Have you ever thought God was saying something to you, but you weren't sure it was really His voice you were hearing? Have you found yourself thinking, How do I know it was really God I heard and not my own imagination--or worse, the enemy?
God's solution is simple: "'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him'" (James 1:5, NIV). When we need to know if we are hearing God's voice, all we have to do is ask Him!
We can go to God, tell Him what we think we heard Him say, and then ask Him to confirm it or correct our hearing on the matter. God wants to give us an understanding of what He says to us because He wants to communicate with us. He is eager to teach us to correctly hear His voice.
What are some steps we can take to make sure we're hearing God?
1. Put your faith in the right thing. When I was first learning to hear God's voice, I went overboard in my need to double-check my hearing. I was so afraid I might hear God wrong that I tended to check and recheck my hearing on just about everything. I became very sluggish in obeying God because I spent so much time verifying everything I heard.
My problem was that I had placed my faith in the wrong thing. I was trusting in my ability to hear God--instead of in His ability and faithfulness to speak clearly and to correct and redirect me if I heard wrong.
I used to think that "correction" was the same as "punishment." But God revamped my thinking by reminding me of my old ice skating coach.
I really liked him. He would watch me try to execute a move and then offer feedback, saying something such as: "Your weight is drifting to the left when you turn. You need to keep it balanced over your skating foot."
I knew I had just been corrected, but I wasn't put down or made to feel small or punished. The intent of the correction was to help me excel, and as I applied what he told me, my skating improved.
God told me that I should look to Him as my coach when it came to hearing His voice. He promised that He would let me know when I got something wrong and how to correct it so I could excel in following Him. Suddenly correction became something to be desired instead of something to be feared, and I found out just how faithful and committed God is to the process of teaching us to hear Him.
2. Look for scriptural precedents. It is wise to get into the habit of checking what God says to us against Scripture. God will not say something to us that contradicts what the Bible says. There will be certain "words" we can eliminate immediately as "not from God" when we line them up against what God has already said in the Bible.
At the same time, there are many areas that the Bible does not address explicitly. Still, God is often willing to give us a scriptural precedent for what He says to us. For instance, imagine that you are trying to decide which of two job offers God wants you to accept. You believe He is telling you to take job offer No. 2, one that will put you in contact with hurting people to whom you can minister. But job offer No. 2 is a much lower-paying job than job offer No. 1, so you want to be sure you are hearing God.
You ask Him for a confirmation, and as you're considering your decision, God directs your attention to Matthew 9:12-13: "'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick....For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" Those words come alive to you, and you realize that you have just received the confirmation you need to take the second job. God will often use such scriptural precedents to help confirm His communication to us.
3. Don't fleece God. We must not give God an ultimatum about how He is to confirm His word to us. That's called "putting a fleece before the Lord," and it refers to the experience of Gideon found in Judges 6:36-40.
God wanted Gideon to lead Israel in battle against the Midianites, but Gideon was not feeling very confident in his calling--or in his hearing from God. So he laid a fleece (a sheepskin) on the floor and asked God to make the morning dew come only on the fleece, and not on the ground around the fleece. God did this for him, but poor Gideon was still unconvinced. The next night he asked God to reconfirm His word by covering the ground with dew but leaving the fleece dry. Once again, God did as Gideon requested.
Based on this passage, some people assume that they can tell God precisely how to confirm or correct what they believe they have heard Him say to them. In essence, they believe they can dictate the "supernatural hoops" through which God must jump to prove He really said what they believe they heard.
God allowed Gideon to fleece Him, but there is no indication that He was setting a precedent for the rest of us to follow. In fact, there is a strong scriptural precedent against telling God specifically what to do.
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