In this “How to Hear God” series, we have talked about the three most common ways to hear God’s voice: Through his word, through the Holy Spirit’s impressions on your heart, and through the circumstances of your life.
In closing we must acknowledge that sometimes, despite out best efforts and methods, we can find it difficult to hear what God is saying to do. So what should you do when you cannot hear the voice of God? What should you do when you don’t have clarity on his will for you?
When You Can’t Hear God and You Don’t Know His Will for You, Ask Yourself These Three Questions
When you don’t have a specific Bible verse or biblical truth to instruct you (most of the time you will), when you don’t feel the Holy Spirit leading you one way or the other, and when the circumstances are not clearly pointing you in a certain direction, answer these three questions: What decision would be most glorifying to God? What decision seems the wisest? And which decision would I enjoy the most?
What Decision Would Be Most Glorifying to God?
When in doubt on hearing God’s voice, you should examine your motives. Choose the decision that is supported by your best motive.
When your motive is to glorify God, you always make the correct choice spiritually. Sure, sometimes we can be well intentioned but make unwise practical choices that don’t turn out the way we wanted in regards to our earthly circumstances. But when the desire is to please God, I believe he more often than not will correct our immaturity and bring good out of the decision regardless.
What Decision Is the Wisest?
Secondly, God is a God of order and wisdom. So when you don’t know what to do and you are having difficulty making a decision, you will make far less mistakes by choosing the way of wisdom and practicality. Do what makes the most sense if you don’t feel God leading you one way or the other.
It’s important to note, however, that God does sometimes lead us to make decisions based more on faith than wisdom, not that these two are opposed at all. Sometimes he even asks us to make “unwise” (never sinful) decisions.
It was unwise of Gideon to cut the fighting men from 22,000 to 300 (Judges 7). It was unwise of Moses to lead a massive group of people full of women, children, and untrained men out from under the rule of Pharaoh and his highly trained army (Exodus 14). It was unwise of Joseph to marry his already pregnant fiancé (Matthew 1:18-25). But in each of these cases God asked those involved to step out in faith and trust him.
It’s important to emphasize, however, that in each of these unwise decisions, God gave those involved an abundance of confirmation. God gave Gideon a clear sign to use to cut the number of men down to just 300 (Judges 7:4-8). God had continually appeared to Moses in fantastic ways before asking him to make such a huge step of faith (read the book of Exodus). And an angle appeared to Joseph to let him know Marry was not fooling around but had a child conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25).
Therefore, I believe a general principle in Scripture is that the greater the step of faith God asks you to take the greater the confirmation he will supply. By “confirmation” I simply mean a different piece of evidence that is pointing to the same conclusion as other pieces of evidence.
For example: Perhaps you are offered a job at a big company whose going to pay you a bunch of money, but for some reasons something seems off in your spirit. And then everyone who loves you is saying not to take that job because they keep hearing terrible things about how they treat their employees. And then as you sit in the waiting room at the salon you randomly pick up a magazine and read an article titled “10 Ways to Avoid Bad Jobs” and 9 out of 10 apply to your circumstances. And then you read a Bible passage that confirms the red flags you have noticed in that company you are interviewing with. Odds are God is giving you confirmation to turn that job offer down even though it might seem unwise right now because the pay is great and it looks like the logical next career advancement move. Yes, it would be “unwise” to not accept their job offer, but God has confirmed this step of faith so much it would be even more unwise to deny is very obvious voice.
If you feel God is saying he wants you to step out in faith and do something that most people would consider “unwise,” you should be sure to get God’s confirmation on it. Starting a church with no resources is “unwise,” but God has called thousands or people to do this very thing.
But God will never tell you to do something wild through a voice in your head and then give you no other clear signs to confirm that thought was for him. Whatever step of faith you feel God may lead you to take, you should always be able to justify it with biblical wisdom even if the choice will not be the wisest financial, practical, or relational decision. Starting a church with odds stacked against you is “unwise,” but church planting is certainly a biblical choice. And if the decision before you would lead to sin, you can be certain God is not telling you to make that decision.
Sometimes people want huge signs of confirmation for small decisions, which is not God’s normal pattern. Sometimes people make huge, unwise decisions in the name of “stepping out in faith” but without ever getting God’s confirmation that this truly is what he wants. The normal patter in Scripture, however, is that big acts of faith usually correspond to clear evidence and confirmation from God.
What Decisions Corresponds With Your Desires the Most?
God often speaks through our desires. If you have a good, Christ honoring desire to do something, it’s very likely God put it there himself.
Sometimes we over complicate things when God may be just saying, “Do what you enjoy!” If you would rather serve in the small group ministry but you feel outside pressure to serve in the children’s ministry and now you don’t know what do, pray about it. But if you still don’t feel led one way or the other, go with the small group ministry since that is where your desires lye.
As I talk about in the article, “How to Know What Your Calling Is From God” God typically calls us where our passion meets the worlds needs. When you do something you like but that is not fruitful for the kingdom, it’s not a calling it’s a hobby. And if you are producing lots of fruit for God but you don’t enjoy that role, it’s not a calling it’s a needed duty for a season of time. No one can sustain their role if they don’t enjoy it, therefore:
“The place where God is calling you is the place where your passion and productivity meet. If you enjoy doing something and when you do it you produce good fruit for God that actually benefits people, odds are that is a your current calling from God.
Paul proclaimed, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). His passion was preaching. People benefited from his preaching. Thus it was clear preaching was his calling.”
Conclusions on How to Hear God
All in all, if you are genuinely trying to love God, love people, study the Scriptures, and do what is most glorifying to God, you will not miss the will of God for your life.
We can make this topic very confusing and stressful. But there truly is not reason to stress. Even if you do not hear the voice of God accurately or you are unsure if you did the exact right thing, you can take comfort in the sovereignty of God.
Listen to hear his voice, but trust him even when you don’t. While we certainly can bring harm to ourselves and others if we never slow down and listen for God’s leading, God is more than able to turn anything for his glory.
We don’t need to know everything when we know he knows everything. We can rest in his ability to be God.