The prophetic is in high demand these days. Everyone is excited about this newfound reality that our experience with God is not limited to the reading of the Bible. In fact, people are discovering that they can experience Him just like those in the Bible. They can experience His divine ability to intervene, via healing. They can experience His vast array of creative and unexplainable miracles. They are learning that they can experience His voice.
It has always been taught to me that the ministry of the prophet was a thing of the past. “We have the Bible now,” they say. “There in no longer a need for anyone to speak for God.” I find this to be so preposterous because that’s like saying God has a phone now so He no longer makes house visits. Doesn’t that sound absolutely ridiculous? Sure it does. That is one if the reasons why I make it my business to teach and preach on the voice of God every chance I get. In my opinion, there is nothing that cannot be resolved by prayer and listening for His voice. If you asked me what I see as the biggest problem in the church today, I would say it is that we have outgrown our need for God. We think because He has given us advanced knowledge that we don’t need His counsel. I, however, beg to differ. Who can tell you that the person you are marrying will be a drug addict in 15 years? Where is that in the scriptures? Who can tell you that you are purchasing a home in the wrong season and that the markets are going to shift in a not so favorable way? Where is that in the Bible? All of these are experiences I have seen with my own eyes. All were avoidable. The only problem is that these persons to whom these egregious things happened, did not know that God would speak to them the answer they needed.
That is why this series of articles is so necessary. I am not trying to cover every aspect of the prophetic in these few articles. I am, however, trying to provide my readers with answers that should make it easier for them to speak into a life and save someone from a bad decision. I am trying to help my readers be encouraged to share God’s heart and mind with those they have access to. I am trying to teach them how to prophesy!
But where do we start? In the last couple of articles, I dealt with my first two tips; the word of the Lord comes to us and God speaks in proeeceding words. In those articles, I shared how God’s thoughts are not such that we can “study” them into reality. What we get from our study is good and we should definitely value it. Paul tells Timothy to study to show himself approved before God… (See 2 Tim. 2:15) I actually study quite a bit. In fact, studying the scriptures, the culture, and researching the people are among my favorite things to do in life. That being said, my studies lead to conclusions, not revelations. Revelations are those hidden things that God “chooses” to make known to us. Prophecy is revelation based, not conclusion based. We cannot look at the events around us and make a prediction and call it prophecy. That is called drawing a conclusion from the facts.
Then I taught you that whatever comes to you, comes to you as something you perceive. I further taught you that what you first perceive is a setup to more information. If God speaks once, He will speak twice!
But how do we get ourselves into the position to receive what comes to us? How do we prepare to get that first word that leads to more insight? Well, It starts with desire. That is what Paul tells us. He says, “Desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1).
Starting with the Right Desire
So Paul tells us that it is okay, even admirable, to desire to speak God’s counsel into the lives of others. Most of us today have heard that the right desire for all of the gifts in love. That conclusion comes from 1 Corinthians 13, affectionately called the love chapter. The love chapter tells us what love looks like and even warns us that these gifts should operate from the motive of love. And he is right! Love should be our motive for the gifts. But, love alone will not get the job done. It is not the only motive in the 1 Corinthians.
Some are defining prophesy by what it does. I Corinthians 14:3 tells us what prophecy does. It edifies, comforts, and exhorts. That means that people are teaching others to look for an edifying word, a comforting word, or an exhorting (encouraging) word. As I stated in the first article, this list does not define prophecy or the types of prophetic words God gives us. It does, however, tell us what they are meant to accomplish. This also provides us with our goal and something to align our desire to.
I am sure you are wondering what the difference is between a love motive and a 1 Corinthians 14:1 motive. Well for starters let me ease your mind by saying that I am not implying that we don’t need one of the two. But to the contrary, I am saying that we need both. I am also saying that we need to understand how they work together.
Here is an example the Holy Spirit spoke to me as He explained this to me. He said love is like gasoline in a car. But the desire to edify, comfort, and exhort are like the drivers of the vehicle. To make it plain, you can have a car tank full of gasoline, but it does not matter if there is no intent to use the vehicle. Today, we have a church full of love. I don’t know many Christians who lack genuine love for people. It’s kind of impossible to be a Christian and not love people because it is the first fruit (evidence) of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. So having love for people is not the problem. That means that people’s unwillingness to prophesy to people is not due to their lack of “the right” motive of love. The problem is with their desire to prophesy… their intent! Motive gives us a reason, but intent gives a desire!
Desire to Prophesy
So where do you start? You already have love for people; God has given you a full tank of gas. You just need to put your foot on the pedal and make a decision to press down on it. That means that you must “intend”, or make a decision to prophesy. How do you “intend” to speak for God? You do so by aligning your intent with His. What is His intent, you say? His intent is to edify, comfort, and exhort! This is the starting place for prophesying. Prophesying to people is simply you making the decision to edify someone with God’s thoughts about them. Or, you may decide to comfort a person with God’s thoughts. Last, you may choose to exhort or encourage, someone with what God thinks about them. Is it that simple? Yes, it is.
Every day I set myself in a position to use God’s voice to edify, comfort, or encourage someone. Now, I don’t always make that goal, but every day my heart is positioned to press the gas. Now, remember, in the first article I told you that the word of God takes three forms; knowledge, advice, and foreknowledge. This means that as I set my heart to express love through a desire to edify, comfort, and exhort someone, I am expecting that God will give me knowledge, advice, or words of foreknowledge for a person.
The first time I put this idea to use was years ago. I was young at the time and I had gone on a youth retreat with my church. It was a glorious weekend. One of the last activities we did before we left was to write a note to 7 attendees that we did not know. It was just supposed to be something random and nice. I, however, saw this as an opportunity to express this gift of prophecy. I already had love for these people, so I tapped into the intent to edify, comfort, and encourage them. As I was preparing my thoughts, we were given 3 x 5 index cards to write our notes on. I looked down at the paper and set my heart to edify, comfort, and encourage, the persons chosen for me. As I began writing I started to hear very specific words to address each person. I filled up each card front and back speaking very specifically to his or her heart. When I was finished I gave the cards to the 7 people. Then I was suddenly filled with fear as I considered the idea that I might have been wrong. I had gone out on a limb in some of these cards speaking in a very specific way. Some got advisory words, some knowledge words, others received foreknowledge words. To my surprise, every single person came back to me in awe. They each were overwhelmed by how specific my words were for each of them. One after one they thanked me and told me how what I wrote was just what they needed to hear.
Looking at the Big Three
If love is the motive that fills our heart and intent is the desire that calls us to action, then we should look at the big three closely. What do edification, exhortation, and comfort mean? How do you set your heart to do something that you don’t understand?
Edification means: to build up; to add to. It carries with it the idea of a builder adding to a structure. This is important to note because there are those who think that God is a “doom and gloom” speaker. This idea is drawn from their understanding of the Old Testament prophets who seemed to always herald the words of an angry God. The problem with their conclusion is that they neglect the fact that God always spoke with the goal of redemption in mind. God always brought judgment for the purpose of rebuilding. His mindset was that of a builder or a gardener. It was His mindset to tear out the infected areas of Israel and rebuild and replant new things in her. In fact, when He called Jeremiah to speak for Him, He was really clear to say what was to be accomplished by the prophetic word. He said, “I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over kingdoms.” Then He told him what His words were to do. He said, “to root out and pull down, to destroy…” This is where some prophets like to stop. They prophesy without balance. But God told him more. He said that He also wanted him, “to build and to plant”. This is the full spectrum of the prophetic laid out.
God’s goal is always to build up and to plant. Sometimes, while doing so, He may say some things to you that you won’t like. But ultimately, He does so with the intent of building you up or making you better. So the first place to start, as you desire to or set your intent to speak for God, is looking to build and the plant. Learn how to think to yourself, “I want to add to this person’s life today.”
The second thing to consider is comfort. Comfort means: to ease the pain, to affirm support of. The fact that a person needs comforting words means that they are in a place of dis-ease. That means that we are intending to relieve them of pain.
Here is an example of this at work in my life just recently. One day, as I was on my way to use the restroom, a friend stopped me. At the time she greeted me with a big ole smile and hearty hello. Everything seemed to be glorious in her life. But as she was smiling I started to feel a really heavy feeling come over me. The whole time she was talking and smiling I knew that something troubling was hiding underneath the smiles. Oftentimes, prophecy works together with other gifts. On this particular occasion it was partnering with the gift of discerning of spirits. Now, I knew at the time that this oppressive feeling was not demonic, but human. So I took no action against any demons. This heaviness was the atmosphere created by her heavy heart.
Not long after the smiles, giggles, and proclamations of how great things are, she changed. All of a sudden the heaviness in the air became a reality we both experienced. From that moment on she went on and on about a situation in her life that was troubling her soul. I just listened at first. As I was listening to hers, I was also listening for God’s response. When she got to a certain point in the discussion I had my answer from Him on how to respond. To be honest, I didn’t want to share it. I had only come that way to go to the bathroom and I had not made it there yet. To make matters worse, I really, really needed to use the bathroom. So I was in the frame of mind for listening to all of what she was saying. I also did not want to take the time to share what God had given me share. I just wanted to go to the bathroom. But the look on her face would not let my heart grow cold. Therefore, I counseled her by the word of wisdom for a few minutes. Then something happened. As suddenly as the heaviness came, it lifted. She was back to glowing with happiness and her pain was eased. She had been comforted by God’s word to her.
What I really want you to take away from this story is how I “desired” to comfort her. I made a choice to respond to what I was discerning and God partnered with me to ease her pain. Now, He could have done that though a word of knowledge, or foreknowledge, but He chose to give her a word of advice. And that did the job.
The last thing we need to look at is exhortation. It means to encourage, to stir up. To break it down further I like to defer to the word encourage. Encourage means to “empower with courage” or to “empower one with the feeling that they can do something.”
This expression works specifically to dethrone discouragement from the heart. Also, I believe that it is the most common expression of prophecy. Most people think of God as an encourager. It is an assumed quality of God. Even unbelievers are prone to reflect on this particular aspect of God’s nature. Likewise, desiring to exhort a person means that we are trying to empower them with courage. And most of the time it surfaces in us to combat the spirit of fear in a person’s life.
There are many, many, many examples of exhortation in the scriptures. God told Joshua in 1:6, “Be strong and of good courage…” Then He repeats Himself in verse 7 saying, “Only be strong and very courageous…” Last, He repeats it in verse 9. He says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
So three times He tells the newly appointed leader, “Be encouraged.” Then on the third time He tells us what these words are meant to counter in Joshua’s life, saying “fear not.” See encouragement is for the displacement fear. Likewise, when we set our selves in the position of speaking for God, we know that He is going to go after fear in people’s lives. Therefore, you may find yourself bubbling up on the inside to speak to a deflated person whose confidence has left them.
Don’t Break Them Down
Let me say that I did not break these down so that we can go around looking for people who fall into one of the three categories. I broke them down so that we can see more specifically what we should be “desiring”. Edification, comfort, and exhortation themselves are not is not a “type” of word. Remember, the types of words are “knowledge, foreknowledge, and advice. Prophecy, in the way it is used in 1 Corinthians 14:3 just tell us what effect a word from God has on us.
So I don’t want you to go around looking to edify a person, or exhort and person, or comfort a person. We don’t need to separate them this way because a real prophetic word does all three. What I want you to do is set yourself to edify, comfort, and exhort a person.
Imagine it this way. I want you to see people, churches, groups, companies, as tires on a car. All four tires are needed to keep the car moving effectively. What happens, however, if one of them has a leak or goes flat. If you said the whole car stops, you guessed correctly. You see, we are all apart of one body of believers, one human race, one company, one local church body. If just one persons goes flat then the whole body, group, company performs less productively. If one area of a person’s life, becomes deflated, they perform less productively. This is why we need the gift of prophecy. It is the air that fills the tires. It edifies; strengthens the area that is weak, even sometimes tearing out the old and replacing it with something new. It comforts; removes the issue causing the deflation. And it exhorts; replaces the air and make it clear that it is safe to move forward again. But no matter how much love you have for that car, if you don’t make a decision to attend to the needs of the tire, it will stay flat. Prophesying starts with a desire to prophesy.
In the next, and more than likely, last article I am going to give you my prophetic tip #4 “Look for Something to Say.”
Welcome to Doing Life on Fire!