Over the years I have heard many people justify certain behaviors by saying "I sensed it was the Lord leading me to do it" or "I just knew it was God's will" or "God clearly opened the door so I just walked through it." I call such comments, playing the God card. Once the God card is played, it is very difficult to continue the conversation because if we do not agree with whatever the other person claims God said, then we are going against God.
Now, I suppose if someone tells me that God has led them to bake cookies for a next door neighbor as a way to demonstrate God's love to them, I am not overly concerned if they have actually heard from God or not. After all, cookies are fairly harmless, so if it was only the person's emotions and not God, it may not make much of a difference.
But people play the God card for much bigger things than just baking cookies for the neighbors. I recall a man once telling me God had "led him" to leave his wife and marry another woman who was better suited for him. Of course, that other woman was also currently in an adulterous relationship with a different man, who was also married to someone else and also thought it was God's will for him to have the woman. Talk about a weird love triangle! Though I do not claim to speak for God, I highly doubt God wanted two marriages to break up so that one man could have a woman who was "better suited" for him. I have always thought that fellow was led by lust, not by the Lord. But once he declared that "God told him" to do this, he no longer needed to listen to a mere pastor's advice. After all, he had a clear word from God so who was I to question God?
In situations like this I always remind people that God speaks by His Spirit through the Bible, circumstances, prayer and the church. Notice that the Bible is first, because it is the plumb line through which the other methods are measured. I do not know if there is a specific verse in the Bible that deals with baking cookies for a neighbor, but I do know several that talk about lusting after another man's wife. God will never lead us to contradict His Word.
God also speaks through circumstances. If we are having to kick a door open through deceit, manipulation or coercion, then it is clearly NOT a door God has opened. Since the Bible is our plumb line, God never opens a door that goes against what the Bible has already said.
God also speaks through prayer. As we pray through the scriptures and look at the circumstances God has put us in, proper behavior presents itself. God will not tell us in our prayers to do something contrary to His Word.
Rarely does God speak to only one person about things He plans to do. There is only one Spirit and that Spirit speaks to all of us. If we think God wants us to do something, we should seek counsel from other Christians to see if God is telling them the same thing. That is why it is important to be active in a local church, so we can benefit from the godly wisdom of others in times of uncertainty. If we find that we are the only one God is speaking to about something, that most likely means that the timing is not yet right for us to proceed and we must wait until He also speaks to others about the same thing before moving forward.
In the end, if we do conclude that God has actually spoken to us about doing a certain thing, then we really must act upon that leading. However, we must remember that the prophets of old often paid a high price for obeying what God said. Why would we expect it to be any different for us? Far too often I hear people say that God told them to do a certain thing, but then when that thing gets hard, they bail. They apparently thought God only wanted them to obey when it was easy, though that goes against the whole narrative of scripture. We should be careful about playing the God card, but when we do, we should follow through with it, even if it costs us dearly.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter and author who has lived in New England since 1993 starting churches and discipling new believers. He is a happy husband, proud father and grandfather, thankful cancer survivor, and more convinced than ever that New England is ripe for spiritual revival. Check out Dr. Dorsett's books at this link: