Every believer wants to hear from God. We want to distinguish God’s voice from the circumstances of our life.
Why would you attempt to follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say?
Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” (John 10:27)
That’s especially true in the circumstances of our life. When life is happening — we want to know: Is this God? Is this what He is telling me to do? Is God trying to get my attention?
And, I believe, sometimes life if just happening. It’s not at all that God isn’t interested or in control. He counts hairs on our head and stores our tears in a bottle — He cares. But, sometimes life is life. Things happen. Doors open. Doors close. Jobs are lost. Health changes. The deal on the house we wanted falls through. We don’t get the scholarship we hoped we would. Life happens.
And, yet, I do believe God will use our circumstances to speak to us. He used a burning bush to speak to Moses.
I wish He’d use one to speak to me sometimes. I think I’d pay attention to that.
And, I think that’s part of the problem.
One thing I’ve observed is that we often expect God to speak in the grandiose voice of God. And, sometimes God speaks that way, but many times — at least in my life — God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through ordinary life’s circumstances.
In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. Isn’t it?
How do we — in the midst of our circumstances — as mixed up and confusing as they can be — figure out what God could be saying to us?
First, I have to say this — it begins and ends in a relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ — start there. (Read Romans 10:9 and if you have questions, email me.)
But, for those who have a relationship already — which is the majority of my readers — how do we hear God’s voice through our circumstances?
Here are 7 ways to distinguish God’s voice through the circumstances of life:
Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word
God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us — even through our circumstances — in a way that will contradict His written word. I hear people at times claim God is telling them to do something that is in violation with what God has already said. That’s never God.
God uses people to confirm His voice
Even in circumstances, in my experience, you can distinguish God’s voice through people He puts in your path. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God.
Every time God has called me to something there have been others to confirm they are hearing the same calling. I’ve often had to cycle through the naysayers to hear them, but they are there. I seek out wisdom of others.
When we went to plant a church — I thought that’s what God was doing — the doors certainly kept opening, but one loud voice of God were the number of people who kept bringing it to my attention unsolicited — including one prophetic pastor (who claimed to not be a prophet) who spoke directly to a 10 year old vision of the plant exactly as God had originally shared it with me. That was my burning bush, but they don’t come along often. Probably only when you’re as stubborn as I am.
Recognize that God operates from a plan
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose. God’s purpose.
Looking back over my life, I could never have scripted it, but I see how God has used me according to an overall plan. He’s used my life experiences to shape me for where I am today.in church planting He used my business entrepreneurial experience. In church revitalization, He’s used my business transition experience. God knows how to use a past for His good.
Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan
When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years.
Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope, but it would take the people 70 years to get there. (We often miss that part when celebrating that verse.)
When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances.
How many times do we have to hear the same thing — or experience the same circumstances — before we recognize and obey the voice of God?
Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available at the time — in between business careers, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan — of what He had been shaping for years.
Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life.
Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God. God has typically spoken to me clearest during my darkest days — when He has my closest attention.
Fear is a great tool of the enemy. The devil can use circumstances also to lead us away from God. This is where the Scripture and other people you trust can help you discern.
Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)
As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances we must intently listen for the voice of God.
To distinguish God’s voice is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?”
Many times I think I know what God is saying, but it’s in the seasons of questioning that I am more intentional to go back to Him for clarification. I’ve even taken days away to intentionally listen during the confusing times.
Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes
We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son.
God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life. I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him. If what I sense He is asking me to do would help people know Him or know Him better it is much easier to recognize and affirm the voice of God in my circumstances.
To distinguish God’s voice is critical for the children of God. We need to know God’s will.
Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.
Are you in a season of trying to hear from God?