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Dan Augsburger
God's Voice and Determining God's Will

Abstract: Many individuals claim to hear God's voice. Some appear to legitimately do so, but not all! It seems Satan sometimes uses the claim to having "heard God's voice" for mischief. In this article I summarize what I have learned about the place of "God's voice" in determining His will. These thoughts first appeared in my weekly newsletter.

Perhaps the most common question that is directed my way is how to know God’s will. Lately there has been an added twist to the question: “What am I to do with the “voice” that sometimes speaks to me?” Voices are a challenge when it comes to prayer—sometimes confusion comes from too many voices speaking; sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any voice.
 
There are people who say “God told me…” and it seems to be legitimate. I am a bit envious of them to be honest. These people love the Lord and are thoroughly committed to whatever He wants. Others speak of God giving them dreams—particularly in primitive cultures or in the early stages of their Christian walk. I think that is wonderful too. Some talk of God “speaking” to them, but I am frightened because what God seems to be saying is at variance with what God has spoken through His word or other teaching. For example, one time in the past I was informed that I was going to die during a particular week, something that made me initially sad, but obviously did not happen.
 
The point is, any time you rely on God’s voice alone for direction, you are potentially placing yourself in a dangerous position since Satan will seek to take advantage of such a mode of seeking direction. For example George Müller only used "lots" twice before giving up of them, for both times the lots misdirected him--he comments later that Satan can apparently turn the coin as it is falling to the ground. God uses multiple voices when He leads us and we must seek to hear from all of them, and to hear them speak unitedly to correctly know what God is saying.
 
Generally speaking, God rarely communicates directly. In my life I can probably count on one hand the number of times God seemed to be speaking to me, and it appears that my experience is similar to many others. That doesn't mean that God hasn't given strong impressions, but God speaking directly as in saying specific words in unmistakable ways has been more the exception, and certainly not something that could be planned on ahead of time--in fact came when I was desperate for wisdom on at least one occasion. When God spoke, it was short, to the point, profound and life changing. God had already been directing through his word, was providentially opening and closing doors, and the direct communication was in complete harmony with—and confirmed—that prior communication.
 
I am certain that God prefers to speak to us through His word and He will rarely communicate directly if it is already in the Bible—though the devil would have us believe God speaks apart from His word. When God speaks He speaks in harmony with His Word. In reading countless books written on prayer by great Christians down through the ages, I find the same thing. Many speak of having received strong lingering impressions and eventually sensed direction in the basis of those impressions, but they also confirmed those impressions in other ways--remember Gideon!
 
I always come back to what George Müller said regarding knowing God’s will:

1. 90% of the challenge of knowing God’s will is choosing to have no will of our own—or, to put it another way, choosing to have WHATEVER God wants. (Luke 9:23)
2. Recognize that God’s leading will always be in harmony with His word (Isaiah 8:20).
3. Realize that God’s leading will often be accompanied by the opening and closing doors of His providence. (Prov. 3:5,6)
4. Hold out for God’s peace, for God’s leading will be accompanied by His peace (Col. 3:15). If you sense that something isn’t quite right, or just don’t feel at peace about it, it either means “no” or “wait.”
5. Share God's leading with a mature Christian and ask them to assess God's leading since that person may be more objective. (Prov. 11:14)
 
Müller said that any time he rushed beyond God’s leading he invariably made mistakes:

"I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY and PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the word of the living God, I made great mistakes."
 
Müller did one other thing that was brilliant when it came to knowing God’s will. When he felt satisfied that God was leading in a particular direction, he would go to his friend Craik, share what God had put on his heart, and ask Craik to expose any unworthy motives and/or scriptural objections to his intentions. In this way Müller was further protected from making poor decisions. I think this would be a good plan to adopt, but make sure you are going to a friend with a mature Christian experience. Such a practice is confirmed by Prov. 11:14.

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