So, what does it mean hearing God? Hearing the Holy Spirit? Is a real voice? Is there a way we can be fairly sure we are hearing the Holy Spirit, not a deceiving spirit.
In my life as a Christian, I am fairly convinced that I have heard from God/the Holy Spirit on at least four occasions. So I hope that if I share these occasions, it may encourage you or help you in your own “listening”.
I was in a very miserable marriage with a non-Christian. I and my church family had been praying, there was a sudden turnaround and this marriage suddenly became all it should be. I lived in joy for three years before there was another turnaround and it became even worse than before. As the marriage fell apart I asked God why it turned out like this. I “heard” (and that’s the difficulty because it wasn’t audible words, but words that appeared in my mind that the only way I can describe it) – “If it took your whole life to bring him to me, what is that to you?” Now one thing’s for sure I wouldn’t be addressing myself in that way. The marriage did break up and I didn’t see him for more than 20 years. But just to put an end to that story when he was dying he got back in touch and in the last two weeks of his life as we were talking and sharing, he gave his life to Jesus.
As an early Christian I was reading the Bible, and came across the verse in Malachi: 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this says the Lord Almighty”. I’ll tell you the whole story if you ask. But that verse absolutely jumped out at me. From that day on I have always tithed and God has never left me in need.
During a time of much distress and concern and worrying and anxiety in a period of my life, I was in a church service and agonising over a decision to do this or that. And very clearly into my head came the words “Your work is done”. I was able to let go of the problem and life did work out in the best way possible. Again would I have thought such a thought to myself?
I was being interviewed for a cleaning job I had been offered, and negotiating the wages I suggested I could settle for the lower figure they were offering as I wouldn’t declare it for tax. And this is where one can see God’s sense of humour as well. Because on the morning I was due to start, as I stepped into the shower, into my head came the words “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. Now I think you’ll agree that that might not be a thought I would have, as it were, to myself. The interesting end to that story is that when I arrived and mentioned to the new employer that I was going to pay tax after all, they said they were very relieved and they were planning to give me a higher salary anyway which would cover the tax!
I don’t know if these stories will help you or not. But for me one of the ways are feeling fairly sure these things come from God/the Holy Spirit, is that the words used would not be words I would use to myself, and they do not disagree with any biblical concept but rather lead to a righteous, if you like, way of behaving.
Some helpful verses might be
John 16:13 “…he will guide you into all truth …”.
John 14:26 “…he will teach you all things…”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.”
(You can see how scripture was used twice in my stories).