Whenever people come to me confused about God’s will for their life, I usually begin the conversation the same way each time. You see, some of what God has planned for our lives is the same stuff he has planned for the life of any Christian, and we can discover these things in the Scriptures. Jesus commissioned all of us to go into the world and create disciples, baptising and teaching them (Matthew 28:19–20). God also wants us all to live lives of holiness (Psalm 102:2), and never lose sight of the immanent return of Christ in everything that we do (Matthew 25:13). These are just a few of the many things we can find in Scripture that ought to characterize our lives. I call these God’s directions.
When it comes to God’s voice, this is something entirely different. This is where the uniqueness of our gifts and the way we were created comes into play, and through hearing God’s voice we are able to become more completely in tune with who we are—professionals would call this self-actualization, although they would not always list God as the source of this. Discerning God’s voice is a little different than hearing God through Scripture—it takes a sustained relationship with God and input from the faith community to accurately discern God’s voice. Oh, and God’s voice will never contradict God’s direction in Scripture…and so to the couple I knew from years ago who wanted to divorce and take new spouses because God’s voice and direction was telling them to “do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19)…you’ve mistaken God’s voice for a lie and completely misread God’s directions in Scripture. We know we have stumbled upon something great when we find a synthesis between God’s direction in Scripture, the prompting of God’s voice in our hearts, and the confirmation of these two things from trusted praying peers in the faith community.
Elijah was a prophet that was well-versed in God’s direction and God’s voice. 1 Kings 18 records the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al—they each built an alter to their god and agreed that the god who responded with fire and consumed the sacrifice was the one true God. If you have not read this story, beware of the forthcoming spoiler alert—Ba’al did not answer, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did. This is a wonderful demonstration of God’s sovereign power, and I have often felt envious of Elijah, wishing that I would some day have the opportunity to demonstrate the truth of God in a powerful setting of unbelievers.
I was reminded of something, however, when I recently read the Elijah story in 1 Kings. This showdown was not orchestrated by the genius of Elijah alone—rather, Elijah was responding to the voice of God directing him. God instructed Elijah to engage the prophets of Ba’al in this very way. This is important because when we want to take bold steps of faith and do things for God, we ought to make sure that we are hearing a combination of God’s direction and God’s voice. At times this will be easily discernable, but at other times we will need our faithful prayer peers it the faith to weigh in with their discernment as well. This is somewhat refreshing, as it simplifies our life—we just need to follow God’s voice.
Still, if we were called to do something in our world today like Elijah did with the prophets of Ba’al, we might find that obedience is more than just a simple matter.