Knowing God's Voice
If you have difficulty discerning if you are hearing God's voice, your own voice, or something else, here are three tips for "testing" the spirits:
1. Does it bring peace? In God's presence we feel peace, so if what you hear doesn't bring peace, it isn't God. Even "hard" truth brings peace because we recognize it as truth.
2. Does it agree with Scripture? God will not contradict Himself, so if you hear something opposed to Scriptural truth, it isn't God speaking.
3. Will it produce good fruit? Everything from God is loving and produces the fruit of the Spirit. If what you are hearing will produce something other than these fruits, it isn't God.
We can very easily get caught up in imagining what will happen in our future. We rehearse conversations before they happen, usually imagining worst case scenarios. We strategize and scheme and plot how to "control" to get the outcomes we want. Our imaginations can cook up some very bizarre fictions about what others are thinking about us or what they could possibly do to us. But God tells us all these imaginings are foolishness. The future hasn't happened yet, so our projections aren't real. When you find yourself caught up in these kinds of imaginations, pull in your mental "reins" and focus instead on what is true now. Repeat to yourself whatever is true in your present to help keep your mind on the truth. When we live in what is true now, it grounds us in reality. He is with us in the here-and-now, so living in our present truth is an important part of walking with Jesus.
We are "made in God's image," which means our true selves (the spirit aspect of us) reflect some aspect or aspects of God's nature. To identify what you reflect, choose your favorite story about Jesus from Scripture, evaluate what draws you to that story, then determine what aspects of God's nature Jesus is reflecting in that story. (For example, in the story of the woman at the well, Jesus reveals Himself as a lover of truth, as compassionate, as generous and giving, and as gracious.) Once you identify the aspects of God's nature reflected by Jesus in the story, look at your own heart and see how those same characteristics are present in you. You will likely find your own nature reflects those aspects of Jesus. This is a cool way to uncover who you were created by God to be.
The Greatest Gifts
After salvation, the two greatest gifts God has given us are identity and authority. Because God has given us an aspect of His nature as the core of our identity, no matter what anyone says about us or what circumstances bring to us, we can always go back to the foundation of who God says we are and stand on it, secure and unshakable. Because God gives us authority in our lives, we always have a choice. Together, our identity and our authority make it possible for us to give and receive love (for without knowing who we are, we could not accept we are loved, and without choice we couldn't give genuine love to others). So, thank God each morning for His creation of your identity that reflects the nature of God into the world, and His authority that gives you ownership of your choices instead of others (including the enemy) having power over you.
When we find ourselves judging someone in anger, we are often tempted to blame those feelings on the other person. Instead, ask Jesus to show you what lie YOU are believing. It is likely that your lie is the same lie the other person is believing, and that lie in both of you is producing the anger/judgment response. So, rather than blame them, forgive them. Then, forgive yourself.
Live a Longer and Healthier Life
A Harvard study following 800 people over 9 decades “discovered” 6 key factors leading to longer and happier lives. What science has discovered has been known through Scripture since, well, since Scripture existed. Here are the things listed by science as having the most significant positive impact on our physical and mental health, followed by the verses teaching the same principles.
1. Avoid smoking and alcohol (this is the #1 predictive factor for health) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
2. Get as much education as possible (higher education leads to healthier living) “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
3. Positive experiences in childhood (it isn’t the bad experiences but the good people we encounter amongst the bad experiences that predict a happier, healthier life) “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 8:16-17). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
4. Emotional intelligence (how we manage social relationships is the top predictor of emotional health). “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10).
5. Mature coping skills (how we respond to difficulty predicts outcomes: if we are blaming, see ourselves as a victim, are passive-aggressive, or use denial, we will not thrive, but if we “do unto others,” use creative expression, look at the bright side, and don’t take ourselves too seriously, we will) “) “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31). "…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11). “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
6. Helping others (this one factor tripled the chances of being joyful into the 70’s and beyond) “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13). “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31).
So, rather than viewing Scriptural instruction as a set of rules we “have to” follow or we will be punished, view Scriptural instruction as the most reliable self-help guide ever written. Respond maturely to Scripture as beneficial and loving of our lives. Remember everything God does is for our sake. As Scripture teaches, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Vaillant, George. Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life (Harvard Study on Adult Development).
Who You Are
Think back over your life, all the way back to your childhood, and consider what aspects of yourself the enemy has most tried to steal from you. Recognizing what the evil one has tried to rob from you is one way to recognize who God made you to be.
For example, I was raised in a family whose first commandment was "Don't make waves." As a child, I was a free spirit, outspoken, with a passion for justice. I was often punished and always criticized for speaking my mind or for standing up for what I thought was right. By the time I reached adolescence, I had learned the lessons of my family well. I had become quiet and acquiescent. The enemy, afraid of my voice and my strength of will, had set out to steal my identity from me, and he seemed to have succeeded - that is, until Jesus revealed my true names to me: Helga, the warrior against the enemy who brought people to God, and Anna, the free spirit and lover of the King. A warrior makes waves; a lover of the King is passionate for His truth. Can you see how the enemy's efforts were directly against my true nature as created by God?
So look at what the enemy has tried to steal from you as one way to discover who you really are, according to God.
Start a Gratitude list with one thing you are grateful to God for, and every morning as part of your routine add something you are grateful for to the list. Then, read through your list to remind yourself of the positive things God has provided in your life. Over time, your list will grow, and reading through your list will start your morning off with a grateful heart toward God. "Sing to the Lord with grateful praise" (Psalm 147:7).
Align with Christ
Jesus lives within us, goes before us, stands beside us, and holds us in His hands. Yet, our focus is often anywhere but on Him. If you would like to better connect and align yourself with Jesus, try this: at each new input of information (no matter the source), in your spirit ask Him the simple question, "What do you think?" Allow yourself a few seconds to listen with an open heart and mind for His response. If you receive, agree and follow. If you don't hear anything, you have at least given yourself a few seconds of contemplation before you respond, which will help you to not react from emotion or impulse, and you will have focused your thoughts on Him just as Scripture instructs. Follow this pattern throughout your day, asking Him about each new experience, conversation, or exposure to information. Ask about anything and everything. If you keep this up for just a few weeks, it will become your pattern and will feel natural to you.
Think about how you converse with a good friend or significant other. If you are a good communicator, you approach each conversation with a clear mind and a receptive heart. You don't preconceive what the other person is going to say and respond based on your own perceptions. You listen without judgment and receive what they share. Have this same attitude in your conversations with Jesus. Don't assume what you think His response will be. Really listen in your heart, open to whatever He might have to say. You may be pleasantly surprised, and you will most certainly learn some wonderful things about His character and how He feels about you.
Dealing with harsh words
When someone says something mean to you or speaks ill of you, instead of taking in the harsh words and internalizing them as true of you, go to Jesus and ask Him to show you what lie that person is believing about themselves. Since our harsh words toward others are reflections of what we believe about ourselves projected and displaced, the lie He shows you will be something along the lines of what they are saying about you or to you. After you understand their lie belief, ask Jesus to show you the truth about you, to help clean out any places their lie has tried to inhabit in you.
Recognize the same thing is true of harsh thoughts, feelings, and words you have toward others. Instead of speaking them, look first in the mirror and ask Jesus to show you the source of the harsh words in a lie you believe about yourself. Then, ask Him what the truth is about you. Finally, ask for the truth about the other person - how He sees them - and allow His truth to take over your harsh thoughts and feelings.