The following are just a few of the ways God guides us supernaturally. Become familiar and comfortable with these, and the Lord is likely to open up His treasure box with greater expressions of His creativity. As we depend on Him, the Lord can trust us with more of Himself and His innovations, as we have learned to depend on Him to get our needs met, and can relate to the supernatural merely as an extension of His hand in our lives. So it isn’t the strength or amount of faith that we have (it takes but a seed), but the basis or foundation of our faith—dependence on the Lord.
Angels are supernatural beings created by God to minister to us in a variety of ways. Both angels and demons abide by the authority that governs the supernatural realm; they are under the authority of spirit beings: God and Believers. Both do what they were created by God to do; angels minister to us, demons minister against us.
Angels have differing levels of skills, power, and assigned tasks. Their responsibilities determine their level and realm of authority, as well as their interaction with creation. Some of these interactions are perceivable by humans, or impact the natural realm in some way. Others occur in our lives every day without our awareness.
* Angels minister by delivering messages of direction, assurance or encouragement. Angels also minister by providing strength, healing and deliverance. Because they are supernatural beings, angels can minister in the natural realm to provide whatever is necessary to accomplish their task.
* Angels go before us to prepare the way, go with us to guide, protect, encourage, and follow behind us to clean up so others don’t pay for mistakes made during our learning experiences. When we acknowledge that angelic involvement is for our good, and for the good of those around us, we are free to focus wholly on what the Lord is doing in our lives and entrust our circumstances into His hands.
* As co-inheritors with Christ, we share in His governance of everything that is part of His Kingdom. Part of our training to grow up into that authority is to learn to communicate with and command supernatural beings; both demonic and angelic. Since cultivating quietness and learning to wait quickens our supernatural senses, we will be brought into greater awareness of both these categories of beings; our goal at this time is to accept their presence and our relationship with them. As you become aware of their involvement in your daily life, ask the Lord if it’s okay to engage them in conversation. Learning how the supernatural realm functions will make our interaction with angels more effective, especially during crises, and perhaps lessen the need for their intervention, since we will likely be more in tune with His daily direction.
* The presence of or communication from an angel, as from any other source, must be tested by going to the Lord for confirmation. Angels always point to dependence on God; He always has the last word. As we become more familiar with the way He does things, we embrace the angelic simply as one of those ways.
* Though the sudden intervention of an angel may be indicative of the importance of the message or need, it is more likely that their appearance is due to our unresponsiveness to God’s more subtle attempts at getting our attention.
The Lord wants us to become familiar and confident in inter-acting with authority over both demons and angels. Being a wise Instructor, He carefully arranges the situations through which we learn to cooperate with and receive ministry from angels. [For instruction on identifying and overcoming demons, please refer to “Overcoming the Enemy.”]
Signs are merely external means God uses to get our attention, such as supernatural phenomena, a timely event, or even a person or unexpected communication. The effectiveness of a sign will be determined by our attentiveness to His drawing and a willingness to obey.
The Need for Signs
Before the Resurrection, the only way God could communicate with His creation was through the natural and supernatural realms. Today He communicates to us through His Son, Who communicates to us Spirit to spirit. Because we now have a personal relationship with God, and as spirit beings we commune with Him person to person, the emphasis on the need for signs has changed. Though signs are certainly a valid means of communication, and one which we are to become comfortable recognizing and responding to, they are not a primary means by which God directs, comforts or communicates with us.
Asking for Signs
If we are honest, most of us ask for an external, objective expression of God’s communication to us because we do not have confidence in what we know or have heard from Him internally. As we cultivate quietness in our lifestyle and waiting as a habit, our senses become tuned to the slightest moving of the Spirit, especially our ability to hear and respond to His direction. This frees the Lord to use whatever means He chooses to express Himself to us; He is free to use a sign, of one kind or another, or not. There will likely be a time that the Lord will speak to you in signs, so you can become familiar with that form of communication, but not so that it becomes central to your relationship or gain a higher prominence than the inner knowing. This is the distinction between “seeking” a sign, as a substitute for communication directly, and “asking” for a sign, which is asking to be trained in that form of communication.
The Purpose of Signs
As with other supernatural means of guidance, signs interrupt our present circumstances in order to get our attention. They are not more important nor carry a greater weight than other forms of communication from God, and need to be treated, tested and interpreted as any other form of guidance. Generally speaking, the purpose of a sign will fall into one or more broad categories:
* To Provide Needed Information
Very often our mind interprets God-given signs as creative inspiration, or as a new idea. Providentially running across numbers, places and names that answer a question and problem-solving triggered by an external circumstance would fall into this category. Informational signs are also a way of testifying to an unbeliever that God exists.
* To Provide Needed Direction & Guidance
As in the natural, God often uses signs to point us in the right direction or to correct our course if we are off track. Remembering that signs are only one of many ways God directs and guides us will keep us from becoming distracted by them, especially when we are making important decisions.
* To Provide Needed Confirmation & Encouragement
By getting our attention after a decision has been made or after we have been through a hard training session, God uses signs to reward, strengthen, and build our confidence. Often these signs are also witnessed by others, to acknowledge the work He has done in one way or another.
* To Provide a Needed Warning
God is able to engage whatever means necessary to bring our attention to a danger, whether an event or person who intends us harm, or a warning regarding our own behavior. God will often dramatically use a sign to warn a people group or unbelievers when the consequences of refusing to depend on Him are about to be released.
* To Simply Get Our Attention
Whether we are pre-occupied with other things (even ministry) or because we may not know any better, God may use a dramatic sign much like a slap or siren to break our attention from one thing and bring it to Himself.
Spectacular versus Subtle
God is not obligated to use signs in proportion to the magnitude of the purpose. A dramatic sign is just as likely to be to confirm a decision to write a letter as to change jobs. Likewise, a subtle sign may be all the Lord provides to direct our feet into a new venture.
Once a sign has gotten our attention, where do we go from there? There are no clear correlations between the type, content or circumstance of a sign that will allow us to determine its meaning on our own. This is exactly the way God wants it! Though there are teachings out there that can provide insight and experience, the only one who can instruct and interpret a sign is the One Who gives it. There will likely be pressure to look for hidden and complex meanings; it is likely that at some point in time you will be presented with the challenge of taking God’s interpretation over that of others, or your own sensible conclusions. This reinforces the need to rely on your own ability to hear from the Lord for yourself and be willing to hear what He has to say.
In themselves, signs don’t have meaning. Signs can even become hindrances, as we can become distracted by trying to learn how to interpret and apply them according to what others are teaching. Learning from others’ experience is helpful, as long as that training is at the Lord’s direction. He is jealous over our training, and we are not to go about seeking instruction from other sources. As in all communication, we must take signs to the Lord for His interpretation. As our dependence grows, our confidence comes from our relationship with Him, based on His training, rather than the source of the guidance. So whether we receive a sign or not, we know we have heard from Him. It is better to receive direction without a sign than because of it.
“Fleecing” is a fairly common form of divine guidance through asking God to confirm His instruction by complying with a specific test. “Lord, if you want me to do thus-n-so, the phone will ring in ten minutes and it will be so-and-so saying such-n-such.” The term is from the example of Gideon in Judges 6, in which Gideon asks the Lord to prove that it’s Him speaking and asks Him to perform a miracle—twice. First, overnight he wanted the dew to fall on a fleece (sheepskin), but not the ground, so that the ground would be dry, but the fleece wet. And God complied. Then he asked for the reverse the following night, and God complied. But before we embrace fleecing as a desirable method of divine guidance, we need to review a few elements of these requests.
First, Gideon already knew what God wanted him to do; these tests were not about needing direction or discernment, but encouragement, which God evidently acknowledged Gideon needed. He’d already had a couple of angelic visitations and had already done some pretty cool exploits. So Gideon knew it was God that was speaking, and that He would honor His word.
Second, the encouragement came in the form of a bona-fide miracle, something that could not have happened coin-cidentally or without the direct supernatural intervention of God.
Third, Gideon was not presumptuous in telling God that he needed encouragement, but in HOW to encourage him. It is a testament to God’s love for Gideon that He complied with these tests, not a credential of Gideon’s wisdom.
Our goal is not to learn what techniques work best to get God to guide us, but to recognize that our God-given need for His direction is used by Him to foster our dependence on Him. Acknowledge and submit to His sovereignty, knowing that He loves us, has met our needs, and is working on our behalf—and that we have agreed to this work—and allow Him to encourage you and strengthen you according to His good pleasure.
Dreams, Visions, Trances and Open Visions
These are all terms that describe a few of the ways the Lord communicates to our consciousness through our developing senses. Because we are not used to functioning through these senses, our perception of these experiences mark them as unusual. But as the Lord quickens our senses, and we more readily experience and respond appropriately to the activities in the supernatural realm, there are few limits to the ways the Lord may choose to provide guidance. Because we are becoming confident in our relationship with God, we can ask Him for these experiences, making ourselves available on His terms, being patient but persistent toward those things that He uses to draw us. As with all of our training, we are free to make mistakes as part of the process.
We learn new habits of depending on Him for interpretation, confirmation, etc., remembering that even such supernatural experiences as these can be duplicated by the power of our soul, or the enemy, or by the power of the world (power of suggestion). So though we habitually test these manifestations, we are careful not to restrict the way the Lord chooses to guide us.
It’s not all that important (though it can be interesting and fun!) to delineate the differences between dreams, visions, trances, and open visions. The important thing is that we realize that God’s main goal is in getting our attention, to respond back to Him rather than to rely on our own (or another’s) ability to interpret and apply what is being conveyed. These manifestations are no more significant, they carry no more weight, than any other means the Lord may use, but because He wants us to be able to follow wherever He leads, and because He enjoys sharing His creativity with us, it is appropriate to ask to be trained in all these areas, according to His timing.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas