Test the Spirits
John the disciple of Jesus wrote, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God."1
How can we be sure when and if God is speaking to us?
When I was a young Christian I wanted to serve God and sometimes felt his Spirit was telling me to do something. However, this "still small voice" within sometimes had me in bondage. In time I came to see that this "voice" was not from God at all because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom [liberty]"2 and I had anything but freedom.
One’s inner "voice" can come from God, from our self, or from the tempter. If the tempter knows he can't pull us down into acting out in sinful behaviors, he may try to "push us over the top" where we become (as the old saying goes) "so heavenly minded we are of little or no earthly use."
So how can we know where the inner voice is coming from? Is it a conviction from God’s Spirit? Could it be a neurotic compulsion from within my self? Or is it from the tempter? With a conviction from God I always have the freedom to say no because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”2 With a compulsion I am driven and feel that I “have to" do what the "inner voice" is saying no matter what. If from the tempter, it is also more a compulsion.
Keep in mind that God speaks to us through His Word, the Bible, and never contrary to it. He also speaks or leads through various circumstances, as well as through inner convictions. If it is from God, it will always be in harmony with His Word and there will be a sense of freedom. If it is contrary to God's Word or any type of compulsion, we can know it isn't God speaking to us and we need to reject it.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the wisdom to know when You are ‘speaking’ to or leading me, and when the ‘voice’ I hear is from myself or the tempter. Teach me to not only know Your voice but always to obey it. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’s name, amen.”
1. 1 John 4:1 (NIV).
2. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV).