Proverbs 27:17
- Proverbs 27:5-6
Believers, you don't have to go another day wondering if you were given the ability to hear from God. You were. Every child of God has been given the ability to hear, recognize and understand Him. Like most thing in life though, getting really comfortable with that ability may take practice. Will you be encouraged by hope though? What a glorious truth to know that you have access to the God of the Universe. You can boldly approach the Throne of Grace. You can know that waiting there is the One who adores you. Your Father is waiting with open arms to receive you. He simply can't wait to talk with and bless you. He has treasure to share with you, will you receive it today?