Newsletter #401 – Whispers from God?

I’m skeptical about modern day visions from God, prophecies, dream interpretations, and people who use sentences that begin “God told me to….” All of these appear in the Bible and I don’t doubt that they occur today as legitimate messages from God. But I suspect they’re rarer than many people believe. Psychologists know that experiences like these can come from misperceptions and wishful thinking. They come as well from the chemical and neurological functioning of brains aroused by trauma, fear, chronic stress, anticipation, sex, psychopathology and substance abuse. Even the devil masquerades as an angel of light and has associates who produce counterfeit signs, wonders (2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Thes. 2:9) and maybe whispers that appear to be from God.

With this mindset I read Bill Hybels’ new book The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond. I’ve heard enough Hybels sermons to know that his thinking and theology are biblical and not extremist. He acknowledges that many people use voices from God to justify all kinds of unhealthy and ungodly behavior. But the author argues convincingly that God still speaks to individuals and about specific issues. Some whispers may come in dramatic ways. More often they come through Scripture, the words of other people, inner promptings, or the events of our lives.

How do we know if a whisper really is from God? Hybels suggests that whispers from God pass these filters:

  • Is the whisper consistent with what we know about God and his character?  Ask yourself if Jesus would say or do what the inner voice is telling you to do.
  • Does the prompting align with Scripture? Messages that contradict the Bible are not from God.
  • Is it wise? God’s whispers rarely go against common sense. His direction is unlikely to “involve blatantly unwise action.”
  • Is it in tune with who you are? Most often God’s whispers are consistent with our character, personalities, education, experience and expertise.
  • What is the response of the trusted people who know you best? Others can help us evaluate inner promptings.

I recommend this book. Please comment about your experiences with whispers from God.


  1. Thanks for sharing this Gary, sounds like a good book to me.

    I would also add that before thinking a whisper comes from God we should see how this will afect the ones around us. Many times people use the “God told me…” phrace to manipulate others and don’t understand how hard it can affect them. In the end God will hold us accountable for our actions and mostly for the people we affect.


  2. Great article and it does sound like a great book. My experience has been that God whispers to me through the circumstances, open and closed doors, show me where He wants me to go. He also whispers to me through the wise counsel of important people in my life, my wife, my mentors and close friends. Thank you for recommending this book.


  3. In my experience, ‘whispers’ that are really from God will usually come to more than one person. If I believe God is telling me to do something, I bounce it off other trusted believers. Often I will find that they have received the same sort of whisper, or have had recent experiences that are consistent with whatever it is that I think God is saying. If I think God is telling me something, and absolutely nobody else has any inkling that what I’m saying is from God, I am inclined to take a second look at my own impression.


  4. As a rationalist evangelical for 48 years, I have always disdained others’ whispers and doubted my own. However, Jesus did say that his sheep hear his voice; they hear it at least once.

    Preparing to present one subject for a small workshop overseas last month, a whisper came that seemed to say that I should also prepare on another particular topic, as well as on the first.

    Upon arrival overseas, the evening before the workshop, my hosts informed me that they wanted something on the second subject for a much bigger group. Hmmm. Yet, I did not have detailed lesson plans, so I asked God for such plans.

    That night and the next three nights, I awoke at precisely 03 am with a lesson plan for that day clearly in mind that I rose up and wrote down before dozing back to sleep.

    Those lessons seemed to meet the needs of many present, leading to some bold work plans on their part.

    Now, these whispers seem to have met the guidelines you listed.


  5. From a personal perspective I have found at least 2 common aspects to hearing Gods ‘whisper’ that are apparent in all the cases where I believe God has spoken to me on very specific issues. Firstly, the outcome of hearing God so specifically invariably leads to some sort of fruit, from the actions or processes that follow. Secondly, I find things tend to ‘flow’ really well when we step out in faith on something that God has spoken specifically into our lives…please understand I dont mean its always easy…doors open often with significant effect. I think Bill Hybels makes some very good observations with his comments on ‘filters’ …. we have an encouraging God, and i believe he always speaks from that perspective even when he corrects us, correction is always about a better future…its not punishment which focuses on issues in the past. All these comments are from my own personal perspective and I must add that I overwhelmingly believe trusted friends and family are a good place to reflect on what you feel God has spoken to you about.


  6. Great topic Gary. Bullet five is critical to me. If other brothers and sisters are involved in confirming the whisper I can move with increased freedom. If I’m the only one hearing the whisper I move much more slowly and consider that the inner prompting might be something that just needs to simmer for a time… All Christ’s best to you!


  7. Dear Gary,
    Good read Some cautionary teaching on this subject. We need to be founded on good biblical teaching as we enter into this area.Let us remember als Eli advice to samuel who was called as a prophet.When you hear the voicesay speak Lord for your servant is listening.’
    God has many ways of speaking to us. As a relational God he lights to speak to us through Godly relationships.


  8. Why any less today than in times past? We live in terrible times where believers are pushed on every side. In our society faith is choked by the allure of the world and its philosophies; in other societies the opposition is much more overt and sometimes deadly. God knows our weaknesses. He knows what we’ll do before we do it, so why can’t he be in control of how we respond to His voice, especially if in the midst of our humanness our hearts truly want to follow Him? I have learned that God can speak at any time and in any way He chooses and I really don’t want to miss out because I’m choosing not to listen for His voice no matter where it comes from.


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