Here are 5 things that will often happen when Satan is trying to trick you by portraying a false sign as though it is from God when it is really not.
1. If You Are Tempted to Cut a Deal with God to Get What You Want, This Is a False Sign from Satan
It’s easy to start to believe that God’s ways are similar to our human ways. The way the world works is that to get something from someone you need to first give them something. As the old saying goes, “You scratch my back and then I’ll scratch your back.” But this is not how God operates.
Satan wants us to believe that God operates on a works mentality. In other words, there’s nothing Satan would love to conceal more from us than the grace of God. Everything good God does for his people is always by grace. Grace is an underserved gift. If you earned it would no longer be grace. Satan will tempt you to believe that God is sending you a sign telling you to do something for him so that he will then do the thing you want.
For example, Satan could try to mimic the voice of God by saying something like, “If you finally stop indulging in that sexual sin I will bless you with a Christian spouse.” While God certainly wants to mature us and sanctify, it is a false premise that sexual purity is the token that God wants before he spits out a spouse to you – like God is some sort of machine. Satan could mimic the voice of God with something like, “If you send in your money to the pastor I will bless you with what you have been asking me for.”
We know statements like this are lies because God doesn’t bless us because we are good; God blesses us because he is good. Certainly he will require obedience from us before he will bless us with certain gifts, but that is so we are mature enough to handle those gifts and not because God wants us to earn good things from him. As James 1:16-18 states:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
Satan wants us to “be deceived” by thinking the “good gifts” come down to us through our good works rather than “from the Father of lights.” But when we know “the word of truth” we will know that we can earn nothing from God because God gives good to us through grace alone.
2. If You Are Tempted to Add Your Own Meaning to an Unrelated Event, This Is Often a False Sign from Satan
One common method that Satan uses to form false signs in our lives is our very own desires. Satan knows that when we want something too badly we are easily influenced to believe his lies.
When we have an idol in our hearts it shapes the way we see everything. Suddenly everything that happens somehow relates to that one thing we want so bad. If the clock says “5:55” somehow this is a sign God is going to answer your prayer. If you watch a YouTube video and you hit the “like” button and now the video has “777” likes, somehow this means blessings are coming your way. If you are driving to work and you see a license plate that says “blessed1144”, somehow this means your blessing is right around the corner.
As I’ve discussed in the article, What Does the Bible Say About Signs from God?, there are different forms of “signs.” When I talk about signs in my videos, articles, and books, I’m talking about “evidence for what God wants you to do.” For example, if you are asking God if you should go on a mission’s trip and then the pastor invites you to go on a mission’s trip and people are ready to help fund it, this would be good “evidence” God wants you to go. If you have no opportunities and no one is willing to help you no matter how hard you try to raise support, this would be evidence God does not want you to go. Those are the types of “signs” or “evidence” we should look for as Christians.
But when we attach our own meaning to things we see out in the world that don’t relate at all to the questions we are asking God about, these are oftentimes actually false signs from Satan meant to lead us down the wrong path. Satan often uses the idols in our hearts to tempt us to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. 1 John 5:19-21 states:
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Satan doesn’t really care who you worship as long as it is not the one true God. When God is first in your heart, you will not be led astray by your own desires and the temptations of Satan.
3. If What You Heard Does Not Correspond to the Bible or the Events that Occur in Real Life, This Is Often a False Sign from Satan
There are at least three primary ways that God speaks to his people: through his word, through the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and through the events that occur in our lives. God’s word must always be our first means of hearing God because it helps us properly interpret the other ways of hearing God. If you ever feel like God is saying something that contradicts his word, your feelings are wrong because God would never contradict something he has already plainly said in the Bible.
Also, when something we heard in our heads never occurs in reality, this too is a sign we did not really hear God say because if God really said something it always happens just as he said it. Therefore, if you feel like you got a sign from God because you feel like he said something to you, but this either contradicts Scripture or never occurs in real life, this is a false sign and is not really from God. As Isaiah 55:10-11 proclaims:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
4. If Someone Tries to Give You a Sign from God for Their Own Glory, This Is a False Sign from Satan
Satan manipulates his human minions by tempting them with glory. He knows sinful people love to be exalted in the eyes of other humans, so he often corrupts people by tempting them to do “spiritual things” in front of others for their own praise. Satan loves this type of thing because the pride in the false prophet ruins that false prophet and the lies this false prophet preaches to others leads them astray as well. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 states:
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
One of the defining marks of a false prophet is “boasting” and pride. They may have the appearance of serving God but they do it out of “envy and rivalry” as Paul talked about in Philippians 1:15. People like this try to tell you things about your future that they could never possibly know because it makes them look like God’s chosen one.
If someone proclaims things over you in such a way where it brings them glory or if they proclaim something untrue over you, this is a false sign from Satan that you should reject. As 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 instructs, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
5. If This Sign Is Leading You Further Away from God’s Prescribed Will, This Is a False Sign from Satan
As I talk about in the article, Can You Miss the Will of God for Your Life?, there are two different types of “God’s will” in the Bible. There is God’s sovereign will and then there is God’s prescribed will. God’s sovereign will is his predetermined plan that he will cause to happen because he is God. God’s prescribed will is God’s commands to us that we have the free choice to obey and disobey to reap rewards or reap consequences.
One way Satan tries to deceive us is to get us so focused on trying to figure out God’s sovereign will that we end up ignoring God’s prescribed will. In other words, we can get so focused on looking for signs from God out in the world we end up ignoring the signs God has given us throughout his word that are meant to lead us to where God wants us to go.
When we don’t know God’s word, we are sitting ducks for Satan’s lies. He will try to tempt us to see signs that lead us down sinful paths. If you ever feel led by a sign to do something that would cause you to walk further away from living a biblical life, this is a false sign. As Psalm 119:104-105 states, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
For more on this topic, you may enjoy 5 Things That Will Happen When God Is Sending You a Sign.