Many people ask, “How can we know we’ve heard God’s voice?”
Key 1: The Words Need to Align with God’s Character
The words of the voice need to align with God’s character. God is love and everything He does comes from His heart of love. God is always drawing people to Himself and His desire is for people to be restored. Therefore, the words need to reflect His character of love, compassion, restoration and reconciliation.
God doesn’t condemn, He convicts. If the words are condemning, shaming, unforgiving, non-restorative, then you know they are not from God. Even when God rebukes someone in sin, He is drawing them to Himself for restoration, healing and wholeness.
Key 2: Biblical Test
I personally use James 3:17 to test every word I hear. It says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
Let’s look at the meaning of these words:
- Pure – genuine; real; free from moral defilement
- Peaceable – not agitated; undisturbed
- Gentle – not rough, harsh or severe
- Reasonable – just; tolerable; not unjust
- Full of mercy – compassionate; gracious; benevolent; tender hearted
- Full of good fruits – that which is produced; effect of their doings
- Unwavering – not to fluctuate or vacillate
- Without hypocrisy – hypocrisy is: to conceal one’s real character or motives; counterfeit; deceitful appearance; false pretense.
Example of Alignment with God’s Character
For an example, let’s say we are hearing or sensing a prompting from God to check on an elderly neighbor. Is it pure? Yes, it’s good to check on our neighbor’s well-being and make sure they are all right. Is it peaceable? Yes, it’s kind and considerate. Is it gentle? Yes, it is courteous. Is it reasonable? Yes, it is good-natured and legal. Is it full of mercy and good fruits? Yes, it’s friendly and compassionate. Is it unwavering? Yes, it is consistent with God’s character. Without hypocrisy? Yes, it is out of a heart of love, concern and kindness. Action: Do it!
Example of Non-Alignment with God’s Character
What if something we’ve heard doesn’t align with God’s character? Whether the voice is in my spirit man or from another person, I check to see if it aligns with God’s character and His Word. Let’s examine a voice that does not align with God’s Word, nor His character. American Cult: 5 Spiritual Groups That Went Too Far cites cult leader, Jim Jones, seeking a utopian community pushing progressive thoughts regarding civil rights and mental health issues.
In the case of Jonestown, Jones used social psychology for ill by manipulating people through mindless compliance, isolation, rigid rules, power of the crowd, hypnotic trances, suicide drills, and by generating guilt and fear in his followers. And unfortunately, he and most other cults use sexual perversion as part of their dogma.
By applying the standard of James 3:17, we see that Jonestown failed in every instance. It was not pure due to the sexual perversion. It was not peaceable, but pushed separation from their extended family members, isolation and the destruction of the nuclear family. It was not gentle as it pushed chaos, disorder, guilt, shame, manipulation and fear.
It was not reasonable because it pushed people to their physical and mental limits through bullying. It was not merciful due to its mental control and manipulation. It did not exhibit good fruit because it was a self-serving commune for Jim Jones. It wavered in its treatment of people and God’s Word.
The whole experiment was full of hypocrisy in how it treated: individuals, the marriage covenant, the nuclear family unit, and the extended family. Its stated goal of addressing mental health issues was proven hypocritical in how they isolated, bullied, mind controlled and emotionally abused its members.
My encouragement is for us to see that every word heard directly, as a “sense” we have in our spirit man or through another person aligns with God’s Word, His character and passes the James 3:17 test. If we do this, we will continue to walk in His love, His encouragement, and His divine will; furthermore, we will be kept from deception and evil.
Key 3: Know the Origin of the Voices We Hear
Every voice originates from God, from the devil or from our soul. Our soul is made of our mind, will and emotions. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” The heart refers to our emotions and our will. [Buseck]
In the Bible, we see David had favor with Saul, then due to jealousy, Saul turned against David, even seeking to end his life. We see that our mind and emotions can lead us astray which is why it is important to ask God to create a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within us.
By living and moving and having our being in God, we can love and reflect God’s character to those around us. By applying these three keys to the voices we hear, we can know we are hearing God’s voice, then reflect His character of love, compassion, restoration and reconciliation to those around us. By knowing God’s voice, He can speak through us that others might be encouraged.
Lord, You say in Your Word that You sustain the weary one with a word. You say that You awaken us morning by morning that You awaken our ear to listen as a disciple. You say in Your Word that we are Yours, we listen and follow You and no one can snatch us out of Your hand. Lord, Your Word says you require us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with You.
We submit our eyes to see You, our ears to hear Your still small voice, and our hearts to understanding. We hunger and thirst for You, the Living God. Thank you that when we ask, You answer; when we seek You, we find You; when we knock, You open the door and commune with us.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Buseck, Craig. What Are The Three Parts of Man? www.1.cbn.com Retrieved December 3, 2020 from https://www1.cbn.com/questions/what-are-the-three-parts-of-man
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: http://webstersdictionary1828.com/
Yuko, Elizabeth. American Cult: 5 Spiritual Groups That Went Too Far. Rollingstone.com, September 12, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-lists/american-cult-5-spiritual-groups-that-went-too-far-202224/
Scripture References: James 3:17; Isaiah 50:4; John 10:27-28; Micah 6:8; Matthew 7:7-8; Revelation 3:20; John 14:23; Psalm 51:10; Acts 17:28; 1 Samuel 18; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:23
New American Standard Bible, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation All rights reserved. Used by permission.