As I continue to teach on hearing God’s voice, which I believe we need to do more than ever in this time of trouble and uncertainty in the world, I want to share a condensed version of Chapter 7 from my first book, Picture Perfect, which talks about testing what we have heard to see if it is really from God or not.
In 1212 a French shepherd boy by the name of Stephen of Cloyes claimed that Jesus had appeared to him disguised as a pilgrim. Supposedly, Jesus instructed him to take a letter to the king of France.
This poor, misguided boy told everyone he saw about what he thought he had encountered. Before long he had gathered a large following of more than thirty thousand children who accompanied him on his pilgrimage.
As Philip Schaff records it, when asked where they were going, they replied, "We go to God, and seek for the holy cross beyond the sea." They reached Marseilles, but the waves did not part and let them go through dry-shod as they expected.
It was at Marseilles that tragedy occurred. The children met two men, Hugo Ferreus and William Porcus. The men claimed to be so impressed with the calling of the children that they offered to transport them across the Mediterranean in seven ships without charge. What the children did not know was that the two men were slave traders.
The children boarded the ships and the journey began, but instead of setting sail for the Holy Land they set course for North Africa, where they were sold as slaves in the Muslim markets that did a large business in the buying and selling of human being.
Few if any returned. None ever reached the Holy Land. Two cunning men enjoyed enormous financial profits simply because they were willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of children.
This sad story was taken from, ‘Family Survival in the American Jungle’ by Steve Farrar (1991, Multnomah Press, Page 60-61), dramatically reveals to us the importance of correctly discerning if any apparent guidance, whether audible or visual, is from the Lord or from other, more dubious, sources.
In this case, the angel that appeared to Stephen was of demonic origin. I can categorically state this because this guidance led Steven and thousands more children into a web of deception and eventually into a lifetime of bondage. Also, the goal of seeking a holy cross is not within the arrow of God’s eagle-like vision!
As we shall see, God’s will never call us into such situations and He enables us to practically distinguish between His godly guidance and other, destructive, forms of guidance.
Understanding what God does call us to will help us avoid what He does not call us to. All the voices we hear and think maybe God must be tested. Are they from God or our emotions or from the enemy?
I did an extensive search through Scripture to see what we have been called to as God’s children. Knowing this will help us avoid forms of guidance that we can forecast will lead us into anything else but God’s way.
The following seven areas show us what we are called to according to Scripture, and how knowing each area will give us practical tests in discerning if any guidance is from God or not.
1. The Fellowship Test.
"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9
God's calling will always lead us into greater fellowship with Him and His people. The Greek word used here for ‘fellowship’ is ‘koinonia’, which means ‘participation, social intercourse or communication’. If we think we’ve heard God call us into a situation where it will be detrimental to our participation, social intercourse or communication with Him and His people, then we’ve not heard properly and this is not His calling.
I have watched on in agony as many people I know convince themselves that God is calling them out away from the ministry and into secular work due to rough circumstances. Now, I’m not saying that God will never do such a thing, but in the cases that I have witnessed it was eventually clear that this was not God’s call, as they later fell away in their relationship with the Lord and His people.
God’s true calling will lead people into a more passionate relationship with Him and His body, the Church.
2. The Liberty Test.
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13
His calling always leads us into true liberty. There will never be a negative sense of internal bondage in going according to God's call, unless we are walking in the right direction with a wrong attitude.
What I mean by this is that it is possible to hear God’s call and respond to it but allow our flesh life to control us so that we get frustrated or stressed out in doing His will.
Some people feel that taking on too many responsibilities will bring them into greater bondage, but the reality Is that the responsibilities God calls us to will bring us great inner freedom, and lead others to true freedom too.
3. The Peace Test
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." Colossians 3:15
His calling is always one that brings shalom peace. This peace is the peace of God and not our own. It is a supernatural peace that surpasses all our human understanding.
Unfortunately the phrase, “I have great peace about this” has been misused by many Christians who are trying to convince themselves and others that a course of action, that they really want to follow in their own flesh, is from the Lord.
The word for ‘rule’ in the above verse can also be interpreted as ‘referee’. It comes from the Greek word ‘brabeus’ which means ‘an umpire, one who judges in public games’. The peace of God in us is like a football referee. When a referee blows his whistle in a certain way, we know that there has been a foul and play should stop. Again, if he blows the whistle in another way, we know play can resume.
4. The Life Test
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:12
God calls us to have a quality of life called ‘eternal life’ and indeed to lay hold on this. His calling will cause us to come alive with this supernatural life. It will cause us to feel more alive and clearer in ourselves as to His life in us (‘it’s no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me’ – Galatians 2:20).
‘Eternal life’ is not the same as ‘temporal life’ (our own human soulish life). We need to mature such that we recognize what His ‘eternal’ life is and what our own ‘temporal’ life is.
Remember, Jesus said He came to bring abundant life to us. This is His very own quality of life. In every decision that we make there is His ‘pathway of life’ available to us:
“You will show me the pathway of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forever more”. Psalm 16:11
5. The Holiness Test
"For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in (unto) holiness." 1 Thessalonians 4:7
God always calls us to greater purity. His calling should lead to a greater level of holiness, of separation unto Him. If the so-called 'call' does not lead into greater holiness, then it is not from God.
If you feel God is calling you into a particular course of action ask yourself, “Does it cause me to live a purer life? Does it challenge me to be more like Christ and separate myself more to Him?” If the answer is ‘Yes’ then this could well be the direction God is leading you in.
6. The Blessing Test
“..not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8-9
As the call to Abraham was to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3), so is our call. We must ask whether the direction we feel God is leading us in leads to blessing for others or not. He always draws us out beyond ourselves to be a channel of blessing. In whatever we do we must ask ourselves, ‘Does this course of action bring blessing to others?’
Every day the Lord loads us with blessings that are to be used for His kingdom purposes – to bless those around us we are called to. We need to see ourselves as Postmen and Post women.
God loads us with His ‘holy mail’, some has our own name and address on them, but most will have the name and address of others on them. His ‘holy mail’ will contain no bills, trash, or hate mail, only words, deeds and resources that will bless, encourage, and motivate others into His purposes for their lives.
7. The Suffering Test
"For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:"1 Peter 2:20-21
This test must not be misunderstood. The word 'suffering' comes from the Greek word 'pascho' where we get the term ‘passion’. It means going through certain hardships or allowing certain things that go against the flesh to happen for the sake of Jesus. In old English if one said 'suffer it to be so' it meant to allow something to happen, as it was the best course. Just as Jesus’ calling led Him down the pathway of suffering, so will our calling. After all, we are called to partake in the suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5-7) and if we want to be joint heirs with Him then we must suffer with Him (Romans 8:17).
Please note that this is not suffering for any wrong we do, which could be termed ‘corrective suffering’, but it is suffering precisely because we do what is right – it is ‘Christ like suffering’. It is suffering His will to be done in our lives. I am not saying that unless we are always suffering then we’re not in the Will of God. What I am saying is that if our ‘call’ is very comfortable without any hardship and suffering at all then it cannot be a true call from God!
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
All Scripture instructs us as to the right way we should go in our life and equips us to do those good works that we have been prepared beforehand to do. Does the course of action you are considering agree with the overall counsel of God's word - the Bible? In all the above tests the underlying test must always be that it agrees with the Word of God. Even if it passes all seven tests above but it is not a Scriptural course of action then it must be rejected. This obviously means that we must ‘let the Word of God dwell’ in us ‘richly’. The more we really know of the whole counsel of God’s Word, the wiser and more accurate will be our life decisions.
Implementing all these seven tests with the underlying test of God’s Word will help us keep on track with the Lord. He constantly desires to show us His way forward and invite us on in tangible ways, but we need to distinguish His high, holy and heavenly calling from worldly, fleshy or demonic callings that will lead us far from outworking His purposes in our lives.