When I was interviewing to go on a mission team, I remember asking some more mature disciples those very questions. Two of them answered in unique ways and I still to this day find comfort and guidance in their words.
A woman shared that basically, "You study it out if you can in the bible, pray and ask God, seek advice and then it comes down to trust. You learn to trust that because you've done things God's way...He will bless the decision and guide you." The guy shared that "you consider all the reasons both positive and negative then push them to the side. After that, what does your 'gut' tell you to do? Go with that because that's the Spirit talking to you."
Interesting, huh? I probably do a combination of those. I read the bible, pray, seek advice from God and spiritual disciples, then after weighing the good and bad, I toss them to the side, make a decision and trust God.
How about some scriptures? :) I'll provide a few for meditation:
Galatians 5:25 says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
Romans 8:26-28 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 "...pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit."
John 14:15-18 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." then in verses 25-27, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
There are many scriptures but these are some of the first I turn to because they have a lot of focus on the Spirit. You might be curious and bold enough to ask, "Do you hear God's voice?" For me the answer is well... yes, God talks to me through His scriptures. Verses always come up while I'm praying. (so be in your bible!) In fact, even today God answered with a verse while praying about this post. More about that in a bit...
It's hard to describe to someone else how I discern the Spirit and God can communicate with us differently. I'll start basic with how I detect the Spirit and you can pray from there. Reflect on these situations for a moment:
- If you are a baptized disciple of Jesus, then you probably know what it's like to feel 'drawn' to someone with whom you should share your faith. What takes place within you?
- When you read a scripture or hear the word preached and you 'feel' or experience within you being cut, convicted, or overwhelmingly inspired!
- What about when you are watching or listening to something that's not pleasing to God? Recall what you experience inside? In a lot of ways, I call that grieving the Holy Spirit.
Being confident in your God: As I mentioned before, I was praying this morning about this post when a verse came to mind. Specifically, I was thinking about a time when leaders in a sister congregation challenged a sister's a decision by saying, "I don't think that's what the Spirit would want...Did you actually hear God's voice telling you what to do?" I was reflecting on this and asking God, "Lord, what leg do we have to stand on when we know a decision is from You but others don't think it is the wisest or best one? How can I be confident when accused that my decision isn't guided by your Spirit because it doesn't make sense to them?" As always, God brought a scripture to mind through the Spirit while I prayed....Matthew 4:1. Which also lead to others (Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1), Acts 11:1-14, Acts 16:7 or especially in Acts 20:23 when it is written, "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me."
So why did God put Matthew 4:1 on my heart this morning while I was praying? Because it doesn't seem wise for Jesus to follow the Spirit and go to the desert to be tempted by the devil! Or during the time when Acts was written, it didn't make sense to others for Peter to go and eat with uncircumcised men like God had told him to. Sometimes the direction we as individuals hear God sending us doesn't make sense to others...or even us! We know it didn't feel comfortable for Paul to know that prison and hardship was facing him as he made decisions guided by God. Not to mention, unmarried Mary carrying the Christ or the disciples dropping everything to follow him. Not easy! Doesn't make sense in our minds!
I've learned that the direction God sends us is not always going to be the easy way, the most comfortable, or the simplest. Some don't think a decision is from God if it's unsafe, a hard road, or not a task that the church is currently doing. If you think that God's going to always, always put you on a smooth road together, watch out and consider...is that really what you see happening in the bible? We must get surrendered when asking which way God wants us to go that we might not like it and it might not make ANY sense others.
As fellow believers, who are called to love one another, we must learn to trust God and be okay that we don't understand why the Spirit might be calling other people to different decisions - even ones we don't see as best. The fact is the direction God sends them might not even be bad...it might just be different than the rest of us. We all know that just because it's different doesn't mean they are not being unified or are wrong. This is where being confident in God should strongly take over. (much tougher, I know)
I could write more but I don't want the post to become a novel. HA. I just want to share my own experiences and give you something to consider, study, and pray about over the next few days. And...as I do with many of my close friends, I am praying that God will help you to discern His will, His Holy Spirit, and that you will be able to hear Him more and more with every passing day.