Hearing God's Direction for Your Life
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story in scripture is about Mary, the mother of our Lord, Jesus. Can you imagine the scene? God confirms His will to Mary that she was to have the Messiah, the son of God. I wonder if I could be like Mary in her response to the Father. There are some great examples to be learned from her reaction to the news.
It can teach you how to be confident in knowing God’s will for you. So the question at hand is this: Can you know the promises and provision He has for you are indeed true and will come to pass?
Throughout church history, you'll often see many Christians get off track spiritually by listening to different voices that are out there, toting doctrine that may be off. Have you listened to a preacher that has told you that God would do something for you, or had something for you and it did not come to pass? Perhaps, you were given an impression that you were going to have a breakthrough in finances, health, relationships and it did not come to be.
Did you doubt yourself and your ability to hear God’s direction clearly for yourself?
How Do You Determine If You Are Hearing God?
First of all, know this - God would never, ever contradict His own word in Scripture, so knowing what God has already said in the Bible about whatever it is you are praying for is so important.
God Confirms His Will To You
I had a conversation with my youngest son today. He asked me if God would ever ask Him to do something He did not want to do. I told Him that normally God’s directives are usually something He has been gently guiding you to. I gave Him an example that if someone came and told him that God said he was to go to Africa as a missionary or he would be a pastor of a large church one day, but he had no desire to nor had ever had the idea prior, it might be that person was not hearing God.
God reveals His will for your life and confirms it some other way, through your friends, through your family, by the desires already in your heart, by His Word, etc. If something is God's "will" for your life, He will confirm it to you. And if you are spending time in His word, praying, and seeking counsel from your spiritual leadership, you will hear and recognize when that confirmation comes to you.
Mary is an excellent example of this.
The angel, Gabriel, appeared to her and told her that she would conceive a son, although she was a virgin, and name Him Jesus and he would reign without end (Luke 1:26-33).
Mary received word from the angel of the Lord. As a young Hebrew girl, she could likely have been taught some of the scripture that foretold of the coming Messiah. In Isaiah, for instance, chapter 9 foretells the birth of Christ. This passage reads, "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David" (verses 6-7). For one familiar with the scriptures, she could have recalled it in His written Word.
But here, the angel Gabriel let Mary know that this was truly God's will for her life in that he let her know through someone she respected and loved. The angel told Mary that Elizabeth, who was considered to be barren, was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. I’ve read that it could be that if the angel hadn't told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant too, and she hadn't gone to see her, we may not have the amazing prophetic revelation straight from the lips of Elizabeth herself.
When Mary arrived at her cousin’s home, Elizabeth was overjoyed. It says in Luke 1:41-43, "Elizabeth's child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, "You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me!"
Elizabeth confirmed to Mary what the angel had spoken, for later Elizabeth says, "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said" (Luke 1: 45). How did Elizabeth know that Mary had a crisis of belief not too long before visiting? Mary wasn't quite sure how the virgin birth would be possible. But Mary believed and she gained favor with God and somehow Elizabeth knew this.
So how did Elizabeth know that the son Mary was carrying was in fact the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, we know from verse 41 that she was filled with the Holy Spirit before she spoke those goose-bump provoking words. Something inside of Elizabeth knew.
This whole scene was instigated by God. Did you see it? It wasn't an accident that Mary went to Elizabeth and that Elizabeth proclaimed that, indeed, the Lord Jesus would be Mary's son. That was spoken confirmation number two.
First, there was an angel who specifically confirmed what had already been predicted by the prophets; and then there was the Holy Spirit-inspired word of a relative. This is how God works! He reveals His plans and confirms them.
But God goes a step further.
The prophet Isaiah’s word, an angel, the word of a relative.
There were also shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. We sing it at Christmas, but realize, friends, that this really happened. While doing their usual night job, this group of nameless Shepherds received a message from yet another angel. They realize that the Savior of the world has been born in Bethlehem and the angel even tells them what the Lord Jesus was wearing! They begin their holy journey to find the Christ child after an amazing choir rendition from countless jubilant angels. In Luke 2:17, it says the shepherds told Mary what the angel had told them.
So does Mary now have enough confirmations that she was going to have the Savior of the world as her firstborn child? Absolutely!
Between Isaiah, the old testament prophet, the angel Gabriel, her cousin, shepherds, the second-hand account of the words of yet another angel, these are all some amazing examples of how God wants to communicate with people His plans.
And there’s more.
In Luke 2:21, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, according to Jewish law. The day Mary and Joseph went to present Jesus in the temple, there was a man named Simeon who knew from a prophecy over his life that he would see the Messiah with his own two eyes before he died. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, as it says in Luke 2:25- 28, Simeon went to the exact location where Mary and Joseph were waiting. And as he held up that little baby, Simeon said, "Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!’ (Luke 2:29-32)
Amazing! God gave Mary so many confirmations, which all said, "Yes, Mary, this is it. You are going to give birth to the Savior and I am going to make sure that you don't forget that this is what I want for you. I want to show you again in case you doubt anything already revealed to you along the way."
Angels, prophets of old through the written Word, prophets of her day through the spoken Word, a dearly-loved relative, some simple strangers who shepherded for a living, and some non-coincidental circumstances -- that is quite a testimony of God's hand at work.
You, too, can know God’s gracious plans that He has for you. As you pray and wait for those confirmations from the Lord, He is faithful to lead you. He wants you to know He has good plans for you. Sometimes it takes faith to believe you are hearing His guidance. We tend to doubt if we are really hearing Him. In these times, I always rely on spiritual leadership to advise as well as friends and family in the faith to pray with me.
My hope is that during this holiday season you come to know that God is faithful to His promises as He was with Mary. But if you need a little extra help in knowing just how real those promises are, He is behind you every step of the way on the path towards His plans for you. I know it can be hard but waiting for the bread crumbs along the way can be exciting to discover.
Remember, Mary questioned the angel originally as to how it could come to be and he gave Mary confirmation. The angel gave instructions that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and then she went to her cousin. Mary’s confession was, "Everything you said about me, let it come true. Be thou according to your word."
Let's be the same as Mary, believing every promise that God has made over our lives will come to pass just like He said. Every promise God has spoken over you. Heaven and earth may pass away but His word will yet remain. Proclaim that God would do it just like He said He would. Come into agreement with His word over you.