There is no way of knowing for certain that someone is hearing from God, unless that person has been listening to God over a long period of time and then testing what he or she has heard. Such people have become accustomed to discerning God’s voice (see John 10:27). There are many others, however, who think they are hearing from God when maybe they are not. How annoying are the superspiritual who always say, “God told me this–God told me that–God told me this other.” It seems that their every thought is a revelation from God. God does not customarily operate that way. He speaks to us, but He does not chatter away, day in and day out, the way some people claim He does. This has been my experience, and it is the concept that is in accordance with the biblical record.
The Bible says that we can tell if someone is a prophet by seeing if what he has said comes to pass (see Deuteronomy 18:22). That is a very pragmatic test, and it works.
A friend who purported to hear from God told me, “My second child is going to be a boy. God told me.” His second child was a girl. He said, “Well, God told me that it was not second child who was going to be a boy, but the third child.” His third child was a girl too. At that point I determined, That brother isn’t hearing from God. It was clear: He made a statement, supposedly from God, that did not come to pass.
There is no shortcut to spiritual understanding. You have to learn to walk with God and to know His voice; otherwise, you will mistake your own voice for His. You even may be fooled by the voice of Satan, or you may hear the clamoring voice of the world. It is so easy to get these voices mixed up. Usually, God speaks to us in a still, small, quiet voice (see I Kings 19:11-13). It takes time, prayer, and waiting on God to hear His voice.
Nor does God scatter His pearls around recklessly. He said, “You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). God does not reveal Himself to every casual onlooker who would take sacred things and play with them like toys. I have known some adults who treated the gifts of God as if they were just little baubles to play with. To please God and to receive counsel from Him, people must be both determined and serious.
How do we succeed in hearing God’s voice? By spending time with God. The ultimate is not merely to get direction from God; the ultimate is to know God. God can make it difficult for us to get into His presence, because He wants to see if we truly will expend the spiritual energy and exercise necessary to do so. Will we stop certain sins? Will we get rid of things that hinder us? Will we truly seek Him with all of our hearts?
Some people only want a quick fix. “God, tell me how to make money on this business deal, please. See you next time!” And then that is the end of it. But God wants to be treated with reverence and deference that His nature warrants. He wants to change us, not merely give us quick answers to difficult problems. We will never be changed unless we come into His presence, spend time with Him, and allow Him to purify us from our sinful nature.