During my Bible College studies, I came across a journal article with the heading: ‘When Prophecy Failed’. It freaked me out. The author discussed a scenario in biblical history when a prophet delivered a word from God, but then apparently it didn’t happen, so the people re-interpreted the word to suit the new circumstances.
As I sat there amongst the lofty bookshelves of the theological library, scouring the article I felt increasingly sick.
It went against everything I had been taught. Wasn’t THE Word of God ‘living and active’? Powerful like a sword and purging like a fire, ‘smashing rocks to pieces’, speaking the universe into being and bringing life to the dead? Didn’t the word of the Lord never return void but always fulfill what it had been sent for? How could this be?!
Could God’s word fail? His predictions not come to pass? What did it mean for God to be sovereign? When God speaks, is that a guarantee that it will always happen?
Or are God’s words too weak such that circumstances could overcome them? Or perhaps he could forget what he said? Or worse still, could God lie? The possibilities sent me reeling.
The thing I didn’t understand at the time was God’s purpose in speaking of the future. He is not some fortune teller or crystal fairy, predicting things to come to show off his prophetic prowess. The primary reason he speaks is to call us to walk with him in seeing his kingdom come in our lives and the lives of others.
It’s a line I hear often. I heard it this time after church one day speaking with a friend. I had just shared one of those fun stories of how God had spoken – a prophetic dream that had miraculously come to pass.
“Oh but I don’t hear from God like you do..”
The look of disappointment: the shoulder shrug of resignation.
What she said bothered me then and it bothers me now. I went away disturbed and puzzling over it. Why? Why do I hear from God like that while she doesn’t? She loves God. She’s faithful. A Godly family, a strong Christian. But she doesn’t have a spectacular God-story like mine to share. Why?
Some would say; it’s a gifting right? That’s because you’re a pastor; that’s your specialty.
Some would say; Oh those kind of experiences are the exception. Normal life – even the Spirit-filled life – isn’t like that. You shouldn’t expect it to be.
Some would say; Faith is trusting God without words like that, without signs and fleeces. True faith doesn’t need that stuff.
Some would say…
I beg to differ. That kind of faith life is not the intimacy Jesus promised when he called us friends (John 15:15). A friendship defined by the kinds of things God tells us. The profound, spectacular and personal way he speaks to us. The conversations that transform, guide and forever surprise us into deep worship and awe of his sovereignty.
I was recently at a conference, praying in a small group as we listened to hear God speak for each person.
I see oil bubbling up from the ground.. I believe God is saying…
As I spoke, the woman next to me grabbed my leg and cried out in surprise: That’s exactly the vision I just saw! I saw oil bubbling up from the ground too!
We interpreted the vision together and marvelled at the revelation. God was saying something significant to this lady and he was speaking it clearly. As we continued to listen to God for each other, the experience repeated itself. Different people received the same messages independently of each other. God confirmed it through multiple sources. His voice to each person was crystal clear.
Jesus promised that we would recognise his voice (John 10:27) and that it would be clear enough for us to follow it. I often find myself in conversations with others asking, Can you ever be sure it’s God?
I am convinced you can. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why would God make it difficult for us to hear his voice? Here’s his people wanting to receive guidance, to gain wisdom and to seek truth… So a Father who loves to speak leans in to make his message clear. That makes sense.
It was an incredible moment that I thought I would never forget. God’s words lit up my spirit and filled me with possibility: I have a new field for you. A new opportunity. It is time to be released into a new level of ministry!
Then it began. No, not the manifestation of the prophetic words. Not the realisation of supernatural promises. Not that at all. Instead, all hell broke loose. Plans fell apart. Criticism began to flow like an angry torrent. Resources that were counted on suddenly evaporated.
Instead of walking joyfully into my new season, I found myself in tears questioning everything. My decisions. My calling. And yes my faith. I found myself crying out to God; struggling to recall that moment back in the prayer meeting the year before… Did you really mean what you said?
Because this is not what you said.
You didn’t tell me that promise and vision is followed by attack. That partnering with supernatural plans would attract spiritual opposition.
At least that’s not what I thought he said. Those ecstatic spiritual experiences never hint at the fear and confusion when circumstances inevitably backfire. When the powers of darkness line up like a army of assassins threatening to take you out.
After sharing a God-conversation with a friend of mine, she asked a little exasperated: Is everyone around you prophetic?!!
Ah no… Not really… The people I mentioned, well they don’t usually get prophetic dreams. At least not before this.
I shrugged. It’s just that God had something to say. I guess he just wanted to get the message to me somehow.
When we call out to God, he promises to answer. Having faith means we have confidence in his ability and desire to respond. A seeking heart is like an alert that is sent up to heaven; a magnet that draws his message to us.
Sometimes I imagine it’s like God looks down from heaven and ponders; Ok, so how will I get this message to her? Who is available? What can I use? And then he sends it.
Hearing from God is not about being around the ‘right’ people; of somehow positioning ourselves so that the visiting prophet notices us or even being in the right place at the right time! It’s not about straining and struggling to hear. His mercy extends beyond the limitations of our human circumstances. He is well able to get the message across if we are listening.
A while back God spoke to me about ‘going to the next level’. The word was exciting and full of promise so I waited to see it manifest. But when time dragged on and nothing was happening, I went back to ask him about it.