God Told Me
An example of this was a guy who attended college with me. "Tom" and I used to ride the bus everyday to El Camino; we also hung out in the same group of friends, although I wouldn't describe our relationship as particularly close. He and I were the only Christians in the group, however and so we often talked about spiritual things.
One day, "Tom" came to me and asked me to pray for him as he was going to ask "Violet" to marry him. This shocked me in that I wasn't aware that he had been dating anyone -he was very shy and awkward, he seemed more afraid of women than anything else. But I was even more amazed at his reply; he hadn't yet ever asked her out but "had been told by God to marry her." "Had God given 'Violet' the same message?" I asked him. Unfortunately, she had not and so she recoiled in horror when "Tom" sprang his "message from God" on her. Undaunted, he tried his message from God on different girls including me, and as was the case with "Violet", I had not received a corresponding marriage vision.
Did God really speak to "Tom" and tell him to marry "Violet"? I haven't a clue what "Tom" heard or thought he heard from the Lord. I do know that his "message" was not confirmed by anyone else, particularly not by the one(s) most affected by his life changing proposal. The Bible teaches us that "plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others." (Proverbs 15:22, NCV) and "fools think they need no advice, but the wise listen to others." (Proverbs 12:15 NLT)
It may have been the most prudent course to ask some wise ones what they thought of this message from God - was it consistent with God's already revealed truth i.e. the Bible? did it help or hinder his walk with God? did it advance the cause of Christ? was he emotionally, spiritually and physically ready to be a husband and father? was his "vision" clouded by his own wish fulfillment and natural desires? [ A side note: most of the "real" instances (by real, I mean ones that, to me, seem credible) where people are/were spoken to directly by God had to do with the expansion of God's kingdom and the propagation of God's message of salvation, not with having his/her own physical needs met. It's more like, "go here and start a mission", "plant a church in this place", "talk to this person about the Gospel". Even the instances in the Bible where God warned someone to go/not to go someplace for their safety e.g. Balaam, the Wisemen, Joseph and Mary, there were bigger "kingdom issues" at work.]
In my estimation,"Tom's" awkwardness made it difficult to develop relationships with women the more traditional way and his walking around with the certainty that approaching a particular woman and proposing to her as being "God's will" was definitely a confidence booster. He also struggled with controlling his sexual desires and since marriage was the only legitimate outlet for those feelings, the sense of urgency to get married could have influenced his interpretation of God's will. ("It's better to marry than to burn [with lust]" was highlighted, but the same passage that encourages singles to remain singles so as "to better serve the Lord" was minimized in his mind. As was the command to exercise self-control...) He also ignored the fact that he was living at home with his mom, employed in a minimum wage job, without a car - not exactly a great foundation for starting a home or for him to be the provider.
This is where it can be so hard as Christians, we want so much to be where God wants us to be, but how often do we run ahead with our own desires first, hoping that somehow they all line up with what His will? The Old Testament (Deuteronomy 18)warns against presuming to speak in the name of the Lord. To do so falsely, was a capital offense in ancient Israel. Christians were instructed to test such messages and to reject bogus ones. For some issues, where God already has clearly spoken, it's a straightforward assessment; for other issues, it's less clear. That's where the collective wisdom of the body of Christ can prove most helpful - and not just the opinion of one or two like-minded friends, but also the input of people with different ideas and ways of thinking.
For one of the major decisions in my life, I sought the wise counsel of more than a dozen people. While I didn't end up taking every bit of advice that was given to me, I was able to construct a consensus from all of them that has proved to be a very good path. To be honest, the decision I arrived at in the end was quite different from my initial take on what I felt "God was telling me" to do. I'm glad that I wasn't so arrogant and stubborn to have chained myself to my "God told me" presumption and instead listened to the older, wiser words around me -it has turned out well.