A few years back, I really fought a battle between knowing what was the voice of the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin, and leading me to repentance and what was the accusatory voice of the enemy, trying to keep me living in guilt of the past and hinder my spiritual growth in Christ.
In that time, I learned a few things that helped me determine which voice to listen to, and which voice to rebuke (in the context of Jude 1:9, “The Lord rebuke you.”)
It was in that time that I heard it said by someone that God often speaks in spontaneous thought, bringing things or people to mind for varying purposes.
So here’s my criteria for listening in the Spirit and sifting persistent thought patterns to determine whether or not those thoughts are of the Most High.
1) Ask God. I struggled with this one for several reasons. The Bible says that His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him. (John 10:27-28) I was ashamed that I was struggling at all- was I even truly saved!? But the Bible also says to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-6) and that the devil himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). So knowing that God desires us to run to Him and to be dependent on Him for guidance and wisdom, I just started asking Him, “God, is this You? Please confirm it by 2 or more witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1) and lead me in obedience according to Your will and Word.” And ya know what? He did. Every single time. That time spent in prayer- listening prayer, meditative prayer- is wholly invaluable in discerning the voice of God.
2.) Immerse yourself in God’s Word. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through his Word, the Bible, and through the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. If you want to know God’s voice, you have to know His character, which is revealed in the Bible. By reading God’s Word, you learn His desires, His tendencies, His holiness, and you can use that as the measure for your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9); we’re to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). If the persistent voice or thought is inconsistent with God’s character, or contradicts the truth of Scripture, you can rest assured it is not the voice of God. The Holy Spirit will always convict with a solution available. The enemy will condemn with no “way out”. God is constant. His Word and His character never change. Therefore, the Bible is a steadfast, objective measure of truth by which to judge our thoughts.
3) Seek Godly counsel. Find someone well versed in Scripture, faithful to Christ and ask them to pray for you, talk you through the issue, and to hold you accountable in your response. For me, this wasn’t always a flesh-and-blood, in-person relationship. Sometimes, I had to rely on the preaching and teaching of Christian apologists or theologians. There are a couple caveats here in that God desires Christian community, so whenever possible, find a community- even one or two other people- to walk in faith with, and to mentor and disciple you. The other caveat is that not all televangelists or spiritual teachers that wave the label of Christianity do so legitimately. Again, you must always measure the truth of a message against the Word of God in the Bible. In the end God will not lie or contradict Himself. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”(Romans 3:4-8)
That said, about 4 or so months ago, my husband first applied to our current church. When he came home and told me about it, immediately in my spirit I knew that is where we would end up. That came with such clarity and precision, I was overwhelmed to tears! What’s more, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and revealed things to me about the congregation which I have since been able to confirm. I stand amazed. I called out to the Lord, and He answered me, with clarity and concision (Jeremiah 33:3) . And it took 4 months to have that information made apparent in reality. God’s timing is perfect. And because of His leadership and guidance, I did not face changing church families with trepidation or fear but with confidence that God needed us there for specific reasons. I have so much peace now, seeing those reasons manifest, and learning more about how we can best serve our brothers and sisters in Christ there! God is good! And I cannot wait to see what He will accomplish through us in this congregation!
Come, Lord Jesus!!