In my role as a spiritual director people often ask me questions about God and walking with God. They ask theology questions, questions about how to study the Bible, or could I recommend a good book on prayer.
But the question I get the most is “How do I know when God is speaking to me?” How do I know that it isn’t Satan, or my own selfish desires, or if I’m deluding myself? How do I know when God is speaking to me?
I tell them the way we come to recognize the voice of God is the same process we use to recognize anyone else’s voice. In the same way you learn to recognize the voice of your wife or a friend calling you on the phone; we learn to recognize God’s voice. I don’t need Caller ID to tell me when my wife, children or best friend is on the other end of a phone conversation. Familiarity builds recognition.
How does someone’s voice become familiar to us?
We begin by listening and paying attention. As we do this, there are certain things we need to listen for.
First, we listen for the quality of the Voice.
The Voice of God carries with it the weight of authority. Like Jesus when He told the raging sea to “Be Still” or when He commanded evil spirits to come out of a man or when He called Lazarus out of the tomb. When God speaks to us, it carries the weight of authority.
The voice of God doesn’t argue, or try to convince us to do something. God doesn’t rationalize or justify what He wants us to do. God does not try to manipulate us into obeying Him. Satan does, your sinful nature does, and the world does. But the voice of the God states it clearly without apology, without argument, without justifications. Listen for the quality of the Voice.
The voice of God also has a unique Spirit or tone about it.
Listen for the tone of the Voice In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Gentle and Humble.
When God speaks to you the voice you hear will not be loud, hysterical, demanding, anxious, angry or frantic. God’s voice is gentle, calm and firm. In James 3:17 it says that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Pay attention to the tone of the Voice.
The third criteria for determining the source of the voice you are hearing is Content.
Listen for the Content of the Voice. In John 14:26, Jesus says that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything Jesus has said.
The content of the voice of God will always conform to and be consistent with what Jesus has said and done. Any voice that does not sound like something Jesus would say is not a word from God. Period!
As pastor Charles Stanley comments, “God’s voice will never tell us to engage in any activity or relationship that is inconsistent with the Holy Scriptures.” The Holy Spirit will never tell you to steal, to have an affair, to gossip, to slander, to avoid church, to not share your faith, to not read your Bible, to avoid prayer, to seek revenge, to not forgive someone, to be afraid of something God might say to you, or to judge someone. If these are the voices or thoughts going through your head, they are not from God.
Quality,Tone, and Content.
If it is God speaking, these three indicators will be in harmony with one another. If any of the three is a little off, you need to question the source of the voice and whether it has your best interest in mind.
God desires to be your friend; a friend who freely listens as you speak and one who wants you to recognize his voice when he speaks to you. A friend who’s voice you naturally recognize and respond to throughout your day. As you pay attention to the Quality, Tone, and Content of God’s voice you will learn to become familiar with God’s voice; as one friend to another.
– Steve Nickles, M.Div