Sometimes God uses prophets to speak into what appears to be for us, a time of fog and mist. In such times it is easy to lose your direction and focus in all the things happening around you. Life gets very busy at times, and it can be easy to feel distracted, disjointed and dejected.
When it comes to the prophetic ministry, not everything is foretelling or foretelling. A significant measure is about what God is doing now, bringing a sense of clarity, explanation, comfort and understanding to present circumstances. It affirms what God is doing, bringing a renewed sense of vision, purpose and confidence in God, His Word and the leading of the Spirit. Having a fresh set of eyes looking with clarity at difficult situations can be so useful. Sometimes prophetic ministry is there to speak life into impossibilities – a bit like Ezekiel’s staggering vision of the valley of dry bones.
The encouragement of the prophetic ministry
Very often the encouragement that the prophetic ministry brings is by pointing to issues that have already been raised by others – often to the frustration of leaders! That can be frustrating, to say the least, but there seems at times to be an added dimension of authority as those particular issues come under scrutiny. God wants the best for us, and the messengers he sends come with compassion, insight and the conviction that God has the power, authority and presence to do everything He says. He is Lord and very often, the message conveyed includes the faith-stirring message that He is also the Lord of Breakthrough. Whatever the obstacle that faces the Church, it is there to be overcome.
I am not suggesting that every time that we have a problem making a decision, or establishing the Will of God that we should seek out the advice of the prophetic ministry, but it is there. This was an acceptable mode of enquiry in Old Testament days but as John Piper says, the main way that guides us is through the scriptures,
“Nothing I say about today’s prophecies means that they have authority over our lives like Scripture does. Whatever prophecies are given today do not add to Scripture. They are tested by Scripture. Scripture is closed and final; it is a foundation, not a building in process.” a
The answer is in the Bible – but where?
Interestingly, following Piper’s comment, scripture is the dominant resource that prophets will bring to bear on a given situation – they already know that the answer is in the Bible, people just need help seeing it. By that I mean that prophecy helps us to find ourselves in the narratives of the Bible. In the situation we find ourselves are we like Jonah on the run from God, showing less compassion than the unsaved, complaining – or are we like Samson, getting ourselves into recklessness or faith, maybe even beginning to see recovery in sight (bad pun). Wherever we look in the Bible we can identify with all the issues of life that we struggle with or need encouragement in. Prophets are the storytellers, the reminders, the poets image creators. We need them, and that is why they are gifts from God to the Church.
Interpreting our moments
Another aspect of the prophetic ministry is much like the things just mentioned; interpreting moments where God seems to be far off, or where things do not seem to be going well. This happens frequently because of the fallen world in which we live. Common grace is encouraging, but sometimes we need to know that the hand of God is not far from us, and it is one of compassion, correction or redirection. In Christ, we know that God’s plans for us are good, and He works all things in life for our ultimate good and His great glory.
Prophets help us to re-evaluate who He is and our inclusion in Him, helping us to take a default position of consistently turning to the Lord in faith, trust and obedience. It takes a lifetime.
In whatever fog or mist you are in, it is imperative you view things first through the lens of scripture, not experience. Experience is not excluded, though, it often teaches us in the midst of chaos to turn to God – after all, that’s how things were remedied before! Such an endeavour would begin by looking at things with a focused Biblical viewpoint, reminding yourself of Biblical truths and affirming what Scripture already says. This is enormously crucial when considering issues of self-esteem – looking at who God is first, and then our place in Him. Prophets help us to re-evaluate who He is and our inclusion in Him, helping us to take a default position of endeavoring to constantly be turning to the Lord in faith, trust and obedience. It takes a lifetime – that’s why it’s generally a long time!
Alternatively, again as mentioned before, another approach of a prophetic person may be to encourage someone who seems to be in a losing battle like Samson who, not knowing his strength was gone, got up to do things as before. Disaster was imminent.
Help is near
Because the hand of God is not lifted immediately in people lives when they are living recklessly or without concern, it can be easy to wrongly assume that God must not be troubled by their behaviour. The favour of God sometimes takes a while before He finally withdraws it. Prophetic input at this point usually calls for repentance and also brings hope for the future, but it is always done with kindness, mercy and with the ultimate intention of reconciliation and honouring the Lord.
We are never alone. The question, ‘what is God really saying’ in the fog and mist, it may be more than you think …
- John Piper – The authority & nature of prophecy 1990 (back)