If you’ve been a Christian for some time now, I can guarantee you’ve heard someone use the phrase “God told me to”, and if you’re like me, you’re probably guilty of having used it yourself at some point. This phrase is becoming more and more common in our churches, sneaking into our sermons, books and conversations. It may seem relatively harmless, but the truth is, using that phrase carelessly could cause a lot more harm than good…
You could be wrong
The problem with boldly proclaiming “God told me to” without following that statement with a scripture is quite simply… He really may not have. It can be extremely difficult to discern between our emotions and what God is leading us to do. Our flesh, heart and mind can also speak to us, leading us into believing one thing, when it really may not be the case. We have to remember that no matter how spiritual we are, because we’re humans, we are fallible and prone to making mistakes.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26
You could be misrepresenting God
Now, let’s say you really do believe God is giving you a specific direction when He isn’t… when things take a turn for the worse or don’t turn out how you’d expected, you can be left confused and discouraged. You may even start to doubt God completely. This is made even worse, if you’ve shared advice or instruction with someone else and stated “God told me to tell you X Y Z”. There’s a lot at stake. Someone may make a decision based on what you’ve said, and if this isn’t based on scripture who knows where it’ll lead?
You could be making excuses
Sometimes people can use this “God told me to” to back up their own preferences, I mean after all; it’s pretty hard to come back to someone who uses that as their get out card.
“God told me to quit my job” or “to change my course” or “to move ministries.”
Well okay then. That conversation dies there and then. Sometimes we’re projecting our own feelings and thoughts on God, instead of dying to them. We can act like God’s direction for us is an unquestionable absolute. It’s easy to claim that where we are is exactly where God wants us and close ourselves off to any conversations or questions if we’re hiding behind that phrase.
Does God still speak today?
Do I think God speaks to people today? Absolutely. I believe in the gifts of the spirit; prophecy, words of knowledge and wisdom, but these aren’t a replacement for scripture. We have to be careful as Christians to not regard any personal revelation or prophesy above scripture.
I believe that God speaks to every believer primarily through His sufficient word.
In Hebrews, we are reminded that the word of God is “living” and “active”, and in Timothy, that “all scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness.” When we read the bible, we’re not just reading a bunch of stories about what God has said in the past. His word actively speaks to us today. He guides our desires, thoughts and minds through His word. When we’re seeking to hear God speak, He is speaking loud and clear when we read, study and meditate on scripture.
“[Gods word is]…sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
What to do if you believe God is prompting you to do something
If you do believe you’re being led by the Holy Spirit in a specific way, my advice is:
- Pray – As Christians, prayer should be our way of life. Through prayer, we communicate and submit to God as well as listen to what He lays on our hearts.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6
2. Find relevant scripture to stand on – The bible should be our lead all our decision making. We have to remember Gods leading is never contrary to His Word.
“As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” – Psalm 18:30
3. Seek council – God often confirms His word by His Holy Spirit through other believers.
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14
Embrace the community around you and be humble enough to listen to other believers around you if they question the direction you’re headed.
So what can we say instead?
When we feel the leading of the Holy Spirit through His word coming alive in us, renewing our minds, shaping our desires and dreams, softer phrases below may help:
“I think God is leading me to”
“God put X Y Z on my heart”
“I believe this may be what God wants me to do”
“I feel prompted to”
These phrases leave room for our error, and it’s better to be cautious. When we’re looking for specific answers “should I watch this? Should I go here?, We should remember that our conclusion is usually based on our feelings and personal convictions at a specific time. And one thing to note about feelings, they change over time. I don’t think it’s bad to acknowledge the Holy Spirits leading on a specific decision, but we have to be careful and state that this may not be 100% true. There are certain convictions I’ve had in the past, that have changed over time. I look back and cringe at boldly declaring God told me X Y Z to then change my mind on something years later.
I would encourage believers to think twice before saying “God told me to” so casually. There is a potential that it could do more harm than good. If you know friends or believers in church that still use that phrase, exercise wisdom and gentleness if you choose to address the use of the statement.
What do you think about the normalisation of this phrase?