“Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.
A fellow stood up and gave what he felt was a prophetic word to the congregation. The pastor gently corrected him and told him that the word was not from the Lord. A little later in the service the same fellow stood up and said, “Yea, thus says the Lord, ‘It was Me, too.”
We learn to walk in the Spirit the same way the twelve disciples did. We step out in faith to minister timely words from the Lord that comfort, encourage, and strengthen. Yet we must also maintain humble hearts ready to receive instruction and correction. We learn from our mistakes knowing we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
“He has settled on his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel… therefore his taste remains in him.” Jeremiah 48: 11
Have you ever tasted water from a hose left out in the sun on a hot summer day? The water flowing from the hose initially smells and tastes like the hose. It has to flow for a while in order to get to the taste of cold, clear, and pure water. We are like that hose. Our goal is to have purity and allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us as life-giving water, but factors such as immaturity, personality issues, and mixture produced by human weakness can often cause our ministry to “taste like us.” The consistent purity of our message and ministry depends upon the degree we allow the Lord to refine and mature us in character and spiritual growth. Therefore, we must be prepared to learn through our mistakes and allow others to test our ministry. We must be prepared for the awkwardness of an occasional stumble as we learn to walk in a more mature and pure expression of spiritual gifts.
I have given words that were clearly from the Lord, and other times I have allowed myself to get in the way. But I do not reject the clear biblical operations of the Holy Spirit because of my mistakes. Instead, I learn from them and move forward by the grace of God..
"Get thee behind me, Satan" - Matthew 16: 16-17, 22-23
We learn through our mistakes if we remain humble and teachable. At one moment Peter received a great revelation from the Father; the next moment he was influenced by the enemy. In one moment he was praised for his insight; the next moment he was rebuked for speaking without knowledge. Experiences such as these helped Peter to grow in discernment. If Peter and the other disciples had to learn through their mistakes, how much more should we expect to do the same? Instruction and discipline are the way of life. We should not be surprised and ashamed when we need them.
"Lord, let us build three tabernacles..." -Luke 9: 33
Peter stood in the glory of God and, even there, spoke foolishly. The Father had to silence him and move Peter's focus back to Jesus. It is a mistake to think a person is infallible just because he has been in the glory of God's presence. Experiencing the miraculous and the supernatural does not guarantee that a person's every thought, idea, and response is accurate. God uses imperfect vessels. Likewise, if God uses a person in one area, that does not make him perfect or an expert in other areas. Once again Peter learned from his mistakes.
.Examples of some good words
I walked out of the auto repair shop and started across the parking lot, feeling the distress of certain trials that were pressing upon me at that time. I had cried out to God the night before, and had prayed with Laurel before leaving the house that morning. As I walked across the parking lot still silently reaching out to the Lord, I saw a man in a bright red shirt at the far end of the parking lot. I did not know him, and I don’t think he knew me. I was too far away for him to “read” the expression on my face, and so there was no way for him to know my disposition at that moment. But yet, he yelled at me from the other end of the parking lot saying in a loud voice, “God will make a way. No matter what the trouble, God will make a way. Just praise him.” This was a prophetic gift at work. That man came as an angel of the Lord with a word directly to me from God.
I was speaking to a church in Florence, SC a few years ago, when the Lord gave me a word for one of the men in the congregation. I told him that he was about to experience a job change, and for him not to fear. It will be from the Lord. He went into work the next week and discovered his job had been eliminated. He was “let go.” However, a better job opened up very quickly in another city.
A friend of mine had asked a girl to marry him, but then got “cold feet” and was wondering if he had made the right decision. Another Christian friend who knew nothing about the proposal felt led of the Holy Spirit to go to him and give the following word, not realizing the full implications of his message. “You made a commitment to D____. You need to keep it.” They have been happily married now for over 30 years.
Not complicated as you might think
Sometimes a prophetic word is simply a compassionate word to encourage someone who is alone, discouraged, or hurting, a reminder that God loves them and is aware of their situation, a word that lets them know they are not forgotten. A prophetic word can be dramatic and obviously prophetic or it can seem so natural that the supernatural-ness of it is disguised and hidden to all but the one to whom it is directed. A prophetic anointing can be expressed by an amazing and keen insight into a person’s situation and needs as we pray for him or her. It can be a dramatic word that speaks powerfully to confirm decisions about to be made.
Moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit does not require maturity or even stability. But maturity will bring depth and penetration to our ministry. Stability and holiness will bring longevity and endurance. Instability and impurity can eventually destroy ministry. The grace and mercy of God are shown by the fact that God will work through imperfect people. But He does expect us to grow and work on our weaknesses.
The Lord does not wait for our perfection before using us. But if we, in our imperfections, desire to grow and move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we need a healthy context where leadership gives us freedom to step out and take risks. We need brothers and sisters who are willing to learn along with us and who understand the process. In this way we can rejoice in our successes and learn from our stumbles without feeling condemned or embarrassed.
“Those…who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 6: 14
“Let…prophets speak, and let the others judge.” 1 Corinthians 14: 29
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.