“How do I know if it’s God speaking, or just my own thoughts banging around in my head?” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked that question. Here’s my best answer.

Who says it’s either or?

Let me put it this way: Who wrote the book of Ephesians? You hesitated, didn’t you? First thought: Paul did. But oh, wait—no, God did. Which is it? Paul or God?

That’s Paul’s grammar, those are Paul’s run on sentences, his vocabulary, his writing style, his quill and ink, his beliefs and convictions. Paul’s writing is quite different than John’s, or Luke’s, or Peter’s. Or David’s, or Moses’s, or Solomon’s, or Matthew’s. Paul is all over Ephesians. It’s him from start to finish.

But it’s also all God. Inspired by His Spirit, word by word, idea by idea. That’s the word of God… written by Paul. If you asked Paul, “Who wrote the book of Ephesians, you or God?” He’d have to say…

“Yes.” Because God routinely guides and inspires people’s thoughts.

The second way you can often tell if an idea is from God is comparing it to your normal thought patterns. If you talked to Paul about writing Ephesians he’d probably tell you that there were moments when stuff was flying off his pen that he’d never thought of before. Illustrations too brilliant to take credit for. Moments where the flow of thought surprised him.

It happens to me often. Sometimes we come to God with a secret agenda: “Tell me how wonderful I am and how much you love me. I really need to hear that tonight.” And a thought “pops” into our minds: “You should send Mrs. Lambert flowers. She’s alone after her husband died.” Right out of the blue. Couldn’t be your own thoughts, right? Your own train of thoughts got bluntly derailed by God’s interjection.

I also know it’s God when I hear something I don’t like at first. It happened when Shauna and I were living in Winkler, Manitoba, content with our lives and happy to stay put. Out of the blue (Seemingly) God called us to serve in Calgary, Alberta, and our hearts sank at the thought. But that’s okay. God’s servants often felt reluctant or afraid to obey him when he first called. Think Moses, Gideon, Abraham, Paul, and others. That reluctance is a sign that we’re not just putting nice words in God’s mouth. It may just be him after all, because the idea isn’t what we would have chosen for ourselves.

Any other thoughts on this?