“…And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice. When Elijah heard the voice, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave And behold, there came a voice to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13 (AMP)
One of the most asked questions in the Christian community has to be, “How do I know I’m hearing God?” Knowing whether you're hearing God or not can seem tricky. Most people would expect a powerful person’s voice to sound loud and forceful, leading us to believe this must be true for a strong and powerful God. And while God can present himself at times in all his expansive glory and bigness, Elijah found this not to be the case in the wilderness. God wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. His Presence rode upon the still, small voice.
How can we know whether the voice we're hearing belongs to God or not? Here are three things to keep in mind as we seek to discern his voice . . .
The more you hear his voice, the better you’ll be at discerning it. Elijah was a prophet. His entire job was to hear what God was saying and then declare it to the people. In hearing the Lord a lot, he got good at knowing what God sounded like. You don’t have to be a prophet to qualify to hear the voice of God. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” If you are a follower of Jesus, you can hear his voice. By entering into a place of prayer on a regular basis and starting a conversation with him, you'll begin to hear God more and more. It's just like any other relationship; the more you hear from a person the better you'll get at being able to say, “Yes, that sounds exactly like what God would say.”
Know the difference between God’s voice and all others. The Bible tells us who God is and what he's like. If we read his Word and then apply the truths we find about his character to what we’re hearing, we can discern whether the voice we're hearing is God's or not. God’s word says he’ll never leave us or forsake us. He says he loves us with an everlasting love. So if that voice in your head is saying God’s patience is wearing thin and that he’s frustrated with you, you’re not hearing the voice of God. Another way to come at this one is to find places in scripture that demonstrate what the voice of the devil sounds like. Places like Genesis 3 where the he interacts with Eve in the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the book of Job and the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert give us a clear picture of what the devil sounds like. If the voice you’re hearing is speaking words inconsistent with scripture, causes confusion or sounds too complicated, you’re not hearing God.
God’s voice brings peace and life. Jesus stilled the storm with just three words, “Peace. Be still.” He raised Lazarus from the dead with just three words, too. “Lazarus, come forth.” If what we’re hearing causes peace and life to abide in and around us, chances are we’re hearing God. As Spirit-filled believers, we have a tremendous gift inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 tells us the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, testifies to our spirits who we are (children of God) and confirms what God is saying. The Holy Spirit teaches us all things, including what the voice of God sounds like, and he leads us into all truth (John 16:13-14). When we're filled with the Holy Spirit we can know if the voice we're hearing is truly the voice of God. Our spirits will bear out this truth inside of us as his words bring peace and life in and around us.