3 Ways to Avoid the Danger of Following God’s Voice (when it’s not Him speaking)

On my farm and in my life I am realizing more and more the need to get clear direction from God. I don’t want to waste my time on things that distract me from being fully used by Him. This past year my desire to let God direct the specifics of my farm and family have resulted in some major changes.

These changes have included:

  • Totally handing over all of our farm’s commercial animal production to my cousin.
  • Sharing our house for the season with my cousin and his wife and four children
  • Limiting myself to an eight hour work day and setting up an office
  • Not hosting a Redeeming the Dirt conference but taking time to invest in individuals
  • Developing a new ultra-relationship-based marketing model and shifting away from selling at farmer’s markets.

All these changes have come as a result of seeking God and following what I felt like He wanted me to do. But making these changes were not easy. They were often risky and out of my comfort zone. And it is easy to question myself, “How do I know that this sense of direction is really from God and isn’t just my own idea or a distraction from Satan?” And this is an important question.

There are two main ways God tell us what he wants us to know.

  1. One way is through the Bible. In His Word God has revealed to us who He is, what He has done, and what He requires. It contains everything we need to know in order to live a life pleasing to Him. It answers life’s big questions like “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?”, “What is my purpose in life?” etc.
  2. The second way is through the direct voice of the Holy Spirit. This is how God gives us specific direction for our life. We see one example of this when the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys and called him to some areas and kept him from others.

It is important to be careful that we don’t say that God has said something when he hasn’t. We can fall into this error with Scripture by pulling verses out of context. But we can also fall into it by saying the Holy Spirit has given us specific direction for our life when he hasn’t. So how can we guard against following what we think is God’s voice when it isn’t actually Him speaking? Here are three things I learned earlier this year that have helped me and I hope may help you.

3 Ways you can discern whether the voice you are hearing is God.

  1. Make sure that what you are hearing is consistent with God’s Word.

    • Is the thing that you hear consistent with what God tell us in the Bible? Is what you feel Him calling you to do going to help you be more obedient to what is plainly said in Scripture, or cause you to be less obedient? For example, if I feel like God may be telling me to pursue a particular job I need to evaluate whether that job is going to help or hurt my ability to perform my basic responsibilities of disciple-maker, husband, father, steward, etc. There have been a lot of interests I have pursued over the years that I thought were what God wanted but ended up taking away from my ability to be focus in other areas of clear responsibility. Sometimes evaluating a felt calling according to the Word of God requires us to have to take time to study because we may not know what God’s Word says about that area.
  2. God’s voice will not be a changing ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

    • If what we are hearing is changing back and forth between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ then it is probably not God speaking both of those. If we feel tossed back and forth between really thinking we should do something and really feeling like we shouldn’t we should probably stop and take some time to reevaluate. God is not a god of confusion. God often gradually reveals and clarifies direction in our life and many times we may not be hearing accurately from him because we are seeking specific direction too far ahead. Many times we need to listen to the immediate things he is telling us and trust him to make things clear as we move on. For example I could be wresting with asking God whether he want me to eventually quit my job and start farming full-time. I may find myself experiencing conflicting emotions because He is waiting for me to obey what he has already told me about my current garden and occupation.
  3. What is the tone of the voice that I am hearing?

    • Is it characterized by the fruit of the Spirit? Is it based and rooted in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Or is it characterized by the fruit of the Flesh? Things like lust, anger, envy, strife, selfishness, and all the opposites of the fruit of the Spirit? I may think God wants me to buy a certain tool right now but if I honestly examine myself I may find that that desire is really rooted in envy, greed or laziness and not patience and faithfulness. We may find emotions like fear when God calls us to radical acts of faith, but I have found that when they are from Him they are always accompanied by a ‘peace that passes understanding’.

Final Thoughts

We need to hear from God. And I would encourage you to keep seeking Him. He can definitely take you on quite the adventure! Here are a few parting thoughts as I wrap up this blog post and head to lunch.

  • Be faithful with what you do hear, then God will speak more. In Acts 5:32 we are told that God gives the Spirit to those who obey Him. If you want to hear more from God, start obeying what you already know he wants you to do.
  • Spending time with God and investing in your relationship with Him is one of the best ways to learn to recognize his voice. Just like the way you recognize the voice of a friend or family member over the phone even if you couldn’t tell someone else how you know it’s them. You recognize their voice because you have spent time with them.
  • Be encouraged! God is patient and want us to hear him. And even when we aren’t listening He shows grace and can redeem the times we stray for His glory and our good.

What about You?

These are just a few thoughts about learning how to listen to God. I would love to hear any insights or experiences you may have! Has there been a time when you thought you were following the voice of God, but looking back realized it wasn’t? How have you been able to determine whether God is speaking to you?

11 thoughts on “3 Ways to Avoid the Danger of Following God’s Voice (when it’s not Him speaking)

  1. Attractions, Leadings, … and Feelings
    Luk 11:9 “…ask, and it shall be given unto you… knock, and it shall be opened” and Mat 11:28-30 “… my yoke is easy…”
    So MY plan was to wait till 2018 before starting to aquire bigger livestock, family milk cow, sheep, hogs, maybe goats.
    What I knew from observation, was that a Jersey cow would be hard to come by, months if not years to find. People dont part easily with a perfectly good Jersey cow. So when we moved here to NW NC, I had an eye out for Jersey cows as future potential farmers to talk to when the time came.
    One of our favorite drives takes us north across the VA line and across a low-water bridge over the New River to a farm-hardware-local produce-local-cheeses-gas station/store on Hwy 58, “Rixies”, that has the best hotdogs. Just before Rixies in a narrow meandering pasture that straddles a beautiful tumbling creek, and my eye has been consistently drawn to a huge 300+ lb hog, a donkey and a small Jersey cow since 20Mar when we bought our little farm, and I’d say we make this drive at LEAST every 2 weeks, just for the scenery and of course to grab a hotdog. And every time we did of course, Id see that little Jersey cow and her pasture-mates. I looked forward to glimpsing that Jersey as much as I looked forward to the hotdog. This had been going on since 20Mar2017 mind you.
    Late Sep2017, local farmer, a neighbor, nice guy asked to rent my barn to hang his tobacco as they had done every year for years and years. After careful deliberation, and consultation with my wife, not wanting to be THAT guy, the new guy who upsets the flow of things in a close rural community, I agreed, stipulating that I needed the last 2 animal stallsleft unobstructed as I wanted to be ready to receive blessing if the Lord blessed me unexpectedly and prematurely with a family milk cow (remember MY plan?)
    Long about the first week of Oct2017, we were at the Independence VA Farmers Market, and happened to be talking to a friend, long time Jersey cow hand milker, and mentioned our desire to own a Jersey family milk cow. She insisted that if we ever found one, and emphasized that we might be in for a long wait, that she really would like to help us out by coming with us to inspect the prospect, as we had no idea, really.
    Less than a week later, on a hotdog run, I felt compellingly led to ask the cashiers at Rixies who owned that little Jersey. “Oh thats Dennis R.he lives just round the corner”. After inquiring about any potential itchiness of Dennis’ trigger finger we set off to his house. He was ex-Army Vietnam era, so we hit it off right away. No, he didnt have a cow for sale but he had traded a Artificially Inseminated pregnant Jersey for a backhoe back in march, in fact he thought she would be due mid December… AND… the fella he traded the cow to might be willing to sell it, the man was a friend of his. Dennis made the introductions over the phone and a few days later we went to meet Baker M. and Daisy, the beautiful very pregnant Jersey, and Baker asked a fair price. She was delivered to our farm 15NOV2017.

    So lets re-cap real quick: I wanted a Jersey, and everyone told me how hard it would be to find one; I prayed about it, I prepared for blessing, I went about my life and was engaged with spoke my desires to others (not Christians), I followed a strong leading which had been building within me, I knocked, and doors were opened, and it was SO easy, there was no angst and gnashing of teeth or wheeling and dealing.

    And this dear friends is the pattern in my life. How I “hear” His voice, is these kinds of patterns of unfolding serendipity, doors opening, one-thing-leading-to-another are in my life a sure sign of Gods paw on things. I have learned to feel rather than hear his voice, although I have heard His voice. Things unfold effortlessly after faithful prayer and preparation for blessing and a deep visceral knowledge that He did indeed hear my prayer, and that He WILL respond.

    • Thanks Andrew and Noah. I am constantly struggling with this question. You guys know I fly by the seat of my pants in my trucking business. Each morning I need to make a choice which load to take,where to go and many other questions. The best but sometimes hardest for me to do is get up an hour early and read through the devotions God has given to me along with his Word. I’ve been practicing for over 10 years and I feel I’m at a point in time where God has given more responsibility in this decision making process. I believe he speaks to me through the circumstances I encounter each day. Recently he has reached out and touched my arm, removing the bicep tendon from the bone. Not as painful as it sounds and through his grace and mercy led me to a specialist that advised against surgery requiring a 6-12 month recovery. Take 3-4 weeks off and do what is comfortable. The urge is to go right back and start driving as that causes no pain but the periphery items do. To wake up and not be rushed and to evaluate the influence I may have on the Body of Christ and what God has prepared me to do or return to work and interact with the people God puts in my path and have income which can be used to further glorify him is the decision.In my heart and what God has put squarely in my path has prompted me to concentrate my efforts within the Body of Christ but continue to evaluate and focus on Christ daily.Thanks for your guys time and effort in sharing your insights.

      • CP, I pray that God give you direction as He prepares you for the next season of your life. May you have a speedy and productive recovery time.

  2. You wrote, “In Acts 5:3 we are told that God gives the Spirit to those who obey Him.”. Is Acts 5:3 the correct reference? Or am I just not seeing the meaning you are seeing in that passage?

    • So sorry, yes. Wrong reference. The correct one is Acts 5:32. Peter and the other apostles said, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

      Thanks for taking the time and effort to go and check the Scripture yourself!

  3. Thank you Noah. Exactly what I needed to read since I’ve been praying about starting a Farming/Gardening Food ministry. I’m going to re read & study what you’ve written. Thank you Brother.
    Thomas

  4. I thank God for giving me loving parents. My heart goes out to those kids this morning that don’t have an earthly father to learn from and share life. My Dad’s philosophy for knowing how much to give was to give till it hurts, then give a little bit more. CP

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