Well, The Doctor has been busily monitoring the incoming mail here at his Worldwide Command Center. For those of you who may be unaware, The Doctor’s secure command center is located deep within the heart of a major mountain range at an undisclosed location somewhere in the western United States. Of course, The Doctor doesn’t really need a command center but it just kinda makes him feel important.
Anyway, some excellent questions have found their way here recently and The Doctor’s research committee (consisting of 2 retired librarians and some guy who used to work for Google) has been hard at work investigating their answers for you. So now without further delay let’s get to our question for today…
"How does God speak to us? I've heard people say, "God spoke to me and told me to do such-and-such" but it seems like God hasn't spoken to me. I was listening to someone and they were like, well, true Christians know when God is speaking to them and I want to be a true Christian but I don't know what I am doing wrong. Could you please help?
First, The Doctor doesn’t believe that you’re doing anything wrong based on what you’ve said- in fact, you are doing something right in stating your desire to be a true Christian. Now before we get into the answer to your question, let’s first establish that the Bible makes it very clear that God can (and does) communicate with people.
However, this is not to say that every true Christian always knows when God is speaking to him or her. Let’s be totally honest here- the truth is that someone can be a real Christian yet still not be completely sure if God is speaking to him or her. This is something that may be a little difficult to grasp so let’s look at a Biblical example from the book of Jeremiah…
“Then this message from the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘Your cousin Hanamel (son of Shallum) will soon arrive to ask you to buy the farm he owns in Anathoth, for by law you have a chance to buy before it is offered to anyone else.’ So Hanamel came, as the Lord had said he would, and visited me in the prison. ‘Buy my field in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,’ he said, ‘for the law gives you the first right to purchase it.’ Then I knew for sure that the message I had heard was really from the Lord” (Jeremiah 32:6-8).
Did you catch that last part? Jeremiah received a message that he believed was from God. The message stated that certain things were going to happen but it was only after those things actually occurred that Jeremiah could say, “Then I knew for sure that the message I had heard was really from the Lord.”
So if the great prophet Jeremiah was sometimes unsure if he had actually heard from God, then The Doctor would say that it is possible for us to be unsure also. So what’s the answer? How can we know when God is speaking to us? Well, let’s look at another example from the Scriptures…
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10 NIV).
OK, so God kept the Apostle Paul and his friends from preaching in the province of Asia but how did this happen? Well, we’re not told exactly how the Holy Spirit spoke to these people but we can certainly look at some possibilities.
One such possibility is that the message came through some prophet of God. A Biblical prophet is someone who is inspired by God to communicate His will and/or to disclose the future. We can see a good example of this in Acts 11:27-28…
“During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, and one of them, named Agabus, stood up in one of the meetings to predict by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the land of Israel. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius).”
While this type of communication from God can be Biblically OK, it’s important to remember that this is not the only way that God communicates with us. Although God may choose to use other people to speak to us, He is certainly not limited to using others. Remember, God knows exactly where to find you and He is perfectly capable of speaking to you directly without using a “go-between.”
Of course, if someone tells you that they have a message from God for you, their message must agree 100% with the Scriptures. If a “prophet” tells you something that is out of line with what the Bible says then you don’t have to give it a second thought- that message is definitely not from God. God will never give someone a message that deviates from His Word and any message from anyone that claims to speak for God must be totally in line with the Scriptures.
So what other possibilities exist for people to hear from God based on Paul’s experience in Acts 16? Well, we can say that God may have communicated with Paul and his traveling partners through circumstances. For example, there may have been a sickness or bad roads or any number of other
events that may have affected their travel. Paul himself mentions an example of this in Romans 1:13…
“I want you to know, dear brothers, that I planned to come many times before (but was prevented) so that I could work among you and see good results, just as I have among the other
So it would be safe to say that God sometimes leads us through circumstances, closing some doors and
Another way that God may choose to lead us is through a dream or vision. Although this may seem like a strange way for God to communicate a message, there are many Biblical examples of this including the one that we just looked at in Acts 16. Perhaps the clearest statement on this is found in Job 33:14-17…
“For God speaks again and again, in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on men as they lie on their beds. He opens their ears in times like that and gives them wisdom and instruction, causing them to change their minds, and keeping them from pride, and warning them of the penalties of sin, and keeping them from falling into some trap.”
Of course, this not necessarily mean that every dream is a message from God. So how can you tell if God is speaking to you through a dream? Well, here’s the answer right from the Book…
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4 NIV).
The best way to see if a dream is from God is to use the same test that you would when someone claims to have a message from God- test it and see if it lines up with what the Bible says. We’ll talk more about this in a moment but for now, just remember that God will never lead you in a dream to do something that is out of line with His Word. If a dream contains something unbiblical then you don’t have to wonder if it came from God- it didn’t.
Finally, God’s message to Paul could have come through some inner working of the Holy Spirit. For lack of a better term we might call this a “thought”, an “impression” or a “feeling”. Isaiah gives an example of this type of “inner working of the Holy Spirit” in Isaiah 30:21…
“And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say, ‘No, this is the way; walk here.'”
The Scripture we looked at earlier in Jeremiah 32:6-8 is also another good example of this. Now before we continue on this subject, there’s something very important to remember. Although God may choose to communicate with us through a thought, impression or feeling, The Doctor cautions you to be very careful about hearing from God in this way. Here’s why: sometimes we can want something so badly that we think we are hearing from God when we’re really not.
You see, it’s possible to be so emotionally involved with someone or something that we can actually convince ourselves that God has spoken to us about it when He really hasn’t. It’s for this reason that you should be very careful about saying, “The Lord told me such and such” or “God said this or that” unless you are very sure that God has actually spoken to you.
So what are some ways to help you be certain that God is really speaking to you?? Well, here are some ideas…
Jesus gives us a good example to follow here. Remember that Jesus spent the entire night in prayer before choosing His 12 disciples. He prayed at the garden of Gethsemane just before His death. He prayed before resurrecting a dead man and before feeding 5000 people with 5 pieces of bread and 2 fish. Luke 5:16 says Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to spend time in prayer. Why was that? Well, Jesus knew something that we read of in Job 12:13:
“…true wisdom and power are God’s. He alone knows what we should do; he understands.”
Psalm 32:8 also says, “I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.” That’s a good incentive to
prayer, isn’t it? In addition, Proverbs 2:3-9 tells us this…
“…if you want better insight and discernment, and are searching for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure, then wisdom will be given you and knowledge of God himself; you will soon learn the importance of reverence for the Lord and of trusting him.
For the Lord grants wisdom! His every word is a treasure of knowledge and understanding. He grants good sense to the godly– his saints. He is their shield, protecting them and guarding their pathway. He shows how to distinguish right from wrong, how to find the right decision every time.”
So if you really want to know if you are hearing from God, The Doctor would encourage you to pray about it. Remember, James 1:5 tells us, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.”
2.) The second piece of advice would be to read your Bible
This seems like a no-brainer but you might be surprised at how many Christians neglect to do this. If a “message from God” doesn’t line up with the Scriptures then you can immediately throw it away because God will never lead you to do anything that is out of character with His holy nature or with His Word. Besides, reading the Bible is something that every Christian should be doing regularly.
The Bible is God’s Word and if you are a Christian who doesn’t read the Bible very much then how will you know what is OK with God and what isn’t? The very best way to hear from God is to simply open your Bible. It always works 100% of the time
3.) Finally, The Doctor would advise you to get some Godly counsel
If you think that God may be speaking to you, The Doctor would encourage you to find a Godly, trustworthy person and get his or her insight into your situation. Such a person might be a Pastor, Youth Pastor or other mature, Godly church leader. Tell that person about your situation and ask what they think. Remember, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).
Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.