One night when we were in college, as Bill and I (Kristi) were eating basketfuls of tortilla chips at a restaurant, he shared about a wonderful vision of Jesus he had that summer. I was drawn to his spiritual experience, but it challenged me.
Was Bill’s vision from God or his own mind? How would you know if the Holy Spirit was giving you a vision or a word?
I’d heard preachers and friends talk about hearing God speak. They sounded so confident and assured, and I felt like I was missing out. I judged myself: I must be a phony because I don’t hear God’s voice like they do.
I felt confused when they would boldly proclaim, “The Lord says . . .” but it didn’t sound like something the Lord would say.
For instance, a friend was sure he’d heard God’s voice telling him to start a business, but it led him to overwork and it became a devastating financial loss. He thought he was trusting God, but it seemed he was following his own dream.
Maybe you’ve known people who believed God led them to marry someone, move, or make a risky investment, only to admit after the fact that they were wrong. How do you know if a word, vision, or other mystical experience is from God? What if it’s just your own projection? What if it’s Satan masquerading as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14)? How do you distinguish between these different spirits (1 Cor. 12:7, 10)?
These difficulties lead many people to decide they can’t hear God’s voice or that the only true words the Lord speaks are in the Bible.
But Jesus taught that it’s as natural for his apprentices to hear God’s voice as it is for sheep to hear their shepherd’s voice (John 10:3–5). For twelve years I saw this in how my beloved cat Charlie responded to my voice. (Sadly, as I shared on this week’s Soul Talks podcast he died recently.)
I have learned to relate with God like how Charlie was with me. I tune into the Spirit of God, listening for a gentle whisper like Elijah heard in the cave (1 Kings 19:12). Really, it’s as simple as sensing a spiritual feeling, thought, image, or intuition.
In our new book, Journey of the Soul we teach you how to hear God’s voice to receive guidance and grow in your discipleship to Jesus. This is a distinguishing feature of the Spirit-Led Ministry (or S Stage) in the CHRIST stages of faith. But discerning God’s presence and wisdom is part of every stage and everyday life.
My experience of noticing God’s presence or guidance matches what I see in the Bible and what some of Jesus’ great ones like Teresa of Avila have taught.
A genuine message or manifestation of the Holy Spirit:
- Surprises you
- Offers a world of meaning
- Brings clarity
- Imprints into your memory
- Produces a living spark of faith
As you go about your day look and listen for the Spirit of Jesus. Anticipate that he wants to be with you, guide you, and warm your heart. I pray that you’ll notice some surprise blessings!
©️ Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, Journey of the Soul, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021. Adapted and used by permission.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Bill and Kristi dive into the next of the CHRIST stages, the Spirit-Led Ministry stage. Hear Kristi process what it looked like to trust the Spirit’s movement and Christ’s presence in the midst of a full ministry season and real-time grief over the loss of her beloved cat, Charlie. Those in this stage experience life with God like a sailboat, trusting in the wind of the Spirit, both in times when God feels close and when God feels far away.