We hear so many great testimonies of prophecy and the joy that hearing God’s living word brings to people. However, it’s amazing and sobering to see how such a wonderful gift as prophecy, which enables us to reach into the heart of our heavenly Father and communicate His thoughts and purposes to people, can occasionally end up getting a bad press.
I’m sure some of you reading this will have heard of a bad report about prophecy. Future events being predicted that never occurred; marriages and babies being prophesied that never materialised; ministries and destinies being called forth that just ended up in disappointment and disillusionment.
It’s really hard to ‘eagerly pursue’ a spiritual gift, as we’re encouraged to do in 1 Corinthians 14:1, if we’ve had a bad experience of it or observed it being handled badly.
Once we’ve seen the bad side it’s very hard to wholeheartedly embrace this particular gift of the Spirit. Surely it’s safer to give it a wide berth. The problem is we can end up being held back by fear, or taking on the mind-set that only the most experienced of leaders could ever be trusted to use the gift.
Which is pretty tragic.
If fear and apprehension hold us back – the voice that tells us we might do it wrong and cause more damage than good – we miss out on what the Bible tells us is a very important gift, both to the church and to the world around us.
Fortunately, there is a way forward, a way to ensure our prophecies are on the right track, meaning that we can all enjoy using the gift of prophecy in its fullness without fear:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
1 Cor 13:1-3
When we look to follow Jesus’ example we see that throughout the gospels He is so often moved with compassion. We always see that Jesus loves first. Therefore we need to make sure that we love first too.
Many years ago a friend of mine was having a terrible time because her husband had just left her. As I prayed for her one day the prophetic picture God gave me was of her going down into a deep valley – the lowest point of her life. But as I prayed for her, I saw that at the very lowest point in this valley there was a bench, and on that bench Jesus was sitting waiting for her. Jesus was waiting for her there even before it had happened and as she travelled down through the valley, Jesus was there for her the whole time. He was sat waiting for her with a space on the bench next to Him. It absolutely blew me away that Jesus loved my friend that much. Engaging with the prophetic that day enabled me to catch a glimpse of the profound depths of love that God has for His people. I was able to connect with His heart, and realised that this is the foundation of everything – being plugged in to God’s love.
The primary solution to the problem of bad and ugly prophecy is very simple – it is that we need to be motivated and consumed by love. Prophecy needs to be refined and purified by love – when this happens it becomes the most wonderful of spiritual gifts.
Of course this may seem easier said than done, but here are some simple steps to help you to make sure that you are following Jesus and truly loving people through prophecy:
My favourite definition of the prophetic is ‘a passion for the heart of God’. I know that as I choose to lay down my own agendas and begin to really seek God’s heart for people that my prophetic ministry is going to be both purified and simplified – because all that matters is that I hear the heartbeat of God, and by His grace I get to reveal the Father’s burning passion for the people around me.
The focus needs to shift – from ourselves and all the reasons why we couldn’t possibly use the gift of prophecy – to the men, women and children around us who need more than anything to hear a word of love, compassion and hope from the very heart of the greatest Father in the universe.
We need to start thinking, “What have I got in my spiritual tool-kit that will reveal God’s love to the person in front of me today?”