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.