So how do you know if you’ve heard God’s voice? Well, part of it is always a step of faith. But here are some of the things I think about when I’m deciding if it’s God or not. Plus, it gets easier with time to recognise God’s voice, just like other people’s voices. Like I’ve said before, God is thee master communicator, but that doesn’t mean he always makes it super easy to understand him fully. But everything he does is out of love and wanting to develop our relationship with him.
The Holy Spirit
The fantastic news is that we have the Holy Spirit to help us. There is a lot more I want to share about the Holy Spirit, which will be in future blogs and articles, but for now, I want to stay on topic. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says
“Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
The Holy Spirit has many roles, but here are some to help us recognise how he helps us understand what God wants to say.
- Teaching us – John 14:26
- Enlightening us – John 16:13
- Guiding us – Romas 8:4
- Speaking – 1 Corinthians 2:13
- Confirmer – Romans 9:1
- Helper – 2 Timothy 1:14
The four prominent voices we hear
There are basically four voices we can listen to.
- Our own – we know what we sound like in our head when we talk to ourselves. What specific words we chose to express meaning and what we don’t say also says something. The tone we use conveys our emotions and depth of importance.
- Satan’s – he loves to share ½ truths or ask us questions to cast doubt. Just look at how he speaks to Eve in Genesis 3 or to Jesus in Matthew 4.
- Other people – depending on our relationship/view of the person who is speaking, will determine how much weight/influence we will let their words have on us. Their words can be from God to us, their own opinion or what they have heard from someone else.
- God’s voice – He is always consistent with his nature and character and isn’t limited in how or when he speaks. The question is, are we open to hearing him and are we giving him our attention to listen to what he wants to say?
What are the different ways that God speaks to us?
I have made a fuller list: Biblical examples of ways God can speak to us – which you can click to download a PDF copy for yourself. But below are the six most common ways that God speaks to us.
Still small voice – 1 Kings 19:11-13
This is usually like a whisper or a thought in my mind. (Like when I talk to myself in my head). But it does not sound like the words I would say to myself. They are usually much kinder and loving or bring a totally new thought to mind, which I know didn’t come from myself. They sound slightly different from my thoughts. With practice, I’ve come to recognise far quicker that it’s God’s voice and not me being amazing.
Pictures/ images in my mind – Jeremiah 1:11-14
I am a visual learner. Therefore pictures speak to me a lot. For example, when I read books, I picture the story alive in my mind. So when I go back to recall a book I’ve read, it comes back to me just like a movie I’ve watched would. So when I’ve asked God to speak to me (especially for someone else) commonly, I’ll instantly see a picture in my head. Yes, that quickly. I have learned through practice that the first picture that pop’s into my head after praying is usually from God. But I then take time with God to understand what it means so I can share it with the person.
The Bible – 2 Timothy 2:16+17
There are millions of things God wants to say to us while we are reading the bible. So much truth there – so please do take time to read more often. But, there are times when I’m reading that a verse/phrase will stick out to me like it’s been put in bold. Or I’m suddenly aware that my emotions and spirit have become alive and I know I need to stop, go back reread it. But God’s got my attention, so lets see what else he wants to say to me through those words.
This one is when I think the Holy Spirit really helps us. We are kind of just suddenly aware that we know something that we didn’t know before, but that it’s true. Like you understand why something is the way it is, or you now have a piece of information about another person that no one has told you. Or it’s a bit like discernment – you know if it’s the truth or that something is wrong. You can’t quite explain how you know, you just know and there is peace at knowing you can trust it.
Nature/ creation around us Psalm 96:11+12, Romans 1:20
Sometimes just being outside, out in nature, I feel closer to God. It’s easier to see his almightly-ness because of the beauty in the scenery before me. Most people stop and wonder at a glorious sunset or stunning view. But God also speaks to us greater meaning about something using a butterfly or rosebud or autumn leaf. So go for a walk and ask God to speak to you from his creation – then look to see what he will say (Habakkuk 2:1)
While listening to others speak
I might be hearing someone else talking about something or listening to a sermon or teaching… And suddenly, I’ll be aware that the words have personal meaning to me, or I feel my emotions/ heart/ spirit responding. Thus I pay closer attention to what the person is saying. I’ve had other times when I’ve got a personal question I’ve been talking with God about but don’t yet have an answer, and then I hear a person sharing something – which I know is the exact answer I’m looking for. (They don’t know it, they might not even be speaking to me.) But my spirit recognises it’s what I needed to hear, so it causes my attention to go to a higher level.
Don’t let yourself be limited to what you find in a list somewhere. God is creative in how and what he wants to use to communicate with you.
What does God’s voice sound like to me?
Sometimes God’s voice is that gentle whisper in my head, like a little conversation.
Or when I’m writing in my journal, I ask God want he wants to say to me. A few words come to mind, so I write them down, then more words come as I’m writing, so I continue. But if I were to think – “this isn’t God, it’s just me”, then that flow of words stop. When I repent of my lack of faith and ask again for God to speak and that I really do want to hear what he wants to share with me, that flow of words starts again. When I feel the flow has finished. I stop, go back and read allowed the words I’ve written down – I’m usually crying a little before I finish as my heart and spirit respond to the love and care of what is shared.
Like I said above, I get a lot of pictures. Sometimes they are easy to get the meaning from. But, other times it’s not until I start to speak or write down what I see and think that more revelation comes as to the greater meaning God wants to share. This is especially true when I’ve asked God for a word of encouragement for someone else.
Other times it’s a passage of scripture giving me the wisdom to know what to do about a particular situation. Sometimes I have dreams. But God dreams are way more lifelike, different from my typical dreams, way more memorable and I’ll usually wake up at the end of it and know I need to write it down because it’s something important to work through with God (usually the next day).
God’s words are always full of his nature and character – love, joy, acceptance, building up, encouraging… They bring a sense of peace to my soul.
What to do when you’re not sure if it’s God or Satan or just the pizza I had last night?
It is always good to pray and ask God if it’s Him, or Satan or just yourself. (Check out the book I recommended at the start of this month – Is that really you, God?)
It is like his character. If you haven’t already, turn to Genesis 3. He is described as being crafty/ shrewdest. Satan asks questions that can bring doubt, that can challenge a truth, e.g. “Did God really say…?” There will usually be a small amount of truth there, but it will be twisted somehow.
The fruit of his words can bring shame/ condemnation, lies, feeling of being inadequate, confusion or worry.
Our own voice
We know what we sound like, what we already know, how we think and talk. So hopefully, you can discern when it’s just you or not. But ask Holy Spirit to help you discern to know for sure.
God isn’t going to contradict himself, either in character or what’s written in the bible. Plus, you have the Holy Spirit there to help you discern and confirm what is of God or not.
The questions to ask yourself & the Holy Spirit are:
Does it reflect God’s nature and Character? God is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. He doesn’t change who he is.
What kind of language is used – does it line up with Scripture? Ask God for a reference to back up what you think you’re hearing. The only way to get better at this one is to read the bible more. Don’t have to rely on the search capabilities of your bible app or the internet (although they do help very much). But they can only help you to the degree you know the phrase you’re looking for and you want to look at the context of that phrase in a particular passage.
How does it feel in your heart and spirit? Is the Holy Spirit within you agreeing? Do you feel peace (not a sense of peace like you have to do nothing, but a stillness that this is the truth – even if you have to work on something to bring yourself into alignment with it. Sometimes it can feel a little like I have to surrender – to give up my fleshy hope. Because I know this new way is better for me in the long run, even if it’s the more challenging road to walk.
What does the fruit look like? You can usually only see this in time. But does it bring life? Is it good fruit to eat and enjoy? Is it lasting, trustworthy and upbuilding?
Ask God as many questions as you need to. God’s not afraid of your questions. He wants to confirm to you what he says. He wants you to understand and to get it. But our attitude needs to be that of wanting to understand so we can obey and honour him, learn, and grow.
Seek wise counsel.
Ask to speak to a few people you know how are wise and understand God well. Share what you’ve heard, what your thoughts are and ask them what they think.
We will grow in our ability to hear God’s voice more clearly and accurately when we get feedback on what we think we’ve heard and understand what we have to do with it. If you don’t have someone you can talk with. Ask God who you should speak with – He knows everyone 🙂
I hope this has helped you answer the question – How do you know if you have heard God’s voice? If not, drop me a note so we can continue to chat.
Now, what should you do with what you’ve heard?
This I will leave for my next blog.