Voice of God


As Christians, we want to know and do God’s will, but many Christians struggle to hear God’s voice and know His will. They find the whole process frustrating and vague, and they are left feeling spiritually paralyzed. Could it be that the problem does not lie with God’s silence nor our inability to hear what God is saying, but with our conception of God’s will and the particular methods we use for discerning it? Could it be that our conception of God’s will and hearing His voice is not taught in the Bible? Perhaps we have over-complicated and over-spiritualized the will of God.

Many Christians think God’s will for their life is both extensive and detailed. In addition to God’s general will that we develop our moral character, He also has a more specific will for us concerning our education, our vocation, our residency, our spouse, where we congregate, and other matters big and small. Our job is to (1) discern God’s will in these matters using various methods such as a peace in our heart, open and closed doors, unbidden thoughts, impressions, signs, and fleeces, and then (2) make choices that match God’s will. The process is similar to navigating: God chooses our destination and the route we should take to get there, and our job is merely to discover the map and follow it turn-by-turn.

This sounds reasonable and perhaps even comforting, but is it Biblical? I assumed so, until I was forced to look at Scripture more carefully. Now, I’m convinced that this understanding of the will of God – while well-intentioned – errs in its assumptions about (1) the extent of God’s will and (2) the methods for discerning it. (more…)

Frank Beckwith has made the observation that when people cannot refute your argument, they often trump it with spirituality. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. You state your reasons for believing P rather than Q, and your Christian brother responds by saying, “I know that’s not true because God told me Q is true.”  Or your Christian sister responds, “You only believe that because you are carnal.” Don’t fall for this cheap tactic.

You could respond by saying to your brother, “Actually, God told me P is true, so I know you didn’t hear from God.” And to your sister you can respond, “Ok, I’m carnal. So can you tell this carnal brother of yours why my argument is wrong, and why I should believe your position/interpretation?”

Greg Koukl recently made a great observation about “Christians” who are dismissive of the Bible in favor of their own ideas and revelations. Such individuals have a low view of the Bible’s authority because it was written by man, and man can get things wrong. Not only does this fail to take the Bible’s claim of divine inspiration seriously, but it fails to recognize that since they are also human, their thoughts and revelations may be mistaken as well! Other than personal bias, what reasons do they have for thinking previous holy men of God couldn’t get it right, but they can?

JFK famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Greg Koukl says something similar regarding God’s will for our life. Paraphrasing: ‘We should not ask what God’s plan is for our life, but how our life can be used for his plan.’ The distinction is subtle, but important. While God’s plan includes us, it is much bigger than us. If we are doing whatever we can to help fulfill his plan, we will be doing God’s will for our life.

There is little I have less tolerance for than the person who claims they know you are wrong because God told them so. How might you respond to such a person? Let me illustrate one method in the form of a dialogue:

David: That’s not what that verse means.
Jason: Why do you disagree with my interpretation?
David: The Holy Spirit revealed to me that it means X.
Jason: That’s funny. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that it means Y.
David: No he didn’t. The Spirit cannot contradict Himself, and I know He told me it means X.
Jason: I agree with you that the Spirit cannot contradict Himself. And since I know He told me it means Y, He could not have told you it means X.
David: You’re wrong.
Jason: Ah, wait. The Spirit is speaking to me right now. … Oh, ok God. David, the Holy Spirit just told me that He did not tell you that it means X.
David: No, He didn’t tell you that.
Jason: Yes, He did.
David: No, He didn’t.
Jason: Yes, He did.
David: No, He didn’t.
Jason: Yes, He did.

Silly, I know. The reason it is silly, however, is that it is silly to claim the Spirit told you X, when you cannot justify X. Anyone can appeal to the Spirit as their intellectual justification, but that does not mean they actually heard from the Spirit, and it does not help to persuade anyone else of their view (even if they really did hear from the Spirit). It stifles the conversation, and persuades no one.

Furthermore, what do you do when two people think God told them something, and yet He said something different to each person? The dialogue ends in a stand-still in which each person accuses the other of not truly hearing from God. Not very fruitful, if you ask me.