Resource Sheet 3 - Recognising the Source of a Voice:
In normal circumstances an internal voice: one which appears in your mind as a thought, has one of four sources: from yourself, from another person, from the enemy, or from God. How can you know whether an internal voice is your own thoughts, the thoughts of another person, thoughts from an evil spirit, or God's voice? By being willing to experiment, under God's covering, I found a way which works for me. It is difficult to describe, as it is really a spirit thing, but I will try.
A. Sense the direction the voice is coming from - inside or outside.
When I hear a voice I first try to discern whether it came from inside of me or outside - whether it from within my spirit or just my mind. This is the hard part to explain. It is like having a sixth sense for the direction a voice comes from. Journalling helped me to develop this.
If it is outside, then it is not my own thought, nor is it the Holy Spirit. Why not the Holy Spirit?
Because the Holy Spirit dwells within me. So it is either:
a) an evil spirit, or
b) some occult or psychic influence from another human person, or
The content of the voice will probably decide which it is. For example, those of you who are gifted as burden bearers will understand how another's thoughts or feelings can be received as if they were your own.
The Lord might speak with an audible voice or through an angel, but these will not then seem to be internal voices - you will hear them with your ears.
- If it seems to come from within me:
a) If it relates directly to something which I am currently thinking about then it is probably my own thought, although it might be the Lord giving me a new thought about that subject.
b) If it seems to come out of the blue - unrelated to my current thinking, or a distinct step beyond what I am thinking, then I will assume it is the Lord until I have reason to believe otherwise.
Journalling helps in this decision, because with experience you begin to recognise the difference between your own voice and the voice of the Shepherd.
B. Once we have decided on the direction, we apply the same standard tests for anything we hear or read at any time:
- Does it correspond with what you read in the Bible?
- Is it consistent with the character of Jesus?
- Will its application bring peace and encouragement, or will it produce strife?
- Does it sit well on my spirit?
- Do other people or circumstances confirm what you are hearing?
- Does it lead to life or death - in the widest sense of these terms?
- Does it cause me to feel the "anointing" of the Spirit (a very subjective test, but useful with experience)?
Evaluate the thoughts you have in the same way. Be confident that Jesus will keep his promise to lead his sheep. If you want to do God's will you will be led by the Holy Spirit. "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17)