“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14:25-26 (NIV).
My kids and I have had many conversations about how to tell when God is talking to you. You know, that still small voice that other Christ followers talk about. How can you learn to listen to Him when there are competing voices all around, and how do you know for sure it’s really God and not someone, or something, else? The explanation I gave to them started with going to the Bible and seeing what God has to say about a particular topic, subject, or problem they’re dealing with.
For example, let’s say you’re minding your own business and all of a sudden you think God is telling you to give away the clothes your children have outgrown to your best friend who recently became unemployed. You were saving them for a garage sale, but you want to obey and aren’t sure if that’s God talking or you just feeling compassion for a friend. First, go to the Bible to find out what God says about the topic. You will find multiple instances where God commands His children to feed and clothe the poor and needy, because “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV). Therefore, you can be pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit prompting you to give away the clothes versus possibly making money from selling them at your garage sale.
What if it’s a little more complicated than that? What if you’re feeling led to move across the country for a different job? Does the Bible really speak clearly about that? Well, I would still search your heart and see what motives lie behind your sudden desire to move. Are you wanting to get away from your parents because they’re getting old and you don’t want to have to start taking care of them? Is your motivation to move to be closer to your parents to help them in their older age? Are you considering changing jobs to something you are passionate about and it lines up with the gifts God has given you? Are you avoiding a situation or a bad relationship? Are you putting all your trust in your 401K or are you trusting and thanking God for the opportunity to make more money while giving Him all the glory and finding ways to honor Him through the extra income?
Are you going to hear the still small voice correctly all the time? Probably not. It takes practice to hear what God is calling us to do sometimes. Also, we’re human and make lots of mistakes. However, when we desire to obey God and His commands, even our mistakes are remade into opportunities to get it right the next time. If there’s something God desires for us to do (adopt a child, move across country, or give away our children’s outgrown clothes), He’ll provide another opportunity if we miss it the first, second, or third time, as long as keep listening.
Because God loves us so much, He wants to see us grow in our relationship with Him. He’s not going to punish us if we truly just missed the mark. Will He get angry if we stubbornly keep refusing to do what He wants? Yes, but if we’re seeking to obey Him and just need a little extra help, don’t worry. He’s patient and will help us hear when it’s truly important.
© 2013 Cheri Swalwell