How do I know for sure whether a particular thought is from the Lord, or something planted by the enemy in order to lead me astray, or just a result of my own, possibly flawed, rational processing of things?
I think maybe the answer, if I’m not sure whether a particular piece of guidance is really from Him… is to just ask Him.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
If I ask, trusting that He hears; that He does want me to understand; and that He will answer, then, knowing that He has many ways of communicating, sometimes governed by where we’re at and what kind of communication we’re able to recognize and receive, and also that there’s no hard and fast rule governing how exactly He will choose to communicate in a given situation – then I need to just stay tuned in and watch confidently for His answer.
If I ask, believing,
Then I can be confident that you will answer.
Then I will perceive your reply,
And can take it confidently as having come from you.
The book of Romans promises us that we can come to know God’s will. It’s part of a verse that I’d read many times, but somehow missed this particular detail until just a few weeks ago. This is Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We will be able to “test and approve” what God’s will is. Or some other ways of expressing this in English are to “prove” or “come to know” or “discern” – to come to know with confidence what God’s will is – what exactly this is that He’s trying to communicate to me.
This is important. This is extremely valuable – that we come to know how to hear from Him. So what are the conditions for our achieving this? I’m not sure I’m grasping the full answer to this yet, but looking at this verse in its fuller context is helpful:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
If it is serving, let him serve;
if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging, let him encourage;
if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;
if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;
if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
So, attempting to summarize – in order to come to know with confidence what God is saying to me:
- Understand and know that God’s knowledge and wisdom are far deeper than any of us can fathom; that He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom.
- Submit ourselves totally to Him.
- Let go of the world’s way of doing things, and instead seek God, letting my mind and ways of thinking be totally renewed.
- To find out God’s will for me, ask Him.
- Expect and watch for His answer.
- Having received it, don’t let doubts undermine my confidence that I have received it.
- But don’t take pride in having received an answer from Him. Recognize it in gratitude as a gift from Him, and that He’s granted it not just for me, but for the body of Christ, to fulfill the role that He’s assigned to me in this body.