Our Walk in the Spirit is to be led and enabled by the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are used by Him to lead, direct and encourage us. We are all encouraged by Paul to seek the gift of prophecy and John tells us that the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.
Yet prophecy and prophetic words can be confusing and if not handled according to His will, can do the opposite of what He intends. This study seeks to provide some understanding on how we can administer this gift in our lives and gain the help and encouragement intended.
Recently I heard a young lady speaking about some very painful experiences that had been and were still working out their place in her life. She had received three separate prophetic words from some people she trusted in regards to her situation. Then her life experiences after these words made the prophetic words appear like lies and caused her to question God's promises to her. In fact the initial reaction when things went in the opposite direction of what was prophesied caused a break of trust with her heavenly Father.
This is a problem we will all likely face as we seek to Walk in the Spirit - indeed even John the Baptist struggled with the testing of the prophetic - of whom Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;" Matt 11:11 (also in Luke 7:28).
Right at the beginning of Jesus' ministry there was an argument between John's disciples and some Jews, and in response to their questions John replies with a (the) great prophecy about Jesus:
After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptising. At the same time, John was baptising over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant. This was before John was thrown into jail. John's disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. They came to John and said, "Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he's now competing with us. He's baptising, too, and everyone's going to him instead of us."
John answered, "It's not possible for a person to succeed—I'm talking about eternal success—without heaven's help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom's friend, his 'best man'—that's me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?
"That's why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the centre, while I slip off to the sidelines.
"The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heaven born is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.
"The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that." John 3:22~36 (The Message)
From this passage we see John clearly declares and understands who Jesus is, yet some six months later (?) when he is put in prison he sends his disciples to Jesus, questioning if Jesus is actually the Messiah?
When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offence at Me.” Matt 11:1~6 (NASB)
Life stuff happens - not nice, and undeserved in John's case - he is now languishing in prison, shortly going to be decapitated and his expectation of the Messiah is not being met. He is beginning to doubt the very words he spoke just a few months earlier.
Usually when God gives us a direct word via prophecy, it is given to us, for us to hold on to when the almost inevitable trial and testing comes our way. We may struggle with two issues:
The same problem now confronts John. He begins to doubt what he so forcefully declared - are you really the Messiah or should I be looking for someone else? Is the word I got true or just a lie?
We struggle to understand truth - we think it is abstract, maybe like right and wrong - does it depend upon the situation? We need to understand that truth is actually manifested in the person of Jesus - he makes the claim: 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (NIV). Jesus makes a statement that is, on the face of it, totally preposterous - he is either entirely nuts or right - no wiggle room here. Let me suggest therefore that truth is what God says it is. Did you catch that? If God says something - it is true! Think about it - in the beginning He says let there be .... light .... and it comes into being. The same thing is happening when He speaks to us through the prophetic - it carries the full weight of the uncreated GOD in it and can thus create the reality He promises.
But what happens in our perception of reality? Are we going to hang on to and believe what God has promised? What do we believe? How are we going to behave? - does, what appears as reality around us OR what He has spoken, carry the most weight? Let's look at what the Bible tells us and how others dealt with their issues in this kind of situation.
Firstly, in Proverbs we find: Every word of God is tried and purified; Prov 30:5a (Amplified)
this is referring to a metaphor used a number of times in the Bible - that of purifying or testing gold. By applying heat, some of the impurities are burnt away, also when molten one can assay the quality and purity. Gold is refined by fire and so is our character by the pressure (heat) of life events. So we may expect that a prophetic word will be tried to see if it is true and pure. Secondly, when God speaks it is His power that will fulfil it. There are many examples but probably the best known is the promise to Abraham. He is a young man when the promise is given, but nothing happens, then eventually he tries to help God along by following his wife's suggestion and Ishmael is born to Hagar, but God reiterates the promise and specifically excludes Abraham's attempt at fulfilling the promise. Finally it gets to the point where obviously he is needing God's miracle power to create a baby when both Sarah and he are way past child bearing age, and just to check that he really does get it now, he asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. No wonder the writer of Hebrews uses Abraham as an example of a faith filled man.
Isaiah mentions that God's Spirit is going to gather His words together and ensure their fulfilment. 16 Look in the scroll of the Lord and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together. Isa 34:16 (NIV)
What He speaks, He will, by His Spirit, empower to the conclusion. Lastly, we need to respond to the the word with faith and belief. Our actions need to align themselves with what has been said by God.
In 2 Chronicles 20 we have a great lesson of how to deal with major issues that face us. Here we see Jehoshaphat as king of Judah facing a huge army - much bigger than he can deal with as the king. So he "... resolved to inquire of the Lord,..." 2 Chron 20:3~4 and God gives them a word through one of the prophets, telling them not to fear, that the battle is God's not theirs (2 Chron 20:15~17). It is Jehoshaphat's response that we need to really see and emulate.
... Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful. ” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 2 Chron 20:20b~22 (NIV).
Notice we are to have faith in God, faith in what God speaks to us, and in all things, to praise Him for who He is. Wow, how to win a huge battle - begin singing and praising God in faith that He will do all He has promised - obviously a focus on the situation they found themselves in would have robbed them of the faith and resolve needed to go out singing.
It is a challenge to get and keep our eyes on God and have faith in His word to us, rather than the circumstances and apparent reality we face day by day. We need to determine if we want to believe what He has said to us, and then by His Spirit power move to that place of rest and trust that He will fulfill what He has promised. Easy? not so much, but it is simple. We are called to walk in the Spirit and need to remind ourselves how this is practically done, day by day.
My thanks to Bishop Joseph Garlington for the outline to this study.
If you are interested in a great sermon about the Gift of Tongues by Bishop Joseph Garlington.