Have you heard about the “prophetic” declarations – primarily coming out of America – announcing that the Covid-19 virus, that had suddenly come, would, in like manner, disappear on Easter Sunday?
In February, the infamous virus broke out into the world and certainly changed 2020 forever. At the time, there were also prophet (I use that term loosely.) declaring it was a judgement on China or some other parts of the world. Some, usually citing Psalm 91, even declared that Christians would not be affected by the virus, causing some percentage of churches to disregard safe measures and continue with on-site services as usual. And then, in November 2020, came the US election and another wave of “prophetic” voices yelling out who would win and, seemingly, who God was in favour of. As alarming as that was, I was more alarmed at how many Christians blindly believed in those “words” and even echoed them (yes, if you forwarded a “prophetic” post, you’ve echoed it too!)
Disclaimer: Before I proceed, I do not hold to the belief that the gift of prophecy has ceased because we now have the New Testament (NT). I believe in the prophetic ministry and, like Moses (Numbers 11:29) and Paul (1 Corinthians 14:5), I wish that everyone would prophesy. By this, I mean that everyone would hear from God and speak what He tells them to.
Here we are in December 2020 and Covid-19 is still enough of a problem so as to cause nations and cities to go into lockdown. And “God’s choice” US president lost! So what is going on? Did God get it wrong or have we? I can categorically state that God does not get things wrong. The One who knows, from the beginning, how things turn out does not make mistakes. I suppose I can also categorically state that the problem lies on our end.
So how have we missed it? I see four ways we have fallen short:
- Seeing Prophecy as a Badge of Honour
One of the most misused and abused portions of the Bible is Ephesians 4:11-16.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Let’s set the context. This passage talks about equipping rather than governing. Yet, some decades ago, many pastors began to regard becoming a prophet as a promotion (based on v11). Yet others began calling themselves apostles and, suddenly, everyone wanted to become one too. These are not TITLES nor are they RANKED. The four or five ministries listed here are FUNCTIONAL. The NT church was led by elders but trained by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Could an elder also be an equipper? Yes. But whenever the leaders of a church were being addressed, they were addressed as “elder”. Having a prophetic ministry is not license to operating with no accountability, making a name for oneself or going around commanding people to do this or that. Brothers and sisters, have we not seen enough damage and hurt that such abuse can lead to? Have we no desire to come into alignment with how GOD sees this gift?
How do I know that we’re still getting it wrong? Look at v12-16. How much have prophets (and the other “offices”, for that matter) been involved in equipping the saints? How much have they contributed to the saints reaching unity in the faith and growing into Christlikeness? Many have been focusing instead on building their own followings rather than the body of Christ. Rev Edmund Chan (Leadership Mentor of Covenant EFC in Singapore) said regarding prophetic ministers, and I paraphrase, that they can edify as long as they speak FOR God but they miss the mark when they start speaking AS God.
- Succumbing to Lying Spirits
I recently had the privilege of being invited to have a meal with a group of pastors. During the conversation, the inevitable question popped up: Who would win the US election? Almost immediately, the pastor being asked the question answered, “Mr T” (you all know who I am talking about) and he went on to give the reason for his answer. He said that many prophetic ministers in the US had prophesied his victory and his loss would mean there was a lying spirit at work.
Up till today, I can feel the weight of his answer. At time of writing, it appears that Mr T has lost. What do we make of this? 1 Kings 22 records that Israel was at war with Aram. Ahab, king of Israel, asks Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to help him fight Aram. Jehoshaphat agrees to help but wants to know what the Lord has to say about it first. So Ahab gathers 400 prophets all of whom prophesied victory for Israel. Jehoshaphat asks for a “prophet of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:7). Ahab grudgingly tells him about Micaiah – who usually did not have anything good to say. When Micaiah is asked, he sarcastically tells Ahab to listen to the 400. Funnily, Ahab gets angry with him and insists he declare what the Lord really said. Micaiah does and is put in prison. But the spiritual realm is unveiled to us (1 Kings 22:19-23) and we see how a lying spirit had been sent to speak through the 400 prophets to give false hope to Ahab to entice him to defeat. Similarly, I believe a lying spirit has been operating in certain camps of the church, particularly in America . This is one possible reason so many prophets appear to have got it wrong. Whose prophets were those who got it wrong (1 Kings 22:7)? And where are the Micaiahs?
- Giving Voice to the Flesh
Have you ever noticed that whenever one preacher starts to preach something, others soon follow SEEMINGLY being likewise inspired by the Holy Spirit? Now I may be a bit cynical or skeptical about this because jumping on the bandwagon is a “gift” many churches and ministries have. We move from one fad to the next – even when not led by the Spirit. Why do we do this? For security, money, influence, fame…you get the idea. The same could be said for prophets. One prophet starts to gain popularity by prophesying something and pretty soon every other prophet becomes an echo, though God might not necessarily have said the same thing to them. (Caveat: I will accept, however, that the Lord can and does say the same thing to several people, according to His will.)
1 Kings 13 contains the account of a prophetic tragedy. It is the story of how an old prophet got a young prophet killed. The old prophet lied to get his own way. Why did he do this? Could it be he wanted to control one who was set on obeying the Lord fully? Or could it be because he felt threatened by a young prophet on the scene – after all, it would appear that the old prophet lived closer to Bethel than the young one, so why didn’t the Lord activate him? Another possibility is that he was a prophet after his own flesh, rather that one of the Lord. It seems like there is a significant number of prophets who have lost their burden for the body of Christ and, instead, looked to building their own reputations and ministries. They know who they are. The old prophet knew he was faking it but went ahead anyway.
Do you know what the most surprising thing in this story is? He wasn’t punished on the spot but I am sure he had to personally answer to his King for his actions. How many prophets today are faking it? How many are making up “prophetic utterances” just to jump on the bandwagon or outdo someone else’s “word”, JUST to sell more books or gain more followers? John’s epistles tell us that such false prophets do the people of the King a great disservice and they shall have to answer to the King one day. Consider this also – we are living in New Testament times but the way some of these prophets speak, you’d think they were trying to be on par with the Old Testament prophets.
- Mishandling Prophecy
Just so you know that I’m not all about prophet-bashing, this one is for the people. It used to be that when we heard a prophetic word about something, we might repeat it to a few people. Nowadays, in the age of forwarding, prophecies can circumnavigate the planet in a matter of hours. Brothers and sisters, have you not read 1 Corinthians 14:26-33? Have we forgotten how to weigh prophecy? Can I lovingly say this – most of the prophetic words that come out of the west are unweighed because their speakers do not subject themselves to anyone. Look at the US election situation – how confusing is it that so many prophets backed Mr T but Mr B won it. God is not the author of confusion! We are! So before you forward or broadcast the latest prophetic word from prophet so-and-so, can I suggest you ask your trusted pastors or leaders and let them weigh it?
Fellow soldiers of the King, if we keep going like this, we’re doomed! We’ll be like what is described in 1 Corinthians 14:8. We will hear an indistinct and confusing sound and not know what our orders are. So what can we do about this?
If you have a prophetic assignment, align with the Spirit and Word of the King. It may mean shutting your mouth for a season and withdrawing to your prayer closet. Ask the Holy Spirit to search and cleanse your heart. Consecrate yourself. Separate yourself from the unclean and the unholy. Dedicate yourself to being the King’s herald and receive His authority and power to do so. But don’t forget to ask for His heartbeat. If you have lost your burden for the church, you have lost your First Love because you no longer love the things He loves. Realign! And if God has assigned you to be a prophet to just 10 people, be faithful, even if God doesn’t increase your numbers!
If you don’t have a prophetic assignment, align with the Spirit and Word of the King! Don’t get duped by prophetic nonsense! Ask the Lord to grant you wisdom and discernment so you can differentiate the truly prophetic from the grossly pathetic and obviously profit-ic! Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. Recognize that the true prophetic ministry is a God-given gift to the body of Christ. Pray for truly prophetic people – those who hear from God and speak only what they hear. Lord, awaken the true prophets and silence the fakes! For the sake of Your people. Amen!
PS. Thanks to LL for the editing..