This is a two-part series. Part one is called 3 reasons to doubt what you heard from God. It’s about the danger of relying on hearing God’s voice through a thought or feeling.
What I’m arguing today in part two is that hearing God’s voice through a thought, feeling, or unique experience, should come in at least fourth place as far as how much weight it holds in our lives. There are three other primary ways God speaks to us that should take precedence over our thoughts and feelings.
1. Through his Word (but not how you might think).
This is probably what you expected me to start with. I suppose I wouldn’t be a good Christian if I didn’t. But I want to be clear what I mean. Many people think of the Bible as “a roadmap to life.” It’s a pretty lousy life map actually. The Bible doesn’t tell you who to marry, what career to pursue, what your calling is, how many kids to have, or anything else directly applicable to the decisions you need to make in life. But God speaks to us through scriptures in two other ways.
First, before the Bible is meant to tell us how to live, it exists to tell us about God, his people, his character, his story. The Bible is for us, but it isn’t about us. It’s about God.
Second, in as much as the Bible does give us some instruction for life, it does not tell us what choice to make, but it does empower us with wisdom to be able to make wise decisions.
Scripture can also be used like a “fact checker” for what we think we’ve heard from God (which I talked about in part 1). if any thought, feeling, dream, vision, or even audible voice contradicts the heart and message of the Scriptures, we can be confident that it isn’t from God.
2. Through wisdom.
If you want to truly be led by the Holy Spirit then understand that most often, God’s voice is the voice of wisdom. Usually when we make the wisest decision, we are following the voice of God.
Knowledge is information a person acquires over time through various types of learning. Wisdom is the ability to know what to do with the knowledge we’ve acquired. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” The problem is, we often ask for wisdom from God, but what we really mean is for God to give us knowledge. God doesn’t just magically hand out knowledge. Knowledge must be sought.
So if you are having a hard time hearing God’s voice, I would ask you what podcasts are you listening to, what books are you reading, what conversations are you having, what church do you attend, what are you googling, etc.?
3. Through community.
This is huge, and far too often overlooked. God speaks to us through his Body. The weird thing is, when we desperately need the input of others the most is often when we shut those around us out so that we can get alone and “hear from God.” In other words, we often mute God’s voice speaking through our community because we don’t realize that’s a primary way he speaks to us. Certainly we should seek God through prayer. But God often speaks to us through others, especially those in our community.
The danger, though, is that we often only seek advice from people we know will validate our ideas. This isn’t seeking wisdom, it’s seeking approval. To echo number two again, God speaks to us through wisdom, and scripture says “Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety,” (Prov. 11:14). So what are those who know you best saying to you?
And finally, in fourth place, God sometimes leads us through thoughts and feelings. We should always measure these experiences against God’s Word, Wisdom, and the wise council of our community to see if we have heard correctly.
I would argue that if these three areas are not the primary ways you are being led by the Lord, and instead you rely on an inner voice or a deep feeling first, you may be in danger of deceiving yourself. You may actually be listening to your flesh more than you’d like to think you are.
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