In today’s post I continue to share an edited transcript of my sermon on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The following is a list of questions to ask yourself as you test a prophecy:
- Is it upbuilding and encouraging? Does it leave you feeling positive? Even if there is an element of rebuke in it (sometimes that does happen), there should be a positive feel to it.
- Does it lift Jesus up? Is it honoring and glorifying to Jesus?
- Is it consistent with the Bible? Is it in line with biblical teaching? Does it contradict the Bible, or does it resonate with the Bible? The Bible is the main way we hear from God, and the only authoritative way.
- Is it consistent with the other ways in which we hear from God? We don’t just hear from God through prophecy. We hear from:
- The counsel of others.
You need a wise, mature, spiritual Christian who is going on with God, who is growing, who knows God, who believes in the gifts, and yet is also wise so he can help you to weigh it. This is so important sometimes. If a prophetic word has been given to you, before you allow that to dominate your life and become a weight on your back, find someone like that you can speak to about this.
- Our circumstances
Now that sounds very unspiritual, doesn’t it? Let me give you an example. If someone feels that God wants them to move, but then they can’t buy or sell a house, it just doesn’t work, does it? It’s not wrong sometimes to use circumstance as a kind of “fleece,” although we must be careful not to test God. Another example of how God uses circumstances is in our own gifting and abilities. If anyone came up to me and said , “Adrian, I really feel God is saying to you that you’re supposed to be a craftsman and you’ve got to build houses for Jesus, I would laugh at them. I can’t even put shelves up, okay? You can ask my wife about that. So I would know that was wrong because the circumstances told me so. This might sound very unspiritual. But it’s actually a vital way in which God directs us. Proverbs 3 gives us some conditions to fulfill, which promise us that God will make our paths straight or direct us. Interestingly, our ability to hear God in prophecy is not one of those conditions.
- Is it wise? Is it consistent with wisdom? Sometimes what sounds like a great prophecy will come, and then we realize that there’s no wisdom in following it. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t feel right in our hearts. The consequences of a particular course of action may be very obviously such that it would be foolish to follow that word.
- Does it give you a sense of direction, or does it leave you in no man’s land? Does it leave you feeling free and inspired and uplifted and driven on, or does it leave you feeling bound and condemned and fearful?
- Do you have faith for it? If you have no inward witness that it’s right, then it is very unlikely that the word is correct. Go, pray about it, talk to others, and then if you still feel the same way, release yourself from any sense of obligation.
Some people reading this may need to be set free from previous words that have become a chain around their necks. If you are one such person, what God wants to do for you right now is to set you free from wrong prophecy that has come to you. Maybe it’s something you think God spoke to you, or maybe it’s something a well-meaning brother or sister came and shared with you, but actually the fruit in your life has been that you have been bound up by it. And maybe you’ve even made wrong decisions as a result of it. This general principle applies to many people, but one specific example that seems to repeat itself all too often is that a prophecy, whether or not the prophecy has actually said this, is interpreted as saying that God wanted you to be a so-called “number one” leader of a church (a horrible phrase!)
If that word is not a correct one, and you have tried to pursue that, you might have had very troubling consequences. Maybe you even were a leader for awhile, or perhaps you tried to pursue that and it’s just gone horribly wrong. Sometimes we need to realize that the word we thought was from God was not, and we need to be set free from living under false expectations. In that case, God would want to take that pressure off you and would actually want to say, “Not everybody is called to be the number one guy.” Speaking personally, I’m very grateful that I don’t believe God wants me to be a “number one” guy. It doesn’t mean I can’t serve God. It doesn’t mean I can’t have a ministry. It doesn’t mean I can’t do all kinds of things for God, but it does mean I know what my role really is. Prophecy is intended to help us find the role in which we are most suitable, not tie us up in knots pursuing something for which we are unsuited!
There are true prophesies that can take years to be fulfilled, and that’s okay. We believe in promises that are yet to come. We don’t want to lose the hope real prophecies, but we need wisdom to distinguish true words that we should cling to from words that have bound people up and condemned themand made them define their lives in the wrong way.
In the next post I will conclude this series, but I am aware that this post has focused a bit on the “negative” side of prophecy. I want to end, therefore, by saying that the capacity of prophecy to bring real hope, direction, faith, and strengthening is so huge that we must not let the dangers of prophecy stop us from eagerly pursuing this wonderful gift.