To best serve this community I recently posed the following question to a very engaged and loyal member:
What topics would you find encouraging for me to address on my blog?
She responded with three amazing topics. Topic 1 was – You Ask, I Answer – What books and steps might help to build a consistent Bible study life?
Today we are addressing topic number 2:
How do we distinguish between the voice of God and our own inner voice, because sometimes they sound the same?
How do we distinguish between the voice of God and our own inner voice? Well, for starters, how does God speak to us? We can’t limit God or put him in a box. God can speak to us however he likes. In the Bible he spoke through a burning bush, prophets, prophetesses, a donkey (yes, God enabled a donkey to speak, check it out in Numbers 22:30), and the law, just to name a few. So, to say God only speaks in certain ways would be limiting a limitless God.
I can however share how I have heard God’s voice in my life: scripture, prayer, Bible teachers, friends, and my two unexpected favorites of late – flowers and birds. Now before you picture me running through a meadow Disney princess style with a bird on my finger or conversing like Alice in Wonderland with the daffodils, let me explain.
On two separate occasions in the past few years when I have found myself frustrated, discouraged, and feeling overlooked, complete strangers bought me flowers in the grocery store. Both of their motivations were different, but the message was loud and clear – God saw me.
I am not forgotten. I am not overlooked. God cares. And he cares enough to send strangers my way with bouquets of flowers.
So now every time I see a flower I am reminded, like Hagar in Genesis 16:13:
“You are the God who sees me,”
God sees us in our pain, and he never abandons us there.
Now to the birds. I read a magazine article explaining the phenomenon of The Dawn Chorus. We all know what The Dawn Chorus is, we just may not have known it’s official name. The Dawn Chorus is the sound of birdsong in the early morning hours.
Birds sing the moment they begin to perceive light. They sing in eager anticipation of the sunrise knowing instinctively it is coming before the sun ever breaks the horizon.
This my friends is such a beautiful picture of how we should walk through the dark seasons of our life. Eagerly anticipating God’s presence illuminating the darkness, inviting us to experience God in a new way. To deepen our faith. No matter how dark our nights, we should always praise and eagerly anticipate God’s light illuminating even our darkest nights. Because the darkness is not dark to him.
With this knowledge, every time I hear a birdsong, I am reminded to look for God in every circumstance. To praise him and eagerly anticipate his presence. To view every circumstance as an invitation to encounter God in a new way and grow in my faith.
The more obvious ways I have heard God speak has been through scripture, Bible teachers, and friends. But how do we know each of these instances were from God and not just our own inner voice?
Here are a few questions we can ask to determine if we are hearing God’s voice or just our own:
Does what I am hearing align with scripture?
God will never speak what is contradictory. Jesus himself said – a house divided cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). If God is speaking to us it will align with scripture so we can do a deep dive to see if what we are hearing is truth.
Need a little help knowing where to look for some wisdom? Check out James 3:14-17:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.(NIV)
I love this passage because it gives us some insight into wisdom that originates from God. This wisdom should fall under these categories:
- Good Fruit
Conversely this passage also outlines “wisdom” that did not originate with God. That form of “wisdom” is born of:
- Selfish Ambition
- Denial of Truth
These lists can be a litmus test and prompt us to ask:
- Is what I am hearing pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, good fruit, impartial and sincere?
- Or is what I am hearing born of envy, selfish ambition, boasting or the denial of truth.
Is this Life-giving?
Are the words we are hearing building us up as beloved children and image bearer of God? Do these words reflect the – Imago Dei – in others too? Imago Dei means we are created in the image of God and thus have inherent value and worth. These words should motivate us to treat others in a manner that honors both our own value and worth as well as that of others as image bearers of God.
Will this make us more Christ-like?
We can ask ourselves, no joke – WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? Is this something Jesus would do? Because as Christians, we are being transformed into Christlikeness:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
So, what would Jesus do? Well, we are told the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:
“…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”
Which begs us to ask the questions:
- Will what I am hearing make me more loving?
- Will what I am hearing create joy?
- Will what I am hearing create peace?
- Will what I am hearing make me more patient?
- Is what I am hearing kind?
- Is what I am hearing good?
- Will what I am hearing make me more faithful?
- Will what I am hearing make me gentle?
- Will what I am hearing promote self-control?
If the answer to any of these is “no,” we need to pause and question whether we are hearing our own voice instead of God’s voice.
Still not sure? Ask for Confirmation:
I am including some additional resources below which have even more questions to ask as we discern God’s voice. But here are two steps Priscilla Shirer recommends in her TBN interview (listed below) we can take to confirm a message is from God:
- The Mercy Gift of Confirmation – ask God for confirmation that what we are hearing is from him.
- The Ministry of Eli – consult older wiser spiritual mentors for their input.
As we discern God’ voice in our lives, let’s pray together:
God, as your daughter I know it is my birthright to hear your voice. Speak to me Lord. Give me the wisdom to recognize your voice and the discernment to identity thoughts that are not from you.
God speaks to his children. What a beautiful reminder and confirmation that we are his. May this truth embolden us in our faith and encourage us to walk in freedom and confidence in Christ.
Want to explore this topic further?
Below is a list of resources Because we are all busy and have limited time, each resource also shows its duration in parenthesis:
- 5 Questions to Know If We’re Hearing From God by Lysa TerKeurst (+/- 950 Word Article) – Lysa shares 5 questions she asks to determine if what she is hearing is from God. Lysa has also written a book on this topic entitled – Is God Speaking to Me?: How to Discern His Voice and Direction
- Learn How To Recognize God’s Voice with Rick Warren (1:09:42) – Listen as Pastors Rick Warren & Tom Holladay explain 7 questions to ask to help recognize if we are hearing God’s Voice.
- Interview with Priscilla Shirer on Praise on TBN: Learn How to Recognize God’s Voice (57:37) – Listen as Priscilla explains some of the major point from her book: Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking. She also has a Bible study on this topic as well: Discerning the Voice of God.
“How can I hear God’s voice?” (Ask Dr. Stanley) (5:22)