How will you know when God is giving you a sign? What will be different when something is just happening randomly compared to when God is trying to tell you something?
When it comes to what the Bible says about signs from God, there are different forms of “signs” people often refer to. In the article titled What Does the Bible Say About Signs from God?, I explain that there are basically 3 categories of signs when it comes to the Bible.
First, there are signs and wonders. God chooses when to use these signs but we are not supposed to ask God for this type of sign because we are not to put God to the test (Luke 4:12).
Second, there are signs that are indications of what biblical principle God wants you to apply. This is the type of “signs” Christians should always look for so they know how to live the way God wants them to live. For example, if you are asking God if you should date someone, you should not look for a shooting star. You should first see if this person is a Christian. If they are not, that would be a sign God does not want you to date them because 2 Corinthians 6:14 states to not be unequally yoked.
Third, there are signs that are horoscopes and superstitions. This is when we look for unrelated symbolic meanings in things that don’t relate at all to the questions we are asking God about. Again, a shooting start would not be a sign God wants you to date someone because that cosmic event has nothing to do with biblical truth and relationship principles. Christians should not meddle with this type of “signs.”
In this article we are talking about the second category of “signs from God.” So here are 5 things that often happen when God is giving you a sign.
1. If What You Sensed God Said Matches What Happens in Reality, This Is Often God Showing You a Sign
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make when trying to figure out if God really said something to them or if it was just their own thoughts is that they put more value on what they heard rather than on what happens in reality.
God has given you some authority over what happens in your mind and heart. However, most of what happens outside of your body is out of your control and under God’s authority. Therefore, if you heard something in your head there is a high probability your own will was involved. However, if something happens out in reality you will know you didn’t have anything to do with that because you know you don’t have authority over what happens and doesn’t happen in most cases.
So when you do hear something in your heart, how will you know if it is just your own thoughts or God’s words to you? You will know God truly spoke to you when what you heard matches what happens in reality. You can make up the voice of God in your head. But you cannot make up the hand of God in reality. In other words, you could imagine God really spoke to you internally but only God can produce real evidence externally.
It’s not enough to say you got a sign from God simply because you feel like God said something to you. If God really said something to you, what you heard will actually happen in real life. God never lies (Titus 1:2). If God said something it always will happen. His word never fails. Therefore, when you feel you heard God say something to you but then it doesn’t happen, the problem is never with God’s power to produce what you heard. The problem always lies with our hearing or with our interpretation of what we feel we heard. As Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (NIV) states:
“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”
2. If an Important Event Happens That Relates to What You’ve Asked God About, This Is Often God Showing You a Sign
One of the key principles in rightly interpreting signs from the Lord is the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty means that God is the one who is ultimately in control of everything that does and does not happen. God is not a powerless God who is simply responding to humans all day. That would mean humans and not God are the primary causes behind everything that happens, which would completely contradict huge parts of Scripture which clearly teach us that God has a sovereign plan.
The reasons the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is so important when it comes to trying to know God’s will is because God will speak through the circumstances that happen in our lives because he is ultimately the one in control of the circumstances in our lives.
I’m sure all of you, like me, have had loved ones get diagnosed with a deadly disease. It is right for us to pray for their complete healing on earth. God wants us to pray this way. But ultimately we will know what God’s will is for this situation by what happens next. If the sick person gets well, it is a sign it was God’s will for them to get well. If the person dies, it is a sign God had a different plan for this situation.
A much less serious example could be someone starting to date a different person when you had just asked if God wanted you to date that person. Or if you asked God if you should put a bid on a house and then that house is taken off the market for some reason, clearly that is a sign God is giving you a no. If you are asking God if you should start singing publicly and then the worship leader at your church asks you out of the blue to join the worship team, that would be a good indication this is a sign from God.
Noticed what happened in John 13. Jesus predicted to the twelve disciples that one of them would betray him. Jesus gave John a sign by dipping the bread into the wine and then giving it to Judas (John 13:25-26). But to the rest of the disciples, God answered their questions about who the betrayer was a few chapters later in John 18:3, “So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” God answered their questions through the circumstances he allowed to happen with Judas.
Random, unrelated events should not be interpreted as signs from God. But when something significant happens that directly relates to something you have been praying about, this is often a sign from God.
3. If the Bible Requires You to Act a Certain Way to Fulfill the Scriptures in a Particular Situation, This Is God Showing You a Sign
Biblical knowledge is knowing what the Bible says. Biblical wisdom is knowing how to apply that knowledge to your life. God has certainly called us to be knowledgeable, but he has also called us to be wise. The Bible doesn’t just give us formulaic commands and truths that we can just mindlessly obey as we go through life on autopilot. No, throughout the Bible God teaches us how to have wisdom.
A great example of this can be found in 1 Corinthians 8. In this passage Paul is teaching the Corinthians how to know when they should eat certain foods and when they should not eat certain foods. He doesn’t give them a grocery list of the only foods a Christian should eat and he doesn’t say that in all situations a Christian can eat whatever they want.
In summary, in 1 Corinthians 8 Paul states that Christians are free to eat any food even if someone had offered it to an idol because the Christian knows false gods aren’t even real. There is only one God so food offered to idols is just food. But, Paul then qualifies these statements with what he said in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13. He said:
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
So Paul says on one hand Christians can eat whatever they want, but when they find themselves in a situation where there eating would be a stumbling block to another Christian, they should not eat. It is a sign you should eat if your conscience is free. It is a sign you should not eat if your eating would hurt the conscience of a brother or sister in Christ. The same food can be eaten in some instances and not eaten in other instances based upon the specific situation you find yourself in.
My points is, when you find yourself in a situation where the Bible tells you to act a certain way, this is a sign from God that he wants you to act biblically because you are in that situation. Notice in Matthew 26:53-54 what Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
Jesus could have spared himself of the cross, but he sought to act in the way that the Scriptures directed him to act because the Scriptures are God’s will.
4. Because the Bible Teaches Us About Certain Causes and Effects, the “Causes” You See Around You Are Signs the “Effects” Are Coming Soon
Throughout the Bible God teaches us what the outcomes of certain behaviors will be. Throughout the Proverbs for example we are told that hard work pays off and laziness leads to poverty (Proverbs 10:4). We are told that if you rebuke a fool he will hate you but if you rebuke a wise man he will love you for it (Proverbs 9:8). My point is there are causes and effects explained in the Bible.
This means that when God has shown us a cause this is a “sign” the “effect” is coming soon. If someone is being lazy this is a “sign” they will be in poverty soon. If someone rebuked a fool this a “sign” that fool will lash out at that person soon.
In Matthew 24 Jesus gave multiple warnings about what will happen leading up to his second coming. And then in Matthew 24:28 he said, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” This sounds strange to our modern ears but in context I believe Jesus is saying that there are causes and effects in this world. When there’s a corpse (which is the cause) vultures gather (which is the effect). Likewise, when we see these signs he mentioned in Matthew 24 it is a sign his second coming will happen soon.
This principle relates to all of life. When the Bible talks about a cause and effect and you see a cause happening, this is a sign the effect will soon occur too.
5. When God Is Giving You a Sign, You Will Gain Clarity and Not More Confusion
One common mistake people often make is that they search and search for the meaning of a certain event that has happened. They want to know what God is saying through something. While it is wise to ask this question, it is unwise to persist if the meaning does not come. It is unwise to force there to be a meaning to every little thing that happens in life.
God is able to make you understand what he wants you to understand. If something odd happens and you don’t know what it means, it is much more likely this is a not a sign from God since God is not the author of confusion. As 1 Corinthians 14:33 states, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” As Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” God is the one who gives understanding. When you lack wisdom you should ask as James 1:5 states. But sometimes you will remain confused about something because it is not a sign from God and God has nothing to say about it.
The point is this: If God is sending you a sign, you will know what it means because God is able to make you understand it if you ask him for wisdom. It’s one thing if you are being willfully ignorant or willfully rebellious towards what you know God is saying, but if you are genuinely seeking to follow God’s will and coming to him humbly, God will not send you signs to confuse you more and muddle the waters even more.
You can trust the Lord. He knows exactly what will direct you in the exact way he wants you directed.