Q&A: How can I tell God's voice from my own?

Question: How can I tell God's voice from my own head/heart/gut??

It's not uncommon to hear Christians say things like, "The Lord showed me..." or "Then the Lord spoke to my heart and said..." or even, "God told me..." It happens a lot, and frankly, those kinds of remarks leave a lot of believers wondering why they don't hear God's voice that way. When those same believers are facing important decisions they pray for guidance but their answers never seem as clear-cut and specific as some Christians seem to experience. And even when they seem to get some sense of direction, they end up wondering if it's really God, or just their own mind playing tricks.

Welcome to the world of living by faith.

Here are some tips:

Tune your heart to God’s voice

This rather challenging business of discerning God's voice is nothing new. But the reason it's so hard is because hearing from God is spiritual work — and let's face it, our daily lives are lived in a very physical world. That means we're dreadfully out of practice when it comes to operating on a spiritual level.
So the real question ought to be: How can I learn to tune my heart to hear God's voice?
Understanding as we do that God wants to communicate with us through His Spirit, it should be obvious that we're not waiting for an audible voice. Sure, God can speak audibly if He wants to, but don't forget that His Holy Spirit lives in your heart, and that is where He wants to communicate with you.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that. "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things..." and, "...we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV) But the mind of Christ is not apprehended by mere intellectual pursuit. Jesus told us that "God is spirit" (John 4:24) and that means pursuing His will and His direction for our lives is a spiritual pursuit of God Himself.

Learn to quiet your heart
Learning to hear God's voice means learning to quiet your soul (emotions and intellect) and waiting on the Lord.
David said to the Lord: "I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." Psalm 131:2 (ESV)  David was in a place to hear from God. Ask the Lord to teach you how to quiet your soul.
Pray and be patient
Prayer is a major key in all our pursuits with God. James 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. That is a rock-solid promise. God will give you wisdom and direction. The real question is: how long are you and I willing to wait for the answer?
Learning to wait in prayer is essential. Our modern approach to life with express lanes and fast food drive-throughs have fostered an impatience in our hearts that doesn't serve us well in the area of hearing from God. I've learned over the years that God is never in a hurry, and if I want to hear His heart on a matter, I'm the one who needs to adjust to His timeline, not the other way around.
Exercise your faith
Christians forget that it takes FAITH to hear from God. James reminds us that when we ask of God, we are to "...ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind."
God responds to our faith, so if you're struggling in that area chances are good you will also struggle to hear from God. Thankfully, we serve a God who is rich in mercy. Come humbly before the throne of grace and confess the weakness of your faith. You can know for certain that God wants very much to see you built-up and strong in that area, and He will do it.
And finally...
Be in the Word regularly and prayerfully
Along the lines of getting your faith in shape, spend as much time in the Word as you’re able. The Bible is our guidebook for life and you may just find the answer you're looking for right there in the Word. Even if you don't, reading your Bible builds your faith.
...faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
The other reason it is so vitally important to know God's Word is that we learn the heart of God through His Word. Even if I don't get a specific answer, knowing His heart helps me to understand His will for my life. And finally, knowing God's Word keeps me from running after things that are not His will. God will never contradict His Word, so if I'm sensing the Lord's leading in a way that directly violates something in the Bible, I know immediately that I'm on the wrong path and I need to make a U-turn.
For more on this topic check out the teaching: Why We Struggle Getting Close to God

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