Discerning the Voice of Others
God can speak to us through others. He uses the voice of human beings to convey his message. However, Christians must be able to discern when the human voice is speaking a message from God. Furthermore, we must determine when it is in God’s will to follow a person’s voice.
Family and Relatives
The human voice may be speaking from a human perspective or giving a message from God. We must discern the difference. Furthermore, when a human speaks some should be rejected; however, it is God’s will to follow some. The human voice may come through a spouse such as the example of Adam and Abraham obeying the voice of their spouse (Genesis 3:17; Genesis 16:2). This may be the voice of a relative such as Moses listening to the voice of his father in law, Jethro (Exodus 18:24). It could be the voice of a parent (Deuteronomy 21:18). In all examples that involve family and relatives, we cannot assume to follow just because of the relationship. Listening to the human voice should be done through the filtering of the word of God, and the leading of the Spirit. Children should obey their parents in the Lord. Wives should submit to their husbands in accordance with the word of God.
Man’s voice should not be equated with the voice of God. When a man is giving a message from God then his words should be received as coming from the Lord. The first man Adam listened to the voice of his wife disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:17). Abraham listened to the voice of his wife to have sex with their made instead of believing God for the promised child (Genesis 16:2). Both Adam and Abraham should have rejected the voice of their spouse since they were speaking outside of God’s will. Human opinions and conclusions, even when good, should be evaluated as to whether they are in accordance with the Word of God and the Spirit of Christ. Reject or rebuke the voice of men when it violates the voice of God. Jesus rebuked Peter, recognizing that he was speaking according to the desires of Satan in Matthew 16:23 saying, But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Governmental leaders should only be listened to in accordance with their God-given roles to punish wickedness and preserve civility, but their voice should not be equated with the voice of God. God killed Herod when the people regarded his voice as the voice of God; God judged Herod because of it (Acts 12:22). God must be obeyed above the voice of government. The apostles told the religious leaders of Israel, “we ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). When the commandments of government violate the voice of God, then we must obey God.
Voice of God’s Servants
Isaiah 50:10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant,
The believer can follow the voice of a true servant of God once as it aligns with the scriptures. A servant of God is a ministry leader who is accountable for ministering to others, such as a pastor, or any in the ministry gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher). True servants of God will have a credible reputation of godly living, Biblical teaching, and faithful leadership. A servant of God may preach, teach, prophecy, or provide biblical counseling. When a servant of God speaks according to God’s word, God is using the servant of God to bring direction.
The faithful believer will search the Bible to ensure that what a servant of God is speaking is based on scripture. When it comes to personal prophecy and biblical counseling, the Spirit of God will convict the believer to move in the direction that’s in His will, or confirm it with an inner assurance. In my experience as a pastor, oftentimes when a believer seeks counseling, they already had a nudging from the Spirit as to the wise way to go. The counsel of a godly minister frequently confirms what the Spirit was already witnessing to the believer; or otherwise, warn the believer to avoid a direction that the Spirit was already bringing conviction about.
Admonitions to Discern the Voice of Ministers
Don’t despise true prophecies.
Don’t mistakenly reject the sermon, teaching or counsel of true servants of God because of a flaw in their communication. They may use strong words, or they may be soft-spoken. Or, they may use terms that you find offensive. It’s the agreement of the message with the Word of God that is crucial, not word usage, or personal styles.
God will often use the voice of a true servant of God to train you toward recognizing His voice. When Samuel first heard God’s voice, he thought it was the voice of the priest Eli. It’s not unusual for you to hear or have revelations that involve a true servant of God in your life. Following the example and instruction of a true servant of God will help you to discern God’s voice.
Informational / Instructional / Confirmational
Preaching and teaching based on God’s word are instructional. These are not optional but should be applied in one’s life.
Prophetic revelations are sometimes informational (of the past, present, or future); Based on the information given in a prophecy, then steps must be made according to God’s word. The information is not necessarily a direction or instruction. Rather, it provides knowledge so that an informed decision can be made in line with God’s word. One can always seek God for further wisdom in deciding what to do.
Prophecies that include instruction or direction must align with God’s word, and or confirm the Spirit’s convicting leading. In this time of grace, it is not God’s plan for believers to be directed from others without any confirmation from the Bible and or the Spirit who lives within them. You should be able to confirm a prophetic instruction through the Bible and or the conviction of the Spirit in your life.
Counsel may be instructional – a direct command from scripture such as the Bible teaches not to marry an unbeliever. Biblical instructions should be obeyed. Counsel may also be a prophetic instruction bringing conviction of an action that must be taken.
Counsel may be optional – weighing the risks and rewards of different options based on the wisdom of God’s word, prophetic insight, the grace and knowledge given to the servant of God, known spiritual and practical information about your life. However, this type of counsel should not be taken lightly, as the servant of God is often given wisdom from the Spirit of God to guide toward the right path.
Reject the word of self-proclaimed prophets and ministers who compromise the exclusivity and deity of Christ, gives a license to sin, are bound in sexual immorality, and speaks against Bible-believing churches and true ministers of the gospel (2 Peter 2). These often bring division, and seldom remain faithful to a local church.
God can speak through a servant of God the solution to a problem that you may be having.
A servant of God may be more knowledgeable about scripture verses and promises. He may be able to direct you toward a promise of scripture for you to hold to for deliverance from the problem.
God can reveal the solution to a problem through a servant of God. This is often the word of wisdom in operation. The servant of God see what needs to be done, and the outcome of the action. Examples:
Jesus sending Peter to find money in the fish’s mouth to pay taxes (Matthew 17:26-27).
After Peter failed to catch fishes through the night, Jesus telling Peter to go out deep into the lake and let down his net for a draught of fishes (Luke 5:4-10).
Elisha’s instruction to the woman to borrow as many containers as possible, fill them with the oil she has and then sell it, so as to pay off her dead husband’s debt (2 Kings 4:1-7).
Interpretation of a dream or vision (such as with Joseph).
God assigns you to support the ministry of a servant of God. When you face a personal problem, the solution can often come through the servant of God. Essentially, the servant can give a solution that maximizes your ability to continue supporting his ministry. Because you are assigned to the servant of God, when you obey those instructions it also releases blessings into your life.
Matthew 10:41-42 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.