I often cringe when someone declares, “God told me.” I hear it frequently — in sermons, private conversations and from clients in my counseling office. I’m going to antagonize some folks with this article; please read it all the way through before firing off an angry phone call or email.
Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but in other instances, the Holy Spirit early warning system in me emits an alert (like a dashboard alarm or light) that requires attention.
Do I think God speaks to people today? Absolutely! He speaks through scripture, but I also believe that the gifts of the Spirit, including the prophetic and words of wisdom) are in operation today.
Many of God’s faithful long to “get a word” (at least those of us in the Charismatic / Pentecostal circles). Believers will flock to conferences and queue up so a prophet can reveal or confirm God’s direction to them. I’m not against that type of ministry; in fact, I’ve stood in long lines and will continue to do so because I know that some have indeed spoken God’s heart over me.
Christians seek the voice of the Lord in prayer but sometimes the flesh and even the demonic realm can be in our spiritual ear also.
I’ve met with too many people whose lives, marriages or ministries have been shipwrecked because they acted upon a firm contention that God had led them down a particular path. They did not seek counsel or confirmation, and the results were devastating. They believed firmly but were firmly wrong.
So what’s the problem?
The phrase is a conversation-killer.
When you hear it, you have several possible responses (here are a few):
- Agree in spirit and in word with what was spoken: “Wow, that sounds like God to me!”
- Doubt and say nothing because you know the speaker.
- Accept and say nothing, because you know the speaker.
- Mumble, “Wow, that’s awesome” and not pursue the doubt/belief track too far because you don’t know the person or have any further interest.
- Question the person, “Did you really? How do you know it was God”? You are on a fact-finding mission, and it could go well or poorly.
- Declare, “That doesn’t sound like God to me” and be prepared to skirmish.
Let’s be honest–it takes courage to say anything that sounds questioning or negative. You are challenging that individual’s assertion that they truly heard from God.
I have found that most who use and abuse the phrase regularly often have ulterior motives:
- They want to appear spiritually mature to their audience. My conversations with counseling clients have convinced me that very few people profess to hear from God in any meaningful way. Every serious believer longs to know the voice of God and His plan for every area of their life. We tend to put “God hearers” up on a pedestal, and many are anxious to climb up on it.
- They do not want to entertain arguments that their viewpoint may be flawed, erroneous or incomplete so they cannot be easily confronted. If you tell your pastor that God revealed that you were not to help out in children’s ministry right now, you have effectively derailed the invitation.
Holy Spirit Alarm Goes Off
You need a comeback that will open the dialog in a non-threatening way so you can make progress and not initiate a conflict. You want the person to examine the real motives of their heart, and that takes some thoughtful responses. Here are some suggestions to consider:
“How do you know it was God?”
“How do you know it’s not just your flesh?”
“Has anyone close to you challenged what you heard?
“Has anyone confirmed what you think you have heard?”
“Hmm… that doesn’t really sound like God to me because … “ (You should have a relevant scripture or personal revelation to share here).”
“For some reason, that doesn’t really resonate in my spirit.” (The alarm bell is ringing and you may not why, but the warning is not to be ignored if you want to help the person who is sharing with you).
Sometimes the alarm is apparent, and the response can be quick.
One client was confident that God had told her it was okay to divorce her husband and marry another man she knew because she’d not sought the Lord in her first marriage. I was able to counter that pretty easily by reminding her that she was married and that the Lord’s heart was that the union is healed and strengthened. That type of scenarios is often easy to diagnose and counter.
Often, the deception is subtle. A young man who came to see me was convinced that the Lord had told him to quit his full-time job and help with a homeless ministry he was involved with. He ended up losing his apartment, there was no provision for employment at the center, and he had to take a lesser job to avoid homelessness himself!
There is more to the story that I cannot share, but I believe that the demonic realm was the author of this plan, not the Lord. Their purpose was to drive this young man away from the Lord through disillusionment and disappointment. Fortunately, they were not successful, and he did learn some valuable lessons.
If you are one who is prone to playing the “God spoke to me” card regularly, I have a couple of simple suggestions:
“I believe God told me”
instead and leave the door open for confirmation, in your spirit or from others. Personally, I do not subscribe to the “put out a fleece” methodology because God is very able to make His will known to us if we seek it; His sheep hear his voice (John 10:27). Even if you are sure that He did tell you, you will sound less prideful to others, and that will be a good thing.
I think that when we get to heaven, we’re going to find out that the Lord didn’t initiate a lot of the journeys we took in His name. His grace (empowering presence) is always with us, and He promises to bring good out of every misstep (Romans 8:28). However, we can avoid much heartache and make things easier by avoiding unnessary trouble.
When we are compelled to deal with those we believe are using “God told me” argument wrongly, let’s do it in love and with wisdom so that the Lord’s best purposes for that person will prevail.
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