Do you recognize God’s voice? Do you know how to discern God’s will for your life? Maybe you’re facing a difficult situation or decision or maybe you just want to know God’s direction. You may sense a gentle prodding but you aren’t sure if that’s from God. We’ve all been there.
God wants us to know His will. That’s a comforting truth, but sometimes we still struggle in our day to day lives to know exactly what to do.
We can learn to know God’s voice
Jesus said His “sheep” – that’s anyone in a saving relationship with Him – will hear and recognize His voice. We will be able to distinguish Jesus’ voice from a stranger’s. Jesus will lead us and we will follow Him. (See John 10:3-5.)
We have a 14-year-old chihuahua named Cooper. Cooper originally belonged to my father-in-law, but we took him in six years ago when Pappaw passed away. Cooper suffers from degenerative retina disease and is now almost completely blind.
We do have to carry Cooper around some – good thing he’s small – but we also guide him with our voice. Since we have a pool in the backyard, it’s vital for us to stay close to him and for Cooper to listen and obey. After he does his “business” I bring him back to me by calling his name and clapping my hands.
A few months ago, our next-door neighbor got a new dog. They named him Cooper. Several times when they tried to get their Cooper to come to them, he refused. He kept running to the fence between our two houses. Their Cooper was responding to my voice rather than theirs. Next-door Cooper had not yet learned his master’s voice and was easily drawn away by another voice.
5 Helps to Discern God’s Will
I long to know God’s voice so thoroughly that I can quickly recognize and ignore other voices. What about you?
In the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of Acts. One thing I’ve seen repeatedly is how the early believers recognized then followed God’s leading. They relied on the following five things to discern God’s will.
1. The Bible
The best way to learn God’s voice is to study His Word. God has revealed Himself, His character, and His ways to us in the Bible. If we want to know His will, to know what He would do, we must know Him. We must start with His Word.
Although the Bible may not give specific guidance for every specific life situation, it does teach spiritual truths and principles that can be applied to every possible life situation. (See “What Does the Bible Say about Life in the Womb?” for an example.)
Sometimes, no matter how well we know Scripture, we may still struggle to discern God’s specific will in a particular. What do we do then?
God often clarifies His will through prayer. For instance, the church in Antioch was praying when God directed them to send Barnabas and Saul off on mission (Acts 13:1-3). The church already knew from Jesus’ last words that they were to take the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8), but through prayer, God gave specific direction for how to obey.
3. The Holy Spirit
One day, while Peter was praying on a rooftop, God gave him a vision. As Peter pondered its meaning, the Spirit gave him clear direction (Acts 10:9-20). The Holy Spirit resides within every true believer. He is our Teacher and Guide. He helps us understand Scripture and shows us how to apply it to our lives. He gives guidance and clarity as we study the Bible and pray. (You may also find “Discerning God’s Will” helpful.)
During the first church council – recorded in Acts 15 – the believers interpreted recent circumstances through the light of Scripture. In separate instances, God had worked through both Peter then Paul and Barnabas to bring many Gentiles to saving faith in Christ. This had upset some Jewish believers. But when the church considered the circumstances in light of Old Testament prophecy, they had to accept that “yes” God would indeed extend His salvation to Gentiles (Amos 9:11-12). We certainly cannot rely on circumstances alone to point us in the right direction, but God can use them to confirm His will.
God also orchestrates the circumstances of our lives to put us in the proper position to carry out His will for us. Looking back at where He has brought us can help us see His next steps for us.
5. Godly Counsel
God designed us to need other believers. Sometimes we need to talk through things with another person. Another believer, who also prays and studies God’s Word, can help insure you make choices that align with Scripture. Choose you counsel wisely and give them permission to hold you accountable for obedience.
6. The Bible
Yes, I know. I already mentioned the Bible. That’s where we started. But we must also end with Scripture because God will not speak in any way that contradicts His Word. God will not reveal anything through prayer that contradicts His Word. The Holy Spirit will not teach any spiritual truth that contradicts His Word. Circumstances will not point in any direction that contradicts God’s Word. Finally, any human counsel that contradicts God’s Word is not godly counsel.