At our Bible study last night we got into an interesting discussion on promptings of the Holy Spirit. When we sense that God is speaking to us, “how do we really know it’s God” was one of the questions we grappled with over hot cider. How do you know when the prompting is just your own thoughts or even the intervention of Satan trying to get us to do wrong? These are very important questions for any Christian who is growing spiritually and honestly wants to be open to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul writes, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Ephesians 6:11-12 reminds us “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Christians need to wake up to the reality that they are in a spiritual warfare. Satan really works overtime to destroy the Christian life of anyone who dares accept Jesus into his/her life. Demonic forces never cease to attack, undermine, lead astray, encourage sin and rebellion as well as prompt us to sin against the grace of God.
Christians who think every prompting or direction that pops into their head is from God are sadly mistaken. Many of the promptings that get whispered into our minds are not from God but from the evil one. Notice what Paul says to Timothy that some of us “will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
What kind of things would demons want to teach us? The most obvious is not to believe in Jesus nor trust in Jesus for our personal salvation. When we get promptings in our head that we are not good enough to save, we are too sinful to be accepted by God or that things we know are wrong are OK to do, then, that is Satan talking to us.
1 John 4:1 reads, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.” If you are listening to a pastor and he encourages you to do things that you know are against the Bible you can be sure this man is not from God. When the Holy Spirit prompts you or convicts you to do something, give money or do a certain type of ministry it must always be in accordance with the Word of God.
We are called to test the spirits and we do that by asking ourselves what does the Bible say about what I am hearing and are these promptings in my life really in harmony with the Bible or from another source.
So, how should we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Once we have ascertained that they are from God and not just our own desires or from an evil source then we need to ask ourselves how we should respond to the prompting. We can do one of two things. The first is to ignore it and the second is to respond to its calling.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. There was a man who was thinking of coming to our Tuesday evening Bible study, but since it was a long shot because he had never come before I figured he wouldn’t attend. Twice on Tuesday when driving by his house I had the strong impression (prompting) that I should stop and go in and see the man and encourage him to come out to the Bible study. Both times I ignored it and the man didn’t attend the study.
In his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, Bill Hybels lists some cautions that we should consider when acting on promptings. He says that if the promptings cause you to make life changing decisions in a very short period of time we should question it. If the prompting requires you to go deeply in debt or puts you in a compromising position you need to be absolutely sure of what you are doing. If you jeopardize your family relationships or friendships you need to be very cautious.
Lastly he believes if your promptings cause mature Christians and friends to question the prompting then you should take a new look at that prompting.
The prompting of the Holy Spirit is something we need to take seriously and how we respond to the prompting is something that has to be carefully weighed before we act. However, when we are sure God is leading and we have confirmation through the word of God and Christian friends, then we need to move forward because God is calling us.
It is a privilege to have the Spirit use us and direct us in ministry as well as in our daily life and we need to take our calling very seriously. Listen to that small still voice that gives you vivid direction, but discern that the voice is from God before acting upon those directions. If you listen to God’s call and act appropriately and faithfully upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit, your life will be one continuous time of joy and thanksgiving.
* If you feel prompted to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world follow that lead – they need our support as fellow Christians. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/