Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 5)

What if you have been given a phenomenal prophetic word which lines up with Scripture, witnesses to your heart, is confirmed in various ways, and yet it does not happen? Was the prophecy not truly genuine after all?

First of all, many prophecies carry conditions with them: “If you will do this, then God will do that.” We can get so caught up in the promise that we skip over or forget the condition. Did God give you instruction for how to get there, and if so, did you follow through and do what He said?

Most prophecies do not see fulfillment in a matter of days. Many take decades. Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years for Isaac. Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him twenty-two years after he first dreamed about that event. Moses had the revelation that he would deliver the Israelites from bondage to the Egyptians forty years before it happened. How long it takes for fulfillment to come can depend on God threading together a series of complicated circumstances involving many people. It can also depend on how long it takes for us to mature to the place where we can handle that word finally coming to pass. God knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect. In His love for us and for others, He makes sure circumstances work out best for all concerned. Coming into fulfillment prematurely would mean less blessing for everyone.

We can delay fulfillment of prophecy by not cooperating with the Lord, by trying to take matters into our own hands, by refusing to work with others in the local church, and by not heeding correction from the Lord or those He has placed over us as pastors.

If you see that you have already blown it in one of these areas, however, don’t despair! Ask the Lord to forgive you, and offer yourself afresh to Him. Ask Him to put you back on track. Generally speaking, our mess-ups can and will cause delays, but they don’t negate the word we received. God knew all along what you would do that would get in the way, but He is still committed to getting you to your destination. So, pick up and go on. Your promise is still there for you.

Here are some ways to prepare for its fulfillment:

1.) Write down the prophecy you received, so that you can remember it accurately.

2.) If there are conditions to be fulfilled, be diligent to do what you were instructed to do.

3.) Bathe your prophetic word in much prayer. Pray over it in your prayer language. Contend for it. Find Scriptures which apply, and use them to pray it through.

4.) Listen for God to give you further details as time goes on. Most prophetic words are not all laid out in one lump. The Lord expands our understanding and vision over a period of time.

5.) Ask the Lord to pour grace over His plans for you — to put you in the right places at the right times, to give you connections with people who can help you, and to give you specific strategies to implement the plans and ideas which He has given you.

6.) Have a servant’s heart. Serve in small opportunities which come your way, especially in the local church. God prepares us to walk out our big assignments by giving us opportunities to be faithful in doing less exciting things first. He builds integrity and humility in us in this way, so that we can handle the big stuff successfully when it finally comes. Look at every serving opportunity which presents itself as training ground. (And be willing to continue serving in small ways once you start to receive greater responsibility. We should never develop an attitude of thinking we’ve grown beyond or above doing the menial things.)

7.) Be vigilant to focus on the Promise Giver (Jesus) rather than the prophetic promise. It is extremely easy to inadvertently slip into worshiping our promises. So, watch against idolizing your destiny.

8.) Be aware that seeing a prophetic promise fulfilled often involves a death and resurrection. We reach the end of doing all that we can do, while circumstances may seem to make the promise no longer possible. It looks like all is lost. And then, it suddenly comes to life when we least expect it.

9.) Having done all, stand (Ephesians 6:13). When you’ve done your part, from being faithful to conditions, to serving, to letting God build your character, to praying it all through, it is time to declare your trust in the Lord that He will surely do it, and then determine to rest in that hope. It’s up to Him now.

If we follow through on these nine points, the Lord will see to it that every true prophetic word comes through to completion. He is a pure and holy God, Who never violates His own perfect integrity.

(This concludes the Discerning Personal Prophecy series.)

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4)

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4)

We are continuing on with our list of criteria which will help us determine whether a personal prophecy is genuinely from the Lord or not. This next one is a biggie:

Does it appeal to my ego? We need to be wary of prophecies which tempt our flesh. Our old nature lusts for “words from the Lord” which point to glory for ourselves! Unfortunately, there are people out there who give these kinds of words on a regular basis. They are not getting them from the Holy Spirit. They are hearing them from a spirit of flattery or from a desire in their own souls to please.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

1.  Promises of great wealth: “I see you holding millions of dollars in your hands.”

2.  Promises of great influence, fame, or visible ministry: “I see you leading crusades and ministering to tens of thousands.” You immediately begin envisioning yourself as the next Billy Graham or Reinhard Bonnke (or maybe it is even prophesied over you that you will be like one of them).

3.  Promises of great authority, like unto some well-known person: “You have a Smith Wigglesworth / John G. Lake / Bill Johnson / Whoever-Else-Is-Famous anointing.” Or worse, “You have the spirit of Smith Wigglesworth / John G. Lake / Bill Johnson resting upon you.” I think this is cause for concern. I understand what they are trying to convey — that you will have a similar ministry to that person. But I’d much rather have someone tell me I have the Holy Spirit resting upon me for a particular ministry role, since He is the One it has to come from anyway.

4.  Promises of uniqueness or superiority: “I have never encountered someone with the level of anointing you carry.” Yes, God has made each of us unique, but when you are told that you will be the only one to hold a phenomenal gift or ability, or that you will have it at a level above everyone else, watch out!

5.  Promises that you will save the world in some way: “You are going to be the father (or mother) of a national / international revival.” “Your creative genius is beyond anything I have ever seen. You will invent something that will solve international problems.”

The strange thing is that very few prophetic words say things like this:

  • “The Lord has designed you to serve wholeheartedly in the obscure places of life. He’s so pleased when you do that.”
  • “The Lord has called you to lay down your life for your brothers and sisters.”
  • “The Lord has wonderful things ahead for you, but in order to get there, you must take up your cross daily and follow Jesus through much self-sacrifice.”
  • “You are a forerunner — but this means you will pave the way for others. You will not see the results in your lifetime. You will lay groundwork through your faithful labor, and the harvest will come after you are with the Lord.”

(Some mature prophets do say those things! But they aren’t heard frequently.)

Does the prophecy produce a response in me of an awe of the Lord?
Prophecies which cause soulish lusts to burn within us are generally not coming from God. However, God can and does speak amazing things into us which are way beyond our natural talents or abilities to make them happen.

A good example is found in 1 Chronicles 17. King David desired to build a temple for the Lord. God restrained him from doing so, but then turned around and spoke to him through the prophet Nathan that God would build David a “house” — a family line of kings which would reign forever (vs. 10-15). David’s response was one of humility and awe:

And David the king came and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that You have brought me to this place? And yet this was a small thing in Your eyes, O God, for You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God. 

“What can David speak more to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant, O LORD. For Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. O LORD, there is none like You, neither is there any God beside You, according to all which we have heard with our ear” (vs. 16-20).

David goes on to talk more about God’s greatness and His goodness to Israel. The whole tone of his reaction to the prophetic word is one of awe and dependence, and he places all of his focus back on the Lord.

If we examine a prophetic word according to these criteria, we should be able to get a pretty good idea of whether it is coming from the Holy Spirit or the soul of man. But, what if a word genuinely seems to be from the Lord, and yet it does not come to pass? We’ll talk about that next time.

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 3)
Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 5)

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 3)

Last time, we talked about a few reasons why personal prophecy might not be accurate. It is our responsibility to test a word, rather than naively swallowing it without discerning it. Here are some points we should consider in the discerning process:

Does the prophetic word line up with the Bible? If it conflicts with God’s Word, it needs to be thrown out. ‘Nuf said. You need not even apply the other tests.

Does it pass the edifying / exhorting / comforting test? 1 Corinthians 14:3 lays out these three: “But he who prophesies speaks edification, and exhortation, and comfort to men” (NKJV). The ESV words it “upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation.” Exhortation can include stirring up, spurring on, or encouragement to adjust one’s path, but these are all positive things. If it is a condemnatory, critical, cut-you-to-ribbons word, it’s not God.

Do I have a witness? 2 Corinthians 13:1 tells us, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Anytime we receive a prophecy, even from a well-known prophet, there should be a true witness from the Holy Spirit in our own hearts as well. That can come about by:

  1. Hearing the promise first in our own communication with the Lord, and then having a prophetic person speak what we have already been hearing for ourselves.
  2. God speaking the message again to us personally after it is initially given by a prophet.
  3. More than one prophetic person speaking the same thing to us, without the second person knowing we have already gotten that word from someone else.
  4. A deep, settled knowing (or witness) in our spirit that this is right.

We should never hang all our hopes on a prophetic word which we have not been hearing God reaffirm to us personally in one of these four ways. Any prophecies which do not fall into one of these categories should be recorded and prayed into, but then step back and take a “we’ll see” stance.

Does the prophetic word bring with it confusion? Genuine prophecies sometimes carry elements of mystery, where the meaning of what has been said is not immediately clear in all its parts. As events unfold in the future, we can look back at a prophecy and say, “Oh! So that’s what that meant!” But they should not bring confusion, unrest, or fear into our hearts. 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,” and 2 Timothy 1:7 remarks,God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Next time we will talk about discerning personal prophecies based on whether they pander to our ego. I’ll give you some examples of commonly prophesied “words” which I believe are often coming from the flesh, rather than from the Lord.

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 2)
Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 4)   

 

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 2)

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.

Previous: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 1)
Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 3)

Free Book — 2 Days Only!

HSPrayerKids400

I am pleased to announce that I have written a new book — The Homeschool Guide to Raising Prayer-Filled Kids. It lays out a fun and easy step-by-step plan for forming consistent prayer and Bible reading habits in children, all in the home school setting.

Right now, it is only available as an e-book at Amazon, but we’ll expand its distribution in months to come. Regular price is only $1.49, but for two days only,

Monday, 11-17 and Tuesday, 11-18 (PST),

I am offering it as a gift to you. Simply follow this link to pick it up.

If you like the book, would you be so kind as to give it a short review and/or star rating at Amazon? And would you recommend it to a friend? Thank you!

~ Lee Ann

 

Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 1)

In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul listed nine manifestations, or gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were meant to occur regularly and with power in the Church. Over the many centuries since then, as the Church became corrupted with unbelief and compromise, these manifestations were not seen nearly as much as they had been at the beginning. Fortunately, the Lord began to bring them to the forefront once again in the twentieth century. Prophecy is among these manifestations, and one of the ways it is showing up quite frequently is in personal words for individuals. 

Personal prophecy can and should be a great blessing from the Lord to us, but as with any of the manifestations of the Spirit, we must discern whether it is genuinely from Him or not. We also need to use wisdom in how we respond to it. If we don’t, we will end up being disappointed, disillusioned, and perhaps even in the middle of big mistakes which we wished we had never made.

In this series, I’d like to talk about some guidelines to help us discern personal prophetic words and what to do with them. Discernment is a necessary spiritual skill, if we are to successfully fulfill the unique mission which God endows us with. 

First of all, let me say that I am concerned about the emphasis which some believers put on receiving personal prophetic words from others. There are many today who run here and there to receive a word from the Lord from others, when what they should be doing is spending time in the Lord’s presence, listening for Him to speak directly to them. The reason? It could be a false feeling of unworthiness to hear Him, a fear of either not hearing or hearing inaccurately, or simply not being willing to take the time to patiently wait upon Him. It is just easier to ask someone else to do our listening for us! 

So, many of us run from conference to conference, hoping to get a knock-your-socks-off word from a national prophet. Or, we call a prophet’s hotline for a personal word, perhaps even slapping down $20.00 or more to the person on the other end before receiving it (which appears to me uncomfortably akin to calling a psychic hotline). Maybe we run from one prophetic person to another in our own acquaintance, looking for that special word. One of the latest trends seems to be joining prophetic groups on social media sites, where the members give and receive prophetic words. I can’t think of a worse way to attempt to receive God’s counsel than that, as there is no way of knowing who most of these people are and what they might be into. 

Step #1 to hearing the Lord is to give Him our full listening attention in prayer. He wants to speak to each of us personally. Whether He chooses to speak or not, we are honoring Him by giving Him our availability. Eventually, even if He is silent at first, we will come to understand His heart and dwell in His counsel. 

Does that mean it is wrong to receive a personal prophecy from others? No, it just means we should set our priorities in order. Direct communication with the Lord is to be sought over hearing from Him secondhand. But that said, genuine personal prophecy is a gift from God to His people, which, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:19, 20, should neither be quenched nor despised.

Next time, we’ll take a look at common reasons prophetic people miss the mark with personal prophecy.

 

Next: Discerning Personal Prophecy (Part 2)

 

Eternal Prayer Investments

treasure chestWe often talk about the time we “spend” in prayer.  A number of years ago, one of our pastors said that he liked to look at prayer as an investment, rather than as something we spend our time doing.  I think maybe he was onto something. Spending tends to bear more of the idea of  a giving-out action which depletes us, while the connotation of investment is more positive: we are putting something in, which will be stored up and will bring a multiplied harvest.

So, how is prayer an investment? In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus talks about how to accumulate treasure in heaven:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves neither break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

We usually apply this Scripture to how we use our finances, and rightfully so; the correlating Scripture in Luke 12:42-34 specifically addresses what we do with our money. But a broader principle in these verses is to make whatever we give, including our time, count for eternity. Time invested in prayer is of eternal value, which should not be underestimated.

It goes with the territory of prayer that we do not always see immediate answers. Sometimes we put a lot of effort into intercession without seeming to see a commensurate amount of results in the short-term scheme. We are not always sure exactly how to intercede, so the prayer process can include some floundering to find the way, along with overcoming our own naturalistic thinking in order to come to a place of believing that God will act. It often takes time to come up into God’s higher perspective, so that we can pray rightly. In addition, we experience unseen opposition in the spirit realm, which requires persistent effort to overcome. All of this can be exhausting and daunting to our faith. We may wonder if it is really worth the effort.

However, the Lord sees our intercessory labor differently than we do. We are laying up treasures in heaven which can never be lost — for those for whom we pray, and as rewards for ourselves, too. Our prayer effort is never wasted, even when we do not receive the full answers we had hoped for or expected. (Let’s be honest: no matter how good we are at hearing the Lord and praying out His will, none of us has a 100% prayer answer track record.)

The Lord knows that our faith is not always perfect, and that our understanding has limitations. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 13:9, 11, 12: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. … When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child …. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

The Lord delights in and even rewards imperfect prayers, as long as they come from sincere, trusting hearts. Psalm 103:13, 14 tells us, “Like a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

I would like to leave you with a quote which encourages me when the praying is long and the answers are not forthcoming in the way, or as soon as, I would like. Wesley Duewel, one of my heroes, comments in his book, Touch the World Through Prayer,

Prayers prayed in the Spirit never die until they accomplish God’s intended purpose. His answer may not be what we expected, or when we expected it, but God often provides much more abundantly than we could think or ask. He interprets our intent and either answers or stores up our prayers. Sincere prayers are never lost. Energy, time, love, and longing can be endowments that will never be wasted or go unrewarded.

So keep praying — even when you don’t yet see the fruit. Some fruit will become visible here on earth, and some will only be visible from eternity’s perspective. In either case, your intercessions matter. Entrust them to the Lord, and do not grow weary in your well-doing of prayer. They are investments which will come back to you.