How To Discern The Voice Of The Lord
When I tell my story, I can't help but mention all the ways God has spoken to me. From marrying my wife to moving to Nebraska, some of the most important decisions of my life were a product of God leading me. Invariably, people always ask me "How do you know it's God speaking? How do you hear His voice?"
First, I must reassure you that Christians can and should be able to hear God's voice. Just look at what Jesus said in John 10:27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Obviously our Lord expects us to be able to discern His leading and to obey Him. So how does He speak? How do we know it's him? I think it's helpful to realize that God "speaks" in many different ways. This has been verified in the scriptures, in my own life, and in the testimony of countless Christians. Here are 10 simple ways God still speaks today to His people across cultures and continents.
1. Holy Scriptures
These inspired and inerrant writings are the final authority in all matters of life, godliness, and spirituality. Learn to study and interpret The Bible through proper exegesis and trust this above all other forms of revelation. "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20-21
2. Audible Voice
Obviously this is what many people think of when they talk about "hearing God's voice." This is how the prophets of old encountered God and established their authority as His representatives. This is very rare, and we should not expect this kind of communication to be common in the body of Christ today. I have heard of examples of Pastors receiving a call to ministry in this manner once in their lifetime, but I have never experienced such a phenomenon myself. If you happen to experience this, check it against scripture, because God will never contradict His own word. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" Numbers 23:19
3. Spiritual Authority
God has established pastors and elders in the church to help you discern the word and will of God. Too many people are wandering around without any accountability or coaching in their spiritual life, and they wonder why they can't seem to discern God's leading. "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you." Hebrews 13:17
4. Personal Conscience
The Bible tells us that God has given each person a moral compass to determine right from wrong. All mankind knows what truly offends God and understands evil to be shameful. Unfortunately we often times deny our own conscience because we love our wickedness. When you sense what you are doing is wrong, repent and trust in Jesus for forgiveness. "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to our own conscience." 2 Corinthians 5:11
5. Prayerful Confirmation
When it becomes difficult to discern God's will in a particular situation, it is biblical and acceptable to seek God in prayer and ask for confirmation. When asking God to give you a specific sign, you must be careful to do so with all humility and avoid putting God to the test. "Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” Judges 6:36-37
6. Providencial Circumstances
When certain circumstances or events align properly and simultaneously there is sometimes no other explanation than divine intervention. This is what the wise men determined at the birth of Christ. Be aware of "the stars aligning" in your life, that could be God's way of sending you a message. "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1
7. Inner Impression
Although this can be hard to explain, most Christians have experienced this. It is a very common way that God communicates to His people. He gives them supernatural peace, discernment, direction, hunches, inclinations, thoughts, and whispers. However you want to express it, we are talking about the "still small voice" of God that guides us towards His will. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21
8. Supernatural Means
It is also common for God to communicate to us through dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge, or other seemingly out-of-the-ordinary methods. These things happened all throughout the Old and New Testaments and continue throughout church history into modern day church life. These must always be submitted to the other forms of revelation, but can be powerful moments in our lives. "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17
9. Natural Creation
Don't underestimate the way that God can speak to you through nature. The beauty, majesty, and intensity of God's earth can reveal His character to you in a way very few other things can. I would really encourage you to spend regular time outside with God and soak it all in. "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20
10. The Arts
When Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, create music, literature, paintings, or other forms of art, something special happens. God is able to communicate the truth of His Word afresh and anew through these avenues and reaches people in a beautiful and transformational way. Some of the most convicting moments in my life have occurred after watching a Christian movie or documentary. "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship." Exodus 31:3-4
I have ranked these in order of reliability, meaning you should use those at the top of the list to confirm those at the bottom of the list. If you are aware of all of these different communication methods, and use them to interpret each other, you will have a good grasp on what God is speaking to you.
Once you understand His leading, it is necessary that you obey that leading. But that is for another blog...
| Pastor Rob Bray