[b]Recognizing The Voice Of The Spirit[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
The Holy Spirit speaks to us through an inner pressure in our spirits rather than through an audible voice. He urges us inwardly either to take or not to take a certain course of action. Normally, this is the result of much time spent in prayer, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed course of action. However the Holy Spirit may also give us a sudden urge at times to go somewhere or to do something. But sudden impulses to do something ridiculous can come from the Devil or from ourselves. So we must be careful. The Holy Spirit will in any case never lead us contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
We can distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit by the increasing pressure He produces in our spirits and the growing peace He gives to our minds, as we pray over the matter. "The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom.8:6-NASB). The Devil's voice is usually harassing and often accompanied by threats of judgment, if we do not obey instantly. God invariably gives us sufficient time to consider and be sure of His will.
On some occasions the Spirit may lead us to do something our minds cannot fully understand. Stephen Grellet, an American preacher, was once led by the Spirit to a certain logging camp which he found deserted. But he was so sure of his guidance, that he went into the empty dining hall and preached his sermon. Many years later, a man approached Grellet in London. Reminding him of the incident, he said he had been the cook at that camp and had been the only man there that day. He had hidden outside a window and listened to Grellet's sermon. He was converted and had gone on to work for the Lord. Such guidance however is extremely rare.
It is often not easy for us to distinguish between our own heart's voice and the voice of the Spirit, for our hearts are so deceitful. For instance, when considering a possible life-partner, we can easily mistake the emotional pressure and the "growing feeling of peace and joy at every contemplation of the proposed step", for the witness of the Holy Spirit. The chances of being deceived are, however, considerably lessened, if we examine our motives and make sure we desire the glory of God alone and are prepared to accept whatever He chooses for us. It is usually where such yieldedness is lacking or where motives are selfish that we go astray.
God's will may sometimes be just what we like ourselves, but it can also be what we do not instinctively like. We should not think God's will is always the most difficult course of action that lies before us. Neither need it be the easiest course of action. When we are in a difficult situation or a tough job, we may be tempted to run away from the place. This can easily be mistaken for the leading of the Spirit. On such occasions, if we are in doubt, it is better to stay where we are and to trust God to give us grace to manifest Christ's victory in our situation
One practical step, when you have to decide on a course of action, could be to draw up a 'balance sheet'. Draw a line across a sheet of paper and write down all the reasons for doing a particular thing on one side, and all the reasons against it on the other. Pray over these reasons daily and revise the list as necessary. Be sincerely willing to accept either course of action. As you continue to pray, the Holy Spirit will give you a witness in your spirit as to what you are to do. If you experience a growing peace in your spirit about a particular course of action, this will usually be a clear indication of what God wants you to do. The Bible says, "Let the peace (which comes) from Christ (through the Holy Spirit), rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts - deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds" (Col. 3:15-Amplified). As in a football game, where all play stops when the referee blows his whistle (to indicate a foul), so we should check ourselves when we lose our peace. We should proceed ahead only when we have perfect peace in our spirits.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon