Updated: Nov 15
"My word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace."
It is a wonderful experience to know and hear from God. We have the word of God passed down to us in the Bible, which contains the writings of the prophets (i.e. whom God spoke to directly), the writings of those inspired by the Holy Spirit (e.g. poets & historians), and the records of the Apostles who were eyewitness to Jesus ministry and teachings (i.e. how to apply God’s truth in our cultural context).
Most importantly, we have the Word of God himself — Jesus — a very reliable source!
God continues to speak to us today through the Holy Spirit. He encourages, teaches, guides, directs, corrects, and instructs us in everyday moments, to live exceptional lives for Him (John 14:26).
We can have confidence that God will speak to us and we can discern his voice. Jesus said,
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
As we grow spiritually mature, we can learn to hear the voice of God more clearly. He may speak directly to us personally, or prophetically through another person. Often the Holy Spirit speaks to us through visions, dreams, or images. These are mostly metaphorical and require interpretation to be understood properly.
Therefore, we need discernment to distinguish God’s voice from all the others...
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
... and His wisdom to interpret and understand what He is saying to us.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—“ (Proverbs 1:5)
Whether you experience a vision, encounter an angel, or get an earful of audible voices, here is a simple strategy to T-E-S-T what you are receiving is from God or not, and how to figure out what to do with it.
T rustworthy: Is the source reliable?
Someone can deliver a message that sounds true and may even contain scripture, but their hearts are not aligned with the Lord. For example, Satan used scripture to tempt Jesus, but Jesus understood his motives were to promote a different kingdom. Someone who is teaching or prophesying by the Spirit of God will have a reputation for humility and godly character.
Do you see the fruit of the Spirit in their life? Do they have healthy relationships with other people, especially leaders? Do they have a track record for being clear and accurate?
Scripture references: Psalm 19:7, Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 13:17, 1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 1:9
E difying & Encouraging: Does it reflect God’s character?
God is light and in Him, there is no darkness at all. His words are always edifying and encouraging. They inspire us to trust in His love and live in grace. Even when He brings a word of correction and the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of sin, He does so by encouraging us to repent and be set free.
Does this word bring conviction or condemnation? Does this word fill you with fear or faith? Does it draw you closer to God and inspire you to become more like Jesus?
Scripture references: Psalm 10:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:10-12, Romans 15:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 1 Corinthians 14:12
S criptural: Does it uphold biblical truth?
A true prophetic word will not contradict the Word of God. It will not suggest you disobey the commandments God has already laid out through the prophets, or that were affirmed by His Son. Rather, it will remind you of the teachings of Jesus and prompt you to behave in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Is there an explicit example found in Scripture? If not, what can be deduced from Jesus’ teachings and church Tradition? Can you find similar themes or symbolism to refer to? Is it consistent with the gospel message of grace?
Scripture references: Hebrews 1:1-2, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:9, Philippians 1:27, Acts 17:11
T wo or Three: Can this word be confirmed?
The beauty of the body of Christ is that there is wisdom in numbers. We have one another to process our thoughts and feelings with, we can glean from each other's knowledge, share perspectives, navigate timing, and check our motives. This requires humility but gives us the assurance that we are not being deceived in any way. It is also an incredible blessing to have others stand with you and remind you of the prophetic words God has given you so you don’t give up as you follow Him.
Have you or others had a similar word before? Do others agree with you or offer caution? Is there a theme that others can recognise?
Scripture references: Matthew 18:20, 1 Corinthians 14:27-29, 2 Corinthians 13:1, Job 34:4, Proverbs 1:5
If you can answer 'yes' to all of these, STEP OUT in faith. Trust that you are hearing from the Holy Spirit and be obedient to what He is asking of you. Step wisely and keep in mind that a prophetic word is only one piece of the puzzle, so you need to continue seeking God's counsel through prayer and fellowship.
If any of these are a 'no', (with the exception of Scriptural), but you feel there is potentially some truth to the word, you may need to SHELVE IT . Sometimes a person giving a prophetic word may not be spiritually mature or have bad delivery habits, but it's possible God may want to use them anyway. Sometimes the timing may be off, and until you have confirmation you can put it on the shelf and dust it off later if it proves to be relevant.
If it fails to stand the scrutiny of Scripture then SHOVE IT . If the Holy Spirit has something to share with you, He will. He won't shut up if you are genuinely wanting to hear from God and follow Him. A true word from God won't fail: 'The word that goes out from his mouth, will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.' (Isaiah 55)
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
Want to learn more about the different ways that God can speak to us?
12 Ways In 12 Days is a unique devotional that explores twelve different ways God shared the good news that his Son, Jesus, had come to save the world. Click on the image to find out more.
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