How many times in our lives have we longed for the big billboard in the sky? There are seasons of darkness when we really need some sort of “sign.” Most of us really would prefer an actual physical sign…neon, a regular billboard, or perhaps even a small poster would do.
How fortunate for Paul that he actually experienced the Lord standing by him; not only this, he must have clearly heard Jesus speaking to him in an audible voice. Wow! Let’s examine a little closer before we get pea-green with envy. If God speaks to us we may not want to be obedient to the message. The delivery could be a fabulous and wonderful and amazing sense of His beautiful presence. However, the content of the message could be pretty frightening! “You say what?” “You want me to do what?”
Examining Paul’s moment of knowing the Lord was standing and speaking to Him gives us a clue to how we know if it is actually God’s voice or something we are only imagining. Here are some ways we can tell “is it God, the devil, or me?”
1. He usually gives us a tough assignment that requires complete dependence on Him, not ourselves. Let’s face it… would self tell self to do something hard? No self would suggest a nice easy task!
2. The word from Him can often require a lot of “movement,” like travel or going to a new place that is totally out of our comfort zone. This could be as simple as talking to someone we would not normally talk to.
3. His message might require several steps to accomplish and also require patience.
4. It will not necessarily sound like common sense. We think God would only give us a clear, simple, and normal message. Quite the contrary. The Lord stood (by Paul) and told him very clearly to go do the same thing he just did (and almost got killed for) in yet another country (required extensive harsh travel). This time he would receive more brutal treatment, even imprisonment.
Acts 23 gives us this beautiful example of Jesus standing and talking to us in the flesh. The important thing is, if you experience His presence in the delivery of the message, you can rest assured about the content. Don’t question. Trust and obey. He will take care of the rest. You will grow and learn to depend on him more. You can’t put a price tag on an experience like that!