How to be Led by God
It’s a thrill to be led by God. For the longest time, I could never tell when God was leading me to share the Gospel or pray with someone. I heard testimonies of people saying God “highlighted” someone to them, and I could never quite figure out what they were talking about.
Determined to see God heal, save, and speak through me, I walked through a long process of trial and error until I finally discovered what people were talking about when they said “God led me.” Now I want to share with you what it feels like to be led by God, what it doesn’t feel like, and how you can begin to have God lead you in your daily life.
Here I Am! Send Me.
The prophet Isaiah stood before the glorious throne of God, as he heard the thunderous voice of God say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responded with what I imagine to be a mixture of fear and determination, “Here I am! Send me.” (See Isaiah 6:8.)
This was my heart every time I heard a testimony of “power evangelism.” Whenever I heard about someone who was healed on the street or a prophetic word given, my heart would burn within me as I cried out, Lord, send me! But, who do I go to? How do I know when and to whom I’m supposed to speak?
Very quickly, fear would creep into my heart as I thought about the mysterious “how.”
One of the mistakes people often make when trying to discern if God is leading them to share or pray with someone is waiting for some flashing, neon sign from heaven to appear over someone’s head saying, “This guy. Talk to him.” The reality is, the Lord has already led you to go to specifically everybody. (See Matthew 28:18-20.) The Apostle Paul didn’t appear to wait for a smoke signal from heaven:
Acts 16:6-10 — Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (NIV)
Paul determined to go to Asia to preach the Gospel without waiting for a specific direction from God to do so. This gives us a hint that it was actually Paul’s M.O. to just go. In Paul’s mind, no one was safe from hearing the Gospel. He was going to plant the seed of the Gospel in every patch of soil he could find. As Paul determined to simply go, the Spirit of Christ directed him to the right place.
A friend of mine once said “It’s much easier for God to steer a moving car.” This is true in every aspect of spiritual life. God rarely begins to lead and direct until you step out in faith. If you are waiting for God to lead you before you step out and share the Gospel, you are in disobedience. Don’t wait. Move. And you will begin to sense the Spirit leading you because God speaks more clearly to those who listen and obey.
What Does it Feel Like to be Led by God?
I remember driving along the main street in Coldwater, Michigan, where my parents used to live. It was midnight, and I was coming back from a trip to see my girlfriend (now my wife). I suddenly felt an urgency in my spirit. Butterflies were doing The Cupid Shuffle in my gut, and a picture came to mind of a popular drug house, which was located on my way home. I felt strongly impressed to go and talk to someone at this house.
Because it was summer and this house had no air conditioning, the people who lived there often hung out outside the house all day and all night. You need to understand: this is a drug house, and it is midnight. This isn’t the kind of place I want to be. I fought against the feeling as I drove past the house with the crowd of people sitting in lawn chairs.
I drove right past it and made it all the way home, arguing with God about whether or not it was in fact Him who was speaking to me. We often argue ourselves out of hearing God’s voice. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t want to do it, it probably isn’t just you. The fact that we often hear God tell us things that we don’t like is evidence that we might actually be hearing God, and not just our own thoughts.
I finally yielded to the Holy Spirit and went to the house. I parked around the corner, and as I approached the house the thought came to my mind that a young woman was sitting outside who had chronic back issues, anxiety, fear, depression, and intrusive thoughts to do terrible and evil things that she didn’t want to do. She lived in torment by evil spirits, and God was going to use me to set her free.
I approached the house, but I chickened out last minute. As I pretended that I was simply going to walk past, the voice of a little boy called out and said “Who are you here for?”
I was taken aback. Then I realized he had seen me pray for someone before and correctly assumed I was there to pray for someone again. I played dumb.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Don’t you pray for people?” He said. “Who are you here to pray for?”
“Well, I am not here to pray for anyone in particular,” I lied, “but, I’m always willing to pray for someone. Is there someone here dealing with chronic back issues?”
The whole group of people stared at me in stoney silence.
Then I saw a girl poke the girl next to her. She was caught. I looked at her and said “Do you deal with back issues?”
She nodded reluctantly, and I asked if I could pray for her. She agreed. And while praying, I shared the other words of knowledge I had received while walking to the house. They were all true, and she and her friend stared at each other in disbelief. The young woman began to cry as I prayed, and God healed her back.
I was able to share the love of God with her. She didn’t accept Christ, but He certainly had her attention after that. This all happened because I recognized and yielded to the leading of God, albeit under protest.
What it Doesn’t Feel Like to be Led by God:
I tend toward anxiety and being motivated by compulsion. I do things because I must. “If I don’t do it, who will?” This mentality has provided some benefits in my life, but has also born some pretty severe consequences.
When I was first beginning to feel the leading of the Lord in my life, I was deathly afraid I would lose it — that I would disobey once, and God would become angry with me and quit speaking to me. This led me to become quite anxious and hyperaware. Every person I saw with a limp, cane, crutch, or brace in the store would stand out to me. I would feel the compulsion to go pray for them, but my motivation was fear. I was afraid of “losing the anointing.” I was afraid of displeasing God. I thought that one failure could end this whole journey I was on. Allowing the voice of fear to guide me brought me to the brink of burnout.
Every time I was motivated by fear, I missed it. People refused prayer, or the word of knowledge I thought I had was wrong, or the person wasn’t healed. Thank God! If God rewarded me for being motivated by fear, I would think the fear was His voice! God’s voice does not motivate us by fear, compulsion, or threats. God’s voice brings peace, hope, faith, and courage.
I became a slave to fear even though I thought I was serving the Lord, but the Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of slavery.
Romans 8:15 — So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” (NLT)
If you are being led by fear, you are not being led by God; and it is time to stop, rest in God’s goodness, and take time to get to know His voice again in the quiet place of intimacy with Him.
How to be Led by God:
There are three things I advise people who want to be led by God to do:
- Look for opportunities.
- Watch for the highlight.
- If you fail, keep trying.
1) Look For Opportunities.
As previously stated, you can’t wait for the leading of God. You need to just do it. Look for an opportunity to pray with someone. Listen to people when they complain about their lives to you, and ask yourself what God could do for them. Offer to pray for them, or share your testimony. Maybe you see someone who needs healing. Just go and offer to pray for them. If you will begin to do what you can with the amount of revelation you have, you will be given more. (See Luke 16:10.)
2) Watch for the Highlight.
Often I will be in the grocery store, the local college campus, or the gas station, and I’ll notice someone. I will find that I can’t stop staring at them, or there will be a stirring in my heart or a feeling of compassion that fills me when I look at them. When this happens, I know that it is the Holy Spirit leading me to pray for or minister to them. Sometimes I will see in my imagination a dark cloud over them or dark spots on certain places in their body, or I will feel butterflies in my stomach. I always take this as the leading of the Lord, and I find that as I step out — when I feel that urging or nudge from God — there is almost always an adventure waiting for me.
3) If You Fail, Keep Trying.
You will miss it. Walking with Jesus is a journey, and we are learning. You need to know that the Father is just as pleased with you if you fail as when you succeed. Why? Because in both cases you took a risk to bring glory to Him. He will always reward every action made in faith. You are pleasing to God, and if you will consistently step out, God will reward you.
May God bless you as you learn to hear His voice.