Test the Spirits
"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 He was telling me to do something. However, this "still small voice" within sometimes had me very confused and in bondage. In time I came to see that this "voice in my head" was not from God at all because, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,"2 and I had no freedom.
One's inner "voice" may come from God's Spirit, or it can come from ourselves (our own compulsions), or from the tempter. If the tempter knows he can't pull us down into acting out in destructive sinful behaviors, he may try to "push us over the top" where we become "so heavenly minded we are no earthly use."
To know where one’s "inner voice" is from, we need to learn how to discern between a conviction and a compulsion, or recognize if the "voice" is from the tempter. With a conviction from God I am drawn and always have the freedom to say no. With a compulsion I am driven and feel that "I have to" do what the "inner voice" is demanding of me. If from the tempter, we know that it is a voice wanting us to do what we know is wrong and sinful.
Some people try to justify what they want to do by claiming God told or led them to do it. Or they don't do what they don't want to do because God didn't tell them to do it—even though it is a clear directive of God's Word. No wonder that the Apostle John advised in the Bible, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
First and foremost, God speaks to us through his Word, the Bible, and never in any way contrary to it. He also speaks or leads through various circumstances, as well as through inner convictions. If it is from God, it will 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 a spirit of discernment so that I will always recognize when You are leading me, or if I am being driven by a compulsion from within myself or from without by the tempter. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 John 4:1 (NIV).
2. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV).