“Why can’t we hear God’s voice?”
It’s a question my kids ask me on a regular basis. We read stories in the Bible of how God spoke directly to people, and then there’s Jesus teaching the masses in person. It’s hard not to wish we had that kind of audible communion with God today.
Yet, God does still speak to us directly today.
It’s just not an audible voice we hear with our ears, but rather the voice of His Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and minds, and guides us through the Scriptures. It can be easy to miss if we are too busy to be quiet and pay attention. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve missed His leading and guiding me.
Last Friday, I was getting ready to walk out the door to lead a retreat for women at a nearby camp. I was nervous, excited, and my stomach was all aflutter. Before I began loading everything in the car, I sat down on the couch, leaned my head back, and closed my eyes.
“Ok, God. I can’t do this without you. Am I missing anything?” I asked Him. I began to mentally review each talk, the verses, and the props I had gathered to help illustrate the main points.
“The peanut butter jar.” That’s what popped into my head.
In another talk, I use a Costco-sized jar of peanut butter, a large serving spoon, and a king-sized chocolate bar as a funny, but true example of the things I’m tempted to use to soothe and comfort myself instead of going to God first with my troubles. (Peanut butter happens to be my favorite food group.)
As I thought about the peanut butter illustration, I realized it fit really well in the opening of my Saturday morning talk. So I went downstairs, grabbed my peanut butter prop, pulled a serving spoon from the silverware jar, and made plans to stop at the gas station on the way to camp for a king-sized candy bar.
I used the illustration Saturday morning, and it garnered laughs as usual. I’m not the only woman who stands in the kitchen slurping peanut butter off a giant spoon when feeling happy/sad/blue/frustrated/annoyed.
Saturday evening, a woman shared with me how the peanut butter illustration impacted her. She had been in her kitchen Friday morning, quite possibly around the time I was being quiet on the couch gathering my thoughts, tempted to soothe herself with peanut butter.
My eyes about popped out of my head.
How do we know when God is speaking to us and when it’s just our own ideas?
In his book Too Busy Not to Pray, Bill Hybels offered these tests to know if a “prompting,” is coming from God. I’ve found these to be quite helpful in my own life:
1. Is it consistent with Scripture?
Check it against what God says in Scripture. He would never tell you to do something He has said not to do in the Bible.
2. Is it consistent with God’s gifts to you?
God’s promptings are usually consistent with the person He made you to be. Hybels offers the example of the person who’s uncomfortable around children, yet thinks God is prompting them to become a teacher. Hybels asks, “Is God asking you to do this difficult thing because there is no one else who will do it? Is he asking you to stretch into new areas so that your unique gifts will grow? Or is this perhaps not a God inspired prompting at all but rather a distraction from the task God has given you to do?”
3. Does it involve servanthood?
God’s promptings usually involve servanthood. Hybels says “many counterfeit promptings are fairly easy to discern, because they are self-promoting or self-serving.”
4. Proceed with caution.
Hybels implores readers that if a prompting requires major-life changing decisions in a short period of time, going deeply into debt or placing someone else in a position of awkwardness or danger, requires you to jeopardize family relationships or important friendships, or creates unrest in the spirits of mature Christian friends or counselors…then question it and proceed carefully.
It’s exciting when we follow an idea and realize it came from God. Sometimes, we may never find out how He spoke to us. If this woman hadn’t shared her story with me, I never would have realized how important it was that I grabbed the peanut butter jar. But as we follow God and ask Him for direction, I have no doubt He leads us in ways we may not even realize.
**In the vein of authenticity, please note I wrote this post while snacking on pretzels dipped in peanut butter. However, I was soothing genuine stomach-hunger, not soul-hunger. I promise!
Tweetables?How can you know if God is speaking to you?
Has God ever given you an idea and you saw how He worked in it?
Learn to know the difference between your own ideas and a prompting from God.