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The series is split into four sections. While the division into sections is in some ways arbitrary, the sections are intended to follow a progression similar to the stages involved in building a house. Thus we started at Section (1), which dealt with the foundations which need to be in place for effective prophetic ministry. We then moved on to Section (2), which covered the choice of basic materials with which to work. Section (3) covered rules of construction. Section (4) (this section) covers the finishing stages. All are important if we want a house that stands firm, won't collapse due to inferior materials, has been built efficiently and is attractive!
I'd like to repeat a couple of things before we go any further.
Firstly, God isn't just interested in making us "better prophets". He wants to transform us to be more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18) and to set us free in heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) to worship Him. The things that we consider in this series are only a part of that process.
Secondly, remember that developing prophecy is not a logical progression of tasks to be performed. It is based on relationship. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are involved as well as fallible humans! This is not a "ten steps" prescription to a sure-fire powerful prophetic ministry. So as you read this series, ask the Lord to highlight the relevant bits deep into your personality. Don't worry about the rest - its time will come!
In our last teaching we saw that there are certain regular practices which can help us stir up the gift of prophecy. We covered some of those practices.
Spending time communicating with the Lord was one. We saw how binding our heart to the Lord's heart sensitizes us to Him and to what He is saying.
We covered how the Bible is the Holy Spirit's book and that by spending time studying it we can be guarded from prophetic errors, we can improve our ability to discern the true from the false in prophecy and we can also get our eyes opened to some of the ways the Lord often speaks through prophets.
We saw how the process of impartation i.e. coming into a specific type of contact with other Godly people, can give us a "kick start" or "power boost" in the prophetic realm.
We saw how by becoming practically involved in doing the works of the Kingdom we increase our faith which in turn facilitates the flow of the prophetic. We also thus place ourselves into situations where the Holy Spirit is more likely to speak.
We briefly covered how fasting and praying involves us more deeply in the spiritual realm and increases the prophetic.
We saw that praying in the Spirit (specifically in tongues) is the Christian equivalent of weight training and can work wonders!
Finally, we covered how consciously choosing to obey the Lord and set oneself aside to be close to Him brings a lifestyle change that speaks prophetically to others as well as increasing the accuracy of the prophetic. With less dirt in the way the water flows more clearly! (John 7:38,39)
While on this side of heaven, one never finally reaches a stage in the Christian life where one can say "I've arrived", however there are certain things which move us towards a measure of maturity in the prophetic. The crossover between this section and our last section (Rules of Construction) is a little blurred. Many items would fit in both sections. It just depends on the degree of application in one's life.
However, at this stage it is especially important to remember that God is primarily interested in forming character within us. Rom 8:29 says, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (NIV)
Sometimes He will concentrate on forming character to the seeming detriment of practicing the prophetic, but that's OK - the timing of these things is in His control! (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Consistent practice of the prophetic is the mark of a maturing gifting. Just like the mailman delivers the mail, so the prophet delivers prophecies!
By using what you have, you also clear the way for the Lord to give you more (Matt 25:21).
Consistently delivering words from the Lord which prove accurate encourages you and builds your faith - and we know the close link between faith and the prophetic by now! (Romans 12:6)
Note that God's discipline is not designed to make us feel bad about ourselves, rather to come to our senses about particular behavior and ask forgiveness, thus receiving His grace and strength to overcome.
When we are growing in the prophetic we make messes along the way (1 Corinthians 13:9). God covers this with His love while we learn better ways to do things (1 Peter 4:8). However, when we have a deep relationship with the Lord and have received a significant depth of revelation, even seemingly minor infringements of His will carry a deeper consequence (Exodus 33:11 & Numbers 20:8-12, 1 Corinthians 4:2). A significant mark of the mature or maturing prophet is his or her ability to receive discipline from the Lord and learn from it while retaining a loving and trusting relationship with Him.
People who want to grow in the prophetic face many battles in life. The more battles you win (a) the more you realize your utter dependence on God's grace and (b) the stronger in the faith you become because you are trusting in Him more (Ephesians 6:10). You can tell a mature prophet because he or she bears the marks of grace in his or her life in certain areas where a struggle has taken place. They have an air of rest or confidence because time and again they have hit a battle and have overcome by God's grace.
Some of the battles faced by prophets, in addition to the "normal" Christian battles, include:
There are battles to be fought and hardships to be endured (2 Tim 2:3) but they increase maturity!
One of the marks of mature prophetic ministry is a willingness to go beyond the normal, to go "outside the camp" i.e. into new and uncharted territories. Daring to be different from the norms of churchianity brings openness to the wind of the Holy Spirit. Over the centuries prophets have been asked to do pretty "off the wall" (i.e. weird) things. Here's just a short selection:
I think we'd all agree that prophesying, especially through such prophetic acts, demands a certain willingness to be different and to bear the shame, scoffing and character assassination that often ensues. Yet its effectiveness can be dramatic. I know of a meeting where one lady gave out a vision of a shopping bag with a certain store's name on it: there was no interpretation, the lady just "felt" the Lord insisting that she share it. Much to her relief, the message was extremely relevant to somebody else in the congregation and the Lord used it to minister into a hidden situation!
I remember reading a statement to this effect:
"The fool never learns from his mistakes and suffers accordingly. The wise man learns from his mistakes. But the truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others."
When King David tried to bring the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem the wrong way a man died. Plans were halted! But David learned from his mistake and when he later transported the ark in a proper manner then blessing followed (2 Samuel 6).
We prophesy in part (1 Corinthians 13:9) and must test/judge prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thess 5:19-22). I believe these verses mean that prophets can make mistakes(1). But in the Kingdom of God by grace we can move on from these mistakes into more accurate prophecy.
There are lots of mistakes recorded in the Bible to help us avoid them (2 Tim 3:16-17) and several Christians have shared honest testimonies of mistakes they have made. Let us learn from these and move on into prophetic maturity.
By the way, if you ever come across a prophet who never admits to making a mistake in his life then run quickly in the opposite direction!
Mark 12:30 tells us that God wants us to worship Him with our heart, soul, mind and strength. In other words, our love for Him is shown in deeds as well as words. In a similar manner, actions can be used to demonstrate prophetically a message from God. By yielding our body to the Holy Spirit to do this (even in something as simple as a dance or raising one's arms in public) we are learning the process of being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and we are thus stirring up the gift within us. There is a strong element of "daring to be different" (see the earlier section) in this process.
There is something very humbling about publicly doing something regarded as foolish. But time and again we see that God blesses obedience (2 John 1:6, 2 Chronicles 31:21).
Some prophetic actions recorded in the Bible (2) include:
In some circles it might be regarded as controversial that small physical actions can result in spiritual or physical changes on a much grander scale. I believe several of the above scriptures adequately illustrate the point that when we act as prompted by the Holy Spirit the consequences can be far greater than we imagine. How arrogant to presume that physical actions which we can see have no effect in the spiritual realm (Eph 6:12) which we cannot (normally) see. The Bible clearly shows that small prophetic actions can have tremendous significance. I believe that this is an important weapon in the arsenal of the prophet - indeed, of every Christian.
Eph 5:18 ...be filled with the Spirit. (NIV)
The Greek for "be filled" is "pleerousthe". I am informed by someone who knows a lot more Greek than I do (not a considerable accolade) that the tense of this verb is present continuous. In other words, this command could be translated "keep on being filled with the Spirit". Repeated fillings are indicated.
This is borne out by other scriptures, which record for example several "fillings by the Spirit" on individuals:
I therefore conclude that filling by the Holy Spirit is not a once only experience but can occur repeatedly. The effects on the prophetic of being filled by the Holy Spirit, who gives the gift of prophecy, can be imagined! What a wonderful way to stir up the gift of prophecy - "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart... For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45 NIV)
No wonder we are commanded in Ephesians to seek this experience, over and over again. When filled with the Holy Spirit, the impossible is seen as easy, the enemy is seen to be defeated, the prophetic is seen as normal. We echo the prayer of Moses:
There are certain practices which help us towards a more mature exercising of the gift of prophecy.
Using the prophetic gifts that the Lord has given enables us to grow that gifting more.
Receiving the discipline of the Lord refines us and purifies the prophetic "edge" in our lives.
Winning battles, many of which are against temptations that are particularly strong for prophets, brings maturity as well as a deeper knowledge of God's grace in our lives.
Daring to do weird things or bring strange messages at the Lord's instruction are a major test of the prophet's effectiveness.
Mistakes we or others make can be powerful lessons enabling us to move on and learn more of the ways of God in prophecy.
Actions we undertake can have a prophetic significance which change the course of the future. Such actions can seem foolish but can be remarkably effective on a national scale.
Filling by the Holy Spirit has a radical accelerating effect on the prophetic and is to be sought continuously.
Q1. Are there seasons in a prophet's life when he (or she) does not share any prophecies? Why might that be?
Q2. What are some of the ways in which the Lord disciplines us? How are they designed to bring us closer to Him?
Q3. Are there other temptations that prophets face in particular? Why are they particularly dangerous for prophets?
Q4. Do you personally know of prophets / prophetesses who have been asked by the Lord to do weird things? What was the outcome? How do we differentiate between God calling people to do something weird versus the weird and wacky that does not come from God and just puts people off unnecessarily?
Q5. What mistakes have you made in the prophetic? What did you learn from them?
Q6. Have you seen actions performed in public which were deemed as prophetic? If so, what action? Were the effects seen in events afterwards or were they discerned by prophetic people with no clearly identifiable physical effect? Is it desirable to keep a guardedly open mind on allegedly "prophetic actions" until such time as testing (such as by their fruits) indicates their status? If so, why? If not, why not?
Q7. To what extent is "being filled with the Holy Spirit" a one time experience or a continuous state of being? Do you agree with Spurgeon's point which he made when asked why he needed to be repeatedly filled with the Spirit, "Because I leak!"?
In actual fact, some of the detail of this was not quite accurate. The Jews did not hand Paul over to the Gentiles, they tried to kill him. And the Gentiles came by force to take him away into imprisonment (Acts 21:26-33). However the main gist of the prophecy was accurate.