Understanding The Prophetic Ministry
1 Cor 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Cor 14:3 ...But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
Prophecy has always been a rich part of the heritage of God’s people both in OT and as we just read in the NT. We serve a mighty God who desires to reveal His thoughts, His heart, His will to us through various ways.
God speaks to us through the scriptures. He also speaks to us when we spend time in prayer. Jesus said My Sheep Hear my Voice. We have the ability to hear His voice. This may come as spontaneous flow of thoughts, impressions, word pictures, song. God also speaks to us through counsel of friends, leaders or figures of authority he has placed over our lives. God also speaks to us and shows us His will through prophecy.
Prophecy in its simplest definition is “To make known the mind, will and intention of God” to a person, to a group, corporately to the broader church.Prophetic Ministry of the OT Prophets
This week in our SOAP reading of OT we started to read about Jeremiah, a prophet. A prophet was “one called by God to speak for God”. In the OT God selected individuals to whom He would reveal His heart, His mind and intentions. They spoke God’s message, not their own reflections or reasonings.
In Jer 1:5…I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. We see God say of Jeremiah that he was to be God’s mouthpiece. Their primary function was to speak the heart and mind of God to their generation, their contemporaries.
If we think of a modern day Prime Minister or CEO who would like to express his opinions, reactions or intentions about certain issues or a situation, they then appoint a press secretary who will simply carry those intentions verbatim to the audience/listeners. They are simply spokespersons for the organisation.
Likewise whenever God wanted to communicate his heart, his intentions, his mind to his people, whether it was an individual, a king or an entire nation, he appointed prophets, revealed his plans, his counsels to them so that they could represent Him. All revelation was inspired by the Spirit of God and involved ‘hearing’ or ‘seeing’ things from God. The Holy Spirit involved the faculties of the prophet. God would take them into confidence and it was a position of trust, intimacy with God.
Amos 3:7...surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to his servants the prophets.
It was not popular to be a prophet. The scenario was often the people of God would have wandered away from Him and started to move in immorality, idolatry, unfaithfulness, practice injustice and God would get really riled up that they could so easily forget Him. The unpleasant consequences they ended up in would have them cry out for God’s mercy, he would deliver them and yet within a short time they will forget God’s blessings and start to repeat that cycle of abandoning him again. Each time God would send a message, a warning, issue a call to repentance to them through his prophets. The prophets had to deliver some very tough messages to the people and it was not a coveted role at all.
The delivery styles of the prophets were all unique based on the differing circumstances surrounding the people of God. God didn’t pull any punches when he wanted to get the attention of His people. Often the messages were couched in symbolic pictures, visions, dreams, riddles, at times images and the language was powerful. Some even had to demonstrate or illustrate it through their own lives.
Hosea… was asked to marry an adulteress/prostitute, who leaves him, and later returns to him at a price.
Jeremiah… bought a very expensive linen belt and he buried it in the dirt, then let it rot there for a while, then dug it up and held it up to the children of Israel and said this is a prophetic sign of how they had become prideful towards God.
The OT prophets prophesied not only to their own generation but they spoke timeless truths for other generations, even for us today. Jesus said in Matt 13 the prophets would love to have seen and heard the things happening in our age. Isaiah prophesied the coming of Christ, the Messiah. Joel prophesied the outpouring of the HS that happened on the Day of Pentecost, in the book of Acts.
Acts 2:16-19 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy”.Prophetic Ministry Today
The Spirit of Prophecy. 1 Cor 14:1 in an atmosphere of worship, at LifeGroup, we can all be open to the spirit of prophecy, as the Holy Spirit can inspire us to receive a word picture, a scripture, a prophetic prayer and bless one another or even bless the broader church.
The Gift of Prophecy. 1 Cor 12:10 given by the Holy Spirit; enabling certain people to prophesy on a regular basis. There is a different impact in this kind of prophetic gifting that goes beyond inspirational prophecy. There are revelational aspects to it, at times it contains elements of direction.
The Prophet. Eph 4:11 These gifted people over time are set in as prophets. The prophets work along side the teachers, pastors and other leadership gifts, for equipping of God’s people, till they come to maturity.
Naturally not all of us will be prophets, or have the gift but we can all live with a prophetic edge to our lives. Jn 15:15 Jesus himself declares…No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you….
As followers of Christ, our faculties should be tuned in to hearing or seeing what the Father is doing in our lives, especially as we draw close to Him through prayer and reading his word. When someone gives us a prophecy it should simply confirm what we ourselves are already hearing from God.
The more you tune in to God’s voice for your own life, the more Holy Spirit will inspire you to bless others around you.
1 Cor 14:3 gives a picture of what Prophetic Ministry achieves in church:It Edifies…
Its builds up . Putting one brick on top of the other. When God created us, he had something in mind for us. As a master architect he wants to build us. Likewise through prophecy, a word picture, a promise, a dream God speaks edification, building up in and over us. Prophecy becomes a signpost; takes us out of where we are, out of our hopeless, limited space, our lack, our not-yets and takes us into a broad space with God. God knows the end from the beginning, so he starts to work, lay it in place, helps us build towards a future, points towards something. We move towards it by faith, that picture pulls, propels us forward.It Encourages….
It stirs up encouragement. Coming alongside someone and cheering them on. It simply means to put courage back into us. We constantly need courage to be put back into us, we face all kinds of setbacks and crisis and courage is the sail that
holds us up against difficult winds of life.It comforts…
It cheers up. Speaking to someone with great tenderness, to bind up broken hearted. God comes to those who have failed, made mistakes, have regrets, have been broken, have lost sight of things, have encountered losses, those who have given up.It stirs Vision…
Prov 29:18 without vision i.e. revelation, prophetic insight, people tend to live carelessly, apathetically. At times weariness can set in; we can lose vision and purpose. Prophetic ministry comes to motivate, to create that sense of purpose, urgency and expectation. It arouses people from complacency and moves people into action. Stirs activity and puts an edge back into our lives.Keeping Prophecy in Perspective….
We must learn to handle prophecies correctly. 1 Th 5:19-24 do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. Some things to keep in mind as we work with prophecies in our lives:
Prophecy inspires us to keep running the race.
- Prophecy is to be tested . “Prove” is the greek word ‘dokimazo’ meaning to discern, to see if its genuine or not, as in testing a metal. Is that prophetic word, picture in line with the scriptures? Prophecies are not designed to replace God’s written word in our lives but it should support and confirm His word. If you have to choose between obeying scripture or prophetic word, obey God’s word. Don’t over rely on the prophetic to guide us. People who need a prophetic word for everything they do - that’s dangerous!
We have established guidelines in Life Groups that no one should be giving prophecy without being accountable to a leader, a coach or a pastor.
- Prophecy is incomplete. Paul (1 Cor 13:9) we prophesy in part (fragments, incomplete knowledge). It may only reveal a tiny part of God’s total knowledge of a situation. Prophecies can go into detail in one area and may say nothing about other aspects. At times prophecies may give you a preview of what’s ahead but make no mention of any difficulties you encounter in getting there. Gen 37...Joseph has a dream, but contained nothing about the betrayal, set-up, jail term, crushing disappointments, the process thru which the dream will be ultimately fulfilled. God uses the process to develop our character.
At times God may only reveal what we need to attend to or know, in order to do his will for that particular time, aspects that require an immediate obedience, we need to follow it through, and we are responsible to obeying anything that the word is drawing our attention to.
- Prophecy is progressive. It may unfold over a period of time and does not necessarily happen in the timing we think it should. This can cause frustration, discouragement and impatience and we can reject the word. There are times some prophecies happen within months of getting them, other times it takes years. God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry but He is never late.
One way to understand this is to see our lives as a book with many chapters and pages within each chapter. Prophecy reveals what is on the different pages. One prophecy alone is not designed to reveal the entire book of our lives or even an entire chapter. You may be walking on page 27 and you receive a prophecy about something on page 61. Don’t become confused but simply walk with God, walk in prayer, intimacy and when you arrive at page 61 you will begin to understand what that journey was all about.
Paul told Timothy to wage a good warfare over the prophecies given to him 1Tim 1:18-19. Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
The prophetic word should inspire us to keep strong, keep going. We are not to give up running the race.Conclusion
Prophetic Ministry is a powerful vehicle through which God builds His church. God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our individual lives and CityLife corporately. As we walk in intimacy and friendship with Him, we can have a revelatory aspect to our lives, that prophetic edge to our lives.
Let’s stir ourselves to hear God more on a personal level and also to stir this ability to build up one another, to encourage, comforting one another whenever we come together.