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A lot of people have sent me emails with what boils down to the same question. It has to do with confidence in one's own ability to prophesy.
The gist of the problem is that they love the Lord and want to obey God and speak what He gives them. But they are not 100% sure that what they heard was really God and they don't want to put words in God's mouth or speak something He is not saying. In short, they feel a call of God over them to prophesy, but they don't have confidence in their own hearing, and they are not positive that God desires to speak through them.
When they think they hear God speak, they are not sure that it was really God. They suspect it probably was, and they want to obey Him and speak forth what He is saying, but they are not 100% sure it was really God. In fact, they are not even sure that God has chosen them to speak on His behalf. In short, they are not confident in their calling.
When a prophetic person is plagued with these type of doubt, one of two things will usually happen to them. They might go ahead and take the "risk" and speak the word. But if they do, they often go away agonizing over whether or not what they said was really God. Or they might "hold the word" (not speak it). But if they do, then they go away and mentally "beat themselves up" for not speaking what God gave them to say. It feels to them that they get it wrong no matter what they do.
It is difficult for those with a true prophetic gift to prophesy when they are not sure that God is really speaking through them, and it creates doubt in their calling/gifting. Lack of confidence makes a person feel like they are walking on a tightrope, trying to find a difficult balance between two extremes. On one hand, they don't want to misrepresent God and say something that He is not saying. But on the other hand, they don't want to disobey God by not speaking what He gives them to say. It is scary for a prophetic person to move in their gifting before they have developed confidence in their calling. Unfortunately, most of us cannot develop this confidence until we have had some experience moving in the gifting. That makes it really tough to start out.
Those of us who have been doing this for a while can forget just how difficult it was to start. We remember that we struggled with it; but once we step into the place of confidence in our calling, we forget just how nasty the struggle was for us before we got there. Personally, I struggled with confidence for a long time--well over a year. But that was ten years ago. Back then, I thought I'd never overcome it, but now I know with an assuredness that God has called me as one of His spokespersons. I forgot what it felt like when I first started out, but the Lord used an interesting thing to remind me of it.
I was cleaning out a cabinet and came across a box of old prophesy tapes (where other people gave words to me). Of course, I started to listen to them. One of the tapes turned out to be a discussion with a mentor. I was amazed as I listened to it, because I could hear my own voice expressing a struggle of confidence that I haven't experienced for a very long time. Let me give you the gist of the discussion.
I had been unable to sleep, so I got on the computer in the wee hours of the morning and went into a Christian chatroom. Shortly after I arrived, a lady came in who I had not talked to in a couple of years. I barely remembered her, but she remembered me and she greeted me in a private chat, then she abruptly left the room. We could still talk in private chat, so I asked her why she left so quickly. She replied, "Christians don't like me in their rooms." That sounded like an odd thing for her to say because I was thought she was a Christian.
I began to ask God about it and I tried to remember everything I could about her. She used to be active in a Christian chatroom, but she suddenly left her husband and two children and moved to Canada. That was when I lost touch with her. Suddenly I realized that she must have fallen into the homosexual lifestyle and was ashamed to be around believers. So I asked her about it and she admitted that was what happened. She assumed I'd be offended at her and refuse to talk to her. I told her, "Why would I do that?" and then began to share with her things that God put on my heart.
I seemed to suddenly have all this information about her. I had no idea how much of it was from memory and how much was from divine revelation; But I knew for sure that God wanted her to know that He still loved her and He wanted her back. At one point in the conversation, I asked her if she knew what a prophet was. She said no. So I told her a prophet is someone who speaks for God and then I told her that I was speaking to her prophetically. I began to tell her how God knew all about her and He loved her. I shared all these details with her that were floating around my mind and she was amazed at the level of detail that God knew about her. (Honestly, I did not know how much was from memories coming back and how much was divine revelation.) I claimed to be speaking for God, and I told her that God wanted her back. He would receive her where she was, but He would begin to make changes in her and He would eventually require her to live in holiness, that he would help her change from the inside out. Then I invited her to come back to the Lord--and she did. She repented and received the Lord.
It just all flowed and I did not think about it while it was going on. When I first got off the computer, I was very excited about what God had done, and I was happy that He woke me up at 2:00 AM to be a part of it. But shortly after that, the doubt settled in. I realized that I claimed to be speaking for God--only I wasn't sure that the words I'd shared with her had been His and not my own. I think the devil was playing mind games with me, but I began to get really worried that maybe I had just operated as a false prophet. Maybe I claimed to be speaking for God when He wasn't speaking through me. I agonized over it for days. I was so worried about it that I called a mentor and discussed the situation with her. And for some reason, I'd tape recorded that call.
The mentor assured me that I was speaking God's heart, so what I said was ok. She said that it did not matter if God gave me divine revelation or if He recalled things to my memory, I was still communicating His message. He was leading me in the discussion and I had evidence of that because the Holy Spirit worked in the backslidden lady's heart and brought her back to God. But I was still worried because I claimed to speak as a prophetically during that discussion. Did I have a right to do that? Was God mad at me? The mentor assured me that was not the case twice, but at the end of the conversation I remained unconvinced that it was ok to have claimed that I was speaking prophetically.
It is easy to look back now and see that He wasn't mad. It is clear that He was working with me (and through me) to reach this lady. But the difference is that now I have a confidence and assuredness that God has put His words in my mouth, and that He has commissioned me to speak on His behalf. But I did not have that assuredness when I first began to move in the prophetic, and it was very difficult (and scary) for me.
Some of you can relate to my story, because that is where you right now in terms of confidence. It is actually pretty normal to feel low in confidence when you first start serving God in a new area. That even happened to some of the "greats" in the bible.
Moses started off with no confidence at all. He had once been a very cocky man, raised as grandson to the Pharaoh and as a prince of Egypt. He had assumed that his people would receive him as a leader and follow him without question. He even crusaded on their behalf them by murdering an Egyptian who was abusing his Hebrew slave. That act caused him to run from the law and become a fugitive. He fled Egypt to Median and became a shepherd, which was a profession that Egyptians detested. Moses become a broken man and his sense of destiny and self-esteem were shot. Then God visited him in Exodus 3, to commission him. Moses' first response was to try and disqualify himself (Exodus 4:10). "Moses said to the Lord, 'O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue'" (NIV).
God's response is basically, "Don't worry about your qualifications, I am the One Who qualifies you, and I will help you do it well. But Moses came back with, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (verse 13).
Moses is a great example of someone who God called and chose, but who was not confident in his calling--especially in the early days of his ministry. Yet, Moses is one of God's greats. He is listed as one of the ten heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11.
Gideon is another person who struggled with confidence when God first called him. We see his initial commission in Judges 6:11-12:
11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor'. (NIV)
Gideon did not feel like a mighty man of valor. He was hiding from the Midianites when the angel sought him out, and most people don't consider it and act of valor to hide from your enemies. But God doesn't use the same criteria to evaluate us that we use to evaluate ourselves. Gideon did not think the was of the caliber that God might commission him, and at first he had real trouble accepting his divine commission. Look at Judges 6:15: "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house" (NIV). God went on to reassure Gideon that he was called and chosen in verses 13 to 24. Then God gave him a task in verses 25-26, "Take your father's young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down" (NIV).
Gideon obeyed God, but he did it with a total lack of confidence. Look at verse 27: "So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the Lord had said to him. But because he feared his father's household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night" (NIV).
It is not unusual to be low in confidence when you first start to operate in your calling. So how do you overcome it? How do you gain confidence that God has chosen you and that He will move through you?
We will take about that next week.