Prophecy Needs Discernment

One of the topics we discuss in our coaching huddles is discernment. Our guest blogger this month is huddle participant Kelly Hennessey from Canada, who shares her insights on this important subject.

One of the best realisations you can have when learning about the gift of prophecy is that prophecy, like life, can be messy.

New Testament prophecy is refreshingly different from the Old Testament. For the church today, in the age of the Spirit, God’s spoken word is freely and generously available. Jesus’ death and resurrection give us direct access to the throne of God, to the loving Father himself.

God cares deeply for us! He has many wonderful things to speak to us and he wants us to hear clearly what he is telling us.

In its simplest form, prophecy works like this: God speaks to the heart of a believer who is meant to receive and share God’s words and images with other believers (and at times, non-believers). This may happen one-on-one, in a group setting, or within a church community. Simple!

And not so simple.

Mistakes are part of learning how to hear God. None of us, in receiving words from the Spirit, gets it 100% right all the time – even most of the time. And yet we often lack granting the gift of grace when others speak prophetic words. Our expectations are too high and unrealistic of our brethren.

For prophecy to flourish and become a vital part of the landscape of a church community, it is important to create a safe space in which to practice and play. We need to remember that we are all on a life-long learning journey with the Lord, and as long as we’re here, we are never going to get it all right. This also applies to the words and images God asks us to share with others.

When we are given a prophetic word – what a gift! – we need to remember a little-focused part of the Lord’s commandment: “Love the Lord with all your heart, and MIND, and strength and soul.” (MSG, emphasis my own). God tells us to show up with our brains as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s called “discernment”.

In prophecy, we need to consider discernment in three areas:

  1. Testing the words God speaks directly to us
  2. Testing prophecies given to us by other people
  3. Testing “corporate words” – prophecies for the whole church, city or region (which can spark conversation and controversy).

In every case, the New Testament makes it clear that we are to weigh things carefully.

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. 1 Thessalonians 5:29 (MSG)

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. 1 John 4:1 (MSG)

Every child of God can hear His voice. Our personal role is to continue in relationship with the Holy Spirit as friend and companion first, knowing prophecy will naturally flow out of that relationship. Then we need to keep front and centre the reality that even in a safe environment, mistakes can happen.

Whenever we give or receive a prophecy we need to recognize the impact of our own human preferences. Our egos, personal agendas, opinions, assumptions and mindsets are at risk of becoming a filter and muddying up God’s message. Messy.

So before you give another person “a word”, press in to ask yourself how much of this is you? How much do you already know about this person’s life and struggles, and how might that be influencing what you think you’re “hearing”? How much do you want to provide your own advice? How much of this is God? Be diligent to tell the Spirit it’s His agenda, not yours.

Maturity in the prophetic is being able to remove or recognise our own filters before delivering words to another. We will have weighed and tested what we’ve been given before we deliver it.

When we are at the receiving end of a prophecy, God’s Word instructs us to sift and weigh it, too. Who or what is the source of this information? What is the character of the person delivering it? How deep is their relationship with the Lord? Is the Word of God a regular part of their Christian walk? How big are their egos? What might they be projecting on you? How is your relationship with them? Regardless of who is delivering that prophecy, use your mind and your Spirit-led heart before receiving or accepting it. Seek scriptures to affirm, or discount, it.

If you can, find a fellow believer who is familiar with giving and receiving prophecy, for it helps to have accountability and someone with whom to discern “a word”.

These cycles of receiving and sharing prophecies with discernment is a process that will never end, nor is it meant to be one of discouragement. What really matters is that we provide generous, kind room to one another to hear and share – to the best of our ability – God’s intimate direction in our lives. It could be messy.

And that’s okay.

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