My Sheep hears My Voice
Many Christians are very cautious concerning whether they are really hearing from God. They tell me they would rather err on the safe side than end up sorry. The most common questions that I have been asked are: “When I hear something either audibly or as an impression, how do I know if it is indeed God who is speaking or other voices? After I ask the Lord for directions, how do I know if what I hear is from God, Satan or myself?”
It is essential for us to identify the voice that speaks to us. We have to listen accurately by testing all revelations. Only then can we be assured that the word or impression that we receive is from God Himself and that it is not tainted by non-biblical elements.
In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed and then be raised up on the third day (v. 21). Peter, out of good intentions, confronted Jesus and said, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (v. 22). Jesus turned to his disciple and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (v.23). Here, Jesus demonstrates the difference between God’s voice and the voice of Satan.
Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” The Lord made it very clear that His sheep follow after Him, which means they are committed believers who walk in close proximity with the Shepherd and willingly obey His call. Such an attitude will enable us to distinguish whether the voice we hear is of God, our flesh or the Devil. If we have an intimate relationship with the Lord, we will be able to identify His voice when He speaks to us.
THE VOICE OF GOD
God’s voice is consistent with His Word.
God will never ask us to engage in any activity or relationship that is inconsistent with the Holy Scriptures. For example, a man desires to marry an unbeliever and insists that he had clearance from God to do so. 2 Corinthians 6:14 clearly states, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” Since the Lord will never tell us to do anything that contradicts His Word the man is clearly heeding his own carnal desires.
We must know God’s Word thoroughly so as to identify God’s voice. If what you hear when you are praying is not consistent with Scriptures, then it is definitely not of God; it is likely to be the voice of Satan and his hosts or your flesh. God will never violate the principles stated in the Holy Scriptures.
God’s Voice conflicts with the wisdom of man.
When God requires something of you, it will often clash with what you would consider to be a natural and reasonable course of action. Let us look at Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 5:39, “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” This is not how we would behave naturally. Hence Isaiah 55:8 states, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
On many occasions, God’s voice will ask us to accomplish something that seems quite illogical to our rational mind. In the Old Testament, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham could have reasoned within himself that this command was from the devil and insisted that God would never tell him to carry out such a seemingly evil act. However, he knew that the command was from God, and chose to faithfully obey the Almighty. As a result, God multiplied his seed through his son Isaac.
God’s Voice clashes with the carnal nature of man.
God will never tell us to do anything that gratifies our flesh. If what we hear will result in the gratification of our fleshly impulses, we must know that it is definitely not from God. The Lord will always lead us to glory Him. Your old sensual nature is part of your physical being and it is important for you to place it under the control of the Holy Spirit. Never exalt your selfish and carnal nature. God’s voice will build up and edify your spirit and not your flesh.
We are living in a society that continually bombards our fleshly nature with ungodly voices. Advertisements and programmes on radio and television, books and magazines all affect us as they try to arouse our carnal instincts. We must be sensitive and faithful to the voice of God that calls us to set ourselves apart from the world and urges us to avail ourselves to serve others.
God’s Voice challenges our faith.
God is always challenging us to grow in our faith. Whenever we have indecisive moments and are unsure if what we are hearing is from the Lord, we should ask ourselves if the particular action that we plan to proceed with is one that will strengthen our faith. Many times, after God reveals His purpose for us, we need an act of faith to do what He has told us. I still remember the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart to pray prophetically, I was very fearful as I did not know what the outcome would be. I struggled within myself. As I composed myself to pray for the brethren by faith, the believers told me that what I had spoken about their lives was true. Hearing that confirmation challenged my faith and I became determined to pray more and press on in His presence to hear His voice. In this way, my relationship with Him became stronger and I was able to grow in intimacy with the Living God.
God’s Voice calls for courage.
When God speaks, He often calls for an act of courage on our part. Joshua needed courage to obey God’s command to lead the Israelites to possess the Promised Land. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The disciples needed courage to respond to Jesus’ command to “Follow Me.” Paul needed courage to preach to those who hated him and wanted to end his life. Gideon needed courage to defeat his adversaries. When God speaks, the fulfillment of His plans hinges to some degree on whether we respond to His voice with confidence and a courageous spirit. The voice of God will lead us into being bold witnesses for Him and not timid disciples. It takes courage to do what He calls us to do. As we remain obedient to the Lord, we will see the fruits that He will cultivate in and through our lives.
God’s Voice brings about peace.
When God speaks, one of the most prevalent signs is that we’ll have a sense of calmness in our spirits. We may not feel tranquil at first as we struggle with our own flesh and mindset, but the longer we wait in His presence to inquire of Him, the quieter and more peaceful our spirits will become. As Philippians 4:7 puts it, we will begin to possess “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” and this peace will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. God’s peace will surround us like a fortress and keep us from being overwhelmed by anxiety, worry and frustration. When this kind of peace is upon us, we will know that we have heard from God, and we can be confident that it is His voice that we are listening to. As long as we disobey God, we will never enjoy His peace.
God’s Voice stimulates our spiritual growth.
Through His written Word the Bible, God has declared that He ordained and predestined us to become conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. This being so, whatever the Lord tells us would stimulate our spiritual growth. He will never ask us to do anything that would set us back spiritually. He will never tell us to pursue a course of action that would hinder our spiritual maturity. For example, God will never lead you to marry someone who’s already married! Such an action is detrimental to the righteous character of believers and any voice that tells you to do so cannot be God’s. Neither will the Lord ask you to take up a career or activity that will cause you to be drawn away from Him. As you continually listen to God’s voice and experience how He leads you, you will grow in your spiritual life.
THE VOICE OF THE DEVIL
What we must clearly understand is that Satan is the master of deceit. He lured Adam and Eve into disobedience against God through his craftiness and He continues to entice humans today. This is why some Christians are deceived into believing that they are hearing from God when they are actually hearing Satan’s lies.
Satan does not knock at your front door and say “Hi! I, Satan, am here to deceive you.” He enters through the backdoor, using the most cunning, convincing and persuasive language possible. It’s been shown that the best way to deceive believers is to use religious language to dress up a message or instruction. However, genuine seekers of God need not fear. Despite Satan’s ability to disguise his voice as that of a divine messenger, we can distinguish the voice of God from the Devil’s voice through the following ways:
Devil’s Voice stirs up selfishness
As His children, God is concerned with our influence on unbelievers and the witness we present to them. If what we hear contains harshness or rudeness toward others, it cannot be from the Lord. God usually speaks to us about our surrender and yieldedness to Him, as well as the extent of our self-crucifixion and death to self. God wants us to love our brethren, bear one another’s burdens and encourage one another. He also wants us to ensure that we do not cause others to stumble. When God speaks, He will not only have our best interests in mind but also the good of all parties concerned. The Lord always works for the good of all His children rather than just a few. It is Satan who will tell us to do whatever we want. The Devil wants to deceive us into pleasing ourselves, wrongly believing that we do not have to worry about the ripple effects on others.
Devil’s Voice calls for hastiness
God does not instruct anyone to rush into a decision. Yes, there are times when God wants us to act quickly in faith and at such times we may have to move swiftly. However, God never makes us rush blindly into situations without allocating enough time for us to seek godly counsel. We can move in His will without having a sense of being hurried into action. So if you have an overwhelming urge to act spontaneously or impulsively, you had better pull in the reins, because God is interested in having all the details in their proper places and moving ahead only at the right time. It is Satan who always pushes us to act immediately because he knows that we will reconsider our rash decisions if we back off and take time to think.
Psalm 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 62:5 – My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.
Getting ahead of God is a terrible mistake, and the consequences are always unpleasant. King Saul loses God’s favor because of his hasty actions. He was instructed by Prophet Samuel to wait patiently at Gilgal, “Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do” On the seventh day, Saul grew weary of waiting for Samuel. He decided to take matters into his own hands when he did not see the prophet and went ahead to prepare burnt offerings to invoke the Lord’s favour. It was not his role as the king to perform this priestly duty; hence his rashness disqualified him from continuing to reign over God’s chosen people. The Lord shifted His anointing to the faithful shepherd boy David, and Saul eventually lost his throne (1 Samuel 10:8).
In contrast, Nehemiah waited patiently for God’s timing and the results were glorious. The cupbearer of the Persian king heard news from his fellow Jews living in occupied Judah.They told him that the walls of Jerusalem were in shambles. Nehemiah was grieved and beseeched the Lord in prayer for a period of four months. One day, the king asked Nehemiah why he looked so downcast. The cupbearer explained the situation and won the ruler’s approval to repair the walls of Jerusalem. Within days, he was off to Judah with the Persian king’s blessings as well as his provision of all building materials needed to accomplish the task. Nehemiah’s path was smooth because he waited until God had put everything in place before he took action.
Devil’s Voice disregards consequences
Satan will try to tell us, “Move on, no time to wait, go ahead and decide and do not worry about the consequences!” God, however, is interested in and concerned about the ramifications of our actions. If Abraham had taken time to consider the possible ramifications of having a child with his wife’s maid Hagar, he would no doubt have resisted Sarah’s pleas. Sarah had wanted her husband to produce a child with Hagar because she was too impatient to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise that she would give birth to her own baby despite her advanced age.
Let’s look at another biblical example. If King David had stopped to think of the severity of God’s anger over his decision to conduct a population census, a project rooted in pride, he would not have proceeded. His military leader Joab was usually less discerning than David, but in this case, the military chief urged his king not to conduct the census. His godly counsel was ignored by David and disaster followed.
Satan urges us to “eat, drink, and be merry” but he refuses to add the inevitable result of doing so, and that is, “tomorrow you are going to die and face judgment.” The Devil is not someone who will remind us of the whole counsel of God as contained in the Holy Scriptures.
Many verses in the New Testament also teach us to consider the consequences of our decisions. Whenever God speaks, He has our future in mind. He will prompt us to ponder, “If I make this decision, what will happen to my family, my career and my walk with the Lord?” God isn’t just the God of today; He is also the God of tomorrow.
THE VOICE OF THE FLESH
Fleshly Voice is self-exalting
The flesh refers to the natural and unregenerate man who is self-centered, prone to sin and opposed to God. When the flesh rules, the big “I” comes first. I, me, and myself reign in the carnal man. The voice of the flesh seeks to gratify the cravings, desires and passions of the flesh.
Fleshly Voice arouses sinful passions
When we hear and heed the voice of the flesh, there will be outward manifestations of the works of the flesh.
Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Fleshly Voice produces covetousness
Romans 7:8 – But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Fleshly Voice results in bondage
Romans 7:14 – For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
Fleshly Voice practices evil
Romans 7:18-19 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Fleshly Voice is hostile towards God
Romans 8:7 – Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.
Obeying the voice of the flesh leads to the corruption and destruction of the human body. The end results are condemnation, guilt, the fear of approaching a holy God, and eventually death.
THE VOICE OF THIS WORLD
1 John 2:15-16 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
The Scriptures contain many warnings about conforming to the system and standards of this world. As occupants of this world, it is a struggle for Christians to stay alert so that we will not follow after the rhythm of the world but will chase after the wind of God’s Spirit.
Worldly Voice breeds worry over earthly possessions
Mark 4:19 – But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
The Lord Jesus Himself encouraged His followers not to worry about having needs met, but to seek God’s kingdom.
Luke 12:22-23 – And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
Luke 12:29-31 – And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Worldly Voice works disobedience and lawlessness
Ephesians 2:2 – In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
If you hear a voice instigating you to rebel against authority or fight against leaders who do not match your perception of what it means to be godly, you should be smart enough to reject it.
1 Samuel 15:23 states clearly, “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” In the New Testament, Hebrews 13:17 has this exhortation, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Worldly Voice results in captivity
The voice of this world can take on a religious form but unlike God’s voice, it has no spiritual power to break bondages. Worldly voices will encourage us to put our trust in myths, fables and superstitions. All these will lead us into captivity. In contrast, the voice of God will empower us to enjoy true freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Colossians 2:20-23 – If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Worldly Voice produces ungodly chatter and arguments
Apostle Paul warned Timothy against getting embroiled in arguments and chatter which lead people away from God instead of increasing godliness.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 – O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
2 Timothy 2:16 – But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.
Worldly Voice causes division
Jude 18-19 – They were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
Mockers of God are carnal-minded and devoid of the Holy Spirit. They will create divisions within the Body of Christ. Any voice that causes splits in institutions that God has ordained is definitely not from the Lord. You must not obey voices that urge you to split a church, divorce a spouse or stir up dissension by speaking against your leaders.
Worldly Voice leads to compromise
Read Matthew 4:1-11 and you will realize that the voice of the Devil can be similar to the voice of this world. That is not surprising as Apostle Paul described Satan as ‘the god of this world’. The voice of this world is evident when the evil one promised to give Jesus the materialist world if He would only bow down to Satan and worship him. The Devil’s only desire was to see Jesus yield to temptation and be disqualified from fulfilling the divine purpose of the Heavenly Father. You will notice that the voice of this world always causes you to compromise and be fulfilled.
This article is edited with permission from extract from “You Shall Hear My Voice” by James Jagjeet Singh. Rev James Singh, a Sikh converted to Christianity, called to bring the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to far-flung corners of the world, has been burning the soles of his shoes as he travels the earth preaching. He brings the fire of the Holy Spirit to those who remain cold to HIS calling, to those who remain blind to HIS truths, and to those who remain deaf to HIS trumpet calls. And many have been set free!