We would 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 many 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 the Scriptures is so God can reveal his nature to us, as well as his thoughts together with any message. The Word of God is living (active) and therefore he can use it to communicate. If we have a question of whether it is okay to go in a certain direction or not, then the Scriptures are a good place to start. Most of us will admit we have prayed about something and God answered by showing us a verse in the Bible that was perfectly appropriate for whatever we asked. However most of us will also admit that sometimes you just cannot find it in the Bible. And that is why He provided other options.
Inner voice of the Holy Spirit
The inner voice is sometimes called the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). Usually comes when we least expect it but in my experience it’s almost always God speaking. When you hear ‘something’ telling you to go ahead and act at a certain moment (and it doesn’t contradict God’s Word) then listen to this voice, more often than not God is trying to communicate. You will find that sometimes he is asking you to do what may not make sense at that particular time because he knows much more than we do. That is why it is important to just obey, and you will find out afterwards. Do not overlook that whisper in your spirit.
The lot/ Fleece
This term fleece is derived from Gideon’s experience. There are many other examples in the Old Testament where lots (where the word lottery is derived) were used to consult God. David sometimes used the lot to ask God for guidance. Our modern day version of the lot would be a little like this: “God if you want this for me then let this (an event) happen.” In Gideon’s case he asked God that the fleece be wet and afterwards when he was still not sure, he asked that it be dry (Judges 6:36-40). The fleece method can be unreliable, sometimes God will speak and other times he won’t. Say for instance you toss a coin. Heads or tails, there will always be an answer. If you use it as yes or no, then you will assume God has spoken even when he hasn’t. The fleece method should be reserved for desperate circumstances—when we really have to know at that time. David always got the right answer when he was desperate for guidance especially concerning war. God tends to speak when he knows the stakes are high.
Word delivered through someone else
This can be reliable and yet also unreliable. God can and does speak to us through others but others can sometimes say “God has told me” when he hasn’t. If it is genuine, God will usually have told you already or will confirm to you afterwards. It is not wise to make a decision based on what one individual has told you. 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 know my voice”, and when He speaks through others, deep inside you will just know.
God can speak through dreams and visions as well. The visions usually will not need any confirmation, when you have one from God 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. God’s dreams are orderly and purposeful. Consider the dreams he gave Joseph about his future. Or even the dreams he sent to Pharaoh. Each dream 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.
The Peace of God
Have you ever got involved in one thing or other and everything about it felt right? And it proved to be a good thing in the end? That was the peace of God leading you. It is yet another way God can speak. He can also speak through a lack of peace. As you pursue a goal, you may feel that everything about it feels wrong but you can’t even explain why. If you continue in that direction you may find out that God was trying to lead you away from the unpleasant.
God will sometimes speak to us through circumstances, most of the time these circumstances will make us uncomfortable so that he may get our attention. We could be living life minding our own business then all of a sudden, something comes up and we are led in a certain direction of which we had not planned. A perfect example 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 anointed king and the donkeys somehow found their way back home.
SO, HOW CAN I BE SURE IT IS GOD?
The truth is that as we walk with God we will sometimes miss Him. It is a learning process to hear from God, but in addition to the aforementioned good practices, we can always be patient as we wait to hear from Him. He will not always speak when we expect, but if we are patient the answer will eventually come our way. Also it is important to remember that He can always redirect us when we miss Him so we should not worry too much about missing his communication.