– James H. Aughey
Compare It to the Word
If you believe your conscience is speaking to you about doing something or not doing something, you can always compare it to what is written in the Word of God, the Bible. Paul writes that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23), so if we don’t feel right about doing something and it’s not clear from Scripture, it’s best to avoid it altogether. However, we can’t judge what others do, for they might be persuaded it’s permissible. We clearly know that sexual immorality and divorce are wrong, so if you feel God is telling you to do something that is contrary to His Word, you can know it’s not God’s voice, but likely that of the enemy. When one man told a friend of mine not to marry someone because God told him that she wasn’t right for him, I had my doubts. Unfortunately, this man listened to him and decided to break off the engagement, and a few years later, he knew it was wrong because both of them ended up miserable, and the woman finally moved away because she couldn’t be in the same church with the man anymore because it was embarrassing and hurt too much.
Safety in Counsel
The Bible tells us that there’s safety in the multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14), and for a lack of good, biblical counsel, our plans can fail (Prov. 15:22). If you seek counsel and every one of them tells you not to do something, this might be a sign that the voice you heard that you thought was God speaking to your conscience may not have been that at all. Let your conscience guide you, but compare it with the Word of God and godly counsel. I strongly suggest spending some time in the Word and much time in prayer and then pondering or meditating upon what the Word says, what God might be telling you, and what godly counsel suggests. Your conscience can be a good guide, but it can also easily deceive you. God always speaks clearly through His Word. Sometimes He speaks through other people, and sometimes circumstances can clearly show us the right path.
Waiting upon the Lord
Almost every time I can think of, it’s a good idea to wait and see if it is indeed God speaking to you through your conscience or not. Have you heard the saying “the Devil is always in a hurry, but God takes His time”? Rarely does God tell us to make snap decisions, especially decisions that impact our family, our jobs, our church, or other various factors. It’s a rare thing that our conscience tells us to do something rash and without counsel, prayer, time in the Word, or looking at all the factors and possibilities. Those who wait patiently upon the Lord will usually find the right answer (Lam. 3:21-26). Without taking a reasonable amount of time to listen or wait upon the Lord to work out circumstances, we can easily run out in front of the will of God, and it is better to be walking with the Lord than to be way out in front of His will and His timing.
The word “conscience” means “with” (con) “knowledge” (science), so you need to make a decision based upon good knowledge. My best advice comes from my own painful experiences. I have learned to hold everything I do and every major decision I make up against the true source of knowledge–and that is the Bible–to seek out godly counsel, and to wait upon God until I am sure and allow Him to work things out. Conscience is the voice of God in our souls, but we don’t want to confuse our conscience with things that we want to do that are outside of the will of God.