When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, he speaks to us. But does that mean that every thought that runs through our heads is from God? How do you know when a prompting is from God and when it’s Satan whispering lies?

It is very important to recognize that Satan does come whispering. We all have an inner world and Scripture makes it clear that Satan has at least some capacity to influence our inner conversation. (Matt 4:1-10, Acts 5:3, 1 Thess 2:18 all point to this.) We also know from Matt 16:23 that Satan can tempt us to act on his behalf.

These whispers of the enemy can be very subtle in the way they come to us. He can even present himself as a godly presence disguising his lies as the voice of truth. Learning to sort out the voice of the enemy from the voice of the Spirit is critical to every believer’s spiritual well-being.

When Satan speaks into our thoughts he has only one purpose: to do harm. Whether through discouragement, temptation, frustration, depression, or despair, his goal is always to divide us from God, to cripple our spiritual vitality, and prevent us from obeying and serving God.

The voice of our enemy comes with messages like these:

And on it goes. Satan is the destroyer, and he uses whatever messages he can to discourage and disorient us. When you feel defeated or hopeless, that’s a good sign that Satan is at work within your inner world. When it feels right to nurse your wounds and stay angry, you can be sure that you are being lied to.

If you’ve found yourself caught in these lies, tell us about it (see form below). We’d love to pray with you.

The voice of the Holy Spirit is very different. Whereas the goal of the enemy is destruction, the goal of the Spirit is always edification. He speaks messages intended to lift you up, to encourage you, to bring strength, faith, joy, and peace.

The messages of the Spirit are like these:

Does this mean that the voice of the Holy Spirit always makes us feel good? No! Sometimes we sin. In those times, the voice of God will bring discipline and correction. How do you tell the difference between God’s corrective discipline and the enemy’s discouragement?

Here’s the key: Satan brings judgment and condemnation; God comes with conviction and a way forward.

Satan says:

He tempts us with rationalization, excuses, and lies that prevent us from dealing with the sin. We fall for it so easily because we don’t want to deal with the sin in the first place. He keeps us trapped in hurt feelings, shame, embarrassment, pride, anger, and self-justification. He nurses our pain and whispers that we should stay away from God.

God does exactly the opposite. He does not minimize or dismiss our sin but he reminds us that our sin is covered. If we confess and repent, we can be free. The voice of God shows us a way out and gives us the strength to do the hard work of making amends.

The Spirit says:

It is not how the voice sounds, but rather what the voice says that lets you know who is speaking. Recognizing the voice of God takes practice, but the litmus test is very simple. The next time you hear a whisper ask yourself, “Is this keeping me trapped and away from God or is it moving me toward God and obedience?”

Answer that question, and you’ll be well on the way to know who is speaking!

updated August 2019

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Photo Credit: Joshua Sortino