It is normal to question whether you have heard from God or not. Was that Jesus speaking to me? Or was that just my own thoughts? How do I tell the difference? Here are three ways you can tell if what you heard was from God or not.
1) Does it line up with His character?
We already know so much about the character of God; we can get to know what He is like both from the Bible and through the incarnation of Christ. We only have to look at Jesus coming to earth as a human being to realize that God loves us, He is willing to stand amidst the mess of life and restore us; He is gracious, merciful, and He is patient. And there are scriptures upon scriptures that talk about what God is like - in fact, you could say that the whole Bible, when read as a collective narrative, points to the character of God.
An important question to ask when you think you’ve heard from God is, “Does this line up with the character of God?” If not, then that voice probably wasn’t God’s. You can also look to see if there are similar situations to yours in the Bible, especially when you’re making a big decision. How did God react then? Do you think He would say the same in your present situation? Also, it’s important to remember that God commands us to firstly love Him, and then love others. Perhaps these are the most important questions to ask:
“If you follow this voice, will it draw you closer to Christ? Will it draw others closer to Christ? Will it help you to love God and love people?”
Essentially, it’s a good idea to have a heavenly perspective when working out whether you have heard from God or not.
2) God wants to give us choice
God is a Father, not a dictator; and He delights in giving His children choice. As I said before, God is patient, and this means that there is room to make mistakes. When making big decisions, perhaps you’re not getting a clear yes-or-no answer because God wants to give you that choice. Maybe both options are Godly. Maybe He wants you to choose how to glorify Him; there are many ways to do this, and each one is as valid as the next.
Jefferson Bethke gives a very good analogy. Too often we think that God’s purpose for our life is a point on a dartboard, and we’ve got to make sure that we get that spot right on. But as mentioned earlier, we already know so much about God’s character from scripture and through Jesus. He has already given us guidelines (the most important being to love God and love people). So, as Jeff’s analogy goes, maybe God’s purpose for your life is more of a big circle, and there are lots of options within that circle. The edge of the circle is God’s boundaries (e.g., be evenly yoked, don’t steal, love God, love people etc.), and we have freedom of choice within that circle when it comes to making decisions.
So, if you’re worrying about whether you’ve heard from God during a decision-making time in your life, relax. Sometimes He does give us a yes-or-no answer, but in Scripture when that happens (or when God wants to make His presence made known), the people always know about it.
Example: Moses and the burning bush; Saul being knocked off his horse.
I’m pretty sure these people knew what God wanted them to do, because how could they have possibly missed those events?!
So if you haven’t had a clear answer from God, maybe He is giving you a choice. Keep praying into it, and don’t be afraid to ask for signs, but also remember that if both options glorify God, then really you can’t go wrong.
3) Sometimes we just don’t know
I think we put a lot of pressure on whether or not we have heard God’s voice or not. And the truth is, sometimes we just don’t know, and the only way to find out is to test it.
If you think you’ve had a word of knowledge for someone (i.e., that they have a bad ankle that needs healing), the only way you’ll be certain if it was from God is if you ask that person. If they don’t have a bad ankle, then you know that you didn’t hear God’s voice correctly, or that it wasn’t God’s voice at all. And that means that you will become more and more attuned to what God’s voice sounds like.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Robby Dawkins teaches a lot on this subject, and he always says that faith is spelt R-I-S-K. We just don’t know unless we take a risk.
As a Church, we need to create a safe place where people feel comfortable in seeing whether or not they are hearing the voice of God. Allow your community to freely speak up, and don’t make them feel embarrassed if they were wrong. It’s okay to be wrong! We should see mistakes as a step closer to deeper intimacy with God, when we react to them in the right way.
To recognize somebody’s voice, you have to have spent a lot of time with them. When I pick up the phone and it’s my mum on the other end, I only know that it’s my mum because I’ve spent my whole life with her. It’s the same with Jesus. We will become more attuned to His voice when we spend more and more time with Him. Get to know Jesus, and you’ll get to know His voice.
‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’
(John 10:27 NIV)
Jeff Bethke’s video
Here’s some good teaching from Robby Dawkins
Alice is 18 and from England. She gave her life to Jesus about 5 years ago, and was baptized in July 2015. She feels that she is called to creative evangelism after receiving many prophecies from various people. She's a keen musician, photographer, writer, and speaker, and she hopes to involve all of these passions when sharing the love of Jesus to the world. She looks forward to moving to a city to attend university, engrossing herself in youth culture and wider communities.