I want to begin this post by affirming without question my absolute belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture. I also want to challenge you to read to the end of this post so you understand my point.
There have been times when I’ve just “sensed” what I’ve needed to do, but without a specific, clear biblical text that says, “Do this in this situation”—like, for example, when my wife and I have made ministry moves. Even my calling to preach, about which I’ve written here, came from my sense that God had uniquely grabbed my attention. I’ve learned to trust those feelings and impressions, but with these parameters in place:
- When I’m faithfully reading the Word. That is, I’m not talking about just opening the Bible for the first time in months just because I need direction. That’s a dangerous approach—but, regularly, consistently, deeply reading the Word does allow us to hear God. We grow in wisdom as the Lord transforms us through His Word.
- When prayer is in my DNA. If I never talk to God unless I have a need, my prayer life doesn’t reflect a strong relationship with Him; it suggests I see Him as only a divine “vending machine” to meet my needs when I can’t meet them myself. That kind of communication with God doesn’t facilitate hearing Him well.
- When I’m careful in my interpretation of the Word. My primary concern is that I’m not coming up with my own private, untested interpretation. If I’m the first person in all of church history to reach my conclusion about a text to support my decision, I need to reconsider my thinking.
- When I’m not making decisions alone. God created us to be in relationship with others (Gen 2:18), and those relationships—when they are godly—help guard us against our own oft-deceived heart. Numerous times, I’ve said to trusted friends, “I’m thinking in this direction,” and they’ve helped me evaluate my leanings.
- When I’m not living in ongoing sin. We can’t be trusting God, and we certainly can’t trust ourselves, when we’re living in rebellion. On what basis would we trust our feelings about the unknown when we’re not even faithful to the things we clearly do know?
- When I know myself well enough to read my heart honestly. This one’s really hard, as our hearts apart from Christ are desperately sick (Jer 17:9). I’ve found it easier to read my own heart, though, when I’m doing all the things above. The Spirit of God through the Word of God has a way of unpeeling our heart to show us our realities.
- When I’m seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength(Mark 12:30). When I’m longing to love God and follow Him completely, I can trust His work in my heart and emotions.
So, what’s my point of this post? It’s not to raise the significance of relying on our feelings and impressions to follow God. Rather, it’s to remind us that relying on them apart from walking deeply with God is risky indeed.