Our adult Sunday school just finished a series by Bill Hybels who is the senior pastor at Willow Creek Church in Barrington, IL. Bill is best known for his annual Global Leadership Summits, but he recently wrote a book called The Power of Whispers in which he delves into the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Bill is an outstanding speaker so when I saw he did a four-part video series on the book I was eager to use them.
I was not disappointed!
The concept is simple: The Holy Spirit whispers to us but we have to learn how to hear those whispers and then act on those whispers. I want to take a moment today to share with you a few of the tactics Bill suggests for hearing the whispers of the Holy Spirit.
Bill suggests that the Holy Spirit whispers to us in three main areas:
In other words, God – through the Holy Spirit – assures us in our walk; admonishes us when we’re screwing up; and calls us to action, wanting us to use our spiritual gifts for His glory and purpose. If you’re like me you hear a lot of admonishments! According to Bill, they may sound like this:
- Keep Asking
- Be Patient
- Choose Love Anyway
- Trust Me
- Believe What You Know of Me to be True
The question I always get when I talk about hearing the Holy Spirit’s guidance in your life is, “How do I figure out what is the Holy Spirit and what is just me talking to myself?” Great question, but I want to broaden it to include one more voice! How do you discern the Holy Spirit from your own inner monologue from Satan’s whispers of temptation?
Bill suggests five filters through which you can test the message to see if it is coming from the Holy Spirit. When you hear that whisper ask these questions:
- God, is this prompting coming from you?
- Is the whisper scriptural?
- Is it wise?
- Is it in tune with my own character or wiring?
- What do the people I most trust think about it?
I think these are great questions to ask. First go back to God and ask Him to confirm the message! That’s a great way to feel more comfortable that it’s not just you talking to yourself! The key to making sure it’s not Satan’s whispers is to figure out if what the whisper is asking you to do is scriptural. God will never ask you to do something that goes against His word – that’s not His nature.
The third and fourth questions are SO important. Is it wise and is it in tune with the way I’m wired? A whisper may come that tells you to do something that would be harmful to you or your family and runs completely counter to the way God created you. When that happens you have to really pray if that whisper is truly from God. I’m not saying God won’t guide you into things that stretch you, but I am saying that God made you a certain way for His purpose so the things He guides you to do should be in line with that, which in turn will seem wise and not foolish.
I think the fifth filter is the one we use least. Most the people I know don’t actually have a group of trusted advisors they run things through. I call my “Sanity Check.” There are times I can get really fired up about an idea but when I run it through my sanity checkers they tell me I’m nuts! Sometimes my discernment can be out of tune so having a group of people I trust to make sure I’m accurate in my assessment is really important. I’d strongly suggest that you create such a group if you don’t already have one!
The next part is obvious – you have to find quiet time to listen for God to talk with you! Bill suggests keeping a journal so you can write down the whispers, as well as how God answered previous prayer requests.
But beyond your quiet time, Bill also notes that whispers can come in a lot of different ways so we must always keep one ear open to heaven. Sometimes it will be a person saying something to you that spurs the whisper. Sometimes it will be a thought that just happens in your head. Sometimes it will come from reading scripture and you’ll have an epiphany from the Holy Spirit (like I did this morning). You just have to be not only open to the idea that God is going to talk with you but expectant that the Holy Spirit will whisper to you each day.
If you’re new at this, don’t freak out if you don’t hear anything at first. It’s a practiced art that takes time to develop so stick with it! I personally believe God has a lot to say to you – He does to me – so seek Him with all your mind, and all your strength, and all your heart, and all your soul!
I’d also encourage you to get the book if you want a more detailed explanation from Bill himself. The whispers from the Holy Spirit are powerful, enlightening, humbling, and an important part of your walk with Christ. In fact they are the best conversations you will ever have! Good luck!