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Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice," which implies that God still speaks to us today. But the problem is that not every voice we hear is really God. There can be things that "sound" like His voice when He is not actually speaking to us. At times, the devil will imitate God's voice to us to deceive us or lead us astray. At when we want something really bad, our own hearts/desires may try to imitate God's voice, to make us think He has promised the thing we want to us. And at other times, we can get prideful or defensive and think God is speaking to us when it is really our own issues rising up.
This can happen in our ministry hearing as well as in our personal hearing. There are times when we try to speak for God, but our own issues rise up and cloud things, making us hear wrong. Of course, none of use want that to happen! None of us want to make mistakes when we speak for God. We all want to represent what He says clearly and accurately. But that sad truth is that those same things that obscure our personal hearing can also interfere in our ministry hearing. Therefore we need to apply His truths to the prophetic (and to judging prophesy), using the same techniques we use to evaluate our personal hearing.
There are three areas in particularly were people tend to get in trouble with their ministry hearing:
We will discuss the first one here and the other two in our next lesson.
Prophesying From Our Emotions or Opinions
Sometimes when we hold strong opinions on a matter, we can end up prophesying our opinions instead of what God is really saying. That happens because our opinions seem to shout to us loudly and clearly at times, drowning out the voice of the Lord. Let me share an example of this.
This was this guy, let's call him Jack even though that is not his real name, who moved strongly in the prophetic. He was very accurate in many areas, but there was one area where he frequently fell into error. Jack held very strong personal beliefs in the area of finances. He believed that if we tithed, God was obligated to bless our finances no matter what. If you made a bad investment, then God was obligated to move on your behalf and supernaturally make that investment turn good. Jack thought that we did not need to exercise wisdom on constraint in our finances because God was obligated to bless us no matter what we did. And Jack put the Lord to the test in his own life. You might say he practiced what he preached.
Jack owned and operated his own business for a season. He ran it on the principle that God was obligated to bless it no matter what he did because he tithed. So Jack felt free to make bad investments, to take risks, to make decisions that were not backed up by marketing research, etc. For a season, Jack's business did well despite his unwise business practices. But eventually, Jack's unwise practices caught up to him and his business got into serious trouble. After that experience, Jack began to reconsider his opinion about financial blessings, and he stopped prophesying into that area.
But before it failed, Jack would often tell people that the Lord said to "go for it" financially. He prophesied financial investments and he prophesied financial risks. He truly believed God was speaking this to him personally, and he operated his business according to those principles. So he was not at all surprised that God would use him to speak the same thing into other people's lives as well.
The only problem was that Jack was in error, God was not saying this. People would follow the financial advice that Jack prophesied and they would loose money -- sometimes a lot of money. Jack assumed that their problem stemmed from their own lack of faith (or perhaps they were disobedient in tithing). He never considered the possibility that his financial words were in error. Why? Because the voice of his own opinions area shouted to him louder than the voice of the Lord. It imitated God's voice to him and Jack never stopped to double check his hearing. (There was a bit of pride and arrogance in there as well, which made him unwilling to consider the fact that maybe he heard wrong in this one area.) Jack would point to other areas (non-financial) that he spoke into, and he had a great track record. So Jack assumed that because he was accurate in those other areas, he was also accurate in the area of finances.
But the problem was that when Jack spoke into finances, he spoke from his own strong opinions on the matter instead of hearing what God was saying. His opinions interfered with his ability to hear God in that area. And over time, the local leadership noticed the error and danger in Jack's financial words. They could not sort out the difference between "bad prophesy" in one area and being a "bad" prophet in all areas. So Jack was labeled as a "false prophet" and lost is credibility. He was not allowed to prophesy to people in his local area any more. Why? Because he was driven by his own opinions in the area of finance and expressed them as a thus sayeth the Lord.
We all hold strong opinions in certain areas, So it is important to identify what those areas are, so we can avoid prophesying our opinions. We need to be very careful about speaking into areas where we hold strong opinions, because it is so easy to fall into error in those areas.
Even thought I hear God clearly and believe I can discern between my opinions and God's voice, I try not to prophesy into those areas where I hold strong personal opinions. I don't want to accidentally prophesy from my opinion, I want to prophesy precisely/only what God is saying. However, there are times when God will instruct me to speak into an area where I also have a personal opinion. In those cases, God usually speaks to me before I minister to someone, like during my quiet time earlier in the day. He will tell me in advance that He is going to speak to that area (where I have strong opinions) and He will make it very clear what He wants me to say. This gives me time to double-check what I heard with the Lord before I am in the ministry situation, and allow God to confirm what I heard. After God confirms it, then I feel free to speak what He gave me to speak. But even then, I must be careful not to expand on it or add my own opinions to it.
Let me share an example. One of my own "pet peeves" is in the area of end-time eschatology, or the timing of "last day" events. Many people seem to think that Jesus will come very soon, maybe in the next 5 to 10 years. Personally, I don't agree with that. I have heard too many prophesies where God told people in their early 20s what He will do through the lives of their great-grandchildren. So I think that Jesus probably is not coming back soon, probably not for at least the next 75 to 100 years. I don't know for sure, of course, because the Bible says that it is not given for us to know that. But in my humble opinion, I expect that the second coming probably will not be in this century. And it irritates me when I see words that say "the time is short" or "I am coming soon" so we have to mobilize quickly to do this or that that right away.
I try to avoid prophesying into that area at all because I have very strong opinions on it. If I am absolutely sure that God has given me a word to address that area, I would share it. But I would not speak into that area if I was not absolutely sure and then I would be very careful to only say what God gave me to say about it. I might be willing to share my opinion of Jesus not coming all that soon, but if I did, I would make it clear that I was sharing my opinion, and not giving a "thus sayeth the Lord."
Our opinions are not the only thing that gets us in trouble. Our feelings can do that as well. In particular, we can let our compassion get away from us and drive us to say things God is not really saying.
Someone comes to us who is feeling very discouraged and they say that they urgently need a word from the Lord. Our own hearts of compassion are stirred because of their need and we want to meet that need for them.
Sometimes when our heart goes out to the person like that, it is better to minister in some way other than prophesying to them. We can comfort them, encourage them, or maybe hold them and pray for them. But we should not give them a word unless God truly gives us one. When someone says they said they "really need a word," we may try to give it to them because it is what they think they really need. And this can be dangerous and we might fall into error. We must never allow another person's desperation to drive us in giving a word to them, our own heart of compassion may try to imitate God's voice on their behalf. We need to hear clearly from God and speak only what He is speaking. And it is easier to hear Him clearly when our emotions are not overly-engaged.
Some believers hear so clearly that they can usually distinguish between God's voice and their own heart of compassion. But many people are not at that place. It is so easy for a person to find his/herself prophesying comfort for the person's situation from their own compassion. If the person's desperation comes from a failed or broken relationship, it is very tempting to prophesy that God will restore the relationship. This happens because the minister's own heart wants to see it restored, they want to see the person's pain elevated. Likewise, if the person's problem is financial, our hearts may promise God's provision will come quickly. We have to be careful to speak what God is staying instead of what our heart is saying.
I recently prayed for a friend of mine at church who's business is failing. I hoped God would resurrect it, I wanted God to bring His glory into the situation and turn things around. I could not see any reason why God would not be willing to do that. I really wanted it to happened. But instead of trying to prophesy to this friend, I laid hands on him and prayed for him. I prayed the desires of my heart for his business as a petition prayer. I asked God to make his business successful once again. And at that point, God spoke to me. The business was a long drive from his home and he was spending to much time and gas money commuting. God wanted to shut down this business. I had the sense that God was going to use this same man to start another business in an area closer to his home. But I was not sure enough of my hearing to turn that into a word, so I did not mention it to him.
This is a case where my heart was engaged on behalf of a friend and that is why I choose to minister by praying for him instead of trying to prophesy to him. I thought I knew what God would do for him (resurrect his business), but I was wrong. If I had spoken my opinion as a "thus sayeth the Lord" it could have caused great harm. My friend may have struggled longer (in faith) to keep it open and gone even more deeply into debt. But his business would eventually fail because God wanted to move him to another place. And he would have been even more devastated when that happened if he had received a false promise from me. If I had prophesied my desire for his business instead of praying it, I would have been in error and I would have given a bad word.
When your emotions are really engaged on the person's behalf, it is usually better to love on them and pray for them than to try to prophesy to them.
We have to be very careful that we don't let the desires of our heart for a person effect what we prophesy. We must only speak what God is speaking. We need to guard our hearts and not allow them to imitate God's voice to us when we see someone who is in any type of crisis or urgent need.