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As I wrote in this post, Why Prophecy Matters, I believe prophecy is really important. We are commanded to earnestly desire it (1 Cor. 14:1). Earnestly is a serious and an intense conviction.
If you’re not familiar with what prophecy is, here’s one way to define it: It’s an imperfect report of a perfect revelation that God speaks to you.
Since you don’t need Old Testament prophets anymore and you have the completed canon, why do you need prophets today? You have everything you need, don’t you…?
Why Would God Do This?
Let’s look at this in a different perspective. Here are a few scenarios of why God would do this and the importance of prophecy:
- Would it help to know if a famine was coming across the land and to prepare? In Acts 11:27-30, a prophet named Agabus, by the Spirit, said to all those assembled that there would be a great famine over all the world. And it happened just as he prophesied. Because of this warning, the disciples were able to send relief to other brothers in Christ. God was able to care and provide for His children in advance due to this prophecy.
- Maybe you have a big decision to make. God has put on your heart about possibly moving across the state or another country. Would it be like a loving father to give you guidance and reassurance about this decision? So then God sends a person who has no prior knowledge of what is going on in your life, to confirm a certain direction that He’s putting on your heart. You’ve been praying for clarity and this was an answer to prayer.
- What about if Satan is planning a specific attack on your church. Would it be helpful to know that? Maybe God provides certain exhortations in order for your church to prepare and intercede in prayer? Can you turn to God and cry out for help and protection in advance? Yes, yes, and yes!
Your Father wants a relationship with you and to speak with you by the power of the Holy Spirit regarding the plans He has for you. And these certain directives, encouragement and exhortations aren’t detailed for you specifically in the Bible. It isn’t in the Bible that in this specific city at this specific time, a famine is coming. Or that God is calling you to move: where, when, why? Or you need to prepare for a specific spiritual battle. Hence, why there’s prophecy.
Until the perfect one comes, Jesus, you’ll prophesy in part. That is, until Jesus comes again, face to face, this is when you’ll no longer need this gift (1 Cor. 13:9-10). Until then, prophecy is still available today. And God does this because He cares about His children. He’s actively involved in your life and by His sovereignty, He’s working out the details. He’s not some far off deity, hoping that you’ll figure things out. He sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost so you can be empowered to speak forth what He reveals to you through the Word and Spirit.
So, if you receive a prophetic word from someone, God has specifically put you on that person’s heart to build up, exhort, encourage, comfort, console, warn, etc. Prophecy is the manifestation of God’s presence among you. Does that not cause you to glorify and praise the Lord? Is your faith not built up?
The Components of Prophecy
Here are the 3 main components of a prophecy:
- Revelation: Something you could not have known otherwise; knowledge or information that God speaks to you through the Holy Spirit.
- Interpretation: Is seeking out what does this information actually mean? What is God saying through this revelation?
- Application: How should this prophetic word be applied? Has God given you directive on what a church or person should do. Are you to intercede in prayer only? Are you just providing the word and it’s up to the person receiving the word to know how to apply it?
- Sometimes the Lord has you interpret and then provide the application.
- Sometimes its receiving the revelation, but with no interpretation or application.
- Sometimes it’s just giving the word in its original context. Sometimes it’s not giving the word at all, but just praying for the situation.
Staying close to the God in prayer as well as the Word, and constantly asking for His direction by the Spirit, will give you the wisdom and discernment you need to know what the Spirit is saying. You’ll also need to trust, obey, and cultivate a heart of love for the Lord and others.
What if the Gift Gets Out of Hand?
Any gift has the potential to get out of hand. There are extremes to any gift, not just prophecy, which have been abused, sadly. Even teaching is fallible. However, you no longer listen to teachers or pastors because others have gotten it wrong in the past, do you?
Yes, there will be mistakes. Yes, people will misapply a revelation. Yes, people will have mixed motives or have a wrong heart. Yes, people will interpret a revelation wrong. But, as I said above, the same could be said for teaching and interpreting a text, people have gotten it wrong or abused their authority. In this fallen and broken world–it will happen–but you don’t want to despise prophecy and treat it with contempt just the same because of that (1 Thess. 5:20).
Let’s go to the Bible as an example. In Acts 21:10-14, a prophecy was given by Agabus, but people were giving it a wrong application:
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.
Everyone urged Paul not to go because they loved him. They didn’t want to see him be harmed. I think we all can relate that we don’t want to see a loved one in danger. But they assumed that because of this warning, it meant that he shouldn’t go and avoid persecution. However, Paul knew that persecution was what God planned for him–he was never meant to avoid it. They were breaking his heart by trying to convince him not to go, but he already had confirmation from the Lord that he was to go and he obeyed despite their pleas.
This is a great example that because of your own presuppositions, you can misapply a prophecy, but God’s ways are different from ours. Keep your heart pure before the Lord, don’t assume, and be ready at times to be confounded!
Reasons Why Prophecy Matters
Again, prophecy matters. There is too much you’ll miss out on if you don’t believe this. Sometimes you and I need a little push to really pursue and believe this. It took me years to really pursue and have a change of heart — to not just half-heartedly pursue. I don’t want you to waste time like I did. And unless you’re filled continuously filled with the Holy Spirit and operating by His power, our faith and works are futile, it doesn’t honor the Lord. But where the gifts are in operation by the Holy Spirit, God is manifesting His presence, and He gets the glory. So earnestly or seriously desire prophecy as it would be disobedience not to!
How has prophecy been a factor in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
*Also, here are some of my favorite books on the power of the Holy Spirit. It will give you a fresh understanding of the gifts of the Spirit as well as renew your passion for Jesus Christ!