Sunday after our service a lady in our church asked me how she could discern whether or not the Holy Spirit was directing her to do something. As I mentioned in my Sunday message, our church and association believe the Biblical experience of hearing from God and/or experiencing Him “miraculously” is still a reality for today (if not particularly normative). That said, we are commanded by Scripture: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 JOHN 4:1)
What I’ve become convinced of in my over thirty years of walking with God (and two decades in pastoral ministry) is that we human beings are really bad on our own at discerning what God is doing. Our emotions, feelings, gumptions, and promptings…they can all feel like the same thing. In the particular circumstance presented to me on Sunday, this sister thought the Lord was leading her to spend an extended time praying for a friend. So, ‘what’s the harm” you ask? Well, she had an exam she needed to study for and a limited amount of time.
What’s a person to do?
Here’s my Sermon Postscript: we were not meant to discern the Spirit’s movement by ourselves. Whatever prompting you might be sensing, the Lord would command you to filter through Scripture and the counsel of others. Many Christians believe it is a sign of spiritual maturity to be able to listen to and discern the direction of the Lord without the assistance of others. However, the Proverbs teach us that wisdom is found in much counsel.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – PROVERBS 15:22
For clarity’s sake, let me say this: It IS spiritually mature to recognize that we are broken people and prone to misunderstanding God’s movement in our lives. It isn’t spiritually mature to “hear” from the Lord, tell everyone in your life that God spoke to you, and then imply that others need not comment on whether your course of action is wise or Spirit-directed. That is proud foolishness. I can tell you from experience that this course of action is often our selfish way to do what we want, look spiritual, and/or not have to submit to our friends or family’s sense of what is God’s best for us.
It is a good and Biblically formed view of life to know that if the Lord is speaking to us, He wants us to patiently seek out the wisdom and discernment of believers we trust. If you don’t have any believers in your life, you need to get some. If you have believers in your life but none that you trust, there is a real possibility that this is spiritual pride on your part. Also, if you are unclear about whether something is from God, and you feel compelled to “Do it now!” – odds are the notion to act hastily is not from God (PROVERBS 14:29, 19:2, 25:28, ECCLESIASTES 5:2, 1 TIMOTHY 5:22).
It is not a sign of doubt for you to test whether a particular thought or notion of God’s movement is actually from God. Asking for the input of godly counsel is a humble recognition of your own weakness and inability. And Jesus promised that, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (MATTHEW 23:12)
Hope your week is filled with a sense of God’s presence in your life.