One of the big mistakes I have made in life was to assume that people in religious circles who claimed to be in possession of the gifts of The Spirit – would naturally display the graces of The Spirit. This is not necessarily so. Conversely, I have discovered, there are those who make no claim to possession of “The Gifts” – but who, most certainly, display the graces of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, to my detriment and regret, I have met people who have very clearly possessed and displayed supernatural gifts, and to whom I have given a very high regard, only to discover that, not only did they lack the graces of The Spirit, but were themselvs susceptible to deception and bitterness.
Well does the Apostle James ask the question –
“Would you look for olives hanging on a fig tree or go to pick figs from a grapevine? Is it possible that fresh and bitter water can flow out of the same spring? So neither can a bitter spring produce fresh water.”
James 3:11-12 (TPT)
I confess these things are a mystery to me and I do not understand how they can be – but that they are, in my personal experience, is without doubt.
Take the prophetic gift, as it is common understood in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, as an example. I have, without any shred of doubt, been the beneficiary of God revealed prophetic insight. These have been clear – accurate, comforting and challenging. However, I have seen a very prophetically gifted man, moving from God given prophetic revelation to denominational bias within seconds of each other. And if, throughout life, I had given heed to every “Prophetic Word” declared over me, by well intentioned people, both friends and strangers, I honestly don’t know where I would be today. I may be mixed up as it is – but it could be a lot worse!
Now some of my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends will say that those who “move in the prophetic” – especially if they are just starting on the journey, are entitled to get it wrong from time to time – and that getting it wrong is not to be looked at as any kind of failure. While I appreciate the grace of such sentiments – anyone who will declare to another – “God told me to tell you”, needs to be pretty sure that what they are declaring is true. As I look back on life I have personally known people who have been destroyed by such declarations – and some today, over 40 years later, are still suffering because of it – and I am not talking only on a purely emotional or psychological level.
Please then treat any “prophetic word” you receive with discernment, prayer for your own clarity on the issue and even, at times, a healthy dose of scepticism. None of this is to deny or demean the ministry of the genuinely prophetic which is so badly needed in our day and generation.
Many years ago now a friend of mine attended a Prophetic Conference in England. During a teaching session the leader asked the audience to turn and look at a vase of flowers which were situated at the back of the church. As they did so he asked them to tell him whether the flowers were genuine of artificial. The audience was split about 50/50 – some thinking them real – others artificial. The truth was, he told them, they were a mixture. He then declared the the church was heading in to a season of mixture – where it would become almost impossible to tell the genuine from the fake! We are well in to that season in 2019!
I believe we are living in dangerous – but also exciting times. Yes there is the fake, yes there is doubtful, yes there is the incomprehensible and yes we need, above everything perhaps, the gift of discernment. But for those with eyes to see and ears to hear God is still at work! I personally believe the old crumbling structures are falling at an increasing speed and I believe God is in the process of exposing the fake and the downright hypocritical.
It is difficult to comprehend, far less believe, that during our lifetime the history of the church for generations may be in an unprecedented season of change – but I strongly suspect we are living in such a time. This moment holds both risk and promise and we desperately need a deep sensitivity to the voice and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we negotiate the road ahead.