One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a Pastor is, “How do I know when God is leading me in a specific direction?” It’s always a complicated question because there are so many emotions tied to the answer for people. They worry about their future, money, family, etc. so they want to know for sure if it is God speaking or if it is the pizza from the night before. My usual response to people is not to give them an answer but to ask a few questions.
Question #1 – Is it sinful?
Scripture is very clear that God is not the author of sin. He will never lead His people to go in a direction that results in sin. For example: God will never lead someone to have an affair on their spouse or to get a divorce for unbiblical reasons. So often I have heard people say that God is leading them to leave their spouse because they don’t love them anymore or aren’t happy, when the truth of the matter is that is not from God because it will result in sin.
Question #2 – Does it contradict the Bible in any way?
God will never contradict His written Word. He is not giving more revelation to individuals so if people are feeling certain things which contradict or modify God’s Word, it’s not from Him. For example: If someone is leaving a local Church because they got their feelings hurt and are saying it is from God, they are not hearing from God. God in His Word tells us to bear with one another and forgive one another. At no point are we to treat a local Church like a gym membership and when the grass is greener any the other place we just move on.
So now, people are usually pretty frustrated with me because I keep pointing them back to God’s Word as their standard for their life instead of their feelings. This is always a good sign for me because I can confidently tell them that they are hearing from the pizza and not God. Yet in some rare cases they can correctly affirm God direction which will lead me to my final question.
Question #3 – Can you pass the Macedonian call test?
In Acts 16:6-10 it says,
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Paul, Timothy, and Silas had their hearts set on going to Bithynia, they had no desire to go to Macedonia but God had other plans. He changed their hearts to follow His direction. In my life there have been things I wanted to do, plans I had made, but God did not give me a peace about following those steps. Then other times there were things I did not want to do and God gave me a peace about doing them that truly passed all understanding. When I followed God’s peace I have always seen God work. When I have rebelled against God’s clear check in my spirit saying “STOP!” I’ve always come under His loving discipline.
What I’ve learned in following the Macedonian call test is that I have to put my desires and my plans on hold and seek the face of God. Ultimately I need to want what He wants and He will change me and give me a peace as He directs according to His Word and His Spirit which will never be in contradiction. So when you are trying to know if it is God speaking and not the pizza: read His Word, seek His face, and walk in faith.
Soli Deo Gloria,