How to Recognize God’s Signs

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign…” Isaiah 7:14a

If you went outside today, you probably saw a few signs. Every day we encounter street signs, building signs, signs on doors we walk through, even exit signs to help us find our way out. Unless you’re in an isolated, remote location or on a path no one travels, you will see signs.

You could say that every traveller needs signs. Every journey needs signs along the way. Even early explorers and pioneers who didn’t have maps laid out for them used the stars for signs and compasses to help point them in the right direction.

Signs are there to help us reach our destination and to prevent our journey from going off course or potentially ending in disaster. In some cases, recognizing signs could be the difference between life and death.

It makes sense that God might want to use signs to communicate with us in our faith journey and that every Christian needs to understand God’s signs along the way.

How does God communicate with us?

Here are five ways He speaks to us:

  • His Word, the Bible – In fact, most of the other ways God speaks to us is to confirm something He’s already spoken in the Bible. God won’t speak to you in a way that contradicts or rejects His Word.
  • His Holy Spirit – He speaks to us directly in our spirit and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • Wise Counsel – God speaks and confirms things to us as we seek wisdom and counsel from other believers whose lives have a proven track record.
  • Common Sense – One mark of someone who’s come to Christ is they usually desire to grow in common sense and move away from doing impulsive and foolish things. Common sense also includes doing research and due diligence when seeking God’s direction.
  • Outward Signs – God uses circumstances, situations and even things around us to speak and confirm His direction to us. (He’s also been known to speak through donkeys when needed.[1])

While it would be dangerous to ignore the first four ways God speaks and only look for signs, it’s also very risky to ignore or not recognize the outward signs God is giving us.

God Places High Value on Signs

When we look at scripture, we discover that God has given us many important signs.

He created the universe and set stars in the sky to give us signs and seasons (Genesis 1:14). He gave us the rainbow as a sign that He keeps His promises (Genesis 9:13-14). He gave us the 7-day week as a sign that He created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh (Exodus 31:17).

Even after many attempts in history to rearrange the calendar or have 10-day weeks, the 7-day week that includes a day of rest has stood the test of time and has proven to be the healthiest rhythm for humans to have.

Throughout the Old Testament God continued to give signs.

When Daniel was supernaturally protected in the lion’s den, King Darius recognized it as a sign and wrote this:

“King Darius to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
May you prosper greatly!
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
For He is the living God and he endures forever;
His kingdom will not be destroyed,
His dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” Daniel 6:25-27

Just like what happened to King Darius, God has designed that His signs would speak to everyone and would draw us closer to Him. He’s given countless signs to reveal Himself and His plan and most of them point to His Son and to His first and second comings.

Signs Pointing to God’s Son

During Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Jesus to earth, sometimes called the First Advent, and we reflect on the many signs God gave.

“Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel (meaning “God with us”).Isaiah 7:14

Whenever I read this verse, I find myself in awe that 742 years before Jesus was born, God gave Isaiah this prophecy. That Jesus would be born to a virgin, that God Himself would come to us as a child. And this is only one of over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus that were fulfilled during His time on earth.[2]

I think that’s why Christmas is meant to be a time of awe and wonder for us and our children because there are so many wonderful signs that are a part of His coming to earth. It’s also a time to “behold” and focus on Jesus amid all pressures and busyness of the season.

And in this prophecy are the first keys to recognizing a sign from God:

Key #1: Does it create a sense of amazement and wonder at the goodness of God?

Key #2: Does it point your eyes toward Jesus and cause you to “behold” Him?

Psalm 65:8 says even those who live in the farthest corners of the earth will be in awe at His signs.

Here’s another sign. On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel appeared to nearby shepherds in their fields, and they were terrified:

“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”” Luke 2:10-14

Everything about the birth of Jesus is good news and was meant to be a sign to us. That a King would be born in a stable, not in a palace. That Jesus would leave the heights and glory of heaven and meet with us in the humblest of places. That He would come here for all people and that through Him there would be peace and goodwill available to all.

Space doesn’t even allow for us to talk about the signs God gave the wise men, or the dreams He gave Joseph, or the confirmations He gave Mary.

Signs of His Second Coming

While Jesus spoke of signs concerning His death and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-40) and signs that would follow those who believe in Him (Mark 16:17-18), His disciples were mostly interested in what would be the signs of His return and of the End of the Age.[3]

Jesus began to describe for them signs of a world increasingly in turmoil, like the labour pains of childbirth. Many of the signs He gave almost look like the headlines of today’s newsfeeds. Many of the signs resonate with what we are seeing in our families and in our society today.

Then Jesus said:

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28

Like Jesus’ first advent, all these signs point to good tidings of great joy – the second advent and return of Jesus. During the first advent, it seemed to be a dark time in history, particularly for God’s people. But right in the middle of that darkness came a great light. Now we are seeing the signs of the Second Coming of Jesus which will be even more glorious than the first!

Which brings us to our final key to recognizing a sign from God:

Key #3: Does the sign bring hope?

A sign from God never brings a sense of hopelessness, even if the sign is in difficult circumstances. God’s signs will fill you will hope.

As we grow in recognizing the signs God is giving us both personally and in our world, we will see how these signs bring us to an awe and reverence of Him, how they point our eyes and focus on beholding Jesus, and how they always fill us with hope.