Sharon Rawlette, one of my regular readers posed a fascinating question that has inspired this post. In essence, she asks, how can we discriminate between “true” voice of God from “false”ones? This question gets to the heart of how God speaks to us as well as how the Enemy tries to keep us from hearing.
First, look at what it says in Hebrews:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Jesus is the Word of God spoken at creation, made flesh in his miraculous birth, demonstrated in his compassionate ministry, redeemed in his sacrificial death, enlivened by his resurrection, and delegated to the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension. As we read the whole Bible with prayerful eyes and obedient hearts, we come to know Jesus. We become like sheep who recognize the voice of their shepherd.
But what about believers like me who hear competing voices, commanding, almost god-like false voices distracting us from hearing what the true voice of the one and only God?
The first step I take to tune into God’s voice is immerse myself in Scripture. I begin my morning prayers with Bible reading. I have found that having a reading schedule to get through the whole Bible over time works best. While reading, I note verses that speak most directly to me and I reflect on these in a “Bible journal.” During this stage, I still hear false voices, but I set them aside as I focus only on what God is saying in his Word. Like Jesus in the desert wilderness answering the false Satanic voice with words of Scripture (Matthew 4.1-11), I talk back to the voices as I write what God has to say.
While silence is an essential discipline for many, I find it to be disruptive. Silence seems to breed false inward and auditory voices for me. So, like Saul, whose spirit was soothed listening to David playing the lyre (1 Samuel 16:14-23), I put earphones on and listen to familiar, rhythmic music. Andrew Peterson, Rich Mullins, and Chris Rice are three spiritual artists who quiet my soul, allowing me to listen more closely to God and tell God what is within my heart.
After reading Scripure, I get out my prayer journal. Here I list praises and petitions as they come to my mind. I worry less about false voices here, because I trust God will screen them to see what is consistent with his will. I typically close with an exercise born out of my life verse, Psalm 37:4 –
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
In my prayers over the past few years, I have come up with five desires: 1) Grow in the saving knowledge of my Lord and Savior; 2) Better express love for my children and grandchildren; 3) Live in peace with others, as much as is in my power; 4) Pursue my vocation to best serve God’s people; 5) Give my first and best for the work of the Lord.
One final step I take is draw on the discerning wisdom of the Church. The Bible says there are no private interpretations. The Church has been anointed the body of Christ and, even though it is often a wounded and wounding body, it is still the best place to find confirmation or correction on what God says to his people.
Before I conclude that something I’ve heard internally or audibly is the voice of God, I take it to church leaders – often an elder who is spiritually mature or a pastor who is Scripturally sound. In some cases, my own discernment is affirmed. On other occasions, I am cautioned to consider other alternatives.
So that is my process to distinguish the true life-giving voice of God from false death-dealing ones.
1. Listen for God’s Word in Scripture.
2. Express my heart’s desire in a prayer journal.
3. Consult church leaders where God’s voice is unclear.
How do you hear the true God’s voice?
How do you distinguish it from other, false voices?