Was That God's Voice? Or Not?
How to Hear God Better
- Summary: As believers, we should be ever alert to receiving guidance from the Lord. But sometimes we are uncertain if an alleged “leading” is of the Lord or not. Happily, the Word of God gives us some clear principles for determining what is and what isn’t the voice of God.
Romans 8:13-14 ... because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
- •• Our entitlement and frequent experience as sons (and daughters) of God is to be led by the Spirit of God.
- • But so often we’re not certain that we’re hearing from God, and we ask ourselves the question: “Was that the Lord, or not?”
• Fortunately, the Scriptures give us some helpful guidelines for evaluating whether or not a potential “leading” is God speaking to us.
1 Kings 19:11-13 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice [God] said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Vs. 12, KJV “...and after the fire a still small voice”
- •• The voice of the Lord often comes to us as a still, small voice (KJV), a gentle whisper (NIV), rather than in some dramatic form such as “earthquake ... wind ... [and] fire”.
•• If some supposed leading makes you feel like you’re caught in a high wind, set it aside.
- • God’s leading is not usually the obvious “handwriting on the wall” (see Daniel 5:5). More often God’s guidance to you comes in the form of a “gentle whisper”.
• I began to serve the Lord in 1969. In all the years since then, I have found that the voice of the Lord to me most often comes gently and quietly, not forcefully or with visible manifestations.
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.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  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.
- •• This portion of Scripture contains a wealth of insight into discerning the voice of God.
•• “Wisdom ... [that is] from heaven is ... pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (vs. 17).
•• So ask yourself, when you are trying to discern a leading:
- • Is this a pure, wholesome thing? Is it godly? holy?
• Is this leading peace-loving? Will it bring peace?
• Is it considerate of the rights and feelings of others?
• Is this leading submissive? Or if others don’t bear witness, will I still push to get my way?
• Is this leading full of mercy? or is it judgmental?
• Will this leading bear good fruit? Or is it likely to cause harm or ill will?
• Is this leading impartial? Or is it perhaps driven by my personal agenda?
• Is it sincere [KJV: “without hypocrisy”]? Is it consistent with what I say and how I live my life?
- •• By contrast, wrote James, “wisdom ... [that is] not from heaven ... is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil ... [and characterized by] envy ... selfish ambition ... disorder ... every evil practice” (vss. 15-16).
•• So, as we did above, when evaluating if something is the leading of the Lord, ask yourself:
- • “Earthly” — Does this alleged leading have any sense of being earthly or carnal? If so, reject it.
• “Unspiritual” — Does its character seem unspiritual, natural, based on the wisdom of the world rather than of God? If so, reject it.
• “of the devil” — Do you sense even a hint of darkness, of evil, of iniquity, in this leading? If so, reject it.
• “Envy” — Is there even the slightest feeling of envy in regard to another person? Reject the leading.
• “Selfish ambition” — Is the essence of this leading to advance yourself? Remember Lucifer’s fall and how he pridefully lifted himself up in God’s presence (Isaiah 14:12-15).
• “Disorder” — does this “leading” that you are pondering leave you feeling unsettled? apprehensive? without inner peace? Reject it.
• “Every evil practice” — is there even a trace of evil associated with where this “leading” will take you? If so, reject it!
Another major area for consideration is the realm of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So often we will discern what we believe to be a supernatural prompting, but we are not certain that it is from the Lord. Here are some biblical guidelines for determining if what you are sensing is an actual spiritual gift from the Lord for you to minister.
1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
- •• Will this potential spiritual gift advance the common good?
- • Will it be a blessing to others, or just to me?
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts...
- •• If what I am sensing is a gift of the Spirit, does it resound in my heart with love for those to whom I will minister it?
1 Corinthians 14:3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
- •• If I am hearing from God, will the impact of this gift bring strengthening or encouragement or comfort?
- • Or will it hurt or wound or drag down someone or ones?
1 Corinthians 14:4, 12 ...he who prophesies edifies the church....  try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
- •• Ask yourself, will this prophecy edify the church, or just me?
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.
Vs. 20, KJV ...if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
- •• That which is a genuine leading from God will always agree with Scripture, or with the principles of Scripture.
- • I asked a group of fellow Pentecostal preachers once about the Bible’s clearly-stated limit of no more than three tongues with interpretation in any one service (1 Corinthians 14:27). To my astonishment, every preacher said he would continue to allow more than three. No! If it is not “according to this word” (the Bible), it’s not to be considered God’s leading.
• The Word of God is the ultimate and primary provision that we have in order to discern what is and what is not of God.
• When trying to determine if an alleged leading is of God or not, the ultimate question to ask is: Does this “leading” line up with the clear statements of God’s Word, the Bible?
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©2002, 2015, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.