How to Know If God Is Speaking to You
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."1
A Daily Encounter subscriber writes, "I just asked a friend why I was not able to reach her via her telephone. She told me that God had told her to separate herself from everyone—not to be in touch with anyone, even family, so she changed her home and cell phone numbers. Have you ever heard of anything like this? Or is she listening to the wrong spirit?"
Dear AB, "When people like this say that God has told them to do (or not to do) such and such, I always discredit it if it is contrary to what the Word of God teaches. What this person has said certainly appears to be contrary to God's Word the Bible."
Speaking personally, I never say that God has told me to do anything apart from what His Word has already said. If I sense that God may be leading me to do something, I always put it to the test to see if it is of God or of myself. People who have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies can easily believe that their own compulsive thinking is from God. I like to remind myself that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty"2—never compulsions!
In one church where I was a deacon we had one deacon who claimed to have many "gifts of the Spirit." In deacon meetings, when we had major issues to discuss, he would sometimes say, "The Lord has told me how it is to be." On one of these occasions I said, "Because the Lord hasn't told me how it should be, can we discuss the issue at hand." On another occasion this same man came to my office and told me that God had told him that he was to work for me. I didn't give him a job because he was not in any way qualified to do the work that we do!
Then there are those who want a special word from God to know what they are supposed to do when God's Word has already made that very plain. For instance, I heard one lady say that she didn't support evangelism because God didn't tell her to do this. However, the fact is that Jesus has commissioned [told] EVERY Christian in his Word saying, "You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere."3 For many things we don't need any special word from God because he has already given that to us.
Yes, it is certainly true that God does lead and call people to undertake certain tasks and responsibilities, but if it is from God, it is always in harmony with what his Word teaches and never contrary to it. If we feel God is "speaking" to us or leading us, we need to "test the spirit" to see if it is of God. For instance, years ago I felt very strongly that God was leading me to write and do literature work, something I had never ambitioned to do. So as a test I started to write and guess what? That test was in 1968. It worked. I've been writing ever since.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to discern the difference between 'a word from you' and a word from myself or from any other source. Always face me with the truth in every such situation. And when the word or directive is from you, please give me the courage to step out and put it to the test. Furthermore, help me to always obey what is clearly written in your Word, the Bible. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 John 4:1 (NKJV).
2. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV).
3. Mark 16:15 (TLB) (NLT).