I’m not much of one to declare, “The Lord told me….” It’s not that I doubt the ability of the Almighty to communicate with His people. I just am not confident that ideas I have are wholly or in part from Him since I don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice. I do believe God speaks to His people. His written Word, the Bible, is the primary way He speaks. Many day-to-day matters aren’t covered in the Bible, and in those cases the Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts. My belief that the Lord speaks to His people was reinforced in my Bible reading this morning in John 10 when Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.” (verses 27-29a)
Writing the previous blog post was a time I had the opportunity to listen to my Shepherd’s voice. I had come to my computer with no intention of writing a post and no ideas in my mind what to write about even if I did. I had set aside a couple hours to do a church-related task. When I logged in, I found some data I needed from another source was not ready and I couldn’t do the task. So, I decided not to just leave the computer and do other tasks which awaited. I prayed a simple prayer instead. “Lord, I have a couple hours here. If there’s anything you want me to do at my computer, let me know.” I’m not sure I expected an answer, but immediately I remembered the conversation from the previous night with my granddaughter and the experience I had had during worship at church the same day. Ideas began to form and the blog post came together. It was really fun for me to see where it led. Was that the Lord speaking to me about writing my blog post? I think so as several people commented that the post had been meaningful to them for what they were going through. Would I say, “The Lord told me to write that blog?” I prefer to say, “It seems to me the Lord gave me an idea and I used it and some of His written Words to write a post.”
The bottom line is: how do we know when the Lord is speaking to us? I’ve found these guidelines useful:
- The words or ideas you hear always line up with Scripture. God will never go against His written Word.
- What you hear matches up with the character of Jesus. John 10:14 says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.” This passage assures us that we sheep KNOW our Shepherd. We get to know Him by reading the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), by obeying Him and by communicating with Him in prayer.
- We listen for Him to speak. This means we develop an attitude of expecting Him to speak to us. We quiet our busy minds long enough for Him to plant a thought or words into our minds. If the thought matches up with 1 & 2, we can be pretty sure it’s from God.
- He always speaks ideas which will lead others to know Him or will bring Him glory. The enemy won’t speak any thoughts to us which glorify God or lead to the salvation or Christian growth of others. Knowing what kinds of words God speaks helps us evaluate if what we’re hearing is from Him.
- Others confirm that what you hear is what the Lord is speaking to them or meets a need they have to hear from God.
- The more we listen, obey and give God the glory, the more we will be confident He is speaking to us.
The boy Samuel grew up to be a mighty prophet for the Lord. He learned at a young age how to pray, and listen for what God would have him speak. See 1 Samuel 3:7-12. We can join him and say, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”