Last time, I said that personal prophecy is a gift from the Lord, but that we should make it a priority to hear from Him firsthand, above and beyond what others speak into our lives. Personal prophecy should be icing on the cake, not the cake in its entirety.
Do we accept everything people speak as a “word from the Lord” to us? If we do, we’re going to end up in a mess. Some of these folks are speaking out of their own thinking, not by the Spirit of the Lord. Most of the time, at least on a local level, they are well-meaning people who sincerely believe they are delivering God’s word. They may be prophesying from a place of insecurity, desiring to be recognized and honored as a prophet, or wanting to please others. If they are, their main motive is seeking the approval of men. They may actually get it right sometimes, and at other times totally miss it. We need to be merciful to them, realizing they might be in the process of maturing in hearing the Lord, and they just aren’t there yet. Labeling them “false prophets” could hinder them from ever growing up into who they are meant to be.
Occasionally, we might encounter a person who is listening to an evil spirit and prophesying out of a place of darkness. This could be because they are participating in occult activity, because of deep spiritual wounds which have left them vulnerable to hearing wrong voices, or it could proceed out of refusal to let go of sin, such as unforgiveness and bitterness.
Even well-known prophets can miss the mark, for various reasons. Physical illness or exhaustion can affect how well they are tuned in to the Lord. Spiritual warfare being exercised against them can cause them to have difficulty in hearing God clearly in that moment. They may feel immense pressure to perform, and if nothing is coming, they might step out “in faith” and begin prophesying in the flesh, believing that God will then take over as they speak. In some prophetic circles, there is teaching that the prophet can step into prophecy at will and decree into existence whatever he deems necessary or right. I think that is a dangerous place to operate from, but it takes more integrity than some possess to admit that they don’t have anything from the Lord, or that they are unsure of what they are receiving.
In any case, it is our responsibility to discern any word given to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21 (ESV) tells us, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast that which is good.”
1 John 4:1 exhorts, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God ….” Although John was speaking specifically of false teachers or prophets who were presenting the heresy of Gnosticism, I think we can see that the concept of testing or trying what is said, to measure whether it lines up with God and His Word, is also valuable in discerning personal prophecy.
Whether a personal prophecy is in accordance with the Bible is the first question we should ask in discerning it. If it does not line up there, there is no need to even ask into it any further. But there are other questions we can apply in the proving process, and we will talk about them in our next two posts.
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