We all love to hear from God. But more importantly, we want to be sure that He has spoken and it is not our random thoughts or any other person for that matter. There are several ways in which God can speak—actually He can speak in any way He chooses so we cannot put Him in a box. That said, there are ways that He frequently uses and these are the ones I want to focus on.
This is probably the safest way to hear from God. The whole purpose of Scripture is to unveil His nature to us, as well as His thoughts alongside any messages He may have. The Word is living (active) and therefore God can use it to communicate in this present age. If we have a question and need counsel, the Bible would be a good place to start. Most of us will admit we have prayed for guidance and the Lord answered by showing us a verse. That verse happened to be perfectly appropriate. However most of us will also admit that sometimes you just cannot find it in the Word. And that is why God provided other options.
Inner Voice Of The Holy Spirit
The inner voice is often called the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). Usually comes when we least expect it but in my experience this prompting is almost always from God. When you hear “something telling you” (and the direction does not contradict God’s Word) then listen to this voice. More often than not the Lord is trying to convey a message. You will find that at times He asks you to do what may not make sense at that particular time, because He knows much more than we do. It is important to simply obey, and you will find out afterwards. If the message keeps recurring then it must be God. Do not overlook that whisper in your spirit.
This term fleece is derived from Gideon’s experience. There are many other examples in the Old Testament where lots were used to consult God. David occasionally used them to ask for guidance. Our modern day version of the lot would be something like, God if you want this for me then let (a given event) happen. In Gideon’s case he asked that the fleece be wet and afterwards when still not sure, he asked that it becomes dry (Judges 6:36-40). This approach can be unreliable. God may choose not to speak.
Say for instance you toss a coin. Heads or tails, there will always be an answer. If you use it as yes or no, you will assume God has spoken every time the coin settles. The fleece method should be reserved for those situations when we really have to know (the time sensitive). David always got the right answer when he was desperate for guidance. God tends to speak when He knows we genuinely need to know. That said, I would advise against using lots for important decisions.
Word Delivered Through Someone Else
God can and does speak to us through others but people can say “God told me” when He did not. If it is genuine, the Lord will usually have told you already or will confirm to you afterwards. It is not wise to make a decision based on what an individual has said. At times God will speak through a minister or preacher and you will hear his voice through that person. It will resonate with you and there will be an assurance within that it was for you. Jesus said, “My sheep hear [or know] my voice” (John 10:27), when He speaks through others, you will hear that voice.
God can speak through dreams and visions as well. The visions usually will not need any confirmation, if you have one you will know. Dreams on the other hand can seem to come from God and yet may not. One way you can tell for sure is the pattern of the dream. Divinely orchestrated dreams are orderly and purposeful.
Consider the dreams the Lord gave Joseph about his future. Or even the dreams He sent to Pharaoh. Each had a pattern and was clear and orderly. Then there was a purpose behind the dreams which was to warn of the approaching famine. If God decides to speak to you through a dream, He will make sure it has clarity. If there are too many mixed-up facets to your dream then perhaps it was just your elaborate dinner.
The Peace Of God
Have you ever done something and it felt so right? And thereafter it produced a good outcome? That was the peace of God leading you. It is yet another way God can speak. On the other hand He can speak through a lack of peace. As you pursue a personal ambition, you may notice that everything about it feels wrong, yet you cannot even explain why. If you continue in that direction you realize that God was trying to lead you away from the unpleasant. Letting His peace lead you is a reliable way of following the path God would have you take.
God will on occasion speak to us through circumstances. In most cases they will make us uncomfortable so that He can get our attention. We could be living life minding our own business then all of a sudden, a problem shows up and we are led in a direction we had not planned. A perfect illustration is when God wanted to anoint Saul as the new king of Israel (1 Samuel 9-12). The first thing that happened was that his father’s donkeys went missing. Saul was instructed to go look for them and after traversing large areas of land without finding them, he met with Samuel the prophet. He was later anointed king and the donkeys somehow found their way back home. The purpose of these circumstances was to guide Saul to Samuel.
SO, HOW CAN I BE SURE IT IS GOD?
The truth is that as we walk with God we will sometimes get it wrong. Hearing from Him is a learning process. That said, the aforementioned good practices will keep you on the safe side and minimize mistaken communication. Additionally we should always be patient. God will not always speak when we expect, but the answer will eventually come. Also it is important to remember that He can always redirect us when we do miss His communication.