God’s voice is sometimes hard to discern, but these three filters help me to know when what I’m hearing is from God.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “How do I know if something is from God?”
Like, is this God? Or is that from God?
Is that the Holy Spirit?
Am I hearing things?
Could this just be a bad case of gas, like I ate too much chili?
When should I follow this voice that I’m hearing?
How do I know if something is from God?
Basically, how do I follow God, and specifically the Holy Spirit?
Here are three simple truths, three filters to apply, to know whether or not what we’re hearing is from the Holy Spirit:
1. Follow the fruit.
In the Bible we’re told that the fruit of the Holy Spirit, like the result of the Spirit inside us, are things like love, joy, peace, patience and goodness (Gal 5:22–23).
So if we’re wondering whether or not something is from the Holy Spirit, look for things that bring joy, peace and self-control—not just to yourself, but to others and the world around you.
Are you trying to make a decision, and even though it seems a little crazy you just have this overwhelming peace?
It’s most likely God. Follow it.
Are you feeling like you’re supposed to listen to a family member who’s hard to listen to?
Like you should help a coworker move, and you just so happen to have a pickup?
Or there’s a friend you know you’re supposed to share some hard truth with?
Those sound like love and kindness and goodness. Follow them.
Maybe you need a boundary in your life. Even if something isn’t necessarily wrong, you know it’s not good for you.
That looks like self-control. Follow it.
Look for things that bring out the Fruit of the Spirit, and if you see that fruit appearing in your life and the lives of others, follow it.
There are so many things that we don’t need to wonder about or even pray about. Why? Because God has already made them crystal clear in the Bible. Examples: Should we cheat on our spouse? Nope. Should we forgive the person who cut us off in traffic? Yup. Should we body-slam our coworker? Nope.
There are so many things that we don’t need to wonder about or even pray about.
2. Be consistent, not big.
Often when it comes to following God, we wait for “something big” to happen before being used by him.
We tell ourselves I’m not gonna help this stranger, I’m trying to figure out a way to help 10 strangers. I want to change the world, not just help one person. And with this decision I’m waiting for God to give me a clear sign, like a huge rainbow. In the meantime, I’m not going to do anything.
And with my time and my money, I wanna do something big. And so, I’m just going to sit and wait and wait and wait.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with big, and being used by God to do big things. We have a God who can do abundantly more than we can imagine. But instead of worrying about big when it comes to following and listening to God, just be consistent.
Imagine what would change if we woke up each morning and asked God what His plan is for our day.
Want to be used by God? Get up each morning and consistently pray:
Holy Spirit, God, what do you want me to do today?
Where can I join you today?
What’s your plan, not mine, today?
And here’s the truth: most big things rarely happen overnight. Instead big things happen when we’re consistent. For how long? Years.
Do you want to do something big? Just be consistent.
Just consistently follow Jesus each day.
And big things will happen.
3. When I don’t want to.
Honestly in my own life, away from the Bible, one of the clearest filters I have for knowing if the voice inside me is God or not is if what I’m hearing is something that I don’t naturally want to do.
It’s in these moments where things are clearly not from me, because I don’t want to.
Should I make this phone call? I don’t want to.
Should I have this hard conversation? I don’t want to.
Should I help them?
Should I apply for this job?
Should I tell this person about Jesus?
I don’t want to.
Yet inside of me I just keep hearing this still small voice. I keep hearing God. I keep hearing the Holy Spirit telling me to follow him.
And it’s in these moments when instead of saying I don’t want to, we begin to say yes to God.
It’s in these moments when we begin to pray the words of Jesus, “not my will, but yours.”
It’s in these moments when we begin to follow Him that God starts to change us from the inside out. Our heart, our actions, and our life.
It’s in these moments that God begins to transform us in ways we can’t imagine.
It’s in these moments that God begins to do something big in and through our lives.
The voice of God can be hard to hear sometimes, but using these three filters—following the fruit, looking for consistent, not big things, and doing what we naturally wouldn’t want to do—will help us figure out if what we’re hearing is God, or just a bad batch of chili.
Adam Weber is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace—a church that has six campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota—and the author of Talking With God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray (WaterBrook, 2017). This article was originally published on AdamWeber.com.