When I was first learning to hear from God – I had no one to train me about how to test the spirits to see if they were really the Holy Spirit. I made many mistakes as I was first trying to hear God for myself.
God does speak through His word. But He also speaks through the Holy Spirit directly to our spirit. I was brought up on a foundation of only hearing God through the Bible. But as I matured, the Lord wanted to speak to me directly through the Holy Spirit.
I want to share a few things that I learned in my process of maturity in the hope that it might keep you from making the same mistakes I did!
Test the Spirits
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3
My interpretation of this verse is that everything you hear must acknowledge and line up with the character of Jesus Christ. If we hear a spirit that does not conform to the image of who we know Christ is -- then it is the Spirit of the “Anti-Christ.”
Learning to test the spirits has been a process though. It is not easy to distinguish between God’s words, the devil’s words and my own thoughts. It takes time to practice! My friend Scott says, "The devil is the 'Great Almost.'"
I do not have it all figured out. I do still miss it on occasion, but that just keeps me humble to know that I do not hear 100% correctly from the Holy Spirit. I only hear “in part” and need others to help me hear more accurately.
An Example of Failure
I had toyed with the idea of going to a local benefit fundraiser that was also a contest for a big prize amount. It was for local businesses. I thought it might be a good way to rub elbows and meet some new people. But I wanted God’s direction to go as it cost $100 to attend and that was a big chunk of money for me then.
I was returning from taking my boys to a local fair about 4 pm one afternoon and I heard a spirit say “Why aren’t you going to the fundraiser? I told you to go to the fundraiser!” The voice I heard was frantic and frustrated at me. The fundraiser began at 6 pm that evening. So I rushed home, put on some fresh clothes and bought my $100 ticket at the door.
In short, there was no fruit at all from that dinner/fundraiser. I didn’t even make any new contacts. I thought to myself, well maybe I was supposed to sow money into the fundraiser and there will be a harvest from it. But a few years later, there was still no harvest from that $100.
I began to ask the Lord if I had missed it. He showed me through a series a “lessons” that He never speaks to me in franticness. He is never frustrated at me. His character is to have limitless patience. He showed me that He did not tell me to sow that $100, but the enemy came to steal it from me and I believed the spirit because I didn’t test the spirit that spoke to me. The spirit that spoke to me on the way home from the fair did not represent the character of Christ.
If you hear someone or a spirit speak to you and that spirit does not line up with the character of who Christ is then it is not from God.
The voice I heard on the way home from the fair was not a representative of Christ because the spirit was impatient with me.
Another Example of Missing It
A pastor had been sharing with me what a crazy experience that he had been having with the Lord and it was exhausting him. He was awakened very early in the morning by a spirit and the Lord would begin to speak to him. He felt that he had to obey the spirit because He was getting some wonderful revelation – but he was only getting 3 hours of sleep a night.
I felt a red flag in my spirit and I told him that it sounded like a “tormenting” spirit to me. I said this because Scripture says “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he (God) grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2
God wants us to be healthy – a lack of sleep does not make for a healthy lifestyle. He can give us all the revelation we need during a 16 hour day. He grants sleep to those he loves. This spirit was trying to steal from the pastor, his family and his flock.
The pastor received my counsel and refused this spirit and his sleep evened out again.
This is how to discern whether a spirit is from God – does the Spirit line up with Scripture or the character of Jesus?
A Piece of Wisdom
This might seem kind of crazy but this is how I have learned to test the spirits. I ALWAYS tell the spirit no.
Whenever I hear a spirit tell me to do something or to say something. I tell the spirit no. And the reaction of the spirit tells me if it is Christ like or not.
For instance, the other day I heard a spirit tell me to do something and I wasn’t quite sure it was the Lord. So I spoke to the spirit in my mind and said, “You know I’m going to have to test you.” I heard the inner voice answer me. “Yes I know you are.”
I felt complete peace. No demanding voice to tell me to obey. No tormenting spirit telling me that if I didn’t do it I’d be disobedient. No frantic, agitated voice making me feel shame. I set my mind to NOT do what the voice was telling me for a few minutes. And I had nothing but peace the whole time.
About 3 minutes later, I heard the same voice give me the same directions. I said “No. I am not going to do that.” Again, I felt complete peace. No pressure. No accusation. I felt the spirit be completely humble and patient with me.
So about 5 minutes later, I heard the same voice again, give me the same direction. I said “Lord if that is you – what will you do if I refuse to obey you?” He said, “I will wait for you to hear Me.”
It was at this point I could begin to trust the spirit. The spirit that spoke to me was peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, generous, respectful, not demanding that I submit to it.
I then obeyed the spirit that I heard and my action bore great fruit.
If you surmise that a spirit who is speaking to you is not from the Lord – this is what you should do. Tell that spirit to be quiet in the name of Jesus. Bind it from talking to you and pray that the angels would loose it away from you and take the spirit to the feet of Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to step out and try to hear the voice of God! Don’t be afraid of hearing the Holy Spirit… it leads to maturity. But test the spirits. God will never lead you to do something that is not Scriptural nor will He speak to you using a tone that is not in His character.
Be brave and learn to listen!
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27