Do you remember being a child and watching a cartoon character who had a devil on one side and God, or an angel, on the other? The character would often hear both voices and sometimes be confused about which voice was correct.
I could only imagine the person who originally illustrated this concept did so because it happens to us all. God is always talking to us, but as God is speaking, so is the devil.
And while we can be left feeling like the cartoon character in not knowing which voice is right, there are very specific ways to discern God’s voice from the enemy’s.
First off, God won’t force you.
Jesus was very straight-forward and as much as He desired to help people, He never forced Himself upon anyone. It is the reason Jesus said He knocks on the door. If Jesus was trying to force us to do something, He wouldn’t knock – He would just barge in.
Instead, God’s voice will soothe you and will be comforting. Remember, God always wants us to be obedient to Him and if He forces us, we aren’t working out of obedience.
However, in John 10:10a Jesus tells us this, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Have you ever heard of a thief knocking on someone’s door because they wanted to take someone’s stuff? Probably not. Thieves will barge in and try to intimidate you to do as they say. A thief will use fear to make you listen to them. A thief knows s/he doesn’t have a lot of time and will try to get you to work “right now.” It’s the same concept that a thief may use when robbing a bank in movies. He always yells at the banker with a gun in hand (intimidation and fear) and says, “Hurry up.” In John 10:10 Jesus wasn’t talking about earthly thieves though, Christ was referring to the enemy.
When the devil speaks to you he’ll want you to act “right now” and will use fear to push you into something. The devil will order you, making you want to work out of compulsion and not out of the sound mind God provided you.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who have dealt with depression and made several suicidal attempts. As you may know, God doesn’t want us committing suicide. When I often ask those who attempted suicide, “Did you think about it first?” or “What made you do that?” They’ll often say they had thoughts that compelled them to do it. They felt forced, locked in as if they didn’t have another choice. One person even told me they felt that had to do it “right now.” Proverbs 14:15 says a wise person gives thought to their ways. Therefore, if the devil can get you to work out of urgency, he cuts down or completely eliminates your ability to consider what you are doing.
God gets personal.
When Christ talked to people in the New Testament and when God often spoke to people in the Old Testament, they got personal.
God and Christ spoke to the person by calling them by name:
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4)
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3:10)
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)
God will also call out to you using the name “friend,” “beloved,” and “child” because that is who you are to Him.
In contrast, the enemy speaking to you is like getting a newsletter that beings with “Dear Friend” or “To Whom It May Concern”. The letter may speak about things that are important to you (as the devil will speak to you about your situation), but the letter will still feel like a ‘cookie cutter’ — making you feel that you are reading a template and not a heart-felt message.
Remember, the devil uses an impersonal approach while God gets personal with you.
Author’s Note: Because discerning God’s voice is very detailed and intricate, this part of the series will continue throughout March. I’ll be writing on discerning God’s voice with relevance to time and relationships, discerning God and the devil’s voice by the different results we see, and discerning God’s voice when He tells us about others. To keep the articles on the shorter side, I’ll cover all of this in a few weeks’ time.