“The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4).
My friend, Pastor James Richardson, now in Heaven, told me his granddaughter Leanne, perhaps six or eight years old, put a great theological question to him. “Papa,” she said, “How do I know when it’s God speaking to me and when it’s just me speaking to myself?”
James said, “Honey, that’s one of the hardest questions you’ll ever face in this life!”
The problem, says another friend, is that the Lord’s voice sounds a lot like mine.
Maybe for him. Not for me.
In my experience, God has a tendency to say things I had never thought of, revealing insights new to me, calling me to tasks outside my comfort zone. Not once has He asked if i would “like” to do something or “find something convenient.”. He commands; I obey. It’s what servants do. His way is hardly the obvious, rarely the easiest and never the smoothest, but always the wisest and smartest. My constant prayer is “Not my will but Thine be done.”
I wrote that on Facebook one night. Then, next morning while on my pre-dawn walk, the Lord called it to my mind.
So! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. The way to tell that the voice you are hearing in your spirit is the Lord and not yourself involves the following…
M – It’s MINE. Uniquely a message for me. It’s just right and suits me to a T.
N – It’s NEW. Something I had not thought of. It is not the result of something I read last night or that my wife told me this morning.
O – It’s from OUTSIDE. This is not a thought of mine, consciously or subconsciously. It came from “out there somewhere.” The message was not the logical conclusion of something I’d been considering, but more of an interruption. An insertion into my thinking.
P – It’s PERFECT. It fits the situation I’m dealing with exactly. I know it at the moment the message arrives, and increasingly as the days go by. “This was of God.”
Q – It’s QUIET. Not noisy, not by earthquakes or tornadoes or fires, as Elijah found out. It’s the still small voice of His Spirit in my heart. (See I Kings 19:12)
R – It’s RIGHT. Had it been an arrow, it would have hit the target. Had this message been something of my own doing, sometimes it would work out and sometimes it would be shown to be wrong. But God’s voice never gives bad advice. “He is upright, He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:15).
S – It’s SPIRITUAL. It’s Christ-honoring. It’s heard only by those who are spiritual. I think of our Lord’s statement in Luke 6:27. “I say to you who hear…” Not everyone “hears” spiritual things. Not everyone “gets” it as I Corinthians 2:14 says.
T – It’s TRUE to Scripture. This word is not some kind of extra-biblical revelation, but is completely consistent with the Word. God never contradicts Himself.
So, there we have it. MNOPQRST. Smile, please.
I give you my word that I did not start out to do that. But as some of the letters began to suggest themselves, I decided to give the rest a try. (A word to preachers among us: Just because I did this does not mean you must. And the fact that I did these 8 sequential letters most definitely does not mean you might want to use the other 18 in this pattern. Never overburden your audience with that kind of foolishness. Smiley-face here, please.)
We could now add a whole section on “static that interferes with our hearing the voice of the Lord.” But we’ll save that for another time.
Just let me remind you that, in the words of Henry Blackaby, if you are not hearing from the Lord on a regular basis, you are missing out on one of the basic parts of the Christian life.
“Speak Lord, thy servant heareth” (I Samuel 3:10).
What is God saying to you today? Please obey Him, my friend. Obedience is always the litmus test of believers. See 2 Corinthians 2:9 as well as Luke 6:46 and John 13:17.