Feeling Led? (Part 1)

Most of us have had numerous experiences where someone we know has talked about “feeling led by God” to do this or that. Sometimes it is more direct: “I sense God is telling me to…” Some will say, “Then, I heard God saying to me…” But they are usually not talking about an audible voice but a thought that has come into their head that they are ascribing to God. Others speak of a more subtle way in which we might discern the will of God such as, “It was apparent God opened a door, so I went through it!” Or, “Everything seemed to be pointing us in that direction – a number of things happened that just told us this is what God wanted us to do.” Others talk about receiving a confirmation from God. Still others make a decision based on “feeling a peace about it.” Others turn away from a decision because of so many obstacles.

Those “feeling led” even speak of this as something one must learn to discern or be aware of – that God is trying to lead us, but we must be listening and if you aren’t hearing it, you must not be listening. Some even suggest that it is something that the more mature are able to do (funny, I would think the immature would need it more). On Amazon there are hundreds and hundreds of books on how to listen to the voice of God, how to listen to God, and how to get to know God’s voice. I wonder why scriptures did not teach us these “how’s.” 

Many talk about looking for the “perfect will of God for your life.” And thus, they will talk of this in regard to who you should marry. You want to find the person that God wants you to marry. If you settle for someone else, then what? You both married the wrong person which means there are two “right persons” that also missed out and married the wrong person and it just keeps going and you have ruined the whole world by your choice. 

Even many of us find ourselves wondering whether God is trying to turn us this way or that when it comes to our own personal decisions. We may be trying to “discern some signs” usually based on negative incidents that indicate a closed door or that such doesn’t seem like the direction I ought to go.

Looking at the Proof for “Feeling Led” (Rom. 8:12-14; Gal. 5:16-18; Matt. 4:1)

When you look at Romans 8 you see “led by the Spirit” plain as day, but notice in context it refers to following the directions of the Spirit in living a godly life. Paul told us in Ephesians 3:3-5 that the words of the Spirit were not given to all people, but to the apostles and prophets and they revealed it through writing it down. Galatians is teaching the same thing. The one led by the Spirit is not fulfilling the desires of the flesh. The context of the “Spirit” is seen in 3:1-3 and is dealing with the way we find salvation in Christ as prophesied. Matthew 4:1 speaks of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, but we are not told how this happen nor do we have any indication that any such thing happens universally to all Christians. Just because it happened to Jesus, doesn’t mean it will happen to us.

What about an inner feeling, like inward nudges or a still small voice? First, we never have anyone in the Bible led by some inward nudge, so you can throw that out. There is the incident with Elijah and the “still small voice,” but notice that this man was a prophet & not just any prophet, but considered the greatest prophet since Moses. God had been speaking to him directly all the time and even took him directly to heaven. If we are to expect a still small voice, why not expect the other things that happened to Elijah like calling down fire & destroying your enemies?

What people are doing is giving authority to their inclinations. They will ignore wise counsel and even plain scriptures in order to follow what they believe is a directive from God in the form of a thought, idea, or personal desire. Even worse is the fact their leadings can be contradictory from week to week which is even more evidence that their trust is really just in their feelings which tend to change. The Bible just doesn’t teach this internal leading.

Inner Peace: “I prayed about it, and I have a peace.” Col. 3:15.  The word “rule” here means to be a “judge or arbiter” in our hearts so it sounds like one is to use peace as that which determines the decisions we would make. But reading the context shows that it is talking about relationships with others. When there are decisions that must be made that have to do with interaction with others, let peace rule – decisions should be based on peace between brethren assuming it doesn’t contradict anything scriptural.

The fact of the matter is, in major decisions, there is usually no peace. Major decisions like getting married are often unsettling, like Jesus in Gethsemane. Some have a peace they ought not have, like getting divorced (they have a peace about it!). Peace and prosperity, which is an idol in this country, has become a guidance factor.

Open & Closed Doors

1 Cor. 16:8-9 Paul remained at Ephesus because there was an open door for effective service.

2 Cor. 2:12-13 Here is an open door, but Paul did not go through it. Conclusion: even though God gave an opportunity, it was not a directive, but only an alternative that Paul could choose.

Acts 16:25-28 Here is a wide open jail house door. Isn’t it obvious what to do when the doors open and the chains fall off? But Paul didn’t leave and didn’t read opportunities as divine directives. 

“Fleeces”: You remember the incident in Judges 5:36-40. But:

This was not done in order to get instruction; Gideon had already been told what to do; he was in need of courage. It was a supernatural sign, not something that could have happened coincidently. Someone says, “Lord, if she is the woman for me, let her answer on the third ring.” The problem is that this is not supernatural. If you really want a sign, try this: “God, if you want me to marry this person, please levitate the TV.” Now who is going to ask that? Of course, that still doesn’t work, because you would assume the opposite if God doesn’t do it, plus you are “testing God” demanding that he answer. Try this: “If You don’t want me to marry this person, levitate the couch!”

Confirmation: Some look for what they call “confirmation” based on the scripture in Deut. 17:6 and related passage in the N.T. that say, “By the mouth of two of three witnesses every word shall be established/confirmed.” So they look for two or three people to confirm their decision. No, all of these texts deal with the finding of guilt or innocence not decision making.

Dreams: This has also is somewhat common, but it isn’t just common today, it was also common thousands of years ago and the Lord addressed it: Jeremiah 23:16-23; Col. 2:18.

The key to all of these supposed ways God gives personal, specialized guidance is these are just examples of Neo-gnosticism. It is Satan’s way of supplanting the revealed word of God (1 John 2:26-27; 4:6).

Did God Give Specialized Guidance?

Are there no examples of God intervening in a person’s life and giving them specialized guidance? Yes, but you will notice that it is under very specialized circumstances. 

There are clear patterns to the examples of personal guidance:

· It is rare. There is no indication that God’s intervention is the standard way of doing business. Only one of Paul’s missionary journeys was a result of God’s direction. 1 Samuel 3:1, “the word of God was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” This text is in the context of prophets receiving messages from the Lord. But what is critical for us is that messages from God was never a daily event! Not even for the prophets of that day like Eli.

· It is an intrusion. No one waits for God to tell them what to do. They are going about doing whatever they believe they ought to do and God suddenly intervenes. We see this with Samuel in the above text. We also see it when the Spirit did not allow Paul to go into Asia/Bithynia.

· It is supernatural. An angel, vision, or direct message from the Spirit to one already considered a prophet. There are no nudges, “I feel led,” or circumstantial/coincidental incidents that one had to interpret. No one every “feels” something and then gives authority to that feeling.

· It is clear. No doubts. Like Paul on the road to Damascus. Imagine Paul responding, “Say, did you hear something?” Some suggest you have to listen for it. Well, Paul wasn’t listening when God spoke from heaven. It was unmistakable.

· It is against wisdom not in line with wisdom – which is the very reason for the intervention.

Conclusion: If you are not getting communication like the above, then ignore whatever you are getting, because it is not from God!