“Then David took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook”
The story of David and Goliath is a popular one among Christians – where the underdog slays the Philistine giant with just a sling and a single stone. What’s often left out of the story is that David didn’t just choose one stone, but five.
There has been much debate about why he chose five stones, but that’s not my focus.
Instead, I want to use this story as a metaphor for how we can best prepare, protect and strengthen ourselves as we step our in the prophetic ministry. Just as David chose five stones to give him the best chance at success, we too need to be armed with the right values to help us succeed in ministry. Of course, I could have found six or seven, maybe ten characteristics but five will be enough to get us on our way.
A distinct understanding of antinomianism and legalism*
It’s easy to find ourselves at one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to grace and legalism. Sometimes the message we convey may stray into either territory, so it’s important to have a good understanding of both concepts. Much has been written on the subject of grace, and Terry Virgo is a great source of encouragement if you’re looking to learn more about it. If you haven’t yet begun to understand the vast treasures of grace, you’re only a YouTube video away – look him up!
The law is still precious!
We are not under law, but we shouldn’t do away with the law entirely; many Old Testament characters found great joy in meditating on God’s Law. The 10 commandments are positive and provide a sense of muscle memory to our walk with God, allowing us to love the law whilst also loving and appreciating grace. Originally, God wanted us to live with Him and the law demonstrated the lifestyle we would need to fulfil what was needed of us. Now that we are in Christ, the law speaks positively to us as a lifestyle that we want to walk in, rather than one we have to. This allows us to take a step back and comprehend how awe-inspiring God is and how He has chosen to be close to us. By understanding the grace that is always available to us, we can build up the resilience and endurance we need to face the challenges of this increasingly hostile and antagonistic world and culture we live in.
The law provides us with guidelines on how to live a life that is pleasing to God, and grace gives us the strength to follow those guidelines. That’s why we must ensure that our ministry doesn’t try legalism to ‘make’ people either follow or obey what we say – the message of grace draws, implores and encourages people to go after God. God loves the Church very much and is never disappointed with her. He loves the Church in all of its struggles and weakness. That is where His power and glory shines brightest.
God has never regretted that He called us as His people so don’t ever give up on the Church; God certainly hasn’t and takes great pleasure in his people. Instead, ensure that the prophetic message proclaims and urges grace louder than ever, so that more people may be drawn to Him.
God is just, compassionate and gracious
God is just, compassionate and gracious
Changed and transformed
This is significant because we are changed and transformed by the message of grace; in loving God (following the first commandment) it is our heart’s sincere intent that we do nothing to grieve or quench the Holy Spirit. Prophetic ministry needs to encourage people that they really have been changed by God. Not a little, but they are totally different, now living God’s way in God’s world and whilst looking into the mirror of God’s law they realise that by God’s grace they are being transformed.
Which of the following scenarios settles best with you?
During worship one Sunday, a song is sung with the line, “Lord I love to follow you, to go where you lead, and do what you say.”
- Fred says that he was moved by the song and he wants to ask if we really love to follow God, where He leads and in obedience?
- Jane then asks to share her heart and says that the song appealed to her. She explains that by His Spirit, God wants to help us live out that song and to grow in our love and affection for God. “Responding in worship to God is one way for that to happen! Let’s do that! Follow after Him where He leads and in willing obedience! Here am I use me Lord”
Both of them are right, but there is a grace-filled way to say things such as Jane brings, filling them with encouragement and hope. Fred’s way has people looking internally and seeing how they fall short of the mark. Perhaps they shouldn’t be singing the song?
In summary, this is an important feature because prophetic ministry is there to encourage the Church. The way that any prophetic message is conveyed has to be done with the appeal of grace not the command of legalism. We serve God because He has awakened that desire in us. Even the “well done good and faithful servant!” on our arrival in heaven is an example of God’s ongoing work in us; and Him rewarding us for the work, love and obedience He awakened in our heart!
*Antinomianism is the belief that moral laws are not binding on Christians, while legalism is the belief that Christians are bound to obey the law.
Be an advocate for the Lord’s prayer and all it means
This stone is much smoother because we are familiar with the prayer. I don’t mean that you should be praying the Lord’s Prayer – that goes without saying – but I am referring to all that the Lord’s Prayer conveys about the kingdom of God, in our world, and in our time.
If anything, I am talking of the conviction that comes with the realisation and implications of the prayer. John the Baptist was teaching his followers to pray, and at the request of the disciples, Jesus taught his disciples how they also should pray and in that prayer is something of a paradigm shift. More specifically, Jesus focuses on what God was wanting and waiting for them to ask for – knowing that these are the very things God wants to answer, give and do. Look at it as the disciples asking one member of the trinity how they should pray and him saying, “Look, this is what the Godhead, 3 in 1, wants to hear – but same it from your heart!”
A familiar prayer with extraordinary results
You’ll be familiar with the prayer, but imagine if everything that Jesus said we should request was given. What would life be like? The Lord’s Prayer is not just a prayer; it’s a vision for life in Christ’s kingdom breaking into our world. It’s an acknowledgment of the injustice, hunger, and evil of this broken world. It’s a statement of faith, a call to worship, and a battle cry. It’s a bold plea for divine glory, social renewal, and heaven-on-earth transformation. It’s not just meant to be prayed; it’s meant to be lived. However you choose to say the prayer – with folded hands or with hands reaching out to God, the Lord’s Prayer proclaims our faith and dependence on God, and our hope to be with Him.
- It reminds us that a life lived well is a life lived with purpose to the glory of God.
- It reminds us that in the end, God holds the end of the story. God will bring all things to completion. God will watch over us through this life
- It’s a powerful tool for shaping how we think about God, ourselves, the world, and our role in the world.
Because he is your father, you are no longer an outsider. You can now have an intimate, loving relationship with the almighty God. It is the prayer that seeks out God and then experiences him. This prayer is humbling; asking God as our Father (how did that happen!)to glorify his name, extend His kingdom, meet all of our needs including forgiving our sins and for Heaven to be unleashed on our world.
In summary, the prophetic person must have convictions expressed in this magnificent example prayer, being convinced of the theological ‘biggies’ that God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and immutable. Simply put, He is everywhere and knows everything, has infinite power to do what He wills, and He never changes. When we approach Him, he is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
So when the Church faces the difficulties that it is presented with at this time, the underlying conviction of the prophetic person finds much encouragement and reassurance in this prayer because they can see what God’s final intention is. He will answer the prayer He gave us!
Humility – Be humble or at the very least learn to be!
Included among the Ephesian 4 ministries are the prophets, sharing the same remit as the apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or the pastor-teachers)
Jesus gave the prophets to the Church to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed backwards and forwards by the waves, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
A humble ministry – of necessity
The prophetic ministry is a great responsibility and seen through the lens of scripture with a clear responsibility to maintain humility, after all, everything about it is revealed by God, not by one’s own initiative, studies or public profile. Maintaining that attitude of humility is essential to the prophetic ministry; if not, every conceivable problem will develop and, worse, come to characterise the prophetic ministry being modelled in the church.
On the other hand of humility is pride, and as soon as a group of people discovers that a prophetic individual is being controlled by a proud heart, they lose all trust in that person. Of course, we all know it’s hard to be humble when you are right.
There are times when God will reveal something to a prophetic individual that is incredibly precise, but that’s part of the prophetic ministry. It’s not someone’s personal conviction or hunch that discerned it, God revealed it and so they have nothing to be proud about; however, pride can come into play.
“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
Humility is what’s required or else that pride will turn into hubris – an excessive amount of pride – cooking and boiling until it’s no longer manageable.
Prophetic ministry is something we should be grateful for and not take for granted. It’s easy to think that we are entitled to it because we have been blessed, but that is not the case. We have to remember that God gave us gifts and ministries out of grace and not because we have earned them. It’s important to remember that we cannot prophesy on demand or whenever we want to at our own initiative. This is an important point because it speaks of our autonomy, rather than dependence on the leading, guiding and prompting of the Spirit.
When it comes to humility in the prophetic ministry, one of the most important things is being a good listener. We must remember that listening is the foundation of being a prophet and starts with listening to God: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakes me morning by morning, wakes my ear to listen like one being taught” (Is. 50:4).
The instructed tongue is informed by the grace of God, which opens the ear of the teachable. But listening to God is just the first part. However, this is just the start. We must also make an effort to listen to people if we want to be effective in this ministry.
The Scripture says that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). This is good advice for anyone who wants to learn to prophesy, especially as in our self-centred and impatient world, the art of truly listening has become lost. If we want to be effective prophets, we need to learn how to listen well again.
We need to remember that those who have concerns about the prophetic ministry are not our enemies – they are our family. If we want to be effective in the prophetic ministry, we need to walk in humility and model that with those who disagree with us. They are looking for an authentic, scripture-honouring approach to the prophetic ministry – and you are the one on show! We need to show them love and grace so that we can be an encouragement and blessing to them.
On the other side of humility are the ominous elements of pride; evil, wicked and self-serving at every level and all of us have encountered them to various degrees or another. In becoming aware of them you can deal with them:
If you are not sure of the devastating work of pride consider the following:
- Pride destroys relationships.
- Pride will ruin a unified testimony for the gospel.
- Pride desires superiority over others.
- Pride seeks to elevate itself.
- Pride compares itself with everybody else.
- Pride reveals sin or depravity.
- Pride ruins unity, it raises relativity.
- Pride rejects deity.
- Pride rejects the presence of God in other believers.
- Pride reverses reality.
- Pride reacts with exclusivity.
- Pride is always sectarian.
- Pride restrains mercy
Pride is devastating that is why humility is so essential. Interestingly the bible gives us just one way that grace can be ‘earned’ by our behaviour and it is with humility:
For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Phil 2:3
God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble. James 4:6
Humility means giving God the credit for all that happens in our ministry, recognizing His gifts, and acknowledging that everything comes from Him. It also means being thankful for the the truth of the gospel that stirs the prophetic and serving others willingly.
Funny prophets too!
In summary – Being humble means you don’t have to worry about what other people think of you and whether or not you’re measuring up. You’re free to laugh at things that are actually funny, instead of posturing and trying to impress others. Proud people take themselves too seriously to laugh like that – they don’t want to lose their dignity by losing control and making silly faces. But humble people can let themselves go and have a good time.
‘Humilitarised’ people are those who lean on God for confidence, and it is this humility that allows them to have true courage. “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker” (Isaiah 51:12–13).
Be on best behaviour!! 2 Timothy 2:15
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The King James Version, translated in 1611, uses the word “study” to mean “strive” or “be diligent.” This word has since taken on a new meaning, appearing to now bring with it a greater challenge to present oneself to God as worthy of approval.
I can’t encourage you enough at this juncture to give yourself to serious study of scriptures. By that I mean commentaries on books of the bible as opposed to “3 ways to meet Jesus in the garden”, or “How to receive your advanced-level anointing”. Read hard books, it’ll be worth your while.
Your work, ministry, and life should have the stamp of “well done, good and faithful servant” over it; excelling in what you do, how you do it, and with an unquestionable agenda. But don’t be discouraged – the imperative is still to “do your best and be diligent.” This was the encouragement to the young Timothy but like the encouragement in 1 Timothy 3 “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honourable position.” it is open ended to a certain degree; you may not qualify as an elder, but it is an noble aspiration. The encouragement and exhortation in 2 Tim 2:15 isn’t a life verse but it is a benchmark:
- “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. (NAB)
- “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)
- “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (ESV)
When it comes to prophecy, it’s important to remember that it is visible by its very nature. This means that we need to be careful about our actions and words at all times, especially if we want to honour and glorify the Lord Jesus. One way we can do this is by being accountable to the local church leadership. Such a position allows us to develop relationships with those we are accountable to, in which we can bring words of encouragement, direction or challenge without feeling controlled or like we are controlling the situation.
I had three dreams where I was being watched constantly by tiny video cameras, no matter where I was or what I was doing. It’s like 1984 by George Orwell. At first, I was concerned by it but then I realized that it is a good thing; when we go in our ‘closet’ the Father sees everything we do, even when we’re alone. The dream was just a reminder that He’s always with me/us, even when we don’t realize it.
Personally, I like the idea that “the watchers are watching.” (Daniel 4:13-17) This helps me control my behaviour and grow in the fruit of the Spirit. There’s still considerable work to do, but accountability is a key element in helping us grow closer to God.
In summary, do your best to present yourself before and to the Lord your God as one approved with no shame. There will be times when character issues are raised, but God will help if your heart is soft to him.
Nasa’s Mars Odyssey on the Launch Pad
Finally, the fifth stone: The conviction of the providence and sovereignty of God is so overwhelming and with the overwhelming faith-filled belief that ALL things are possible with Him.
we have yet to see authentic prophetic ministry unleashed in the church.
Whatever your analogy is – whether it be the ferocious power Nasa’s Mars Odyssey leaving its Launch Pad, or that “Aslan is on the move”, or “the rain is coming” – we must raise the banner that brings genuine hope and encouragement to the Church. Oftentimes, this will be as simple as pointing them back to the glorious gospel that is preached. The gospel is the very power of God unto salvation. Drop the mic!
Nasa’s Mars odyssey? On it’s recent exploration to Mars Nasa built the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle. It consisted of three stages stacked on top of each other, plus 9 small solid-fuel rockets strapped to the outside of the first stage.
Each of the four solid rocket motors is 1 metre in diameter and 13 metres long; produced a collective total of 233,433 pounds of hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene propellant and a massive gravity-shredding, immense thrust of nearly 982,215 pounds at sea Level. It tore through the atmosphere.
God on the move
When we speak of the immense, unfettered and spectacular power in the world today, whether it be waterfalls, earthquakes, cosmic events or nuclear detonations, nothing comes remotely close to the power that God has at His disposal. With a word, before even nothing existed He creates. With a Word He gives life. With a Word He ransoms, heals, restores and forgives.
The Church is never alone – here come the messengers, clothed in humility, wobbling sometimes with uncertainty and concern for Mrs Jones ‘ harsh glare and Mr Hudson’s raised eyebrow – but they are coming.
In summary be cautious about how you view the news. It is presented without any consideration to what God can and is doing, but prophets know what He is capable of, suddenly, unexpectedly and kindly. Keep in step with the Spirit. When you are out of step with the Spirit, give your heel a kick and see what happens.
We’ve yet to see authentic scripture-honouring prophetic ministry unleashed that restores hope in the heart of the believer
I hope this has proved useful and encouraging.