I want to begin with a question. Does God still speak? I believe the answer to this question is a resounding yes, even though there may be some who think otherwise. If God still speaks then it requires a follow up question – how does he do it? And more importantly, how do you know when God is speaking? If you will stay with me, I want to give you some guidelines you can use to know that God is speaking.
The first thing you must recognize is that there are many voices out there. I don’t want you to think this is strange or unusual. Notice what Jesus said:
Because of this, the first thing you need to have so you can know when God is speaking is discernment. Now more than ever before, discernment is needed in the body of Christ. Especially in this age of social media where everyone has a pulpit or platform to preach or teach virtually whatever they want. With this increase in voices there needs to be an increase in discernment.
By definition discernment is the ability to perceive well or judge well. In regards to spiritual matters, Charles Spurgeon said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong but between right and almost right.” When it comes to God speaking, you need to be able to discern the difference between what sounds like it could be God, and what really is God. This matters because 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. In other words, he will try to mimic God speaking to you, which is why discernment is so important.
I know you are probably thinking this sounds difficult to do, but don’t worry, I will give you some ways to do this, so hold on.
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In spite of the voices out there, you must recognize that God does speak. This is not something that is reserved for the special few – this is something that is available to you and me. How can I say this so confidently? Because of the promise Jesus made to us. Consider these verses:
Jesus promised that when he left, he would send the Holy Spirit, and one of the things he would do in your life is speak. When God is speaking, he will do so through the Holy Spirit. The good news is when you were saved, guess who came to take up residence in your heart? The Holy Spirit.
To prove what Jesus said is true, there are examples we see in the Bible of the Holy Spirit speaking. Here are a few:
What I want you to notice is that when God was speaking in these instances, these men were doing things that you and I do as part of our normal lives as Christians: witnessing, praying, fasting, worshipping. In the normal course of their lives as they were walking with God, he spoke to them.
I have not found any place in the Bible that says the Holy Spirit has stopped doing this. In fact, Malachi 3:6 says “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” If God spoke then, he still speaks now.
There is no one method God uses to speak, that’s why you must understand the principles around what God is saying to know when he is speaking. Here are three basic principles that will help you know when it is God speaking.
1. Before you worry about what God is saying, you need to become familiar with what God has already said.
To really position yourself to know when God is speaking, you must become familiar with his voice. The best place to understand that is by becoming very familiar with the word of God. Knowing what he already has said will guide you to know what he is saying.
As we said before, God has declared in his word that he does not change. If he does not change then his words or what he is saying will not change as well. I don’t know if it’s possible to consistently discern that God is speaking if you are not familiar with the Word.
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2. God’s spoken word will always agree with his written word.
The Holy Spirit will never contradict what is written in the word. In fact, the Holy Spirit chooses to operate within the confines of the word of God. He acts and speaks in agreement with it. The reason he does this is because if he didn’t, how would we ever be able to test and know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? There must be some kind of guideline or base point we can use. That basepoint is the Bible.
You can be certain that the Spirit of God and the Word of God will always agree. The Spirit of God will never ask you or lead you to do something that is contrary to the Word of God. This is one surefire way to eliminate the deceptive voices.
I heard a pastor say one time that God told him to divorce his wife and marry another woman. Since this is contradictory to what God says in his word, there is no way that could be the Holy Spirit. That’s why knowing what God has already said is so important.
3. God’s spoken word will always be in agreement with his character.
Knowing when God is speaking requires you to know and understand God’s character. How or where do you find this? You must look at the fruit. The character of a person is seen in their actions, but can also be heard in their voice. Notice what Galatians says about the fruit or character of the Spirit.
It is important to remember that God’s voice will not only agree with his word, it will also agree with his character. When you think God is speaking, ask yourself “does this seem to be in agreement with God’s character?” Can you sense the truth of Galatians, the fruit of the Spirit, coming through in what you are hearing? If not then it is probably not God speaking.
Learning how to know when God is speaking is something that develops over time. There will be times when you miss it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. I would recommend you do the things that make you more familiar with his voice. That means praying, worshipping, and spending time in the word. If you continue in these things, this will set the stage and help you to know when God is speaking.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.