How to be Led by the Holy Spirit

by | Updated February 26th, 2021

The Holy Spirit teaches and guides us according to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. One of the ways He does this is by convicting us of sin. Another way is by speaking to our heart and the witness of the Spirit. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit” (Romans 8:16). Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

As Christians, we learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit as we grow in our faith. Being led by the Holy Spirit is a major characteristic of the believers and a practical part of the Christian life. To be led by the Holy Spirit is to be obedient to Him as we hear His voice and sense His urging in our spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

Watch the Message

“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).

How to Know if You are Being Led by the Holy Spirit

  1. Begin by seeking the face of God. We must seek Him first and foremost to be assured we’re being led by the Holy Spirit. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). As we seek Him for wisdom, guidance, and direction we must accept by faith that He is giving us just what we need, leading us, and showing us the way in which we should go. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6).

    The Holy Spirit will always lead us in the realm of prayer and to seek God. When we begin in the secret place of prayer we’ll find ourselves being more sensitive to the things of the Spirit. As a result, we will be led by the Holy Spirit. I have found that the more time I spend in the Word and prayer the more I sense the urging of the Holy Spirit throughout my day.

  2. Is it consistent with the Word of God? The Holy Spirit won’t direct us contrary to God’s Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must study, know and hide the God’s Word in our heart to have His discernment and wisdom.

    “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

    Psalm 119:105 – “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

    The Holy Spirit will always guide us consistent with His Word!

  3. Is it contrary to our flesh? “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). The Holy Spirit’s leading will almost always go against our flesh.

    The flesh is always contrary to the Spirit. “For the flesh lusteth (wars) against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:17-18).

  4. The witness of His Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16). The Holy Spirit will cry from within us saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

    When we are going the way we should we’ll have the witness of the Holy Spirit confirming it to our spirit that we’re heading in the right direction. Likewise, if we’re going in a way that is contrary to the will of God the Holy Spirit will place a check in our spirit. He will often cause us to do an about-face. However, if we persist in going the way our flesh desires, as Balaam, we’ll find our way is contrary to Him (Numbers 22-25).

  5. Taking the hard road. If there are two roads to choose from, one road hard and the other easy, the direction of the Holy Spirit will almost always be the hard road. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

    Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted and to fast. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred” (Matthew 4:1-2). That’s not an easy road. However, afterwards He was endued with power.

    “Now when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding region. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all” (Luke 4:13-15).

  6. Open doors, opportunities, and circumstances. This is a tough one because circumstances can often be deceiving. At times the devil could be opening an opportunity or door to trip us up and get us going the wrong direction. This is why we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Then at other times the Holy Spirit may be opening doors for us and directing us.

    Jesus said to the church of Philadelphia, “Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut” (Revelation 3:8). Isaiah said, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

    This must be balanced with the witness of the Spirit and the hard road scenario. Circumstances should only be a small indicator of whether we are being led by the Holy Spirit. At times adverse circumstances come from the enemy because we are going in the right direction. Only the voice of the Holy Spirit can give us discernment.

  7. Faith and assurances. There are no assurances when living a life of faith. Ours is a life of faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We must ultimately walk in faith trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the way we should go. If we’re going the wrong direction the Holy Spirit will place a check in our spirit.

    There may be times when we know we are going in a way that is consistent with scripture and God’s will yet God may have other plans. Just because it is a right thing it may not be right for us at that time. Paul experienced this on his second missionary journey. Preaching the gospel is always a good thing but He may have something unique for us.

    “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not – forbade them” (Acts 16:6-7).

    After which Paul had a vision of a man crying for help in Macedonia and they, “Concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10). Even after receiving a vision, they had to step out in faith believing the Holy Spirit was directing them. “Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no please in him” (Hebrews 10:38).

    It’s interesting that this led them to Philippi where they were beaten, cast into prison, and their feet fastened in the stocks. Most of us would have thought, surely we missed God. We should have stuck with our original plan to go to Asia or Bithynia. Surely we were deceived. Why did we come here?

    But it was there at Philippi that Lydia was saved, a woman possessed with a spirit of divination was set free, they saw God’s delivering power manifest through an earthquake and they were set free, the Philippian jailer was saved, and a church established. Later on it was this very church that provided for Paul on his missionary journey and while he was once again in prison (Philippians 4:16-18).

    Praise the Lord!

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    The hard road is often God’s road!

    Prayer: Lord God, I pray you would help us to be sensitive to Your Spirit in every situation. Help us to know when we’re being led by Your Spirit and give us the faith to obey when we are so led. In Jesus name, Amen!


    More from this author...