Someone I follow on Instagram posted this on yesterday, “I cried out to the Lord and said, “I have no reason to believe this promise any longer, except Your word, no sign supports what You told me. He replied to my spirit and said, “Have you ever seen my word fail? My word is the only sign you need.” This spoke to me. I don’t know about you, but God has spoken to me about some things in my life, but the reality I was living did not match His word. The human side to me started to question whether it was God who actually said it. To be honest, I have even found myself (at times) rationalizing it in my head as, “well the devil will tell you things too and convince you that God was the one who said it.”
The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Initially, I was going to give my perspective, but I read an article, “7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life”, so I am going to share with you ways to know if it really is God speaking to you, and if it is really God speaking to you, BELIEVE in the promise – no matter what the CURRENT situation looks like. Yes, this does mean practicing FAITH, which is difficult for many of us.
Seven ways to distinguish God’s voice from the circumstances of life…
Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word
God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us — even through our circumstances — in a way that will contradict His written word. I hear people at times claim God is telling them to do something that is in violation with what God has already said. That’s never God.
God uses people to confirm His voice
Even in circumstances, in my experience, God often sends people into our path to confirm His will for our life. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God.
Every time God has called me to something there have been others to confirm they are hearing the same calling. I’ve often had to cycle through the naysayers to hear them, but they are there. I seek out wisdom of others.
When we went to plant a church — I thought that’s what God was doing — the doors certainly kept opening, but one loud voice of God were the number of people who kept bringing it to my attention unsolicited — including one prophetic pastor (who claimed to not be a prophet) who spoke directly to a 10 year old vision of the plant exactly as God had originally shared it with me. That was my burning bush, but they don’t come along often. Probably only when you’re as stubborn as I am.
Recognize that God operates from a plan
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose. God’s purpose.
Looking back over my life, I could never have scripted it, but I see how God has used me according to an overall plan. He’s used my life experiences to shape me for where I am today.in church planting He used my business entrepreneurial experience. In church revitalization, He’s used my business transition experience. God knows how to use a past for His good.
Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan
When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years.
Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope, but it would take the people 70 years to get there. (We often miss that part when celebrating that verse.)
When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances.
How many times do we have to hear the same thing — or experience the same circumstances — before we recognize and obey the voice of God?
Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available at the time — in between business careers, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan — of what He had been shaping for years.
Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life.
Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God. God has typically spoken to me clearest during my darkest days — when He has my closest attention.
Fear is a great tool of the enemy. The devil can use circumstances also to lead us away from God. This is where the Scripture and other people you trust can help you discern.
Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)
As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances, we must intently listen for the voice of God.
Hearing from God is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?”
Many times I think I know what God is saying, but it’s in the seasons of questioning that I am more intentional to go back to Him for clarification. I’ve even taken days away to intentionally listen during the confusing times.
Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes
We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son.
God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life. I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him. If what I sense He is asking me to do would help people know Him or know Him better, it is much easier to recognize and affirm the voice of God in my circumstances.