Q: I dated a guy who claimed "God" told him things all the time. He said God showed him we were supposed to get married. For a while I went along with it, but deep down I felt uneasy. Later I learned he was involved in a cult. How can you tell if someone really has heard from God?
A: Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who try to manipulate or control others by claiming that they have received a divine directive. Some are well-meaning. They sincerely believe that they have a message from God for you. Others have motives that are more sinister or self-serving. Either way, by claiming, "Thus saith the Lord," they make it virtually impossible for you to disagree with them. After all, how can you argue with God?
But is it really God? How can you tell?
In Acts 17, the Bereans didn't even take the apostle Paul's word for it. When Paul came, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they listened to his message "with great eagerness." Then, they "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Because they studied the Word for themselves, they were able to discern the truth, and they received it with great joy. In their diligence, they set a great example for us today.
Sometimes God does speak to us through other believers. Often, He uses the circumstances of our daily lives to send us a message. He also speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, in times of worship and prayer, and especially in the careful study of His Word.
James 1:5 says if you need wisdom, pray for it—and God will give it to you! So before you make an important decision based on what "God told" someone else, take time to seek God for yourself—pray, study, and seek the counsel of a trusted pastor or other mature believers in your life.
Ask God to reveal His will to you clearly, powerfully, personally. Then watch for His answers.
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (Crossway) and Take It to Heart: 60 Meditations on God and His Word (Crossway).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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