© 2020 Chip Kawalsingh / Harvest City Church

Every believer’s greatest desire should be to know and obey God’s voice. God can confront and speak to you at any time in any place. But His chosen place is in the ‘fold’ or church.

‘I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.’ (John 10:1-5, NLT)

Our goal should be to do God’s will. Sometimes that means going against what others are doing or what they see as right and justified actions. But before we do anything we have to be sure that what we’re hearing is from God. He is a God of order and He will never ask His children to do anything that would go against His written Word, the Bible. God operates through a chain of command and He will never ask you to disobey those in authority or leadership. Breaking the law, immorality, lying, and cheating all go against His Word.

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarrelling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. (Titus 3:1-2, NLT)

But what should you do if you think your chosen leadership is wrong?

Firstly, you should talk with your pastors. They will be happy to discuss any genuine concerns you may have, and this will almost always clear up any confusion and bring clarity to the situation. Then you will be able to move forward together in fellowship, peace and unity.

If, however, you are still unhappy then we can learn from the example of David in the Bible. David had every reason to go against Saul—his leader, pastor and king—who was trying to kill him. Instead of attacking Saul when the opportunity arose, David was very clear in his refusal to turn on his leader:

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9, NKJV)

Pray and ask God to reveal to your leaders what it is you are feeling, and leave it in God’s hands. The moment you set yourself against God’s anointed you step onto a dangerous path.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-7, NKJV)

In his article 7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life, Ron Edmondson gives seven suggestions of how to know you’re hearing from God:

1. Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word
2. God uses people to confirm His voice
3. Recognise that God operates from a plan
4. Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan
5. Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God
6. Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances
7. Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes

1. Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word

The Bible is God’s written Word. It is our standard and level to discern truth even in the most uncomfortable of situations. It never changes and God will never contradict it.

Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has come to me and said that God has told them to do something that I know is in clear violation of His written Word. Often in that situation I’ve had to bite my tongue as it was clear that the person had already made their decision long before seeking my advice.

If we’re not fully submitted to Christ then we can fool ourselves that we’re hearing from the Lord when in fact we’re following our own desires. In the short term a decision made this way can seem fine, but time will prove that the Lord wasn’t in it, and the result is often bitterness and regret.

2. God uses people to confirm His voice

Years ago, when we first started Harvest City Church, I was going through a real low point in my life and questioning whether we’d made the right choice. One day, I was standing outside my son’s playschool waiting to pick him up when the elderly father of the woman who ran the school (a man I’d never spoken to before) came straight up to me, eyeballed me, and said, ‘You’re the one God has for the city, and don’t you think otherwise!’ Needless to say, I knew 100% it was the Lord speaking.

Almost every time God has asked my wife and I to do something there were other people who confirmed it was from the Lord (often without knowing). These were loyal and faithful people in God’s house. I hadn’t sought their wisdom—my pastors and senior leaders are my shepherds—but God used them to bring guidance and confirm His will for our lives.

There’s a great peace that comes from knowing God has called you into place. We were sent out by our pastors some 17 years ago now, and no matter the trails and struggles we have faced in that time or those we will face in the future, we know with certainty that we are in the perfect will of God.

3. Recognise that God operates from a plan

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV)

As a young man I had everything in life worked out—I even had all the details, timelines and dates written down! None of it unfolded how I planned, and we have faced incredibly tough situations that I’d never even considered. Somehow God worked it all out for good. He removed obstacles and gave us favour beyond our dreams. I’m glad I had a plan, but ultimately it was God who directed our steps.

When I look back, I thank the Lord that I listened to Him rather than the opinions of other people, especially when we have been confronted by opposition and disloyalty. Submit your plans, feelings and desires to God and leave them all in His hands. God truly fights your battles if it’s His will you’re following and not yours. No one can stop His plan for your life—except you!

4. Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan

One of the biggest mistakes some believers make comes later on in life, when God allows them to become unsettled. God’s desire is to draw them into a deeper walk with Him. Instead they respond by changing jobs, careers, or even churches.

You should never make a permanent, life-changing decision based on a temporary situation. When you look at your life, consider more than just the last week, month or year. God doesn’t work on our timescale! It’s easy to fall into the trap of asking the question: What have I achieved lately? We can lose God’s plan for our lives because we fail to see His goodness in dry times.

Remember the story of Elijah calling Elisha (1 Kings 19). It was dramatic and awesome! But scholars tell us that for the next 13 years all Elisha did was wash Elijah’s hands. He didn’t do any miracles. There were no grand exploits. He became a faithful servant, and—eventually—a son who received a double portion of Elijah’s anointing.

5. Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God

‘But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.’ (1 Corinthians 16:8-9, NIV)

Why would Paul stay in Ephesus even though people there were fighting against him? He stayed because he knew that Ephesus is where God wanted him to be, and he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him from fulfilling his purpose.

No matter how tough things get or how alone you feel, you cannot make your situation an excuse to change course until God has shed light on His plans for you. Isaiah reminds us, ‘…those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength…’ (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV) Too many Christians are bad at waiting on God! In the Bible, those who failed to wait on the Lord ended up in a whole load of hurt. Reading the Word, praying, and seeking pastoral guidance can help you gain valuable perspective and keep you in God’s plan.

6. Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5, NLT)

God desires to speak to us in the midst of our circumstances. If we put aside our feelings and position ourselves to listen, He will speak.

When emotions are running high, I’ve learned to stop and ask the Lord to guide my choices and decisions. The Bible tells us that ‘[He] prepare[s] a table before me in the presence of my enemies…’ (Psalms 23:5, NKJV). Take time to listen for His response and He will give you wisdom. God is loyal to those who obey Him and act according to His Word.

7. Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes

We serve a great big God! But in our small minds we can shrink Him into something far less than He truly is. Don’t make the mistake of putting limits on what He can do, or what you can do through Him. Nothing limits God! His power knows no end. His Word can change the course of history.

But, take heed: He will not force you into His plan. You must come to Him, open your life and let Him be Lord of all.

God’s ultimate plan is to save the lost and build the church, His vehicle for change on the earth. Everything that He asks us to do will—in one way or another—build towards His plan and bring glory to His name.