The Way God Speaks

A couple months back, James MacDonald examined personal revelation in his Hope in the Authority of the King series. Here he explains his perspective on the way God speaks:

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.943600&w=425&h=350&fv=]

more about “The Way God Speaks“, posted with vodpod

MacDonald describes five methods in which God speaks:

  1. From the Word of God itself (this is most common)
  2. From the Word through a person (this is less common)
  3. From a person, not contradicting the Word (this is not common)
  4. From the Holy Spirit to my spirit (this is uncommon)
  5. In a dream to my mind (this is very uncommon)

You can find a PDF of the chart shown in the video here.

The first two, we’ve undoubtedly all experienced at some point.

If you’ve read the Bible wanting to hear from God, you’ll hear from Him.

It’s His primary means of communicating to us today.

The second, likewise, happens through the preached Word most frequently. Have you ever had a moment in a sermon where it felt like whatever was being said was for you and you alone?

That may have been an instance of God speaking.

But what about the other three that MacDonald describes?

Have you experienced any of those?

I can think of maybe a couple of times when I’ve felt certain God was speaking to me outside of Scripture and preaching; and every time it was a call to preach. One was particularly awkward as it was at Kingdom Bound in 2008. It was short, but apparently pretty okay.

My questions for you:

  1. What’s your experience of God speaking to you been like?
  2. How did you go about verifying whether or not what you’ve been told is true?
  3. Did you obey? And if so, what happened?

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  • Steve Pye

    I thoroughly agree with all of these methods, and in this order, although I believe that for #3-#5, the test should always be thorough examination against the Word. If it’s not directly from the Word, it had better be fully in line with it, and the only way to test that, is to compare it to the Word directly. I am even cautious of something that is “extra-biblical but not anti-biblical” (#3) because of too much potential for margin of error or misinterpretation. Many things “do not contradict” and yet are still not fully in line with scripture.

    I have met a few people in my life who have placed #4 in the #1 position, and #3 in the #2 position in their own lives–believing that God regularly speaks through them, even when it isn’t something from the Word. I avoid these people now. I’ve had several circumstances where I have been exposed to people who regularly believed that they were revealing words of God, and frequently acted according to things triggering from #3 and #4. Those same people have often tried to encourage me to act based on their delivered word as well. I won’t go into all the details about those events or stories, but suffice it to say: if it’s not via #1 or #2 first, it’s not worth listening to. Certainly if it contradicts or doesn’t line up with #1 or #2, it’s false.

    That said… I have also witnessed, and been blessed, with #1 and #2 in my life. I have had many, many personal circumstances of #1 occurring, as I’m sure many people have. I would agree that probably for every ten times I witness #1, I also witness an occurrence of #2. However I have always felt that any time that #2 or #3 occur, I expect that God will provide his own confirmation, either through scripture directly, or through at least one other person (so that there are two or more occurrences of the same message being delivered from a person). In fact, I expect at least three people in total to voluntarily share the word if it’s not something directly from scripture. For me, I believe that if God “can’t” say something important to me through scripture, then he needs to send at least three “random” people before I will accept that it’s from him. And for anything spoken that is outside of scripture, there should be ten times as much scripture to back it up.

    One time in particular, someone I know in a leadership position shared a word from God–something very specific, a prophetic, future event that would impact the team they were leading. But this person then used the opportunity to draw the attention to their qualifications as a leader, and that God was speaking through them, and therefore their involvement was critical to the success of the team they were leading. I challenged this person on it, and pointed out that the glory was for God, and not for them, and that I refused to accept their interpretation and would instead wait for the precise time at which God revealed that he would intervene. I then literally sat and waited for God that day. Sure enough, and to the witness of several people, down to the minute, the event occurred as the person had shared. It was too specific to be anything but God. But instead of following the direction resulting from that event, this person followed their own ideas. The result was a very long downward spiral of this person’s life, of the lives of those on their team, and in the end, the complete collapse of that team and all the resources provided to it–all because the leader took the prophetic word to be an indication of their role as a prophet, rather than an indication of God as a provider. They took the idea of being a prophet, and began lording it over the team as to why they were the most important leader.

    So in the end, my experience has been this: God is very specific. He is very detailed. The Word is also very specific and detailed, and He will speak through that before He will speak through anything else. If someone shares something with me, and it’s not directly from scripture, it’s probably not from God… unless two other people show up and say the same thing. When God does intervene in a supernatural way, He makes it unmistakable that it is Him–but we have to watch for it. He isn’t willing to share the glory with anyone else. As soon as we take the glory on ourselves, we are carrying the name of God falsely, because we are using God’s miracles to increase our own kingdom instead of His. And our kingdoms fail tragically when we do that. I’ve watched them fail. As a person who was part of the team affected in the example above, I can confidently say that when God gives a specific word, obedience is critical, but more importantly, there cannot be even a shred of pride that suggests that we are in any way sharing the glory with God. If the pride is there, the fall will also be there.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Great thoughts, Steve. I really appreciate the thoroughness of your response.

      Your example of the leader trusting in a prophetic gift and his abilities rather than in Giver of those gifts and abilities is a sobering one for me, simply because it’s so easy for me to do the same.

      Generally, my feeling has been, not to brush aside those #3-5 experiences, but certainly to hold them at arm’s length. Sometimes this is out of cowardice, but more often than not it’s because I’m just so leery of words, dreams or visions that aren’t checked.

      An example I read recently is of a man who believed that God was telling him to cosign a loan for someone who was going to buy his business so that he (the author) could pursue a ministry endeavor.

      While things apparently worked out, I was left scratching my head & thinking, “really?” (particularly since we’re told never to cosign a loan in Prov. 11:15 and 22:26-27)

      As he was still a new Christian, I’m going with this being a “grace of God” moment, where he was spared the consequences of things going very very badly, but…

  • Emily Armstrong

    Over the past 5-ish years of being a christian, my communicative experience with God has gone from being largely method 3 & 4 to being mainly 1 & 2. I think this is probably because I didn’t have much Bible stored in my head yet and because the Christians around me were trying to “be gentle” in helping me align my lifestyle with God’s principles. So I needed extra help directly from the Holy Spirit.

    In instances when I’ve felt the Holy Spirit telling me something very specific, I’ve either done additional research or just gone ahead with whatever it is to see what happens (the second response being if it’s something that God would probably want me to do anyway, ex: share the gospel).

    I must admit I don’t always obey, but when I do the results aren’t always the same; sometimes I’ll leave a situation thinking “Wow! That was so cool! Thanks God!” and other times “I wonder what that was all about…” having to just trust that God is indeed working all things together for His glory.