God Speaks, Part I
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight [or direct your paths]."1
A Daily Encounter reader asks, "How can I know when God is speaking to me, or when it is just my own thoughts?" I often joke that God needs to throw a brick and hit me upside the head with a note attached!" I can understand how this person feels and feel confident that many other readers struggle with the same question.
I once had a man tell me that God told him that he was to work for me. I didn't buy his message. And I wasn't struck down by lightning when I wouldn't give him a job! When I was a deacon in a former church, this same man and another deacon, when important matters were to be discussed, claimed that God had told them the way it was to be.
This could have been the end of any further discussion, for who can argue against God? But my answer to these people where it affects me is that "God hasn't told me yet, so can we discuss the matter further?"
These people didn't like me very much!
God has never spoken to me in an audible voice but apparently he does to some people. I believe that at least on one occasion God has "spoken" to me in a vivid dream. What we need to be certain of is to test the message to see if it is from God or from myself or any other source. How do we do this?
First, God's message will always be in harmony with His Word, the Bible, and never in opposition to it. I recall hearing one speaker talking about a phenomenon happening in his church saying that it must be a new work of God because it isn't in the Bible! This can be a very misleading path to follow.
Second, when God is speaking to us or leading us, there is a quiet conviction and a sense of inner peace. As His Word says, "Let the peace of God rule in your heart."2 When I don't have this inner peace, I have learned the hard way not to act on what I think I should do.
In younger days, if what I thought was God speaking to me, I would have been willing to stand on my head in public. But I learned that there is a vast difference between what God is saying (a conviction) and what is my own compulsion. With a conviction there is a sense of freedom and peace. But where the "little voice inside my head" keeps saying, "You have to do this! You have to do this! You have to do this!" and it is distressing me, I can be certain that it is a compulsion and not from God.
Third, God often "speaks to us" or leads us through our circumstances. Speaking personally, as I look back over the years, I can see how God has consistently led me through various and sundry circumstances and as the hymn–writer said, "Jesus led me all the way."
To be continued...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that when I commit my way to You and trust You with all my heart, You always lead me in the way that I should go. Please help me to learn how to discern when the "voice" I hear is from You or from myself or another source. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV).
2. Colossians 3:15).