Thursday, February 15, 2018

Is It of God?

When I was a freshman in college, I heard a missionary speak. He challenged us to considered ourselves called to fulltime ministry unless God specifically told us otherwise. Growing up in a missionary family, I had always considered the possibility of becoming a missionary, but that night, I prayed, "Lord, I'm willing. Use the circumstances of my life to lead me into Your will for my life."

A few months later, my hometown of Seward, Alaska, was nearly destroyed in the Great Alaska Earthquake on Good Friday 1964 that registered 9.2, the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America in recorded history.

Destruction after 1964 earthquake in Seward, Alaska
Courtesy NOAA

My summer job was gone. I had no money to return to college. But God used that circumstance to lead me to a new college, where I received a scholarship and met my husband. We eventually entered fulltime ministry. We have pastored churches in New York State for 40 years now, including planting a new church. (To read the full story of God's direction in my life through that earthquake, see In a Matter of Minutes Parts 1-5.)
Many times over the years in our pastorates, people would say to us, "God told me____." Sometimes, the "messages" made us scratch our heads and wonder if God was confused. Of course, it wasn't God who was mixed up!

As Christians, we want to do God's will. But how can we recognize His voice? How does God guide us along the best pathway for our lives?

Many Christians determine God's will by inner feelings or impressions--fleeting or subtle emotions that lead us to accept a job, move, or get married. But are such impressions valid expressions of God's will?

John Wesley (1703-1791), the English revivalist and founder of Methodism, wrote: Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the Devil. Therefore, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be from God.

 Feelings and impressions come from three main sources:
  1. God through the Holy Spirit
  2. Satan, the devil, who is the "father of all lies"
  3. Our own human spirit, but our perceptions can be influenced by our health or fatigue, our level of confidence, our humanness. We can easily talk ourselves into what we want.
That is why 1 John 4:1 tells us

In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to test everything. So many voices speak to us claiming to be God or the way to truth. Many charismatic "false prophets" have led their flocks astray because the people did not "test the spirits." It is our responsibility to test everything, including our feelings and impressions, and even what our pastors and religious leaders preach, as the Bereans did when Paul preached the gospel to them (see Acts 17:10-12).

How can we distinguish between God's voice and the devil's lies? Here are four tests:
  1. Is it in harmony with Scriptures? Since God never changes, guidance from God will never contradict His Word. And it will never come from messengers forbidden in His Word, such as fortunetellers or astrologists. We must study the entire counsel of God, not just "proof texts."
  2. Is it right? Impressions from God will always conform to universal principles of morality and decency. They will not depreciate human life and dignity, family integrity, or traditional Christian values.
  3. Is it providential? God will open and close doors through circumstances and events, as He did in my life, and sometimes even through divine intervention.
  4. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent with my abilities, gifts, character, and situation in life? Will it contribute to the Kingdom of God?
Next time you hear a sermon or someone says, "God told me___," apply these tests honestly and prayerfully, and you will not be led astray.

Share an experience you've had in which God has opened or closed doors in your life.

My books tell stories of God's guidance. Check them out at

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