Knowing when and how to share what we hear can be a tough part to navigate in our journey to hearing God. In this post, I would like to focus on three things that have helped me greatly.
First of all, hearing God is not equivalent to having the permission to share what I hear. That means that as I grow, sometimes He is going to tell me things that He doesn’t want me to share.
The information from God could sometimes be intended to help me handle a situation wisely. I remember one time I really struggled with disgust toward a lady who was speaking at a women’s conference. What is her problem? I thought. A few minutes later, a sentence came to my mind about this woman. I believe God told me what was going on. Oh, that’s what is wrong! Ok, that helps me understand. I felt no urge to go to that woman and tell her, look, you have a problem here. Instead, God’s voice gave me clarity and I actually was able to listen to her after that without feeling condemnation and disgust! In that case, I did not feel I had the permission from God to share what I heard.
God also tells us things to help us understand His bigger plan for the world, and how we are to act within that plan. This may not always be intended for us to share with others, because their part in His plan may look very different. At times, telling people can impede what God wants us to quietly do.
As we grow in hearing God, we will grow in our friendship with Him. Indeed, becoming friends with God is the primary reason for a life devoted to hearing Him! So God may tell you things just because you are His friend. And no good friend blabs everything he hears.
I feel I can’t stress this strongly enough–if you hear from God, listen for permission to share from Him before you share it. Of course we are all going to mess up sometimes and share things we shouldn’t, or be quiet when we should share. But this is something that deserves our effort.
The second guiding factor in telling others what we hear lies in Romans.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith
Romans 12:6 (ESV)
Telling others what we hear needs to be in proportion to our faith. I think this works for both the giver and the receiver. I will word what I share differently, depending who I am talking to, and what the setting is.
For instance, if I am in a small group of people who loves words from God, I might say to someone, “I have a word for you…” In another setting, putting it that way would be very offensive. So I might say something like, “I thought of this about you…” or “I had an insight I’d like to share…” or “A verse came to my mind relating to your situation…” See the difference? Saying “I have a word for you” feels much more direct; a more round-about way of saying that is less threatening and leaves more room for people who aren’t comfortable with God’s voice.
The small faith might lie on my side, too, and that also affects how I share. Recently when praying with someone, I had the impression that she was going through some tough things with relationships at work. She did not tell me anything like that, so I didn’t know and I felt hesitant to say what could seem like a brash assumption. The impression was so strong I couldn’t ignore it, so finally I asked her if she had anything going on at work that she wanted me to pray about. Yes, she did, she said slowly, and went on to describe a challenging relationship! I was happy to pray with her about that! For me it was a faith-builder to see that I really did hear God. Asking if you can pray about ….. (what you think God’s telling you in general terms) can be a good way to start telling others in a way that’s not as scary for you.
In tandem with sharing according to the proportion of our faith, we need to be watchful that we don’t share more than we actually heard. In the above story, my logical train of thought went to “it must be something going on with her boss.” I did not say that though, because I thought that part might have just come from my mind. As it turned out, the relationship difficulty did not include her boss! If I had added that, it would have been embarrassing for both of us.
When telling others what we hear, if we have a corrective word, it must first be given in private.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
Going to someone personally if you have a problem with them is only fair. I made the mistake recently of giving a corrective word to someone in front of a group. Later I felt terrible, because even though I meant it mildly, it was unfair of me to do it in front of others. It’s true that we are to let others test our words, which is why I said it in a group, but Jesus specifically asks us to tell people in private first to see if they hear us.
In my own life, I’ve experienced encouragement as generally much more effective. But if we do need to correct, let’s honor and respect people with a gentle, private approach.
By now you may be thinking, “Is it even important to tell others what I hear God saying about them?” YES! God uses you to bring His words to His beloved people. A word from God through you may be exactly what someone needs for direction, encouragement, correction. Deep wounds can be healed with a timely word from God (or many timely words over a long space). It may also be the push that helps them take the plunge into God’s kingdom! You don’t want to rob people of the chance to hear from Him, do you?
I’ll end with a story. One day I was feeling a bit lonely and discouraged. Had we made a mistake in leaving our families and friends and sweet country home to live in a strange town?
That evening I was sitting on the porch with Will, and waved hello at a lady who was walking by on the street. She waved back, then stopped and talked to us for a while. We had never met this woman before, but ended up praying with her about some problems she faced. As this stranger was leaving, she turned and wagged her finger at us, and stated emphatically, “Jesus didn’t stay home and expect the needy people to come to Him. He went out into the towns where the people were!”
Will and I laughed and laughed after she was gone. Could God have been any clearer? The discouragement disappeared in a poof of holy laughter and I felt purpose again.
Do you have additional tips to offer on how to tell others what you hear?
3 thoughts on “Hearing God’s Voice (Part 6 of 7): Telling Others What I Hear”
Good insight as always. I love reading these posts. You have some very insightful things to say that come out of a close relationship with God.
“In a poof of holy laughter” !!! That is delicious.
You have some really excellent points here. The way I heard a Bible teacher once put it was, “Discretion is a very important part of discernment. Discretion is not an option, or separate from discernment. We must learn to discern not only if it is God speaking to us, but what he wants us to do about it.” For example, how much he wants us to share, if at all. He taught from Proverbs 2, and pointed out the different meanings of “wisdom,” “understanding” and “insight” in the Hebrew, and stressed the presence of the conditional word “if” in the passages — God expects to choose to seek for them, they are not automatic.
We also have to learn to leave things in His hands. The Lord might give us a very strong impression that we are to share with someone, but then our responsibility is sometimes to speak no more about it with them and just pray for them when burdened to do so. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us and comforts us, and He is active in others’ lives. We can trust him to pursue others as well as he pursues us.*
*As a side note, this “obvious” truth does not seem so obvious when we’re suffering from the effects of others’ sin, and they seem indifferent and unremorseful–how much worse when these are other believers! At those times, I find it immensely helpful to purposely pray and tell God something like, “Thank you that you are pursuing them in their sin as faithfully as you pursue me in mine. Thank you for the conviction of your Holy Spirit…” If I can sense that I’m having trouble believing he’s convicting and pursuing them (after all, it’s been 10 years and they’re still not sorry!), I’ll ask for help with my unbelief like the man in Mark 9, and re-state my forgiveness of them. This is an important part of forgiveness that often isn’t addressed properly, of at all. Forgiveness isn’t magnanimously saying something “doesn’t matter anymore,” it’s entrusting yourself to Him who judges justly. Vengeance is his, and our indebtedness for our own sins is also his. Forgiveness isn’t setting the other person free from consequences for their actions; it is putting the matter into God’s hands, while maintaining safe boundaries. If we struggle to believe God is a good father, this matter of “entrusting” can become a life or death struggle. Once when I heard a presentation from a couple who have a ministry, they said, “People sometimes say that Satan’s favorite lie is that he doesn’t exist. It’s been our experience that his favorite lie is actually that God is not a good father.” I whole-heartedly agree. Most people (even Christians) find God a neglectful, indifferent, or sadistic father, and ascribe characteristics to him which actually belong to Satan or the false gods of other religions. And what do we find Satan doing in Genesis as his first interaction with humanity? Telling lies about God and urging us not to listen to His word, but to rely on our own perceptions and feelings (SEE the fruit is good for eating) and Satan’s lying counsel.