Summary: There are many “voices” out there — the devil, the world, our imaginations, other people, and God, to name a few. Millions of Christians want to know how to hear the voice of God, versus all the competing voices speaking to us. Fortunately for us, the bible has clear guidelines to help us in discerning God’s voice.
Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
KJV: Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.
•• It’s risky to hear just one “voice” and to plunge ahead on that voice alone.
• For example, a friend of mine once was asking the Lord whether to go work on the Alaska pipeline. He said to the Lord, “If you get me a job there, I’ll know it’s You, and I’ll go." However, this brother held a coveted “A card” in a much-needed specialty on the pipeline, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that his application would be accepted. This one “voice” (an almost certain-to-be-approved job application) was certainly not consistent with seeking the “multitude of counselors”.
• By contrast, a minister friend of mine from the East Coast was flying on an airplane when he felt that the Lord spoke to him to move West and join me in a new ministry I was about to pioneer. The obvious and immediate question he faced was: "Is that really you, God?" In contrast to the previous example above, this good brother brought the matter to me and two other pastors, seeking the multitude of counsel. Then he continued waiting upon the Lord for final confirmation.
• He followed the biblical injunction to seek several reputable counselors to prayerfully help him determine if God was speaking to him. It was confirmed that indeed he was hearing the voice of God, and he joined with me in 17 years of fruitful ministry together in the new church plant.
1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
•• It was “not flesh and blood” (that is, man or man’s intellect) but God who revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ (Matthew 16:17, KJV).
•• You can’t intellectualize or emotionalize the Gospel. It must be received and understood spiritually.
• The mind and emotions of man are not to be ignored, but they are insufficient by themselves to adequately grasp the things of God.
• They are “spiritually discerned”, deep down in the realm of our spirit. That is where the Spirit of God speaks to us (Romans 8:16, to be examined later).
• Walk in the Spirit, live by the Spirit, seek the spiritual over the natural and carnal, and you will greatly improve your sensitivity in discerning the voice of God.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
•• Is your mind renewed? Then you will know God’s will and, in effect, be hearing God’s voice.
•• Your “paradigm” is important — that mental grid through which you filter all input.
• For example, many years ago I was sharing my faith with a coworker. I encouraged him to read the Gospel of John. He did so, but his mindset was steeped in occultism, and he read the Scriptures from that standpoint and completely missed their truth.
• By contrast to my friend above, a mind renewed by an open-hearted seeking of God’s truth in Scripture will further condition us to hear God’s voice. [Let me add a happy postscript: although the coworker I mentioned above initially missed the biblical message, some seeds of faith were sown in him by the word of God. And that seed later bore fruit, and he was wonderfully saved about a year or two later. Praise the Lord!]
Psalms 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
•• Are the desires of my heart from God? To answer this, ask yourself: Am I “delighting myself in the Lord?”
• Because the word of God, the Bible, says that if I delight myself in Him, He will give me my heart’s desires.
•• Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you TO WILL and to ACT according to His good purpose.
• How fascinating! If I am submitted to God, He will actually work in me not just to do His will, but actually to DESIRE His will.
• Our relationship with the Lord — am I delighting in Him? — will determine if our will is lined up with His will. And if so, we will thereby be better able to know God’s will and to understand God’s voice to us.
Isaiah 8:19-20 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the Law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
•• Does the “voice” you are hearing agree with God’s Word?
• Years ago, when I was a Bible College teacher, we lost three young male students to a heretical cult. They felt that they were able to go beyond their need for the bible and just hear directly from God. Sad to say, this erroneous belief led them to make a shipwreck of their walk with God.
• Decades ago, a movement strongly given to personal prophecy degenerated even to the point where — contrary to God’s Word — some were known to “prophesy”, “Divorce her and marry him.”
• These are sad examples of the disaster that awaits those who fail to apply God’s Word, the Bible, to what they think is the voice of God speaking to them. An absolute requirement in learning how to hear from God is to be convinced that God’s leading will always line up with the principles of the Bible.
Romans 8:16, KJV The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
•• God’s Spirit speaks to our spirit.
•• And that still, small voice within, if it is truly “wisdom that is from above ... [will be] pure...peaceable, gentle...” (James 3:17, KJV) God’s voice is gracious, merciful, peaceable. If the voice you are hearing is unlike that, you have every reason to be wary of that “voice”.
1 Corinthians 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully [KJV: judge] what is said.
•• Truth always submits itself for judgment.
• Accept no prophecies or revelations that close the door for spiritual discernment and judgment by other mature believers.
• Years ago I had the privilege of colaboring in ministry with a true prophet of God, who is now enjoying his eternal reward in heaven. Another minister asked him if he minded people judging his prophecies. His immediate reply was a polite but firm, “Of course not!” This very mature man of God, a New Testament prophet, understood that his ministry must be subject to the wisdom and judgment of other mature Christians.
1 Corinthians 14:33a For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. KJV: God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.
•• Are you facing a decision? Yes or No? A or Z?
• Prayerfully add together all the godly counsel and input you have received, then make a tentative decision.
• Does peace or confusion follow?
• If peace follows, continue forward.
• If confusion, then stop right there.
• Since God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, you will feel abiding peace in your heart if you are hearing from God. Otherwise, you will experience some confusion within, perhaps in the form of doubts, questionings, etc.
So, "Was that the voice of God? Did God speak to me?"
1. Is it confirmed by the multitude of counselors?
2. Is it spiritually, not carnally, discerned?
3. Is your mind renewed? Or are you judging by the world’s standards?
4. How is your relationship with the Lord? Are you delighting in Him?
5. Does the “voice” agree with the Word of God?
6. Is there a Holy-Spirit witness in your spirit?
7. Are you open to having others judge the validity of the voice?