You’ve heard it many times and so have I, “The Lord told me . . .” And that response is supposed to quiet the critics or explain some bold leap of faith.
“The Lord told me I married the wrong person and that I am to divorce my wife and marry so and so.”
“God told me to quit my job and start an Internet business.”
“Jesus is calling me to Bora Bora as a missionary.”
Regardless of the reality that the guy starting a new business has zero financial savvy or business experience, because “God told him” we’re suppose to smile and jump on board.
Because “God has called them” we’re expected to get behind the people wanting to go to the mission field and ignore the truth that they have no formal training. We’re supposed to disregard that fact that the only experience they’ve had as a missionary was a short-term trip to Mexico.
Now read this next part carefully, I do believe God still speaks. I know the value of that “still small voice” of the Spirit. Many times, I have personally “heard the Lord” in my heart giving me direction. Biblically and historically, those who’ve heard God call them to something way beyond themselves have done many amazing things.
So let me be clear: I believe in listening to and following the Spirit’s guidance.
But I also know that many crazy things have been done in the name of the Lord. I’ve seen lives, families, and ministries destroyed because something foolish and wrong was executed under the “Thus Saith the Lord” banner.
So are there any guidelines we should follow when people think that they’ve heard from God? Are there some Biblical safeguards that we should exercise when we think the Lord has spoken to us? And what can you say to someone who pulls the God card as if that’s the end of the conversation?
Good questions. Great questions!
Here are some things to consider:
1. Is it Biblical? What does the Bible have to say about it?
Trust me on this one; God is never going to contradict himself. He doesn’t say “I hate divorce” or “No one should seek a divorce except in adultery” and then tell you, “It’s okay, she’s not really who I had in mind for you, go ahead and marry your secretary.”
God’s never going to tell you to lie, cheat, steal, or abuse. If it’s clear in the Word of God, then that always trumps anything you think you’ve heard.
2. Is it wise?
God is a God of wisdom. He’s given us his Word that is full of truth and wisdom. An entire book of the Old Testament (Proverbs) is pretty much dedicated to helping us operate in godly wisdom.
Yes, there are times when what God asks you to do will contradict the wisdom of this world, but functioning in his wisdom is always wise. Simply put, God might ask you to do something completely out of the ordinary and apparently crazy at times (like Gideon reducing his army from 30,000 to 300), but it will not be unwise (like starting a business when you’ve got a track record of financial mismanagement).
3. Is it confirmed by godly elders and pastors in the Body of Christ?
Any one of us can find friends to support our crazy ideas. Some of us are master salesmen who can talk our wives into just about anything (been there, done that!). It’s fairly easy to surround ourselves with people who like us enough to back us up.
In 1 Kings 12, there’s the story of King Rehoboam. He made a huge mistake in “rejecting the advice the elders gave him (as he) consulted the young men who had grown up with him and who were serving him” (1 Kings 12:8). In the end, things didn’t end so well for Rehoboam because he only listened to his friends and pals.
Every major decision I’ve made in my life and ministry that ended well came in the context of wise and godly counsel from my pastors. They are people who know God, know me, and know wisdom. They have worked with me, and they know my strengths and my weakness. And they are unafraid to speak the truth in love to me.
The writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 13:17 (NIV), “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” The Bible expects us to submit to godly authority in our lives.
So let me wrap this up by encouraging you to listen to God. Expect him to lead and direct you by his Spirit. Be bold to trust and believe in him. Absolutely!
But never simply pull the “God card” as an excuse to do whatever you think you should do. If it is God, it will line up with Scripture, it will be wise, and those in Biblical authority who know you best will confirm it.
When we were given the opportunity to expand our facility at Eastpoint, it was in the shadow of the great recession. I prayed and in my heart I felt God’s prompting, “Go for it.” But I knew if it was truly God that it would need to be confirmed by the pastors and board members of our church. I knew I needed their wisdom and their support before moving forward.
To a person, the counsel I received from these godly leaders was, “Go for it.” Believe me, if they had said, “No!” I would have submitted to their counsel. Why? Because God protects the humble and the submitted, but he opposes the proud.
By the way, God did a miracle of epic proportions in our last remodel, but that’s another story!
Here’s my prayer for you found in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritof wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
It’s always best when we move in “wisdom and revelation.” Not either-or, but both-and.
When God speaks to you, check the Word, check your heart, check it for wisdom, and check with your pastor before you do anything. This is God’s way, and it will protect you from error and foolishness.
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