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7 Ways to Discern God's Voice

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How to Know God's Voice from Your Own

When speaking of God's voice, it is important to clarify that the voice of God is not an audible sound, heard by the human ear, but a voice that speaks to the heart of the Child of God through the activity of the Holy Spirit.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 
“This is the way, walk in it,” 
when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit as surety that we have been cleansed from all unrighteousness.  As such, a heart guided by the Holy Spirit will walk in obedience to the Word of God and acknowledge God for who He is, One worthy of worship in every way.

Believers must be careful when saying "God told me to {fill in the blank}".  Before making such a statement, we must be sure that what we are ascribing to God is indeed from God and aligns with His Word.

The following story from Judges 17 will help to illustrate the trouble a person can get themselves into when they assume they have heard from God.

Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah,  left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim.

Micah asked him, “Where are you from?”

“I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,” he said, “and I’m looking for a place to stay.”

Then Micah said to him, “Live with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you ten shekels  of silver a year, your clothes and your food.”  So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man became like one of his sons to him.  Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house.   And Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.”

Then six hundred men of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 

So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate.  The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate.

When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?”  The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people.  

Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.  
Judges 17: 5-13
Judges 18: 11,15-19,27-28

Micah essentially took the fact that a Levite came near his home and agreed to be his father and priest as a sign from God.  He allowed what he saw to guide the interpretation of what he felt he heard from God.

As the story unfolds, we see that the Levite was not devoted to Micah as he was easily persuaded to take the idol Micah had formed as well as the other household gods from the house of Micah and then left to be a priest to the Danites.  But the betrayal didn't end there.  After the Levite became the Danites priest, the Danites went on to attack Laish, a people at peace and secure.  The consequences were far reaching, not just effecting Micah and his household.

I realize this is an extreme example, but it helps to shed light on the importance of accurately discerning the voice of God.

I believe there are seven ways to discern God's voice.

Alignment with God's Will

Years ago, I read a biography about George Muller, a Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down Orphanage in Bristol, England.  The main focus of the book highlights how George continually sought God's will for funding and ministry endeavors.

George Mueller established the following guidelines for himself when seeking God's will concerning a matter to ensure that he was hearing the Lord's direction correctly:

1. I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has not will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impressions. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

3. I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.

4. Next I take into account providential circumstances. These plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.

6. Thus through prayer to God, the study of the Word and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters and in transactions
involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective

These steps are fundamental for understanding how to hear God's voice aright. 

Take Self out of the Equation

Whenever we are determining whether we have heard from God concerning a matter or not, we must first take self out of the equation.  We must empty our thoughts, opinions and desires about the matter and leave them at the foot of the cross.

In order to recognize the voice of God, we must have tunnel vision on Christ alone.

If we are looking at our circumstances whether perceived outcomes or what we hope for, we risk imagining we have heard from God, when really all we have heard from is ourselves.

It is so important to check our motives before seeking to hear from God.  Are we simply going through the motions of prayer, even though we've already decided how we will orchestrate the circumstances to our desired outcome or are we earnestly desiring to hear from God, no matter what that might look like, especially if it is not what we hoped for?

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, 
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21

When our mind and heart are aligned with the Word of God and His will, we will be able to discern God's voice for His glory.

How to Hear God's Voice When Making a Decision

Decision-making probably constitutes the biggest area in which people desire to hear the voice of God.  I know when I've been faced with a difficult decision, I have thought to myself, "I wish the Lord could just stand right in front of me and say, 'Karen, choose this job.'  or  'Karen, buy this house' or "Karen, move forward with this project.'"

I would say seeking after signs for recognizing God's voice is very big in the area of decision-making.  Take an employment opportunity, one might think because other doors closed and only one remained open, that must mean that God is telling them to take the job through door #1, but if they are only relying on the signs, they may regret that decision later.

George Mueller told the story about how he was praying for a large sum of money to help fund another orphanage.  Indeed, a check for the exact amount he prayed for came in the mail.  However, when George followed the steps for hearing from God (see above) concerning His will, he discerned that the money wasn't meant for what he prayed for, but for another area of ministry.  And indeed, as the circumstances played out, the check was not meant for the original prayer request. George had correctly discerned the voice of God, where most people would've saw receiving the exact amount of money they prayed for as a direct answer to that very prayer and would feel sure that they heard from God.

We do not need to look for signs to hear from God.  We need only to listen with discernment through what we know is true in the Bible and what we know to be the will of God in seeking Him.

Seek God Sincerely

Jesus gives us a beautiful example of what it means to seek the Lord sincerely when we desire to hear from Him.

And He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, 
where He knelt down and prayed, 
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. 
Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 
Luke 22:41-42

Here we see probably one of the most relatable moments to Jesus when he makes a request to the Father to "take this cup from me".  In our weakness, many of us will stop here.  {Preaching to myself}.  But the Lord, in all His perfection, desires the Father's will over His own.

When we desire to hear from God, we must do it with all sincerity.  This reminds me of "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" where Linus proclaims that the Great Pumpkin is looking for the sincerest pumpkin patch.  As the hours go on with no appearance from the Great Pumpkin, Linus uses the "if" word - "If the Great Pumpkin comes..."  As soon as the word comes out of his mouth, he agonizes over the fact that the Great Pumpkin now won't come because he showed disbelief.

When we halfheartedly seek to hear from God, are we really being serious that we want to hear from Him?  And will we even hear the true voice of God or will we only hear the voices in our head.

In order to discern God's voice, our hearts must sincerely desire whatever it is that the Lord desires for us or our situation.

Be Patient

When seeking to hear from  God, be patient when waiting for Him to respond.

The Children of God are on the Heavenly Father's perfect, loving timetable.  He is the  God who works wonders behind the scenes, orchestrating events according to His perfect will and His perfect plan for His children.

Don't convince yourself that you have heard from God, if what you have heard does not align with the Word of God or only aligns with the plans you have purposed in your mind.

There are certainly enough stories in the Bible of people who decided to take matters into their own hands when receiving a promise from God, only to create a problem where there never needed to be one because they were not patient.

There are also times where you may wait to hear from God concerning a matter of prayer for a very long time or not even hear in your life time, but that doesn't mean He hasn't heard you or that He is not working to accomplish your desires in His perfect way.

God's trustworthiness should fuel our patience.  When we patiently wait to hear God's voice, we are wholly aligning ourselves with God's will.

Don't Always Believe What You See

I touched on this a little bit earlier in the post, but I wanted to delve a little bit more into the aspect of "what you see is not always something you should believe".

We have a God who is not constrained by that which we see, yet so often, we put God in a box and assume that He can only work through what we see.

Too often we think that we have heard from God when we see something that we feel has changed the trajectory of our circumstance and then act upon it, when that might not even be the case at all.

How many blessings would not have been missed or how many regrets never needed to happen, if we realized that we have a God who works in the unseen realms.  His activity never ceases.  He is always working on our behalf.  He orders our steps and He numbers our days.

We will hear from God and be blessed by His voice when we believe that the God of Heaven, who we have not seen before us, is working in unseen ways.

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, 
you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen
 and yet have believed."
John 20:29

Praying to Hear God's Voice

Pray Continually

Prayer is the means by which we communicate with God.  It is through believing prayer that we hear from God.  When we pray according to the Scriptures, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, we will be able to discern God's voice.  

Alignment with Scripture

The more we study the Scriptures, the  more we will hear God's voice.  The Word of God tells us everything about our great God and Savior

The children of God have been equipped to hear God's voice.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.  
I give them eternal life, and they will  never perish,
and no one with snatch them out of my hands.
John 10:27-28

As Believer's it is so very important to heed the voice of God.  In order to do so, we must understand how to discern God's voice.

I talked a lot about discerning God's voice related to seeking to hear from Him, but it is also important to mention that as believers we must always be listening for the voice of God speaking conviction, wisdom, wise counsel, comfort and love to our hearts.

May we all experience, with discernment and understanding, the wonderful gift of God's voice.

For similar links, click on the following:

How to Align Your Will with God's Will

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  1. Wow! I REALLY needed to read this today. This is so full of Godly, edifying wisdom. I was so blessed to see the parts included about George Muller. He is one of Zach's (and my) favorite heroes of the faith. My dear Mom loved reading about him and the depths of his faith. The points as to how he discerned the will of God are just profound. So are YOUR words, my friend. Such profound wisdom, and I just soaked it in. You don't even know it, but something you mentioned was such confirmation to me about something I have been second-guessing. God speaks right through you straight to my heart so many times, and I am so very grateful for your faithfulness to God in your calling. Sending much love to you today!

    1. Hi Cheryl, I am praising God that the Lord ministered to you through this blog post.

      Thank you for sharing about your family's love for George Muller and his walk of faith.

      Thank you for always lifting me up through your kind and encouraging comments. They mean so much!

      Sending you love and gratitude,

  2. Thorough post with lots of wisdom. I am seeking Gods face as I make a big decision. The wisdom provided here is helpful. Taking myself out of the equation and not believing what I see are two points that stand out to me. I need to hear Gods voice to make the right decision at this critical place in my life. Your prayers are appreciated.

    1. Yvonne, Praising God that you found helpful wisdom here as you seek the Lord for a big decision. Praying you hear the Lord and receive clarity and direction.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. I like that you include several steps to hear God's voice. Sometimes it's not a simple "this is it!" moment, but one that includes discernment and consultation.


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