We have the privilege of receiving God’s guidance, but we have to be careful about discerning what is from God and what is not.
Every follower of Jesus has the privilege of receiving guidance from God. But we have to be careful to discern what is coming from God versus what our own hearts want.
God speaks to people in subjective, personal ways
The Bible has many examples of people receiving direct, individual guidance from God through dreams, visions, or prophetic words. God spoke to the prophet Elijah in a “the sound of a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). In Christian tradition, many believers have experienced dreams, but more commonly we might sense a “prompting” or feel a “burden” from the Holy Spirit living within us.
- Prompting: A thought that presents itself to your mind that you would not have thought of yourself. It may come as a nudge from the Holy Spirit to take some particular step.
- Burden: A growing a sense of conviction about the rightness of some course of action. It grows in your soul until you are compelled do something about it.
Learn to listen alone with God in his word
We learn to cultivate the art of hearing from God by spending time reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible. As we learn to discern God’s voice in the pages of the Bible, where his word is clear, we can begin to recognize his voice when he speaks to our spirits. It helps to spend time alone with God, in solitude and silence, to clear away distractions and mental clutter in order to hear his voice.
Not every prompting comes from God
A lot of people today claim to hear from God, but many are way off the mark. It’s easy to confuse what we think is a prompting from God with the desires and ideas that come from our own soul, or with ideas suggested by others. You can know if you’re hearing from God if…
- Your prompting corresponds with the Bible.
- Your sense of leading involves serving others, not just yourself.
- What you’re hearing is not bizarre.
Apply caution when hearing from God
Pastor Bill Hybels suggests four situations you should be very cautious about if you think you’re hearing from God.
- If you’re led to make a major, life-changing decision in a short time.
- If you’re led to place yourself or someone else in a position of compromise or danger.
- If you’re led to compromise an important family relationship or friendship.
- If your prompting creates unrest in the spirit of mature Christians you share it with.
Learn to listen to God, starting in the Bible, and he will speak to you. But be careful! Our hearts can be deceitful.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Do you believe that God still speaks to his people through dreams, visions, or inner promptings? Why or why not?
- Have you ever experienced a heart prompting or burden that you believe came from God? What happened?
- Have you experienced abuses in the name of hearing from God? What happened?
- What other cautions, if any, would you add to Bill Hybels’ list?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.