All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
There’s so much false teaching and deception among God’s people today that it’s reached an alarming level. I believe there are a lot of pastors who haven’t been taught and leading people who need to be taught. A lot of churches are led by young pastors with little depth of understanding of God’s Word. Many Christians aren’t open to Bible teaching if it conflicts with their experience, no matter how sound and sensible the teaching is. I’m not saying we’re to discount experience entirely, but it should be a secondary consideration to the teachings of God’s Word; indeed, we’re to test our experience by the teachings of God’s Word. Experience only has value if it’s in harmony with the written Word of God. If our experience conflicts with what the Bible teaches, we’re to reject it as an experience that is not based on truth – therefore, not of God.
Now days we need to be very cautious about what we hear and learn. We need to constantly have our guard up and proceed slowly and with a healthy amount of scepticism about what we hear being taught. I wasn’t always this careful myself. More than any time in my lifetime, I see the need for solid Bible teaching, the need for pastors who will teach and warn their people. I’m thankful for the websites that exist for the purpose of exposing false teaching in the Church….
….however, even with that, we need to proceed with caution. Not everything that people say is false, is actually false. I know it’s frustrating for Christians, because it’s so hard to know who to believe. The only answer I can give you is, that we all need to be students of the Word, and to study everything out thoroughly before accepting what’s being taught as the truth. We must depend on the Holy Spirit for discernment when we hear something we’ve never heard before. We need to depend on the Holy Spirit for discernment while studying His Word.
As far as studying the Bible goes, there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing that. It’s absolutely necessary that we learn how to study the Bible correctly. We have to learn the proper rules of interpretation. If we don’t, we have no way of knowing if our conclusions are correct. It took me a long time to learn how to study the Bible, and I think this is true of most Christians. This is one of the first things that new believers need to be taught. If they’re not shown how, it leaves them wide open to wrong interpretations and false doctrines and false practices and false voices.
The reason that I’ve begun this study with sharing my concern about false teaching, is that when it comes to discovering God’s will, when it comes to discerning His voice and His leading, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about this that is based on false teaching. We live in a day where there is so much emphasis on experience and listening to the inner voice of “God” and seeking Him via visions and dreams and personal prophecies, etc. People are led astray with false notions about how God reveals His will, about what the Bible teaches. The goal of this study is to expose the false and reveal the truth. I want Christians to be without confusion when it comes to seeking God’s will and receiving His guidance. I believe the lives of many Christians have been ruined because of what they believed to be God’s will, because of what they believed to be God’s voice — all because they weren’t properly taught the truth. May the Lord use this in your life to put you on a solid path.
How Not to Seek God’s Will:
Sitting and Listening for God’s Voice
Many Christians have been taught to sit before the Lord and to completely empty their minds and to listen for the voice of God. This practice is DANGEROUS! This is a form of contemplative prayer, and should be avoided! It’s not the purpose of this study to go into any detail about contemplative prayer, but I encourage you to google the dangers of this form of listening. It’s totally unbiblical. While I will not address contemplative prayer, per se, what follows is a close relative of it, and likewise, it’s unbiblical and needs to be avoided.
Contemplative prayer (CP), or the form of it that we’re dealing with here, is not prayer at all, but is actually a way of listening and waiting to hear God’s voice within, and seeking an awareness of His presence. It’s a practice that can result in deceptive hearing. One does not have to practice full-blown CP to be deceived by the inner voice that is being heard. Deception is alive and well in the Church today.
God Does Speak to Us
Lest there be misunderstanding about what I’m about to teach in this study, I want to make it clear that God does speak to our hearts; He does lead and guide us in various ways; He does give us a sense of his presence when we’re praying or worshiping or reading His Word; He does give us peace when we’re walking in fellowship with Him; He does remove the peace when we’re not walking in fellowship with Him; He does give us peace when we’re in His will; He does take away peace when we’re not in His will; He does make His Word come to life for us while we’re reading it; He does teach us His Word; He does convict us of our sins; while reading His Word; He does convict us of certain areas of our lives that need improvement; He does trouble our spirits in certain situations; He does produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives; He does conform us to the image of Christ; He does speak to us in church services as the Word of God is being taught; He does give us wisdom and spiritual discernment; He does place burdens on our hearts for certain people or certain ministries; He does stir the hearts of certain Christians for missions; He does speak and call Christians into certain areas of ministry; He does empower the spiritual gifts He’s given us; I believe that even this study is something that God has laid upon my heart to write.
However, in all these areas we still need to be careful. What we hear and what we believe to be from God must be carefully evaluated and tested. We will deal with this in detail later.
What I’m primarily warning about in this study, is the practice of sitting and listening for God’s voice – listening for the inner voice of God. Not only is this unbiblical, but it opens ourselves up to deceptive hearing, hearing voices that do not belong to God.
I will also address the voices we hear and attribute to God even when we’re not sitting and listening for it. This too I see as an unbiblical practice that is based on assumption, and not upon factual knowledge.
True prayer involves asking, petitioning on behalf of others and for ourselves. However, our time alone with God, of course, involves worship and praise and thanksgiving – praising and thanking God for who He is and for all that He’s done for us. It’s proper to talk to Him about His wonderful attributes, to give glory to Him. It’s also a time of fellowship where we talk to Him about every area of our lives, to share our heart with Him about all that’s going on in our lives.
But this idea of “emptying our minds” of all other thoughts in order to hear from God, to listen for that inner voice, is not prayer. Nor is it a Christian practice. It’s dangerous! It’s dangerous because it leaves us open to many different voices, and there’s simply no way that we can know for sure that the voice we’re hearing is the voice of God – unless it’s properly tested and evaluated (I will discuss this later). Thus the voice we hear may be our own, or worse yet, it may be demonic:
1 Timothy 4:1
But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,
10 Finally, 11be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.
2 Corinthians 11:14
And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light.
14 The sower soweth the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; and when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the word which hath been sown in them.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of
God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
These passages reveal demonic activity, lying spirits that we could be influenced by, that want to lead us away from the truth. While Christians cannot be possessed by demons, the Bible does indicate that we could be vulnerable to deceiving voices if we don’t guard ourselves properly. I believe that those who seek a mystical experience with God routinely, will most likely eventually encounter voices of evil spirits.
Even if some would argue that Christians cannot be deceived by lying spirits – though this clearly goes against biblical evidence – most certainly we can be deceived by our own thoughts.
The imaginations of our mind are many, and they can really run away with us. Who can understand the mind? The mind is a highly complex thing that only God can understand. It’s full of sinful and prideful and selfish thoughts. Even when our walk with the Lord is right, fleeting sinful thoughts often race through our minds (thoughts that we have to reject with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit).
Either way, whether it be lying spirits or thoughts of our own mind, our mind is full of deceiving thoughts that can lead us astray, and that is the whole issue that we’re dealing with here.
While I believe that we can be deceived by evil spirits, I believe that most deceiving thoughts are our own – for demons are not omnipresent, and thus they are not always there. However, the thoughts of our own mind are always present, and thus we’re always vulnerable to deceiving voices from within ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to fill our minds with the written Word of God, and with thoughts of God Himself while sitting in His presence.
All it takes is one little word that we hear in the inner voice, or one little phrase from God’s Word that we read (which triggers an inner voice), and we’re off and running, believing it to be God’s voice that we’re hearing – but are not! The tragedy of this, is that this one little word or phrase can grow into a mountain that consumes our lives as we give all our attention to it – but ending in a lot of wasted time and life, perhaps many years.
I want to be emphatically clear: It’s unbiblical and dangerous to sit and listen and wait to hear God’s voice within. I know that’s counter to what many of us have been taught. But again, there’s just no way of knowing for sure if the voice we’re hearing is the voice of God – at least not without testing it. And I think the more time we spend sitting and listening for the inner voice of God, the more vulnerable we are to being led astray. As I said, evil spirits are not omnipresent, and thus not always there. But if we’re spending a lot of time sitting and listening and waiting for God’s voice within, I believe it’s inevitable that we eventually hear from evil spirits who take notice of our practice.
But Christians may respond, “but if our heart is right and we’re truly seeking God and His voice, He will not allow us to be deceived.” However, that’s part of the deception. If we’re practicing something unbiblical, it will not have God’s blessing. Christians all over the world are deceived everyday by false teaching. This form of “prayer” is another example of false teaching, and God will not bless it.
I wasted years and a lot of effort working on things that never happened, because I believed the inner voices that I was hearing. I misinterpreted those voices for God’s voice, and it led me astray.
For years I made it a practice of sitting before God and asking Him to speak to me, asking Him to make Himself known to me – listening for that inner voice from God. Oftentimes it was with an open Bible in my lap. I would sit there praying and listening, and often listening for His voice through His Word, and many times I would sit there for 2 or 3 hours. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to deceiving voices – whether it be the lying voices of evil spirits or the lying voices of my own mind….and quite likely, they were simply my own voices based on my heart’s desires. I wasted a lot of years working toward things that I believed were from God, but never saw the light of day. Like so many others today, I had the erroneous belief that as long as my heart and life was right before God, as long as I was sincerely seeking God, He would not allow me to be deceived. But again, that is part of the deception.
Putting ourselves in the pages of God’s Word:
One of the things I practiced while praying and listening for God’s voice, was doing so with an open Bible – which is a good practice if done correctly. But what I was doing was not biblical. I would often put myself in the pages of God’s Word – especially in the Old Testament. A lot of my life was lived out of the OT. I would read about how God spoke to the prophets and to other men of God, like David and Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Ezekiel, etc., and I would see how He worked in their lives, and I would sense that God was speaking directly to me.
I remember reading about these men, about their call, and I sensed that God was speaking to me personally, that He was calling me like He did these men. Certain phrases or sentences jumped out at me, that really spoke to me, and I perceived it to be the voice of God within me. I experienced this sort of thing many, many times. But nothing ever came of it. I waited and waited and waited and…….
It’s a serious mistake to put ourselves in the lives and callings of the people we read about in the Bible (I’m not talking about application, which is something we need to do). It’s a mistake to take the words spoken to them as though God is speaking directly to us. For a long time I believed that God had some grand plan for me, but as I think about it now, I believe a lot of that was just simple pride. Rather than a grand plan from God, I now believe it was closer to being delusions of grandeur. I practiced what I did, and experienced what I did, because I was not properly taught.
Nowhere in the Bible do we see even one instruction to sit before God and listen for an inner voice from Him. Nowhere! Not in the Old Testament and not in the New Testament. Furthermore, we don’t have even one example of anyone doing this. That is a man-made version of so-called prayer. I believe it comes from a desire to know God on a special, spiritual level. As sincere and honorable as that may be, it’s wrong to make assumptions about God and how He speaks to us. We have to do everything God’s way, and not seek to do things our own way – and that includes the way we go about seeking Him and His will and how we go about listening for His voice.
When Christians practice a form of prayer that is for the purpose of listening for God’s voice within us, they often do so with the purpose of receiving direction for their lives – seeking His will in a particular area of their lives – like career, ministry, or who to marry. These Christians want a direct word from God about this, rather than simply walking according to the wisdom that comes from God (wisdom is the key, and we’ll discuss this later).
Having been there myself, I believe that those who seek to learn God’s will via the inner voice, do so because they want direct communication with God – believing that this to be the highest form of communion with God. But again, that’s part of the deception.
Listen carefully. Whenever God spoke to someone in the Bible, it was always in a manner that the one who heard, knew they were hearing from God. God made sure they knew they were hearing from Him. He did this by speaking to them with an audible voice or through dreams or visions or through a prophet of God — again, in an unmistakable way.
We do have the example of Nehemiah, where God made His will known to him by putting it into his heart (Ne 2:12). As I already mentioned, God does speak to us personally and He does burden us and He does call us to do certain things. However, that is not the same thing as sitting and listening for an inner voice from God. It’s not wise to try and force God to speak to us in a certain way, to our own liking. God is sovereign, and He will speak and call and direct in His own way and in His own timing – and as we’ll find out in a bit, I believe that is usually through the wisdom He provides. I believe it is through the voice of wisdom that He normally makes His will known to us – not through some inner voice…..nor through personal prophecies, dreams, or visions.
When God does speak and call and reveal His will, He will provide confirmation in some way. He will likely lead us through circumstances and various people, and provide opportunities and open doors. I believe that normally happens while we’re active and moving, already out in the community making a difference in people’s lives for the name of Christ.
I know this shatters the understanding of seeking and listening for God’s voice for many Christians, but this is a practice that’s clearly not taught or exemplified by anyone in the Bible. This is a man-made idea that is built upon assumptions and out-of-context interpretations. Those who teach this practice (or interpret for themselves), take reckless liberties with God’s Word, and Christians have come to believe and assume that it’s a biblical practice
Before I explain the right way of praying and seeking God’s voice and God’s will, I want to address the verses that Christians use to support the practice of sitting and listening and waiting to hear an inner voice from God:
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
This is the primary verse that is used for this practice. Christians look at this and automatically think that it means to sit still in silence before God and listen for His voice. But a careful look at the context reveals no such meaning. Let’s look at this whole chapter:
1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof. [Selah 4 There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God will help her, and that right early. 6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 Jehovah of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. [Selah 8 Come, behold the works of Jehovah, What desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariots in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 Jehovah of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. [Selah]
Notice the words I have in bold: in trouble, fear, shaken, roar, troubled, tremble, kingdoms raged.
The whole context of this chapter describes things that cause fear. Though there be calamities of the earth and sea, though our enemies move against us, our God is there to provide peace and help in the midst of it all (note all the other words I have in bold).
Thus when God says to “be still and know that I am God,” He’s not saying to sit in His presence and be silent before Him, listening for His voice. He’s telling us not to fear, not to fret, but to rest in Him, to be at peace in the midst of all these things — being mindful of who He is: He is God, He is the creator and Ruler of the universe. He is our all-powerful and loving and faithful God and Father, who takes care of us in the midst of the things that would normally cause fear.
The idea that verse 10 is telling us to sit silently before God to listen for His voice, has to be inserted contrary to the context.
Other verses Christians may use:
4 Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah
There’s nothing here that says we’re to sit still before God and listen and wait for Him to speak to us via an inner voice. That idea has to be assumed. Again we must consider the context of the whole chapter:
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness; Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress: Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. 2 O ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after falsehood? [Selah 3 But know that Jehovah hath set apart for himself him that is godly: Jehovah will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. [Selah 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in Jehovah. 6 Many there are that say, Who will show us any good? Jehovah, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, More than they have when their grain and their new wine are increased. 8 In peace will I both lay me down and sleep; For thou, Jehovah, alone makest me dwell in safety.
I’m guessing that many Christians look at this one verse (vs. 4) and pull it completely out of the context in which it’s given, and automatically assume that it’s referring to God’s people, and that it’s telling us to sit still before God with an open heart, with an open mind to hear His voice.
However, a careful look at the whole context reveals that David is not referring to God’s people at all, but to his enemies (“sons of men”).
He’s advising them to consider what they’re doing, to consider the God whom he serves. Instead of having thoughts of harm against David, he advises them, rather, to “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in Jehovah.”
While David’s enemies are laying in their bed at night, he wants them to consider carefully what they intend to do against him, and against the God he serves.
For David, he’s able to rest peacefully upon his bed at night, knowing that God is watching over him: “In peace will I both lay me down and sleep; For thou, Jehovah, alone makest me dwell in safety.”
1 Kings 19:12
12 and after the earthquake a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
(Read 1 Kings 19)
It’s amazing how we like to zero in on certain words or phrases without regard for anything else in the context. We cannot look at this verse and isolate that one phrase – “a still small voice.” Again, we need to consider the context and what’s really being said here:
There’s actually a great message here in this chapter about pride and a self-righteous, inflated opinion of oneself, especially in comparison to others. However, that is not the subject of our study here, so I’m not going to discuss that.
What needs to be pointed out is, that God did not instruct Elijah to sit, but to “go and stand” (1 Ki 19:11). He was not instructed to “sit and listen.” Elijah was a man through whom God performed mighty miracles. He was used to seeing God reveal Himself in those ways. Thus we see God revealing Himself to him in the “wind, quake, and fire” so to speak (1 Ki 19:11-12). That’s the sort of thing Elijah was accustomed to. However, God wanted Elijah to realize that He also reveals Himself in the soft and quiet way of a “still small voice.”
Elijah didn’t sit before God emptying his mind and waiting and listening for the inner voice of God. For starters, Elijah wasn’t in that state of mind. He was hiding in fear and depression and a lack of faith at this time. Second of all, he wouldn’t be expecting to hear God’s voice within himself. There’s no evidence that God ever spoke to Elijah except in an audible voice.
Thus even here when God spoke to Elijah in the “still small voice,” there’s no reason to believe that it was a voice within him. On the contrary, he heard God’s voice coming from the entrance of the cave. His voice was “still,” in that it was not accompanied by some miracle, like the “wind, quake, or fire.” It was a soft audible voice that Elijah heard, and it wasn’t a result of sitting in God’s presence listening for it.
1 Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, Or in things too wonderful for me. 2 Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child with his mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
We can’t look at verse 2 and assume the meaning apart from the context. Notice how David follows those words with a picture of a “weaned child with his mother.” As with the other passages, David is simply talking about resting in the LORD, rather than fretting and worrying. Because of Who he knows and trusts in, his soul is at peace.
26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; 27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
It’s wrong to look at this passage and make the assumption that we’re simply to sit still before the Lord with an empty mind and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us within our inner being. Paul doesn’t say that. First of all, as we already learned, true prayer is asking or “interceding,” just like the Holy Spirit does for us.
As we’re praying, the Holy Spirit conveys not the words of our heart, but our heart itself, because we don’t know how “to pray as we ought.” Thus the Holy Spirit conveys what our heart is trying to express in words. The “groanings” are not our own, but are the groanings of the Holy Spirit on our behalf.
There is absolutely no instruction or pattern here to sit before God while listening and waiting for Him to speak to us via an inner voice.
There may be other verses Christians use to justify sitting before God in silence to listen and wait for Him to speak in our inner being. But I can assure you, that just like the verses above, there are no instructions or examples of this type of practice. As we’ve seen, the ideas they have about this practice is based on erroneous interpretation, without any regard for the context given.
Rather than emptying our minds, we’re to fill our minds with thoughts of God and His attributes and His Word. I will speak more about this later.
How Not to Seek God’s Will:
2. Through dreams, visions, prophecies.
(And I’ll add waiting for God to send you angel!)
How We Do Seek God’s Will:
There’s a great need today for young Christians to be taught the right way of living the Christian life. They shouldn’t have to learn and fail through personal experience. Although those experiences will come anyway, a lot can be done to minimize those failed experiences. We need pastors who are committed to verse by verse, book by book Bible teaching. We need pastors who are committed to protecting their people from false teaching and false practices. I’m not a pastor, but this is something that’s become a passion for me.
If a new believer learns the right way to seek God, the right way to listen for His voice, the right way to seek and know God’s will, they will grow and mature in Christ the right way. We can save ourselves from so many bad decisions and so much grief and so much regret and so much wasted time, by learning the right way early in our life as a Christian.
So what is the right way? What is God’s Way? It’s through the wisdom that God provides. That’s what we will be dealing with the remainder of this study.
The biblical, NT, post-apostolic manner in which we’re to actively seek God’s will is through the wisdom He provides. If God wants to reveal His will in some other way, that’s up to Him – but our responsibility is to seek His will according to the manner that He Himself has prescribed. Again, we’ll talk about this in detail shortly.
New Testament Prayer:
Jesus Himself gave us the pattern for prayer, not only by way of instruction, but by personal example:
1 And it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation. 5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; 7 and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee? 8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will arise and give him as many as he needeth. 9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
In verses 2-4, Jesus provides us with the pattern of prayer, which is characterized by asking. In the verses that follow, Jesus confirms prayer to be asking.
Before Jesus was crucified, He prayed — which provides us with an example of prayer, which is characterized by petition (asking). This is found in John 17. I will not quote it here, but I encourage you to read it for yourself.
More instruction on prayer:
23 And in that day ye shall ask me no question. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
1 John 3:22
22 and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.
26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; 27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
13 Is any among you suffering? let him pray. Is any cheerful? let him sing praise. 14 Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working. 17 Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Old Testament Passages:
I will not quote these verses, but encourage you to read them for yourself.
1 Samuel 1:27 2 Chronicles 33:12-13
1 Kings 9:3 Ezra 8:23
2 Kings 6:18 Daniel 10:12
2 Kings 13:4-5 Psalm 91:15
2 Kings 19:19-20 Proverbs 15:8
1 Chronicles 5:20 Isaiah 65:24
2 Chronicles 18:31 Jeremiah 33:3
Earlier I mentioned that true prayer is asking, petitioning God ether on behalf of others or on behalf of ourselves. That of course covers a wide range of subjects — from seeking His will for our lives to praying for the healing of a loved one. However, our time alone with the Lord also involves worship, praise and thanksgiving, giving glory to God for His wonderful attributes, meditation on God and His Word, and talking about our lives with Him. We see the greatest examples of these things in the book of Psalms — which are all part of how we fellowship and walk with God. But nowhere in these Psalms or in the verses above – either OT or NT – do we see the instruction for, or the practice of, sitting before God and waiting to hear the inner voice of God. It’s just not there!
In regard to the prophets of the Old Testament, it seems clear that God spoke to them audibly, or through visions and dreams – but I believe it was primarily through an audible voice. The communication to His prophets was so detailed and lengthy, that it’s not reasonable to suggest that they heard God as an inner voice within them.
As for the prophets of the New Testament, nowhere do we see anyone sitting and listening and waiting to hear an inner voice from God. The prophets of the NT had a special calling and a special task for a special time as the message and doctrines of the NT were being written. When Christians were assembled, they were given a special gift to both give the Word of God and to discern truth from error. But this is not the same thing as sitting and listening to hear God’s inner voice. Furthermore, as I said, they had a special calling for for a special time, and what they experienced was in no way the norm for all Christians. There is nothing in the NT that indicates that any Christian is to sit and listen and wait to hear the inner voice of God.
As for the writers of the New Testament, they too had a special calling for a special time. They were led along by the Spirit of God as they put His words in print. But nowhere do we see any indication that they sat and listened and waited to hear the inner voice of God.
“And Yet I Show You a More Excellent Way” (NKJV – 1 Cor 12:31)
What is the right way? What is God’s Way of listening and hearing His voice?
Answer: It’s the voice of God’s written Word and the voice of wisdom that we’re to listen for.
That’s it. It’s so simple that we stumble over it. However, while the answer is simple, learning it and applying it is not so simple. That’s where I hope to be of help from this point forward.
Important: Reading God’s Word is not for the purpose of listening for the inner voice of God or seeking to receive a special word or message from Him. Furthermore, we’re not to spiritualize God’s Word in a manner that has us applying it personally out of context, where it has a different meaning in its context, or where it’s addressing someone within the context. We can be easily deceived when we do that. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t apply God’s Word. That’s obviously something we have to do. But there’s a difference between the two. The one allows words or phrases to jump off the pages of the Bible and assume God is speaking to us out of context, and the other applies the instruction or principle or lesson we’re to draw from it. That’s the wise way of applying God’s Word to our lives.
Let me be clear: While reading God’s Word, the Holy Spirit does, indeed, speak to us about how we’re to apply it – but that is according to the wisdom that He gives. The Holy Spirit may speak to our inner being, but we must be extremely careful about what we’re hearing. Everything needs to be tested according to the wisdom that He gives. And again, that means not spiritualizing His Word, where we’re allowing it to speak to us out of context, or personalizing what we read about the people in the Bible.
It’s important to understand that wisdom from God is always according to truth. People who apply wisdom based on something that is false, is a false wisdom. I will cover this more later.
The Voice of Wisdom:
When we need to make an important decision, when we need to know God’s will for a particular area of our life, we’re to seek wisdom from Him, to seek His wisdom. That’s what the Bible teaches. But you may ask, “how do we learn God’s wisdom?” First of all, we don’t learn it by listening for the inner voice of God to teach us! We learn it by diligently studying His Word. We learn not only through direct instruction, but also through the principles and lessons we see there. We also learn wisdom through personal experience and through good sense and through the wise counsel of others. There are also wisdom principles we can learn that help guide us through life.
One person seeks to know God’s will by emptying their mind so that they’re “able” to hear directly from God in their inner being. Another person seeks to know God’s will via the wisdom He provides through His written Word and through the careful reasoning of the mind that the Holy Spirit enables.
One might respond, “careful reasoning of the mind?” That doesn’t sound very spiritual to me! On the contrary, there is nothing more spiritual than walking according to the wisdom of God – that the Holy Spirit Himself provides. It’s God-like, it’s Christ-like when we walk according to His wisdom:
1 Corinthians 2:16
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Everything God does is according to His wisdom. Therefore, in order to walk according to His will, one must walk according to His wisdom — not according to an inner voice that we have no way (or at least a high degree of difficulty) of confirming as being from God. There’s a much safer way, a biblical way of seeking to hear from God, seeking to know God’s will — and that’s through the wisdom He provides.
As Paul revealed, we as born-again Christians, “have the mind of Christ,” but it needs to be developed. That comes through the written Word of God. As we’re taking in God’s written Word, our minds are gradually being renewed in the likeness of Christ’s own mind. In regard to Romans 12:2, here is what Paul is teaching about the will of God:
A renewed mind enables us to determine the will of God. As we’re gradually being transformed by the renewing of our minds, more and more are we able to discern the will of God for our lives.
With this renewed mind, we’re able to walk in the wisdom of God. Or put another way, with this renewed mind we’re able to discern the wisdom of God through the careful reasoning of the mind that the Holy Spirit enables and develops:
NET – 2:6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 2:7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 2:9 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 2:10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 2:11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 2:12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 2:13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 2:14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 2:15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Also Romans 12:2:
NET – 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Through the written Word of God and reliance upon the Holy Spirit, our minds are renewed, which enables us to discern the wisdom of God and the will of God.
Having the wisdom of God means knowing the will of God.
Before I go into the detailed discussion about this, I want to provide a list of passages regarding the wisdom of God and how it relates to us in our daily walk as Christians. It’s a very long list, but I think it’s necessary in order to present a solid biblical basis for this position:
Wisdom of God
Exodus 28:3 – 3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office
Exodus 31:3 – 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
Deuteronomy 34:9 – 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as Jehovah commanded Moses.
1 Kings 3:28 – 28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice.
1 Kings 4:29 – 29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore.
1 Kings 10:24 – 24 And all the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
Ezra 7:25 – 25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thy hand, appoint magistrates and judges, who may judge all the people that are beyond the River, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye him that knoweth them not.
Job 12:13 – 13 With God is wisdom and might; He hath counsel and understanding.
Job 38:36 – 36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who hath given understanding to the mind?
Psalm 19:7 – 7 The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul: The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 51:6 – 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 104:24 – 24 O Jehovah, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: The earth is full of thy riches.
Psalm 119:98 – 98 Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies; For they are ever with me.
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction; To discern the words of understanding; 3 To receive instruction in wise dealing, In righteousness and justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion: 5 That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning; And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and a figure, The words of the wise, and their dark sayings. 7 The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction.
20 Wisdom crieth aloud in the street; She uttereth her voice in the broad places; 21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse; At the entrance of the gates, In the city, she uttereth her words: 22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And scoffers delight them in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? 23 Turn you at my reproof: Behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you.24 Because I have called, and ye have refused; Or, I have stretched out my hand, and no man hath regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, And would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh in the day of your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as a storm, And your calamity cometh on as a whirlwind; When distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then will they call upon me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of Jehovah: 30 They would none of my counsel; They despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, And be filled with their own devices. 32 For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them, And the careless ease of fools shall destroy them. 33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell securely,
And shall be quiet without fear of evil.
1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, And lay up my commandments with thee; 2 So as to incline thine ear unto wisdom, And apply thy heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou cry after discernment, And lift up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seek her as silver, And search for her as for hid treasures: 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, And find the knowledge of God. 6 For Jehovah giveth wisdom; Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding: 7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; 3He is a shield to them that walk in integrity 8 That he may guard the paths of justice, And preserve the way of his saints. 9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness and justice, And equity, yea, every good path. 10 For wisdom shall enter into thy heart, And knowledge shall be pleasant unto thy soul; 11 Discretion shall watch over thee; Understanding shall keep thee:
13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, And the man that getteth understanding. 14 For And the profit thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver, And none of the things thou canst desire are to be compared unto her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: And happy is every one that retaineth her. 19 Jehovah by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding he established the heavens. 20 By his knowledge the depths were broken up, And the skies drop down the dew. 21 My son, let them not depart from thine eyes; Keep sound wisdom and discretion: 22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, And grace to thy neck. 23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way securely, And thy foot shall not stumble. 35 The wise shall inherit glory; But shame shall be the promotion of fools.
1 Hear, my sons, the instruction of a father, And attend to know understanding: 5 Get wisdom, get understanding; Forget not, neither decline from the words of my mouth; 6 Forsake her not, and she will preserve thee; Love her, and she will keep thee. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; Yea, with all thy getting get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she will promote thee; She will bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her. 9 She will give to thy head a chaplet of grace; A crown of beauty will she deliver to thee. 10 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; And the years of thy life shall be many. 11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in paths of uprightness. 12 When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; And if thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. 13 Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: Keep her; for she is thy life.
6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no chief, Overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her bread in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest. 9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as a robber, And thy want as an armed man.
1 Doth not wisdom cry, And understanding put forth her voice? 2 On the top of high places by the way, Where the paths meet, she standeth; 3 Beside the gates, at the entry of the city, At the coming in at the doors, she crieth aloud: 4 Unto you, O men, I call; And my voice is to the sons of men. 5 O ye simple, understand prudence; And, ye fools, be of an understanding heart. 6 Hear, for I will speak excellent things; And the opening of my lips shall be right things. 7 For my mouth shall utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverse in them. 9 They are all plain to him that understandeth, And right to them that find knowledge. 10 Receive my instruction, and not silver; And knowledge rather than choice gold. 11 For wisdom is better than rubies; And all the things that may be desired are not to be compared unto it. 12 I wisdom have made prudence my dwelling, And find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil: Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, And the perverse mouth, do I hate. 14 Counsel is mine, and sound knowledge: I am understanding; I have might. 15 By me kings reign, And princes decree justice. 16 By me princes rule, And nobles, even all the judges of the earth. 17 I love them that love me; And those that seek me diligently shall find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me; Yea, durable wealth and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; And my revenue than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice; 21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, And that I may fill their treasuries. 22 Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, Before his works of old. 23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, Before the earth was. 24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth, When there were no fountains abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills was I brought forth; 26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, Nor the beginning of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there: When he set a circle upon the face of the deep, 28 When he made firm the skies above, When the fountains of the deep became strong, 29 When he gave to the sea its bound, That the waters should not transgress his commandment, When he marked out the foundations of the earth; 30 Then I was by him, as a master workman; And I was daily his delight, Rejoicing always before him, 31 Rejoicing in his habitable earth; And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; For blessed are they that keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction, and be wise, And refuse it not. 34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, And shall obtain favor of Jehovah. 36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul:All they that hate me love death.
1 Wisdom hath builded her house; She hath hewn out her seven pillars: 2 She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; She hath also furnished her table: 3 She hath sent forth her maidens; She crieth upon the highest places of the city: 4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: As for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him, 5 Come, eat ye of my bread, And drink of the wine which I have mingled. 6 Leave off, ye simple ones, and live; And walk in the way of understanding. 7 He that correcteth a scoffer getteth to himself reviling; And he that reproveth a wicked man getteth himself a blot. 8 Reprove not a scoffer, lest he hate thee: Reprove a wise man, and he will love thee. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For by me thy days shall be multiplied, And the years of thy life shall be increased.
1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father; But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother. 2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing;
But righteousness delivereth from death. 3 Jehovah will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; But he thrusteth away the desire of the wicked. He becometh poor that worketh with a slack hand; But the hand of the diligent maketh rich. 5 He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame. 6 Blessings are upon the head of the righteous; But violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot. 8 The wise in heart will receive commandments; But a prating fool shall fall. 13 In the lips of him that hath discernment wisdom is found; But a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding. 14 Wise men lay up knowledge; But the mouth of the foolish is a present destruction. 31 The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom; But the perverse tongue shall be cut off.
Proverbs 12:8 – 8 A man shall be commended according to his wisdom; But he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.
Proverbs 19:20 – 20 Hear counsel, and receive instruction, That thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
Proverbs 22:17 – 17 Incline thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, And apply thy heart unto my knowledge.
Proverbs 24:3 – 3 Through wisdom is a house builded; And by understanding it is established;
Proverbs 26:16 – 16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit Than seven men that can render a reason.
Proverbs 28:26 – 26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool; But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
Isaiah 11:1-2 – 1 And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah.
Isaiah 28:29 – 29 This also cometh forth from Jehovah of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.
Jeremiah 10:12 – 12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding hath he stretched out the heavens.
Jeremiah 51:15 – 15 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding hath he stretched out the heavens.
Daniel 1:17 – 17 Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
Daniel 2:17-21,23 – 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his companions should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that have understanding……23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast now made known unto me what we desired of thee; for thou hast made known unto us the king’s matter.
Daniel 9:20-23 – 20 And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before Jehovah my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21 yea, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he instructed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee wisdom and understanding. 23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment went forth, and I am come to tell thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision.
Luke 1:17 – 17 And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.
Matthew 7:24 – 24 Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock:
Matthew 10:16 – 16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew 23:34 – 34 Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city:
Matthew 24:45-46 – 45 Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Luke 2:40 – (Jesus) 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:52 – 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NAS)
Luke 21:15 – 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay.
Acts 6:3 – 3 Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Acts 6:10 – 10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake.
Acts 7:10 – 10 and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt;
Romans 11:33 – 33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!
1 Corinthians 1:23-24 – 23 but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; 24 but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:
1 Corinthians 2:6-7 – 6 We speak wisdom, however, among them that are full grown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought: 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory:
1 Corinthians 2:13 – 13 Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words.
1 Corinthians 3:10 – 10 According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon.
Ephesians 1:7-8 – 7 in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
Ephesians 1:15-17 – 15 For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, 16 cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;
Ephesians 3:10 – 10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Ephesians 5:15-16 – 15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Colossians 1:9 – 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Colossians 1:27-28 – 27 to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ;
Colossians 2:2-3 – 2 that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, 3 in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
Colossians 3:16 – 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.
Colossians 4:5 – 5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
James 1:5 – 5 But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
James 3:13 – 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom.
James 3:17 – 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy.
2 Peter 3:15 – 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you;
Revelation 5:12 – 12 saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
Revelation 7:11-12 – 11 And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Quite clearly, there’s an abundance of instruction on wisdom here, which reveals the importance and necessity of walking in wisdom. Conversely, there is absolutely no biblical instruction for the idea of sitting and waiting to hear directly from God via an inner voice — or via an audible voice. If He chooses to do so, that’s up to Him, but we’re not to be actively pursuing it. There is no biblical instruction or examples of that type of practice. If God chooses to speak in a more direct way, He will do so in a manner which leaves no doubt — you WILL KNOW IT. You won’t have to wonder. But again, that is not something we’re to pursue, for that is not the biblical norm for Christians.
Note: If you skipped over the above passages, I implore you to go back and read them all – carefully. To understand what I say in the following discussion, you need to first see what God says about His wisdom and about the wisdom He gives to those who follow Christ.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge and understanding. It’s knowing what to do with what we know and understand. It’s being able to choose the best course of action in any given situation. It’s the ability to choose between good, better, and best. Most importantly, as it relates to us as Christians, it’s being able to discern God’s will at any time and in any situation.
Within the context of this study, there appears to be a lot of Christians who place more importance on seeking God and His will via some sort of miraculous revelation, rather than through the trustworthy wisdom of God. To them, it seems, seeking God’s will through some inner spiritual experience – or through visions, dreams, or personal prophecies – is more reliable and more exciting than seeking God’s will through the wisdom that He Himself provides. Nothing could be further than the truth!
On the contrary, as we’ve discussed, seeking God and His will through sitting and listening for His voice within, opens us up to lying voices. As I’ve said over and over, this is an unbiblical practice that will likely lead to deception. Seeking to know God and His will via an inner spiritual experience (or through the other means mentioned above), is not taught anywhere in the bible. That’s an idea that must be assumed. There is not one verse in the Bible that gives us the idea that we’re to sit in God’s presence and listen for His voice within. Seeking an awareness of God like that opens us up to a false presence.
Don’t misunderstand, when we sit in God’s presence – worshipping and praising Him, meditating on His character and on the Word of God, He will often give us a strong awareness of Himself. But that’s the biblical way, when we fill our minds with wonderful thoughts about our Lord – not by emptying our mind and listening for a “still small voice.” But again, we must be careful. What we hear cannot conflict with God’s written Word or with sound wisdom.
Those who seek God’s mind, who seek God’s will, who seek God’s voice through miraculous revelation, are on very dangerous ground. It’s simply not the method that He has given us. His method of making His will known to us is via wisdom – His wisdom – the wisdom He provides. Many Christians may respond, “but that is just so impersonal!” But that’s simply not true, for those who walk in God’s wisdom are those who walk closely to Him. Those whom God reveals His will to, are those who are in intimate fellowship with Him. There is nothing more personal than walking in God’s wisdom, for we walk with God when we do so.
Listen carefully: As the above passages reveal, God does all things according to wisdom. Wisdom is an inherent attribute of God. He does nothing apart from wisdom. He created the whole universe according to wisdom. Accordingly, there is no greater personal harmony with Christ than when we’re walking according to His wisdom, for all wisdom is hidden in Him and comes from Him:
Colossians 2:2-3 – 2 that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, 3 in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
As Christians, we’re to be growing spiritually. We’re to be growing in Christ-likeness. That means we’re to be growing in His wisdom. We should seek to attain His wisdom above all other things, for it’s through His wisdom that all other things have their being. Wisdom tells us to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Wisdom tells us to seek to know God more and more. Wisdom tells us to walk in full-surrendered obedience to God. Wisdom tells us to live pure and holy lives. Wisdom tells us to read and apply His Word to our lives. Wisdom tells us to study God’s Word so we’re not deceived. Wisdom tells us to share our faith in Christ with those who don’t know Him. Wisdom tells to forsake the things of this world to seek the things of God. Wisdom tells us to pray for others. Wisdom tells us to keep learning. Wisdom tells us to prepare properly for our future. Wisdom tells us to be wise managers of the money God has given to us. Wisdom tells us to trust God, to entrust our life to God. Wisdom tells us to live our lives in a manner that brings glory to God. Etc.
As you can see, wisdom is the foundation on which we’re to build our lives. Wisdom is the the vehicle that God has given us to discern His will for our lives in any given situation, in any situation where we need to make a decision. When we walk in God’s wisdom, we walk in fellowship and harmony with God Himself.
Wisdom is really the key to all of life for the Christian. It’s to be our highest pursuit. For it’s only through the seeking of God’s wisdom, that we know God and His will rightly. We have to get it out of our heads that we don’t seek God or His will via some inner spiritual experience, or through personal prophecies. The spiritual experience of knowing God and walking with God, comes via seeking Him the right way – the way that He Himself has prescribed. That means filling our minds with thoughts of Him, with thoughts of His attributes, with thoughts of worship and praise, with thoughts of His written Word:
6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Notice that all these things that we’re to think upon is in the context of prayer – which consists of worship, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication for others and for ourselves. Twice in this passage is peace mentioned. If we’re to have the peace of God in all things, in every area of our lives, in all the decisions we make, it must be by way of wisdom – which is accompanied with thoughts of God and His attributes via an active form of prayer. Prayer and reading God’s Word is spiritual breathing for the Christian.
Read all the above scriptures again regarding God’s wisdom and the wisdom He gives to His people to carry out His will. So important is wisdom to knowing God’s will, that He devoted an entire book of the Bible (Proverbs) to the subject of wisdom — a very long book, I might add. Listen again to what Solomon says about wisdom:
Proverbs 3:13-15 – 13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, And the man that getteth understanding. 14 For And the profit thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver, And none of the things thou canst desire are to be compared unto her.
Proverbs 4:7 – 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom;
Wisdom is our “principle” goal in life, for he who walks in God’s wisdom, walks with God.
I encourage you to think carefully about all the above scriptures about wisdom that I quoted. Allow the importance of wisdom to the heart of God, to sink into your own heart. Allow it to rule and guide your life.
Christians who downplay wisdom – thinking that it’s somehow worldly, that it somehow takes God out of the picture – is not thinking according to God’s wisdom, but according to the wisdom of the very world that he seeks to separate himself from.
Listen again to Paul’s instruction regarding wisdom:
Ephesians 5:15-16 – 15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Colossians 1:9 – 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
There is no higher pursuit, no greater gain, than the wisdom of God. He who walks in wisdom, walks with God.
There is wisdom of God, and there is wisdom of the world. The wisdom of God is what Paul refers to as “spiritual wisdom” (Col 1:9):
NET – 2:13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.
ASV – 13 Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words.
In learning to walk in wisdom, we have to learn to discern between God’s wisdom and the wisdom of this world. The only way we can do that is through a proper understanding of God’s Word. That means we must spend a lot of time reading and thinking about the Word of God.
However, be cautious. True wisdom only comes through true understanding. It’s quite possible to make “wise” decisions based on a faulty understanding of the Bible. As I said earlier, wisdom is knowing how to properly apply what we know and understand. Therefore we must make sure that what we know and understand is the truth.
We must be diligent students of God’s Word, applying proper rules of interpretation. This is something I hammer on constantly. Basic to interpreting and understanding God’s Word, is learning how to interpret it correctly. No doubt the biggest mistake Christians make when interpreting the bible, is that they isolate a verse or a passage from its context. We cannot accurately interpret the Bible unless we consider the CONTEXT. That means especially the immediate context, but also the context of the chapter, the context of the book, and the overall context of the Bible – particularly the New Testament.
We must constantly be asking, “Who is the writer addressing? What is the overall subject matter of this passage? What is the occasion for writing? What issues is he addressing in this book? How do the sentences and paragraphs and chapters relate to one another another? What are the key words? What do they mean in the original language of Greek or Hebrew? What does the rest of this book say about this? What does the rest of the Bible say about this? What was the culture of those whom the writer was addressing?” ETC.
There are other rules of interpretation that we’re to follow, but if a Christian can practice these named things, he or she will eliminate a lot of false understanding and teaching and false practices.
I encourage you to read these rules of interpretation here.
If we insist on trying to interpret the Bible our own way, it can only lead to erroneous understanding. If we think it’s less spiritual to follow set procedures for proper interpretation, and insist that it’s more spiritual and personal to simply “allow the Holy Spirit to speak,” then we’re not walking according to wisdom. If we just read and listen to whatever comes to our mind as we’re reading – assuming that it’s the voice of God – we open ourselves up to false hearing, deceiving voices, false learning. There’s nothing wise or honorable about refusing or neglecting to study God’s Word in a systematic and orderly manner. The Holy Spirit speaks according to the sound wisdom that we apply. We must learn to walk in humility, and walking in humility means learning the way of wise learning.
Listen carefully: Wisdom must be developed, just like knowledge and understanding must be developed. We must employ our minds to learn and understand and to make wise decisions regarding the will of God. We must use the mind that God has given to us to think through things, to reason, to ponder, to figure, to consider options, to consider our gifts and abilities, to consider our circumstances. There’s nothing more spiritual than when we rely on God according to the wisdom He provides, for He Himself does all things according to wisdom.
When reading God’s Word and praying, things will come to our mind, and our heart will be touched in many ways, and ideas will surface. But we must be very careful what we do with it. We need to evaluate what we’re hearing and sensing according to the wisdom that God gives. If it doesn’t make sense, if it’s contrary to the teachings of the Bible, if it’s contrary to the counsel of the majority of wise men or women of God, if God hasn’t confirmed it through circumstances, then it clearly wouldn’t be wisdom to proceed with it; it’s clearly not the will of God. But if it makes good sense, if it’s according to sound wisdom, if it’s biblical, if doors are opening, if it’s in line with your gifts and abilities and desires and inclinations, and the people of God are encouraging you, if it has long-term benefits, then go with it. That’s the type of wisdom that God honors.
Wisdom is learned, it’s a growing process, and so it’s inevitable that we make wrong decisions along the way, but God is patient and will grant us grace. We just need to stay on course and practice the right things. If we seek to walk according to His wisdom, He will direct our way. If we get off course, He will get us back on it. The important thing is doing things His way, seeking to live honorably before both God and man – in all things. That’s wisdom. We’re to seek to live according to those things that God values and honors, and among the most important of those things is wisdom.
Boldly Claiming to Hear from God
Before I provide guidelines for walking in the wisdom of God, I want to discuss another form of “hearing God’s voice” that is prevalent among Christians today, which doesn’t necessarily involve sitting and listening for God’s inner voice.
Often you will hear Christians say things like, “God spoke to me and said…., or God said this or that to me, or God told me to do this or that, or God gave me a picture of this or that, or God gave me a vision of this or that, etc” You hear Christians attributing to God, words or pictures or ideas or visions without any way of knowing for sure if what they heard or saw was from God. As example of what I’m talking about, click on the article below and read the quotes by Beth Moore in the paragraph titled “Beth Moore Quotes”:
I realize Beth Moore is loved by many, but the truth is, some of what she says and teaches is dangerous. She’s a perfect example of what not to do. There’s simply no biblical grounds for these claims she has made about God. Furthermore, she apparently practices contemplative prayer. That alone is good enough reason to stay away from her teaching.
Those who make these bold claims about God could be guilty of breaking the third commandment:
7 Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Those who carelessly use God’s name in such a manner as Beth Moore does, attributing things to God that they have no way of confirming, is foolishness, and God will “not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.”
Christians may reply, “but I walk with God, and I know His voice, I just know when He’s talking to me, I just know when He’s showing me things.” They think, after all, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Or they may say, “doesn’t the Bible say that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Ro 8:14)?
As Christians, we do hear the voice of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that every voice we hear comes from Him. I believe what Jesus really means in the above verse, is that those who truly belong to Him, will follow Him as Lord and Savior and Shepherd. As sheep know the voice of their shepherd and follow him, so do we know the voice of our Shepherd and follow Him. But this speaks of a way of life, following Him as Lord and King. It’s foolish and dangerous to assume that everything we hear comes from Him — just because we’re His sheep.
In no way should we understand Jesus to mean that we should go through life assuming that all the things we hear within us, is from Him. However, if we strongly believe the Lord is speaking to our heart about something, it needs to be tested. We can’t just assume that it’s from Him. And yes, as Christians we are “led by the Spirit of God” (Ro 8:14; Gal 5:18). But how does He lead us? Primarily, it’s via the written Word of God and sound wisdom. He does deal with us within our heart, but again, every voice and every tug on our heart needs to be tested by His Word and according to the wisdom that He gives.
I can’t tell you the number of times throughout my Christian life where I believed God was speaking to me about a particular matter, or leading me in a certain direction, and it turned out to be false. And I know I’m not alone. Therefore, we must be extremely careful about what we attribute to be from God.
Personally, if I believe God is speaking to me about a particular matter, the most I will ever say is, that “I believe God is speaking to me about this or that, or I believe God is leading me to do this or that.” It’s always wise to speak of what one believes to be true of God in regard to what we’re hearing, rather than stating emphatically that God spoke to us. That’s the safe approach, and prevents us from breaking the Third Commandment. Furthermore, it gives us time to test what we’re hearing. It allows us to proceed with wise caution.
The way we test the voice within, the way we determine if it’s from God or not, is first by the clear commands and instructions of Scripture. We have to ask, “Does what I’m hearing contradict what God’s Word says or commands?” If it does, then we can know for sure that the voice we’re hearing is not God’s. It’s foolishness to proceed down any path that violates God’s commands for His people. Wherever the letter of God’s Word gives clear commands or instructions to Christians, we can know for sure that He’s addressing all of us.
The second way we test the voice within, is according to the wisdom of God, the wisdom that He Himself gives to us – which again, comes through a renewed mind as we take in the Word of God, and that involves proper interpretation. Guidelines for this are provided below:
Wisdom and Walking by the Spirit:
16 But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, 21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. 25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. 26 Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another.
15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit;
To “walk by the Spirit,” means to walk in yieldedness to the Spirit. It means to allow the Holy Spirit to empower and lead our lives. It means to walk within the sphere of the Spirit’s influence. Those who are “filled with the Spirit,” walk by the Spirit. Those who walk by the Spirit, “walk as wise,” and “understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Let’s not miss this: In the above Ephesians passage, wisdom and understanding of God’s will is linked to being filled with the Spirit. Paul tells us that we’re to “walk” as wise, and this is in connection with being filled with the Spirit. Notice also that in the Galatians passage, Paul tells us to “walk” by the Spirit. Thus it’s clear that those who walk by the Spirit are those who walk in wisdom. Or those who walk in wisdom, are those who walk by the Spirit.
As we’ve been talking about all along, wisdom is the “principle” thing. This is to be our highest goal, for those who walk in wisdom, walk with God. There are those who may believe that they’re walking with God, but you look at their lives and it’s filled with foolish choices and foolish pursuits and foolish practices. Only those who walk in wisdom walk with God.
How do we walk by the Spirit?
Christians want to know how we walk by the Spirit, and rightly so. While the filling of the Spirit and walking by the Spirit is a bit difficult to comprehend and apply, I don’t believe it’s quite as mysterious as or difficult to explain as we tend to think. I believe the Bible reveals that walking by the Spirit, in large part, is walking in the wisdom of God. In other words, the two are so intertwined that we cannot rightly be walking by the Spirit if we are not walking according to the wisdom of God. If we’re walking in foolishness, we can’t be walking by the Spirit at the same time.
In the Galatians passage above, we see that the “fruit of the Spirit” is in connection to “walking by the Spirit.” Therefore those who walk in the wisdom of God will see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. No one who walks in foolishness will see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Walking in God’s wisdom always produces the fruit of the Spirit. The two cannot be separated.
Guidelines for Walking In Wisdom
One, we must reject the practice of sitting before God with a meditative empty mind in order to seek some sort of spiritual experience with God. Sitting and listening and waiting to hear an inner voice from God is not only dangerous, it’s not the way we learn God’s will. It’s not the way we fellowship with God. It’s not the way of the Lord.
Those who pursue this course open themselves to deceptive voices and deceptive guidance. I believe it’s inevitable that those who practice this regularly, will eventually hear from lying spirits who take notice of their practice. Again, this is not God’s way. Thus He will not bless it. Whenever we take ourselves out of God’s way of doing things, we remove ourselves from His protection. Our protection is always in the sphere of His plan.
When we sit in God’s presence, we should not deliberately empty our minds and wait for an inner voice, as they do in contemplative prayer. We should, instead, fill our minds with thoughts of God and His Word. We should be talking to God asking Him to think through any issues that we have or decisions we need to make. In other words, we need to ask Him to fill us with His wisdom, to conform our minds to His mind. We must continuously be asking the Lord to enable us to see through His eyes. That, of course, requires much time in His written Word, studying it and meditating on it (thinking through it for application).
Two, we must be committed to pursuing wisdom as our greatest goal, as our most stable means of walking with God. We must pursue it with a passion. We must be committed to living our lives according to the wisdom He gives, realizing that this is the only stable way of walking in the will of God. The obtaining of wisdom must become a relentless pursuit for us. Those who are passionate about God, will seek Him via the path of wisdom.
Three, we must fill our minds with the Word of God. We should be reading it every day. It’s through the written Word that the Holy Spirit renews our minds and transforms our lives, enabling us to walk in God’s will (Ro 12:1-2). This is a miraculous work that takes place in our lives for which there is no substitute.
Four, we must apply God’s Word to our lives. That means meditating on what we read. However, as a word of caution, we must be careful not to be meditating on God’s Word with the idea of “hearing a word from God,” where we seek to hear an inner voice from God. We must not give in to this temptation. Meditating on God’s Word means to “think upon, to ponder, to employ one’s mind, to give careful thought to, to reflect upon, to dwell upon, to hold in one’s heart.” It also means to evaluate our lives in light of what we’re reading. It means to reason carefully, to consider what wisdom says about what we should do with what we’re reading.
And yes, it’s perfectly proper to ask the Lord to enable us to think clearly and to think rightly about what we’re reading and how we should apply it. We should constantly be asking, “Lord, what does wisdom tell me about this? What does Your wisdom look like in this situation? What is the most wise choice? Enable me to reason through this according to the wisdom that You provide.”
Five, we should spend much time in prayer. Prayer is not seeking an inner word from God. True prayer is asking and receiving. But prayer also involves fellowship with God. That means filling our minds with thoughts of God and His glorious attributes, and with thoughts of what He’s done for us through Christ and what we have to look forward to in eternity.
Our times with the Lord should be a time of sincere, heartfelt worship and praise. Praying God’s Word is a wonderful practice. Addressing the Lord while reading the Psalms is a wonderful way of praising and thanking and worshiping God. Praying through other books of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is also very spiritually enriching. That’s true fellowship with the Lord, as He talks with us and as we talk to Him. It’s a wonderful means of holy communion with God.
Those who think they cannot experience God or hear His voice except through some sort of miraculous revelation, have been sorely misled. Let me tell you, when you seek the Lord as outlined here, God will surely give you a sense of His presence, and the fellowship will be sweet – and it will be genuine.
Six, while we’re praying and reading the Bible, thoughts and ideas will come into our minds. We must be careful not to jump to conclusions. While these thoughts and ideas may indeed be from God, they still need to be evaluated and tested. They must first be evaluated in light what the Bible teaches. If what we hear conflicts or contradicts the plain commands or instruction of God’s Word, it must be rejected. Also, if what we’re hearing has a meaning that is not according to the context, then it must be rejected. Furthermore, we’re never to place ourselves in the lives of those whom we’re reading about, and assume that God is speaking directly to us. That practice will surely lead one down the wrong path. However, I need to qualify that. I’ll give you an example of how the Lord may reveal His will to someone through His Word:
Someone is reading about Paul and his missionary journeys in the book of Acts, and while he or she is reading, their heart is stirred, and soon a burden for the lost and a desire to go to the mission field develops. What first started out as a warming of the heart, has now become a burning passion. Furthermore, the Lord is confirming in various ways what they believe He is doing in their heart: They see the Lord working in their circumstances, they see doors opening, money being provided for Bible college, approval and encouragement from other Christians, the leadership of their church giving their full support, the gifting to teach and to share their faith is being developed, etc.
That’s an example of how I believe the Holy Spirit may speak to us through His Word about a particular area of our life. I believe there are probably many Christians who can give this very testimony. If we believe He is speaking to our heart through His Word about a certain area of our life or about a certain direction we’re to take, then God will surely confirm it in many ways, such as I noted above. If what we believe to be God’s voice is not being confirmed like that, if nothing is happening and all we have to go on is the voice within, then we need to give it up as not being from God. Of course, we need to give this a fair amount of time. Counsel from godly Christians and godly leaders is a must.
Furthermore, wisdom tells us that we don’t just put our life on hold while we’re waiting for God to move in our lives. God requires us to be actively making a difference in people’s lives while we’re waiting for God’s guidance. Serving others and being useful is something we know for sure to be God’s will. Accordingly, that is what we’re to be doing while waiting for confirmation from God.
But again, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, if we’re not seeing God verify what we believe to be from Him, we need to give it up and move on with our lives. If God wants us to do something, He will make it known to us. We don’t have to try and force it. The worst thing we can do is try to force God’s hand. We can’t require God to speak according to the way we want Him to. God is sovereign, and He will reveal His will in the manner He chooses and when He chooses. Meanwhile, we need to be actively serving Him and living useful and productive lives. That’s wisdom!
Let me give you a real life example of what I’m talking about, and how God reveals His will:
— You may be familiar with the national ministry called Reformers Unanimous. I knew the man who started it (who is with the Lord now). He wasn’t looking to start a ministry, he was just trying to help someone who was on drugs, because he had been down that road himself. As a follower of Christ, he was able to share with that person how the Lord had changed his life and had given him victory over his addiction. Not long afterwards, the Lord brought another person into his life who also had an addiction. Again, he was able to minister to him. One door after another opened from that point on, and eventually, with the blessing of his church leadership and involvement, Reformers Unanimous was born. Now it’s a thriving, national ministry, changing the lives of a great many. Again, the founder was not seeking to start a ministry, he was just being faithful in living the Christian life as a servant of the Lord. He just wanted to make a difference in the life of this one man, and the Lord honored that and blessed him with others who needed Jesus. This is an example of someone was already serving the Lord, whom God called to greater things.
If God wants us to do something, He’ll make it known to us. It’s not something we have to try to force, and it will always be according to wisdom. He will cause things to fall into place for those who are already busy for Him. God speaks and leads when we’re already faithfully serving Him — just like we can’t steer a car unless it’s moving. He honors those who are already serving Him and seeking to advance His kingdom.
Getting back to the beginning of our discussion, once these thoughts and ideas have been evaluated in light of God’s Word (they don’t violate clear instruction), they must be further tested. We do that via the test of wisdom. What does wisdom say about it? Is it truly wise? Here we must be brutally honest. We can’t allow personal desire to influence reality. If we’re still unsure, then we should seek counsel. Wisdom tells us to get counsel when needed.
Very Important: These thoughts and ideas must also be given time. If they don’t contradict what the Bible says, if you see wisdom in what you’re hearing, if counsel has confirmed it to be so, then we must then give it time. If these thoughts and ideas are our own, they will likely go away in time. If they are of God, they will persist — but they will persist in conjunction with other means of confirmation, such as I’ve already talked about. Time gives the Lord the opportunity to open doors and to work in our circumstances and to bring people into our lives that will bring everything together. But if all we have is an inner belief, but no outward confirmation, then eventually we need to abandon the idea. It’s simply not wisdom to continue to pursue a path without clear confirmation from God. Again, if God wants us to do something with our lives, we won’t have to try to force it. He will make it known in a manner that leaves no doubt — not just an inward belief about it. And He’ll do it in His own time.
As a personal example, many years ago I had an idea about a ministry that I believed to be from God. However, after a negative response from church leadership from two different churches, and three different pastors, I eventually abandoned the idea. No one was interested and nothing was happening. God was not confirming what I believed to be true. All I had was an inner belief, and nothing else. After about two years, I gave it up. So my point is, we have to know when to abandon ideas and move on from there. If God is in it, He will confirm it in many ways.
By the way, I had a similar experience with another ministry idea many years ago. I was not getting any outside confirmation. Nothing was happening. Nothing falling into place. Just an inner desire and belief. But beyond that, everything was silent, going nowhere. Wisdom told me that I needed to give it up, that God was not in it. Since those days, I’ve learned a lot about seeking and knowing God’s will. This study is the heart of what I’ve learned.
Seven, I highly recommend reading at least one chapter of Proverbs each day. Afterall, it is the book of wisdom. Over time, our minds and lives will be fashioned according to the wisdom we take in from that book.
Eight, there’s a wisdom from God that some people refer to as common horse-sense. Non-Christians, without realizing it, are successful because they’re using God-given good sense. A perfect example of what I’m talking about, is given by Jesus Himself:
24 Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock: 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock. 26 And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: 27 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall thereof.
Here we see wisdom from God that is common to all. If we build our house upon a rock – a firm foundation – we are wise, for then our house will hold up even in a storm that is accompanied by flooding. But we are not wise if we build our house upon the sand – a shaky foundation – because our house will not hold up in that same situation.
The point is, we have to exercise common sense wisdom when making decisions, when seeking God’s will. If you think you hear God telling you to build your house on the beach – counter to sound wisdom – then you’re deceived, you’re hearing a false voice. God will not bless foolishness.
Use this example by Jesus as a guide for making common-sense decisions when seeking God’s will.
While some Christians never accomplish anything worthwhile, many non-Christians accomplish much. The said non-Christians achieve because they get training and work hard and make sensible decisions. The said Christians don’t achieve because they don’t do any of those things. One is using sound common wisdom that God gives to all, and the other one isn’t. Which is sad, because of all people, it’s Christians who should be making wise decisions.
God doesn’t honor foolishness. Contemplative prayer (and its forms) fits into that category. It’s foolish. While an unbeliever is using wisdom to make something of their life, a Christian is wasting their life by listening for God’s inner voice or waiting for Him to reveal Himself in some miraculous way, but only hearing their own voice or lying spirits.
Christians can look so foolish in the eyes of the world — and among other Christians as well, and the sad truth is, we often give them a valid reason for it…..and it’s a really bad testimony for Christ. It’s senseless when non-Christians are making wiser decisions than Christians who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have the written Word of God to guide them. The exercise of common wisdom provides an honorable testimony, which gains the respect of the unsaved. Thus we’re given an open door and a listening ear for us to share our faith in Christ, which is our highest calling.
Some Christians may think common sense wisdom is worldly and can’t be from God, but the book of Proverbs and the example given by Jesus refutes that idea. Furthermore, as I already mentioned, we as Christians have an advantage: we have the written Word of God and the Holy Spirit to lead us – even in the area of common wisdom. Oftentimes we will be faced with several good choices. In such situations, we need to rely on God’s Word and the leading of the Spirit to grant us wisdom to identify the good, better, and best. And of course, this involves careful reasoning. God expects us to use the brain He’s given to us.
In their zeal, I think many Christians make decisions that are not according to the wisdom God gives, and they end up paying a price for it. Instead of thinking through things carefully, they go by inner impressions, believing them to be from God. They disregard clear wisdom in favor of inner voices or inner feelings. So we must be very discerning. Obtaining wisdom and discernment is a life-long learning process, just like growing in Christian maturity is a life-long learning process. The two are related.
Nine, we must realize that there’s a wisdom that we don’t share with non-Christians. Paul refers to this as “spiritual wisdom” (Col 1:9; 1 Cor 2:12-13). We have a spiritual wisdom that the world doesn’t have. There is the world’s wisdom and there is God’s wisdom.
This type of wisdom deals solely with spiritual matters that only a regenerated believer can understand. This type of wisdom has to do with applying the truth of God’s Word to our lives as followers of Christ. This is the type of wisdom that we apply as we live as Christians in this world and its system. As Christians, we view life in this world completely differently than the unsaved. Thus all of our decisions will be made with God’s will and God’s purposes and God’s glory in mind. Furthermore, our whole approach to life will be lived with eternity in view.
Therefore as followers of Christ, we must learn to live and make decisions with a proper balance between common wisdom and spiritual wisdom. As we grow in Christ, the awareness of the difference between the two will also grow. However, it’s important to keep in mind that both are from God and both must be employed to be in His will.
Ten, seek the counsel of someone whom you believe to be a wise servant of the Lord. If the opportunity is there, seek the counsel of several individuals whom you believe to be walking with God and in the wisdom of God. There are times – especially as we’re beginning to learn and grow – where it’s difficult to discern wisdom, where it’s difficult to know the right path to take. That’s where wise counsel comes in.
Eleven, the book of Proverbs talks a lot about learning, about gaining wisdom and knowledge and understanding. While this certainly applies mostly to the things of God, it also most certainly applies to general learning, about a lot of different things. Solomon is the perfect example of that. The wisdom and knowledge and understanding that God gave him, went beyond just spiritual matters. It’s seems reasonable that he had an understanding of the world that goes far beyond what the Bible reveals. People came from all around to listen to him talk, for he spoke as one who knew and understood things that no one else in the world did.
Therefore, I believe it’s important to consider the value of a good education and training. God uses it to open doors for us. He uses it in our lives so that we can be productive, so that we can be useful in this world — for His glory. We’re to go into all the world as witnesses for Christ, and that includes all the different areas of employment (obviously this doesn’t include sinful employment). That takes an education. Thus we need to seek God’s will in this important area of our lives. Getting a good education is simply sound wisdom, so it’s something that we should be seeking the Lord’s will in. But let me add, college isn’t for everyone. We must discern the wisdom of God and His leading in this matter. We must ask, does college make sense for me? Is it a good fit for me? Does it fit the inclinations of my heart and the abilities God has given me? Is this an area where God can use me? This must be made a matter of diligent prayer, honest and wise self-evaluation, and input from others who know us and walk with God.
15 The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; And the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. 16 A man’s gift maketh room for him, And bringeth him before great men.
Twelve, when considering God’s will, it’s important that we consider the abilities and spiritual gifts that God has given to us. I firmly believe that God has enabled us and gifted us for a purpose. I don’t believe He gives us these things for no reason. God doesn’t do anything without a purpose. I believe He requires us to use the gifts and abilities He’s given us, and for His glory.
Accordingly, when seeking God’s will for our lives, we need to consider carefully how God has gifted us — both as it relates to spiritual gifts and to natural abilities. All of us have been given spiritual gifts to be used to serve Christ (1 Cor 12; Ro 12), especially within the context of the local church. In regard to natural abilities, we must ask ourselves, “what am I really good at? What comes easy or fairly easy for me?” That may be an indication of how the Lord would have us serve Him by way of career.
I believe it’s a real mistake to disregard how God has wired us, how He has equipped us. Again, He does nothing without a purpose. The gifts and abilities that God has given to us, serves as a strong indication of what He wants us to do with our lives and how we’re to serve Him in the world. And for sure, as it relates to spiritual gifts, we’re to serve the Lord in the local assembly according to those gifts. I believe He’ll also give us desires that are in harmony with those gifts. But we need to careful not to reject an idea too quickly just because we don’t have a desire for it now. We may not have a desire for something until we’ve had some experience in that area. Therefore, we must be sensitive to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as He opens opportunities to serve Him. Once we get involved in some area of ministry or work, we may discover a real interest and desire growing inside. God wants to see obedience first.
As I just indicated, I believe we discover our gifts and callings by being faithful. As we’re faithfully serving in church, serving others, taking advantage of opportunities that God brings our way, making a difference in people’s lives, God will show us what our gifts are and how and where He wants us to use them.
I believe it’s a tragic mistake to expect to receive guidance from God strictly via an inner voice from Him, or in some miraculous way. The biblical way of seeking and discovering God’s will is via the way of wisdom – His wisdom. He may indeed speak to our hearts, but everything we hear needs to be evaluated according to God’s Word and sound wisdom.
Furthermore, I Believe God’s Word is clear that those whom God calls and uses are those who are already serving, already walking in obedience, already out among the people making a difference in people’s lives, already using the gifts and abilities He’s provided. From cover to cover, we see in the Bible that those whom God called and used, were those who were already working and serving in some way. That’s especially important under the New Covenant as followers of Christ, who have been called to serve others as His representatives, as His witnesses.
Thirteen: Questions we should ask:
Is it biblical? Is it in harmony with truth? Does it go against any commands of God?
Will this hurt my testimony for Christ? Will it honor or dishonor the name of Christ? Will it advance the Kingdom of Christ?
What are my gifts and abilities?
What are the inclinations of my heart? What is my natural bend?
What does wisdom look like in this situation? What does wisdom say?
If I do this, what is the likely outcome? What if I don’t do it?
What do my circumstances tell me?
How do others view me or counsel me about this?
Is it worldly? Is it materialistic? Does it feed my flesh?
Does it put me in a place of strong temptation to sin?
Will it hurt my walk with Christ? Will it please Him?
Will it decrease my involvement in church?
Am I being useful in this world for the cause of Christ?
Am I making an eternal difference in people’s lives?
Am I living with eternity in view?
Who has God put in my life? How can I learn from them? What opportunities has God given me? What open doors? What options do I have?
How am I contributing to the needs of my family? To the needs of others?
What areas of my life need improvement? (Spiritually, physically, character, marriage, family, relationships, employment, discipline, etc.)
Am I more focused on the things of God or on the things of this world?
When trying to determine wisdom in any given situation, these are all good questions we should be asking before God. There are probably many other questions we could add to this list, but these are certainly some of the most important. It’s a list that we should consult regularly as a reminder.
Fourteen: Wisdom Principles:
Seek balance in all things. Avoid the extremes.
Avoid quick decisions of importance.
Temporary fixes may result in permanent damage.
The easy road is rarely the best road.
The most worthwhile things take great effort and time.
The path of least resistance is normally not the best path.
Think long term, never short term. Be long-term oriented.
Give up present temporary things to obtain future permanent things.
Do what you love and are gifted for, and it will never be just a job.
Don’t entertain your present, but prepare for your future.
Work and study and sacrifice now so that you can enjoy doing what you love for the rest of your life.
Seek a highly disciplined life. Avoid laziness.
Do what needs to be done whether you feel like it or not.
Be organized and orderly. It will simplify your life.
Be neat and clean. Present yourself well.
Strive for excellence in all things.
Be responsible and reliable in all things.
Be detail oriented. Develop a 360 degree mindset.
Never quit. Quitters never win, and winners never quit.
Always finish what you start, even in small things. It develops a disciplined life — a life that succeeds.
Use a “things to do” list. You’ll find that you get more done.
Plan well and you will succeed well.
Get off your phone and computer each day, and think about all the things that need to be done and planned.
Think through things carefully before making any decisions. Always consider the likely benefits or consequences of everything you do.
Avoid debt. It’s a trap that will enslave you. Always live within your means. Be patient and willing to wait for things. That’s part of a disciplined life.
Never sacrifice quality to save time.
Live according to your strengths, while developing your weaknesses.
Value and take good care of everything you own.
Be others-oriented, not self-oriented.
Prepare and do in advance. Don’t be a procrastinator.
Get your values and priorities straight, and live accordingly.
Begin each day in quality time with the Lord. That means getting up at least a couple hours before you go to work.
Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Being healthy and fit affects and benefits every area of your life.
If your church has small groups, be in one. The Christian life is lived out in worship and fellowship and learning with others. It’s also a place for prayer, counsel, and help.
Don’t be a time waster. Be productive with your time.
Arminians and Calvinists should not marry. Cessationists and charismatics should not marry. Avoid unnecessary conflicts. The more harmony in a marital relationship, the more peace in the home.
Always live with eternity in view.
I’ve done some brainstorming, and I want to share the results with you here. It’s in no particular order, but then that’s pretty much the way brainstorming works. I’ll be repeating myself to a large degree, but repetition helps to make important points stick:
Walking according to wisdom is very liberating, very freeing, because it gives us a definite means of knowing and living God’s will. There is great security in having clearly defined means of hearing God’s voice and determining His will. When we give children guidelines and boundaries, it gives them a feeling of security. Likewise, when walking in wisdom, it gives us a sense of security, with clear boundaries.
Those who rely on inner voices or inner impressions or are waiting for God to reveal Himself in some miraculous way in order to determine what God’s will is, will surely be led astray. It will likely lead to a wasted life. All things must be done according to the truth of God’s Word. It’s unwise to require or expect God to speak to us according to the way we want Him to. We can’t make those kind of demands on God. All things must be done according to the plan He Himself has ordained.
Those who expect God to speak to them as He did with the prophets of the Old Testament or even the New Testament, have unwise and unbiblical expectations. The way God dealt with the prophets and men of God in both testaments, was rare, even in their day. They were called and used for a special time for a special purpose. In the NT period, the way God speaks and leads is according to the voice of God’s Word and the voice of wisdom, as the Holy Spirit empowers.
The book of Proverbs, and the wisdom provided in that book, is neither an OT thing or NT. It’s simply truth. Everything falls under wisdom. Everything we do in life is subject to wisdom, because God Himself does all things according to wisdom.
Wisdom is to be our highest goal, our highest pursuit, for he who achieves wisdom walks with God and gains His favor. It should be what we value most, for wisdom says to seek God, to seek the truth, to read the Word, to pray, to worship, to be obedient, to make use our time and gifts, to help others, to provide for our families, to be kind, to walk in the Spirit, to live holy lives, to make our lives count for Christ, to share our faith, etc.
We’re to avoid seeking some sort of mysterious spiritual experience. Instead, we’re to live sensibly as we walk with God and as we pray and worship and read his Word. We’re to avoid listening to an inner voice that is extremely difficult to confirm as being from God. Never assume to be hearing from God. Avoid making flat statements, like: “God told me this or God told me that, or God said this or God said that.” If you believe God is speaking or leading in a certain direction, then preface your statement with “I believe God is saying this or that.” And then proceed with caution, doing what needs to be done for confirmation.
Thoughts and ideas will come to mind, but everything must be weighed and evaluated according to God’s written Word and sound wisdom. That is what God honors.
There is a wisdom that is common to all, common laws of God that govern this world and govern our lives. For example, we’re to eat healthy to be healthy; we’re to exercise to be fit; we’re to drink water to quench our thirst; we’re to work a job to make money in order to provide for our family; to get a good job, we must get good training; to be safe, we must practice safety rules; when things don’t feel right with our health, we’re to see a doctor; to gain knowledge, we must apply ourselves to learn; to stay out of debt, we’re to live within our means; to be good in sports or to be good at anything, we must practice and learn; to be of use to others, we must make the effort, Etc.
Wisdom is not to be used for personal achievement or status with others. Wisdom says to walk in humility. Thus we’re to pursue wisdom in humility for the purpose of glorifying God in all things, and for the purpose of accomplishing all the things He has planned for us to do in this life.
God has given us intelligence, a mind to think and reason, and He requires us to use it it for His glory.
I believe God will give us peace in all the things he wants us to do. However, I believe we can also have a false peace about things that are based on false promises or false understanding of God’s Word. So we have to be very careful that the peace we have is according to truth.
God never condemns the use of wisdom. He never condemns making decisions according to sound wisdom. He only condemns making decisions based on the wisdom that is according to the world or according to false teaching. We can NEVER go wrong by living a wisdom-centered, wisdom-oriented life. We can NEVER go wrong by living wisely.
There is godly wisdom and there is worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom is anti-Christian and anti-Christ and anti-truth.
Yes, we’re to seek the Lord and an awareness of His presence, but it’s to be done in the right way. We don’t do it by emptying our minds and seeking Him in some mystical way, but by doing the very opposite, by filling our minds with thoughts of Him and thoughts of His Word.
God is faithful, but we must seek Him biblically. We must seek to do all things biblically.
Better, safer, and biblical to make decisions according to God-given wisdom. We have the mind of Christ. Some Christians think it’s more spiritual, more personal when God speaks directly via an inner voice or via miraculous revelation. But how is it less from God if He speaks and leads according to sound wisdom and common sense thinking that comes from Him? God has given us a mind and He’s given us the Holy Spirit to reason things out according to His will.
There’s a level of pride when we try to force God to speak to us the way we want Him to, rather than in the way He has ordained. There’s no humility in that.
When you start hearing full sentences via the inner voice, run!
We need to be faithful where we’re at. We need to be busy working and preparing and providing and being out in the world making a difference for Christ. These are the one’s whom God leads and uses.
How foolish not to be wise.
There’s nothing more wise than being wise.
We’re instructed to seek wisdom and to walk according to wisdom, but nowhere are we instructed to sit and listen for God’s voice.
Are we seeking God’s will or are we really seeking the experience of hearing from God (in an unusual way, perhaps in a miraculous way)?
There’s nothing more like Jesus than walking in His wisdom. There’s nothing more foolish than refusing to walk in wisdom, and insisting that God speak to us in some other way. When we walk in wisdom, we walk as Christ walked.
When God spoke to someone in Bible times, they weren’t seeking to hear from God the way many practice it today. When God spoke, people knew it and didn’t have to wonder about it.
With all the deception going on in the Church today, we need to take the high road of wisdom and good sense while applying biblical principles to every area of our lives.
Note Stephen and Philip in the book of Acts, what it said about them. They were filled with wisdom and with the Holy Spirit. Wisdom and Holy Spirit go together. It’s the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom to live by.
Many Christians seek the sensational, the miraculous, the personal and inner voice from God. But wisdom is the real treasure, the real word from God today.
There is no one more useful to God than someone who walks in His wisdom. There is no one who accomplishes more than someone who walks in God’s wisdom.
We must abandon these unbiblical ways of seeking God, and make the pursuit of wisdom our passion.
One of the first things new Christians need to learn, is how to walk in wisdom.
God doesn’t want us to stop using our brain, for we have the mind of Christ.
Those who walk according to the voices within, are on very shaky and dangerous ground. Our only stable foundation is the voice of God’s written Word, and the voice of wisdom.
We must seek a proper balance in our lives as Christians. So many Christians are drawn to the extremes. I believe we’re out of God’s will at either extreme. I believe God’s will is normally found in the balance.
Learning to walk in the wisdom of God is a life-long process. Therefore we must be diligent in pursuing it.
Be diligent to continuously learn principles of wisdom.
God may choose to do miracles in our lives; He may choose to reveal Himself to us in miraculous ways — but we are not to seek those things. Our responsibility is to seek God according to the way He has instructed us, and that is through the sound teaching of His Word and sound wisdom.
If we refuse to walk according to wisdom, we can’t expect God to reveal Himself to us in any other way. God only honors obedience.
Living wisely is always safe. Living according to inner voices and inner impressions is not safe – thus, depending on those things is not wise.
We can spare ourselves from so many bad decisions, from so many wasted years, from so much regret, if we will but live wisely.
Seek to be a man or woman of wisdom.
As we seek to live wisely in dependence on the Holy Spirit, He will energize and enable our minds to think and reason clearly. The result is the knowledge of God’s will.
The more I learn, the more I experience, the more I observe in churches, the more I observe in other Christians, the more convinced I am that there is a huge need among God’s people to learn how to interpret God’s Word rightly and how to live wisely. So much false teaching, so much deception, so many false practices is the result of not knowing how to properly study the Bible. We must learn the proper rules of interpretation. We must learn to study the Bible systematically.
I used to say, “I have to go with this and trust that I’m hearing from God (inner voice), otherwise, how do we ever know when we’re hearing from Him or not?” I was like so many others, without proper instruction and proper understanding. We can avoid confusion by living according to the principles of wisdom, the wisdom the God provides.
You may be thinking, “what if I’ve already made a lot of mistakes? What if I’m up there in age now? What’s left for me?” Well, wisdom says we have to work with what we have, not what we used to have. We must move forward in truth, in seeking wisdom the best we can — with God’s enabling grace. At every point in life, God requires us to be faithful with what we have and where we’re at.
The Old Testament is God’s Word, so I would never tell someone to avoid reading it. However, until a Christian has been grounded in the teachings of the New Testament, the OT can cause a lot of confusion regarding the will of God. My recommendation is to stay in the NT till you have a solid understanding of it. That will prepare you to properly learn the OT. The only exception I would make to this rule, is with Psalms and Proverbs. Those are books Christians should always be reading.
In regard to the Old Testament, Christians need to realize that it’s a Jewish book that looked ahead to its fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament. Accordingly, it’s not wise to seek to live out the OT as Christians. The NT was written especially for Christians. It’s our guide for living the Christian life.
Some Christians have the erroneous belief that God will work in their lives the same way that He worked in the lives of the prophets and people of God of the OT. It’s a trap. It will only lead to disappointment and a lot of wasted years….and perhaps disillusionment. We must also understand that God dealt with those in the early Church differently than He does with us in the post-apostolic era.
Trying to live out the Old Testament as New Testament Christians is not wisdom. Don’t misunderstand, the moral laws are always applicable. And there are many wonderful principles and promises of God to be learned from the OT. But we must be careful not to go beyond that. Again, we must first be grounded in the NT before we’re ready for the Old.
I bring in the subject of the Old Testament because I believe many Christians apply it in unwise ways, based on a lack of understanding of it. Here is an area where pastors should be making great effort to teach their people.
Those who routinely say things like, “God told me this, or God told me that, or God spoke to me and said this or that,” are not being wise. There’s no way of knowing for sure if it was God who spoke to you, or if it was simply your own voice. You could well be guilty of using God’s name in vain, attributing something that may not have been from him. If you believe God is speaking to you, it’s wise to preface your statement with, “I believe God is saying…….etc.”
Basically, those who claim that God told them this or that, are adding to Scripture, especially if we’re talking about full sentences. Leading us or directing us is not the same thing as that. Neither is giving us wisdom to live by.
If we believe God may be dealing with our heart about a particular matter, perhaps an area of ministry, for example, or a certain path to take, we must be very careful to test it with God’s Word and according to sound wisdom. Also seek counsel if necessary.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit does speak to our hearts, and He does lead us throughout our day as we rely upon Him to do so. He does at times speak to us about talking to certain people about Jesus. Etc. Go back and read my long paragraph about how God speaks to us. You will find that near the beginning of this study. The point I’m making throughout this study is, that we need to learn how to listen for and discern the voice of God rightly. That is normally through the voice of His written Word and the voice of wisdom. All voices need to be tested, and never assumed.
Whenever we feel drawn to God, to a deeper walk with Him, whenever we feel conviction of our sins, when we feel a strong love in our heart for Jesus, whenever we have a burden for someone’s salvation, whenever we feel compassion for the poor and the hurting, etc., we don’t have to wonder if it’s God dealing with our heart — of course He is! That’s not what I’m talking about in this study. These types of things can only come from God. But there is a whole lot of stuff that isn’t in this same category, things that aren’t certain. We need spiritual discernment to know the difference. If we’re not sure, then it needs to be evaluated and tested as we’ve discussed here.
As Christians, we’re to live by faith. We should start each day asking God to fill us with His wisdom, and to direct our way — and then simply trust that God is leading in all the things we do and in all the decisions we make. That’s the life of faith. That’s the way we live and walk in the Spirit. At the same time, we’re to continuously seek and learn the principles of both spiritual wisdom the wisdom common to all — for both types of wisdom are from God.
However, common wisdom is not worldly wisdom. Common wisdom is something we’re always to practice (for example, don’t build your house on the sand or it won’t hold up – Matt 7:24-27). Wordly wisdom is always anti-Christian. It always goes against the teachings and values and priorities and principles of the Christian faith. That requires us to be discerning; that requires us to have a good understanding of God’s Word.
Apply yourself to learn the principles of wisdom throughout your life. Do much reading about it. Study the book of Proverbs, in particular. Make it a passion to learn and apply that book to your life.
As you begin each day, pray for the filling of the Spirit, the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Pray that God’s will would be done in your life. Pray that He would direct your every step, your every decision. Pray that He would fill you with His wisdom, that you would continuously grow in wisdom. Then just rest in God. Trust that the will of God will be done throughout the course of your day. That’s the walk of faith that we’re called to. That’s walking in the Spirit — as He applies the Word of God in our lives and transforms us into the likeness of Christ.
What about all the books on contemplative prayer and the Christian leaders who are endorsing it?
People crave the sensational, the unusual, the mystical. That’s what sells. It’s sad to me that so many Christians crave stuff like this more than they do solid Bible teaching or sound wisdom. People are into two things today, the sensational and fluff. That’s why I have a teaching website. That’s why I’m writing a commentary on the New Testament. That’s why I expose false teaching. There has to be an alternative to all the junk that’s out there. It’s only sound, verse by verse teaching of God’s Word that’s going to transform our lives and provide the means of knowing God’s will (Ro 12:1-2).
Just because a Christian leader endorses a book or a practice, doesn’t make it biblical. When the Message Paraphrase came out, some big-name leaders endorsed it. However, I have a hard time believing that they took a close look at, because it’s the most corrupt version of the Bible I’ve ever read. It’s so bad that I cannot refer to it as God’s Word. It contains God’s Word, but I can’t in good conscience call it that.
Same way with books on contemplative prayer. There may be some big-name leaders endorsing it, but I have a difficulty believing they’ve taken the time to study it out biblically, or have read the opposing views of it. I learned a long time ago, that just because someone is recognized as a Christian leader, doesn’t make them a careful student of the Word. I believe most of the diligent Bible students among pastors and leaders, are those who don’t have the name, but are faithfully serving in small churches somewhere.
There’s no doubt that contemplative prayer, in all its various forms, is an unbiblical practice. It grieves my heart that so many Christian leaders have endorsed it and so many Christians practice it. I have to believe they haven’t done a very careful study of this from a biblical perspective. Pastors and other Christian leaders, are leading a lot of people astray, and will give an account for it one day.
I believe there are people reading this who will continue to practice whatever form of praying and listening and hearing that they’ve been doing – perhaps for many years. I think most will do so because of the value they place on experience. I think for many Christians, experience trumps the Bible. But let me be clear, interpreting the Bible according to one’s experience can only lead to deception – or keep one in deception. The wise Christian will interpret his or her experience according to what the Bible teaches. We must first learn what the Bible teaches, then if our experience conflicts with that, then we must abandon whatever we’re doing.
Finally, after everything I’ve said, we have to be careful that we don’t go to the other extreme, where we’re paranoid about everything we hear, fearing that we’re hearing false voices…..even if it’s only our own. We just need to be careful and follow the biblical way of discerning God’s voice and God’s will. All I’m doing here is trying to make Christians aware of the wrong way of listening for God’s voice and the wrong way of discerning God’s will, while showing the biblical way of doing that. We need to avoid the extremes, and keep everything in proper balance. We must seek God on His terms, not on ours. We must seek to hear His voice and discern His will according to the way He’s designed it.
If we practice the right things; if we practice seeking God’s voice and God’s will via the sound instruction of His Word and the sound wisdom that He provides, the Lord will honor that. It’s a practice that we learn, it’s a walk of wisdom that we learn. It takes time, but God will give us enabling grace as we seek Him the right way. If we don’t, then we’ll just be spinning our wheels — or worse still, we may become trapped in the sphere of deception.