“But how do I know it’s God?”
I’ve been asked this question over and over again the last few months; friends, acquaintances in church, family members, even social media connections from the other side of the world, all want to know the same thing: how do we know we are being led by God?
So many voices fight for our attention on a daily basis; colleagues, social media, friends, politicians, family members, news reporters, music artists, our own voice of reason and common sense. So how can we sift through the rabble in our minds to hear and be convinced of God’s voice? How does He lead us? And what if we get it wrong?
Here’s a few key things to remember when seeking the voice of God.
God wants to be heard
Sometimes we maybe feel like God is hiding from us or intentionally making things difficult for us, just to test us, but that is not the case. Yes, God does test our faith at times, and may appear to lead us on a grand detour to our own Promised Land (Exodus 13), but He is not doing it to wind us up or tease us. His motive for all that He does is love (Romans 8:28). And because of that, He desires a relationship with us; one full of heartfelt exchanges and vulnerable conversations. Just as in our friendships or relationships with one another, the more we talk, the tighter the bond; the more honest and open we are, the more intimate the relationship.
So it is only natural that God, who created us in His image – to love, to live in community – values these same things in our relationship with Him. More often than not, our assertion of a ‘silent’ God is less about God not speaking, and more about the fact that we are not listening. God wants to be heard. He speaks to accomplish (Genesis 1). He speaks value, and worth, and purpose over us. He doesn’t say these things for His own benefit, but for ours!
So don’t kid yourself that God is speaking to everyone else except you, that is not the case. Even in my own ‘silent’ seasons, when I have waited for God to speak and reveal His next step, He has still spoken to encourage me in my waiting. He maybe wasn’t (yet) saying what I wanted Him to say, but He was not quiet. When I stopped to listen, He was always faithful to respond.
God will not let you miss His will
If you are seeking God’s heart and live in a way that endeavours to align your heart with His, He will not let you miss His direction (Jeremiah 29:13). Sometimes, when faced with a number of possibilities or decisions, we allow fear to enter into our hearts, worrying that we will choose something that is not from God. Be careful, because this is a cunning trick of the enemy who is doing all he can to throw us into confusion and hijack our Christian walk (John 10:10).
Rarely will God speak to us in a loud, booming voice. Instead, He is the quiet, persistent whisper that pursues us and gently guides us (1 Kings 19:12). He never misses deadlines or leaves us to walk blindly into foolish decisions. When we are truly seeking to know His will for us, He loves that and honours that, and will be faithful to answer.
God’s timetable is not ours
I have just said that God never misses deadlines. But hear me: He never misses His deadlines; He quite often misses ours! But that is exactly my point: God’s timetable is not ours (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Often times, when faced with a decision or trying to identify our next step, we allow ourselves to think that God has abandoned us because He fails to speak to us in what we believe to be a timely manner. But the problem is with us, not Him.
If we believe that God will speak to us, and will not allow us to miss His best for us, then we have to trust His timing too. Frequently, His persistent whisper begins to speak long before we see the fruition of those promises (Hebrews 11:8-12). It is seldom a good idea to act on a promise, a direction, an instruction that we have only heard spoken once, for we cannot be sure that it is from God. But God’s persistent whisper speaks time and time again, allowing His Holy Spirit to minister to our hearts, and confirm the word that has been spoken over us.
God is a God of peace, not confusion
And along with His repeated word, God will also gift us His peace to cement His will in our hearts.
God’s will cannot be worked out logically. His ways do not align with common sense. But His voice is always accompanied by peace, not worry, stress, or confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The peace that God gives is a peace that cannot be given or understood by the world (Philippians 4:7). It is a peace that carries us through the storm of uncertainty; though everything around us may appear (to us) to be out of control, we can rest in our hearts knowing that God walks every step with us. Where He is leading us, we will not want to or be able to go alone. So resist trying to walk ahead of Him, instead allow Him to set the pace and just take one step at a time.
The bottom line is this: we must be listening in order to hear from God. The Bible tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If our Bibles are sitting on the bookshelf gathering dust, we can be sure we will hear very little of God’s voice. The Word of God will always be the primary way in which God will speak to us.
By praying before we open the Bible, we can invite the Holy Spirit that lives within us to help us identify and discern the voice of God. His Spirit works in partnership with the Word of God to bring the verses into words of encouragement, instruction, and correction that are relevant and applicable for our lives today.
Learning to hear the voice of God, recognise the voice of God, and then have the courage to obey the voice of God is a beautiful journey that He lovingly walks us through as we seek to grow closer and closer to Him. God longs for a relationship with us, first and foremost, not just simply people to do His bidding. So focus on getting to know your Heavenly Father, and soon His direction and instruction will become part of your daily dialogue.