Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Did God Tell You?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I was once having an impassioned discussion with a fellow Christian about the curriculum of the upcoming discipleship classes to be held at our church.  This Christian brother wanted to focus the curriculum on the subject of prayer, while I was adamant that we should teach a class on the attributes of God, which did not strictly align with the topic of prayer.

During our conversation, my friend made a statement to me which he believed should have ended the conversation, a statement which I sometimes hear other Christians make.  He said, in effect, “I’ve been praying about this and God has told me that the curriculum on prayer is what He wants us to teach.”

My response to him, which admittedly was a bit contentious, was, “God told me to teach about His attributes, so it looks we have a stalemate!”  I knew that a contest between the two of us about which idea God really preferred, based on our own subjective feelings, was pointless, but I wanted my friend to see where his comment would logically lead us.

The truth is that God speaks to us, foremost, from His word in the Bible.  The Bible speaks about both the subject of prayer and the subject of God’s attributes.  Nowhere, however, do you find a verse in the Bible telling our specific church which topic should be taught in the upcoming semester!  Given that we are limited in space, we cannot teach everything and choices have to be made, but those choices will have to be made without pointing to any one Bible verse.

It concerns me when Christians claim God told them something that cannot be found in the Bible, and especially when they are using this claim to shut off debate.  There are many subjects that the Bible covers which are not up for debate, but there are many subjects which the Bible does not cover which are up for debate (e.g., choosing a discipleship curriculum).  For those topics, we should have the debate and pray for wisdom to come to a reasonable answer, but we should not play the “God told me” card.

I am personally very uncomfortable claiming God told me things which I cannot point to in Scripture.  Who am I to represent new revelation from God?  If you are one of these Christians who find yourself saying this kind of thing frequently, ask yourself why.  If it is to cut off debate where debate is perfectly acceptable, then stop!  Argue your point of view, but don’t claim that God is somehow on your side when you have no objective way of knowing that.


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Comments

  • uninvoked

    I don’t thing God really told him. I think he feels strongly about it, assumes the spirit is moving him to that feeling, and thus it should be done. Don’t get me wrong, maybe it should, but that’s not God speaking. When God actually says, “Hey. I’m calling your name.” You’re either crapping your pants or running to do what he wants.

    It wouldn’t be “God told me to do this.”

    It would be “OMG! Guess what God told me to do!!”

    There is a huge difference between a gentle nudge and an actual voice. Trust me.

  • Bill Pratt

    “You’re either crapping your pants or running to do what he wants.”

    I’ve never heard someone quite put it that way before, but I think you’re right! And you gave me a good laugh!

  • http://larkandlola.blogspot.com Heather

    I know a woman who thinks God tells her how to do such trivial things such as decorating her house.

    I honestly think sometimes it’s a coping mechanism in a way – because if later on their actions prove to be a bad idea or they have regrets, they can console them with the fact that it was God’s plan, and thus not hold themselves accountable which would be uncomfortable to them.

    I feel like I’ve witnessed this a few times.

  • http://sonsothunder.wordpress.com sonsothunder

    LOL, Are you kidding me? Who is your God?
    Are we to believe that God, the creator of all things including the Love letter that He wrote to us, (which of course is the “Logos” or Living Word) just wrote a book for us one day as individuals and then suddenly lost His voice? Now, I’m not saying that I hear , or have ever heard an audiable voice from God. Although, I have heard a voice “In My Spirit Mans, ears” (spiritual heart) either of a warning, or even, yes, imagine this: as an answer to a direct question or petition of prayer of a sought after need for direction. “Did God tell you” you ask ?” Absolutly it was God. I understand that we mostly get our Remah words from God through His Logos word, However, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, still talks to those who will ask and expect an answer one way or another from Him. God still interacts with His children. The fact that you yourself realize that there are no “Direct” scriptures written addressing your personal church curriculum I would think should help you to see that there must be other means of comunications from a Father to His Children. (Although no doubt , He could answer through one of the countless applications of His word) Please do not take this as a personal slam on you brother. It is only my hope to share the reality that you may be cheating yourself out of some of the most intimate moments and conversations with God that you could imagine in your walk with Him. As He has said, “we have not because we ask not many times.” Because you may be limited on space in your curriculum, I would not think is a viable reason to try and limit God. ( 5000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread)? I think God can manage to stretch a little curriculum .
    Now, this part may hurt just a little; (Only in Love )
    Should the church member, or members have been included purposly to share in what the church is to be fed, then, is it not possible, as it did bring you to the topic of “Answered Prayer” that maybe, just maybe, the attributes of God are not as limited as some neatly packaged theological boxes can contain?
    According to His Word, as you yourself have said that He primarily speaks to us through, such matters are to be presented in petition unto God “Together” as the Body of Christ to begin with. God may have not only been speaking to that brother in your church with this answer about prayer, but He very likely was also talking to you..through another vessel, whom you may have forgotten momentarily, also carries much of Gods word within him.
    Be blessed, Love you as a fellow brother in Christ.
    sonsothunder

  • wellwateredgarden

    Hey … good discussion.

    Of course God still ‘talks’ to His kingdom heirs. Jesus said that the Father would be sending His spirit and that spirit would remind believers of all the things Jesus had taught. – John 14:26

    Jesus also said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8

    Seems simple to me.

  • http://www.heavenlybiblecovers.com Bible Covers

    It just seems that people read things into the Bible. People interpret what the Bible says in many different ways.
    Someone may say: “I did this because the Bible says I should do it.”

    Then I read it and to me it says something completely different.
    So who is correct???

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Sonsofthunder,
    I do not mean to claim that God does not speak in other ways. My specific point is that Christians who frequently say that God told them to do something need to check themselves and see if they are not really using this claim to forward a selfish agenda – especially if they find themselves making this claim when there is a debate going on.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Bill

  • Clark

    I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit speaks to us at times and encourages us to act in certain ways and to make particular decisions. The problem is that it is only one of many voices that speak to us. I think we are also spoken to by our own greed, selfishness, and emotions … we can be spoken to by forces of the world … and we can also be spoken to at times by the enemy. The hard part is spending enough time with God (chiefly through studying the Bible and prayer) to learn to discern His voice from all the others. I know of a really strong Christian who once told me that God told him to buy a cadillac … that always makes me laugh!

    BTW … I am new to your blog and I am really enjoying it.

    Clark

  • Bill Pratt

    Clark,
    Thanks very much for your comment and for your encouragement. I guess God was trying to prevent the government having to bail out GM!

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://sonsothunder.wordpress.com sonsothunder

    Actually Bible covers, both can be right. About what message they recieve from any one scripture from Gods word I mean, because it is the ‘living” Word of God..
    All scriptures, and chapters of the Bible were written with one “Absolute” message, yet each has an infinite amount of applications to each of our lives as individuals. ( Each Verse can even have a different application into different situations of our own lives also ) As Clark pointed out however, we must spend time with God, and in His word often , and prayerfuly enough to develop, or be imparted with His Spiritual Discernment to therefore determine His voice , from our own..or from the adversary even. I was reminded after posting on here last night that I had recently written a blog on my home site called “Hear One Voice” that very much alines with this topic, and I then decided to post it on my wordpress site as well. I certainly will not claim to hear from God as often as I would like to hear from Him in ways “Other” than His Word, but, He has definitly spoken directly into my heart many times. GOD BLESS you all.
    sonsothunder

  • wellwateredgarden

    The person with a testimony about how God has dealt with him is ‘way ahead of the PHd theologian with only an expensive education about God.

    Noah, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Daniel, et al didn’t have Bibles but they had a relationship with God and that counts for a whole lot more than the ability to explain all the Bible’s difficult texts.

    The way I see it, anyway …

  • Bill Pratt

    Let’s take a practical example. Imagine a church committee is trying to determine how much money to ask the church to pledge for a capital campaign. There is a lively debate taking place about the amount of money that the church should seek. One person stands up and says that his prayers indicate that God wants them to ask for $1M and another stands up and says that God told him to seek $2M. Both are sure that God spoke to them and both disagree with the other. How do we determine who is correct since both feel confident that God spoke to them?

  • http://sonsothunder.wordpress.com sonsothunder

    Good question Bill,
    Although we are told by some not to “Put out the Fleece” as did Gideon in Judges 6:39, I do not see as to where in such situations and commitees of the Church of Christ that it would be such a bad idea. If we, keeping all things done in an orderly fashion, as is said by Paul, could come into one accord and trust God for the answer, then I believe He would honor the system that we set forth to receive the answer.
    As Gideon said: (Judges 6:17> And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.) Why can’t we first, do the praying together, as the Body, and having appointed an “Elder” of known integrity, and respected sensibility to Gods voice review all “Said” responses from God, and then in a certain time of personal prayer with God, let that person “Receiving an answer from God” through Gods word, or otherwise, make the final call?
    I know, easier said than done right?
    LOL, If we truly are to trust God as did Gideon, it probably is the only “Right” answer.
    But, there’s the old politics of the “Elders” of the Spirit, verses the “Elder” who wrote the largest check in support of the church for that last ten years in a row ..and will NOT let you forget it…LOL
    oh well, we have to put our foot down somewhere, and maybe we should just take our shoes off, and Stand on the most Holy of Grounds.
    Just a thought.
    sonsothunder

  • wellwateredgarden

    Does anyone know of any instance where God ‘spoke’ to a committee?

    Pretty much all the Bible examples of God speaking is to individuals.

    Jesus said that where two or three believers come together (unity?) in His name, there He would be present. Does it automatically follow that where 2-300 or 2-3000 come together He will be there? … NO.

    I see and hear a lot of ‘praying’ going on but very little actual faith in the promises of God.

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks for the thoughtful answer. I still see an issue in that whichever direction the elder chooses, he will still contradict God’s voice to those he decided against. Clearly some of those who claimed that God told them something were wrong! We know God isn’t wrong, so it must be that some of the people who believe that God is speaking to them are unable to accurately discern when God is speaking to them. I think we just need to admit this and stop stressing these subjective messages from God so much and stick more closely to Scripture. When it’s not in Scripture (like the amount to raise in a campaign), let’s listen to the wisdom of our most spiritual and wise church members (I like this approach you mentioned). Let’s also admit that there are times when multiple choices could be OK with God. Perhaps God does not care about the amount of money the church is trying to raise. Maybe he really cares about the hearts of the givers. I think I read that in the Bible somewhere… :)

  • Ronnie Jones

    Hey All, I think that Dr. John MacArthur gives great freeing direction in this area:

    “The will of God is not meant to be a secret we must uncover. God wants us to understand His will far more than we want to understand it. He always makes His will clear to those who seek it with an obedient heart.

    Most of the real problem areas in the question of God’s will are settled for us in Scripture. The Bible reveals that it is God’s will for all of us to be:

    Saved
    (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9)

    Spirit-filled
    (Ephesians 5:17-18)

    Sanctified
    (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)

    Submissive
    (1 Peter 2:13-15)

    Suffering
    (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12)

    If all those things are true in your life, you may do whatever you want. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That means that if you are conforming to God’s will in all the five ways listed above, He will place in your heart desires that reflect His will. So do what you want to do!”

    In your situation Bill and in the spirit of Rom. 12 you guys can do both just not at the same time. Good blog, thanks for the devoted time. Also, check out Kevin DeYoung’s “Just do Something: How to make a decision without…”

  • Bill Pratt

    Ronnie,
    Great advice! Thanks so much for stopping by.

    Bill

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