Prophecy - blessing or curse?

Let’s answer the question right at the beginning. The answer is true prophecy is a blessing.

But if that is the case, then why does it so often feel as if those who claim a prophetic gift want to stand in condemnation of the church? It’s almost as if it’s become the province of a dyspeptic and angry group who want to get rid of their own private sense of injustice by blaming the world and the church for their problems and all in the name of the Lord. Yet, when we look at what the New Testament has to say about the gift of prophecy, we see that the purpose of it is that everyone may be instructed, encouraged, comforted, built up and strengthened. All these words are used as the end product of the prophetic gift and the end to which those exercising that gift should be aiming. Looking at all those words, it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that prophecy is meant to be a blessing to the Body of Christ.

Thinking about this, I have wondered why it is that so often the prophetic gift can be tainted by an anger that is not from God. I think it’s because all the gifts that God gives us for use in the Body are inextricably linked to who we are as human beings. In amongst the different personality types observed in the ancient world was the choleric. A high proportion of great leaders have been cholerics because the choleric nature is one that sees very clearly what is going on in the world and is not held back by sentiment, but responds with indignation to injustice. It is anger-motivated and at its best, it provides an example of the motivational power of the indignation of God as he sees injustice.

As with all the other gifts, the link between our temperament and the gift we exercise is often very close. Part of growing in holiness is coming to the point where the gift is available to the Holy Spirit to use without the indulgent personal investment and wrongful motivations of our fallen nature. It takes time to grow and it certainly takes a lot of time to mature.

So how are we to generate prophecy in the Body of Christ that is genuinely encouraging, up- building, comforting and strengthening? I believe the key may be found in Revelation 19:10 The angel speaks to John and says “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The word testimony there is the Greek word from which we get our word martyr. So this is an angel who holds himself as a fellow servant with all those who hold to their course as those who are prepared to witness for Jesus to the point of martyrdom. They are willing to lay down their lives for Jesus. His next words are highly significant ‘‘Worship God!’’ So he clearly tells John ‘Don’t you dare to worship me. I am, as an angel simply a fellow servant with you and the host of the redeemed, especially those who have made up their minds that they are willing to lay down their lives in order to testify to the Lordship of Jesus’. The next words go to the heart of it “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." We worship God because our testimony of what Jesus has done is that he is an amazing God and worthy of our worship. We do not just worship on a propositional basis. It is true that we can know there is a God and that God has been made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ. That is all knowable. But we are meant to be those who can give personal testimony and witness to the encounter with the Living God that has transformed us.

So what is the testimony of Jesus? It is the witness that we give to the work of Jesus in history, in our lives, in the church and in the future. It is the love of grateful hearts poured out towards the one who has loved us and given up his life for us. This is the spirit of prophecy. Here’s the key – to the genuinely prophetic, the angel says ‘Worship God!’ and it seems clear to me that the problem with so much of the prophecy that we have heard in the past is that it has not come from a worshipping heart. Observing those whom I work with, I have come to the conclusion that the worshipping heart is the incubator of prophecy. True prophecy comes out of a heart of worship. It comes out of a love for God, a love for the Lord Jesus and for those whom he has redeemed. It cannot be separated from that intimate love relationship. If it comes from such a place then even the rebukes of the prophetic will come with such warmth and such love that our hearts will be melted and brought to repentance, not because of some huge threat but because of the gentleness that loves us into a new place.

So here’s what I long to do – get so close to the Father, so near to the Lord Jesus that my witness comes from intimate experience of their glory and the prophetic words I bring release the voice of his heart, the flood of his love and grace towards his people.