You know how there are a bajillionty different denominations all ascribing to one book, and people get frustrated because the other denominations aren't doing things the way that they would have it done? Why is that? Why is there so much splintering and fracturing and weirdness? I mean, some people dance with snakes, and I personally don't really see that as something of which to make a doctrine. At the heart of many of these divisions and denominations is a mind that probably said this:
"God told me..."
I am always very fascinated when someone tells me that God told them, well, anything really. That isn't because I doubt that God speaks to people, because I very much believe He does. It's more that I always align my ear to try to evaluate if what this person has heard is in agreement with what the Word of God actually states.
This is a big deal:
"The Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he answered, “I did not call, my son, lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him. So the Lord called Samuel again for the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli discerned that the Lord was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”- 1 Sam 3
It is worth noting that these are not typical results. Can God do this? Absolutely. Is this the standard way in which God does this? No. I'm not just saying that because every failed romantic relationship I have been in has been expressly due to someone "hearing from God" that we weren't supposed to be together. You know, instead of actually talking about real issues that arise in a relationship. I mean, if you have personal convictions, you can say that you have convictions. If you've had a change of heart, say you've had a change of heart. People don't need to toss God in as a cop out for things that they themselves should be justified in feeling or doing or not doing.
There have been several times in my life where I have FELT God lead me in a specific direction. There have been many SIGNS that I have interpreted as God communicating things to me. There have been times when I have FELT God was leading me a direction and thought I saw SIGNS and then realized that (sometimes not early enough) it wasn't in fact God leading me. Sometimes my flesh leads me into temptation. I'm reminded of this:
"You shall eat it as a barley cake, having baked it in their sight over human dung.” Then the Lord said, “Thus will the sons of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will banish them.” But I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never been defiled; for from my youth until now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has any unclean meat ever entered my mouth.” Then He said to me, “See, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung over which you will prepare your bread.”" - Ezekiel 4
What I see in the heart of this passage is God is actually asking a question. Sure He's giving instructions, but in the midst of these instructions is the test of the heart to see if it will obey God. The question God is asking here is, "Is it me you're listening to?" That "Do you know my voice well enough that you aren't actually following your own flesh?" question.
I've been walking this walk in the direction of God for years. Several years. There have been many times where I have felt the presence of God. There have been two times where God has directed me. I know that he directed me because the circumstance was not the way that I wanted to go or would logically have gone because it realistically should have been my downfall but wasn't. God has spoken to me twice in an audible whisper. Both times it wasn't a fleshly, warm, burning sensation where I was reaffirmed and rising up in my valiant glory in which I was going to share with God. No. It wasn't like that at all. Both times I was actually terrified at the sound. The first time that I heard God whisper I was with my roommates in our living room praying for our church, family, and for a situation where in retrospect my heart wasn't where it should have been. I was praying, and had prayed and prayed for this thing to work out even though I had felt like God was trying to tell me it wasn't going to happen. I mean, I was lock-jawed on this prayer bugging God about it for months. All the while, he's directing me towards no. My roommates and I were praying and I heard him whisper as if he were sitting next to me on the arm of the couch and he said "give this up". I was instantly terrified. It took me still another several years to give up that thing. I still struggle with the longing from time to time and even moved across the country.
The second time I had been in an argument with a lady in the church that was part of the board or leadership or something. She was selling weight loss shakes and things, her husband and her had turned a lot of the church into a multi-level marketing platform. I was upset and I was ready to confront her about everything. In a dream that I had, I FELT that God was telling me not to. I obeyed that, even though it was the opposite of what I really wanted. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after. The cancer got worse and one of the leaders got up in front of everyone and gave a big speech about demanding the promises of God and believing without doubt that God would heal this woman. He called for everyone to lay hands on her and pray. I was the first to get up and I laid my hand on her shoulder and I heard the voice that I knew was God say out loud as if He were standing right behind me and He said, "I will not heal her". For the next several months, I watched as she got worse and as people made demands of God not accounting for His sovereignty.
Twice in the, what…sixteen years I've been walking after/with/near/in-relation-to God, only two times has God, without a doubt, 1,000 percent for certain, audibly spoken with me. Other times I have had encounters with God where He's impressed on my heart a message, taken correction, or received encouragement. Hearing from God is no light thing as it's thrown around many churches these days. If everyone was right in that they exactly heard from God 100% accurately, then my brother would have been right and I was supposed to marry Becca Pettit after high school. She’s doing great, happily married and I do believe she just had another baby. He didn't hear from God, even though he was so very certain he had. His ex-girlfriend didn't hear from God about them getting married even though she was certain she had. I didn't hear from God about my ex-girlfriend and I getting married the way that I once had thought that I had.... and when I faced that fact, it threw me and made me re-evaluate the way that I thought God speaks to me. Perhaps we misheard. Perhaps we heard something that we wanted to hear in a way that we wanted to believe it.
I guess all of that was to say this: when you hear something from God...be sure. Be sure as Ezekiel clarified that it was God's words conforming to God's Word. Be sure when you're really FEELING God is telling you something or the SIGNS are being interpreted away, that it's lining up with the Word of God. Check it when people in the church tell you God told them something to tell you. Check it when people in the church tell you that God told them something.
"Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain. Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken" - Ezekiel 22