7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life
by Ron Edmondson
How do you actually know God is talking to you?
Every believer wants to hear from God. Why would you follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say? We want to know…Is this God?…Is this what He is telling me to do?…or…Am I being swayed by the circumstances of my life?
One thing I’ve observed is that we often listen for the grandiose voice of God. Sometimes God speaks that way, but many times God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through life’s circumstances. In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. How do we take the circumstance of life, as mixed up and confusing as they can be, and figure out what God could be saying to us?
Here are some guidelines to hearing God speak through 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 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 –
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.
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.
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. 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. Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan.
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. (Read THIS POST)
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.
Hearing from God is critical for the children of God to know God’s will for our life.
Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.
Are you in a season of trying to hear from God?