God Communicates: He Doesn’t Just Talk
How to Recognize God’s Guidance
The Bible says that God is constantly communicating with us. How do we recognize when He is?
God’s Voice is Both Similar and Different
Once you are convinced God wants to talk to you (not just to the really holy people, whoever they are), the next question is, “How do I recognize His voice?”
This is one of the biggest struggles most Christians face. “How do I know when it’s God talking to me or if it’s just my thoughts or the voice of the enemy?”
The good news is, God can talk to you very clearly, just like your closest friend, with clear words and thoughts. And because you’ve developed a close relationship with Him, you know when it’s him or when it’s someone else.
When my wife calls me, either in the house or on the phone, she does not have to say, “Hi Mark, this is Janet.” She doesn’t have to identify herself because I know her voice. She can just start talking.
Sometimes it can be that way with God. I have times when super clear thoughts have entered my mind, and I know those words are from God. I have thoughts throughout the day that are from Him, and as I learn how He communicates, I recognize those thoughts and words are God talking to me. That’s the familiar part: God talking to me, not audibly, but with clear thoughts in my mind.
Making God-Led Decisions
But when it comes to direction or decision making like, “Should I take this job? Should I move to that city? Should I do that ministry?” Most of the time I do not get a super clear thought like, “Yes, take that job, move to that city, do that ministry.” Every now and then I do get that very clear thought, and it’s awesome. But most of the time when I ask God for clarity on these types of things, I get something else.
Before I describe what I do get (and what most people get), I need to say there are some who receive these super clear thoughts and words or sometimes crystal clear mental pictures often. The Bible says God gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints for works of service.
People with prophetic gifts get these very clear words and mental pictures more often than most of us because that is part of their specific service package. We can all hear God, and 1 Corinthians 14 says we can all “prophesy,” but some are placed in that role by God and then given that grace to a greater degree than those who are not so prophetic.
God Communicates: He Doesn’t Just Talk
Communication experts tell us 60–90 percent of communication is nonverbal. It is not just the words we say that gets our message across; to a great degree, it is the way we say it.
Tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language apparently communicate even more than the words we say. We don’t always know why we believe some people and don’t believe others even though they are saying the same thing, but it often has to do with their nonverbal communication.
It took me a while to understand this, but God also communicates with us in other ways besides clear words. And although it takes practice and some trial and error, we can gradually learn to receive God’s communication, even when it comes in another form besides clear thoughts.
Three Simple But Really Effective Steps
- Look Up. Ask God to give you the answer you need and keep God’s words central in your life. God will never tell you to do something that is contrary to His words in Scripture. Scripture helps us filter out the other sources and discern God’s voice. Keep Him first and keep Him your source and goal. In other words, make sure you are living from Him and for Him. You are then in a good place to receive His direction.
Make sure, though, that you take the time to seek Him and ask Him. James 1 tells us God loves to give wisdom to those who ask in faith.
2. Look In. The main way God will communicate with you is through your thoughts and emotions. This can be tricky because not all thoughts or emotions are from the Holy Spirit. It is easy to reject God’s direction if He’s telling us something we don’t want to do. And it’s easy to block His guidance because we think what He’s saying is too good for us. This is why it takes practice and continually checking our inner compass of living from and for Him.
Having said that, very often God gives you a sense of something as His guidance in your soul (nonverbal communication) when He doesn’t give you precise words. Godly desires, peace, joy, faith, confidence, passion, compassion, etc. can all be the voice of God to you.
3. Look around. External circumstances and words from other people are also used by God to talk to us. All of us heard God talking to us when a person shared the Gospel and we responded in faith. That person spoke, but God is the One who made it real to us and He is the One who birthed new life in us through a person sharing His message. God can be talking to you through a person.
And God can use circumstances: you lose a job, you get invited to be part of a group, you are asked to lead a ministry, you meet a certain person, you “run into someone.” God can use those external circumstances to provide guidance.
But you have to pray through all of this because sometimes well-intentioned people give us the wrong words for us, and sometimes God tells us to do something even when circumstances are not favorable. Thoughts and emotions can be from the Holy Spirit, or they can be from something else.
It is a Learning Process
I wish I could tell you, “Do this” and every time you will know God is talking to you,” but I can’t. We’ll talk about this in a minute, but we are all growing and practicing our faith. That means we will not get it right every time.
There will be situations when we took action because we thought God told us to, and we’ll find out it that wasn’t God. And there will be times we didn’t act because we didn’t think something was God’s will and later found it was.
Don’t let yourself get discouraged or down because of these mistakes. God knows how it works, and I promise you He is much more pleased when we try than when we just sit and never do anything out of fear of getting it wrong. Hebrews 5 tells us that those who practice are the ones who learn to discern God’s will.
If you want more resources on how to recognize God’s guidance and live a Jesus-centered life check out www.TruVineMission.com
If you want training and/or coaching on how to clarify and then accomplish your God-given purpose and mission, head over to www.MarkFurlongCoaching.com