Yep, even comedians like Jay Leno are having a bit of a field day over 3 republican candidates leaving the campaign trail being that all of them said God told them to run… Some atheist friends are having a field day with this as well. Likewise, some Christians are wiggling around a bit, and saying, “Well God just told them to run, not that they were going to win” I dont see a point in continuing to raise the noise floor with speculation, but I do think its worth discussing discernment a bit.
God told me you need to do this or that!
For years, I used to hear from folks that, God is leading them to tell me to do this or that… almost always, it was something that said individual personally wanted, and much of the time, it was also contrary to the scriptures.
Personal gain + contrary to scriptures = This is not of God
Folks, be honest, dont try to invoke some type of god card to get what you want. It makes God look like a carnival rabbits foot, or some type of pawn to sway anothers opinion to their viewpoint. Jeremiah 23:16 has some words on this… it is not cool.
God is leading me to do this or that!
Ok, so how is this happening? If it was some type of supernatural blinding light Damascus road deal, God is not leading, he is telling, and you best be on it like yesterday. There is of course the issue of whether said supernatural deal is from God or from Satan. The key thing to remember… not all supernatural stuff is from God, such must be tested. 1 John 4 and 2 Cor 11 talks about this. Also bear in mind it is likely society, Christian and secular will see you as off your rocker… or at a minimum be exceedingly skeptic. Otoh, if it is really of God, doing the Jonah thing would not end well.
What if its not a supernatural blinding light deal, but it appears a still small voice in a whirlwind… Test it as above, is it in alignment with the scriptures, is it from God, or a bogus angel of light, and but also bear in mind self deception is very real. Consider St Augustine. ” Man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place.”
The thing is, for most folks, Damascus road and still small voices do not occur, or when they do, they end up failing the aforementioned tests. Rather, we might consider discernment along the following lines:
- We need to be open to hearing God… not too busy, not too narrow in focus, not too encumbered to hear. The sacraments, the daily office, the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, and even nature/spiritual focused spiritual practices could be of much help in this regard.
- We need to consider the counsel of others. Many non-connected individuals are telling you similar messages which seem aligned or at least not in conflict with the scriptures can be a plus. Said individuals also have skin in the game, such that it is not merely human praise and good feelings, but they are willing to go to the floor with you if need be would be a real positive.
- A sense of peace occurs after significant prayer about a potential direction.
- Said peace is pointing towards God, rather than merely an internal peace blooming from within. Again refer to the self deception thing Augustine talks about.
Beyond this, some folks tend to spiritualize secular aspects of decision making, gathering evidence, weighing the pros and cons, running the finances etc and then attributing such as being led by God, as sort of a least common denominator approach. In ones mind, it may be that the availability of resources, time, cash, etc to do A, but not B, C, D, or E is of God, since everything is His anyhow… Such an approach might be entirely reasonable, but I think only if one truly lived and believed as if everything is God’s.
Lastly, I think its critically important to distinguish paths of which God is leading one to paths which align with God’s will. Ie, discerning God’s lead can be a challenge, determining if a given path is aligned with God’s will, ie it is not counter to the scriptures is pretty easy. An hour on Biblegateway can provide a whole lot more guidance as to alignment or lack of alignment with God’s will than months of discerning God’s leading by other than Damascus road or still small voice in the whirlwind experiences.