Earlier this month, I posted on an encounter I had with the Holy Spirit in January, which — among other things — involved prophetic words delivered to me by a number of individuals. A few comments — and a few private notes to me on the subject — prompted me to consider writing about “Why prophetic words aren’t always fulfilled.” As I formed the post in my mind, I thought, “I’ll have Kathy look it over before I post it.” Then, I had a better idea. Why not just ask Kathy to write it in the first place???
Kathy Beal heads up the thriving and active prophetic ministry at our church, Vineyard Phoenix. She also leads and teaches with the International Prophetic Community. She has a lovely, insightful blog at Wisdom Town. I have known Kathy for nearly 20 years, and have considered her an inspiration, a teacher, a mentor, and a precious friend. I am confident that, no matter your interest level in the prophetic, you will find something of value in this thoughtful, wise post.
by Kathy Beal
What a delightful opportunity to address the question of why some prophetic words go (seemingly) unfulfilled. I’ve participated in a prophetic ministry for over twenty five years, and have carried responsibility for training others in the prophetic both in my local church and in other nations. Suffice it to say, I’ve talked to a LOT of people about this question. Through all the years, in all the locations, I find the problem usually boils down to one of the following areas:
Who gave the prophetic word? Personally, I would just not open my spirit to receive a prophetic word from someone who is not planted in a local church. I want to know that any person “prophesying” to me is well known in their local church and that their ministry is under the covering of a Godly pastor. I would go so far as to ask: Who can I talk to about your ministry? Who holds you accountable for accuracy and character? If they can’t answer this, with accompanying names/church location/contact information, then I’m not integrating the prophetic word into my life. If it does contain some accuracy, I may note it. I may share it with my own pastoral covering, for their input. I may wait for confirmation from the Lord. But I won’t be holding my breath. If you receive a prophetic word from an untested, “wild card” of a person, don’t be surprised if it goes unfulfilled.
It is just the simple truth that some folks believe they have a prophetic “anointing” because they can flatter people well. They can garner a little attention, get a little following, and feed their egos through manipulating people. It is a wise thing to discern true spiritual authority, humble character and pure motive from such “players.” You will protect yourself from much harm.
Discerning the soul from the spirit: The truth is, all of us can get worked up in our emotions. I’ve talked to so many people who became ensnared by their own immature desire for something. Sometimes it is a “thing” – i.e., a person, position, provision, etc., Sometimes it is the timing of the fulfillment of that desire. When we want something really badly, we tend to exchange “wishing” for the truth. It goes something like this:
“I really wanted to get married, and that guy prophesied to me that it would happen in the next year. So when it didn’t I stopped believing that God cares about how lonely I am.”
“And why did you believe that you could trust the timing part of that prophetic word?”
“I don’t know. Didn’t the guy prophesy from God?”
“Was there any confirmation from any pastor, or any spiritually mature person who is involved in your life and caring for your spiritual health?”
“So how do you know if that was really a word from God?”
“Well – it was what I really, really wanted.”
There is something I call “magic fairy dust” – and it is the enemy of a true prophetic word.
Prophecy is hearing the mind and heart of Jesus for a particular situation, and speaking what we hear. Prophecy is not discerning a need, and tickling a person’s ear with the promise that the need will be met in a particular way, or in a particular time. In our relationship with a Savior who fervently loves us, is ardently desirous of meeting our needs in His timing, in His resource, and in a method which includes character development and cementing our dependence on Him – there is no magic fairy dust. There is nothing we can sprinkle on each other that, when it lands on our eager hands and sparkles in the moment, transfers – poof – a trial, longing, or need into a fairy tale solution. It just doesn’t work that way.
Jesus offers us the Truth. He is the Truth. It is in HIM that we get the (sometimes painful, difficult, challenging) truth that sets us free.
We want relief. He wants maturity.
Sometimes, a prophetic word evaporates in the harsh light of day. Why? Because it was never a true prophetic word in the first place. It was something else.
How do we discern the difference? Here are a few questions to ask:
- Did the prophecy cause me to focus on Jesus, the word itself, or the giver?
- Did the prophecy pass the test of time? Did time prove its accuracy?
- Did the prophecy cause a desire to rise up in me for the character response required to see the thing fulfilled? Or, was it delivered as a simple “just sit back honey, and wait to see your dreams come true.”
- Have I been giving my due diligence to seek after God? Do I seek Him with all my heart? Do I spend regular time seeking to deeply understand His Scripture, and how I can live it out obediently?
- Is there ongoing sin in my life about which I’m unwilling to repent? Anything I refuse to give up? Something I know God asks me not to do in His Word – but I don’t want to think about it? Truthfully, am I opening a door to the enemy, to his deception? If so – I may very well welcome a soulish word.
- Did the person usurp my own, or another’s authority? Is their motive clear? Are they, and am I, willing to be accountable for how the word was given, and received? Is Godly authority involved in this process?
If we go back to our example above, it would be wise to carefully, lovingly ask the still-single person something like:
“What have you been doing to demonstrate faithfulness to God for what He currently has on your plate? How about that anger issue your pastor has been trying to help you with? Is there progress?”
It’s very, very possible that God is holding back the marriage partner because He knows that the still-single’s anger problem would destroy the desired marriage. Honestly, the loving, truthful input of a Godly friend is more useful to God’s purposes in our example’s life than a super-“spiritual” unknown “prophet.” We can prophesy to one another, humbly, truthfully…and remove mountains.
Scripture teaches us time and again to walk after the Spirit, not the flesh. We are to stand in the counsel of God, to seek His face, to listen to His voice, to pray continually…. To skimp on these things opens the door to the flesh, and to the enemy’s influence in our ministries. Too many people have been deeply hurt by spiritual laziness that led to false prophecies.
It’s often about time. I’ve learned that God loves to use time. Time is not God’s enemy; it is His friend. With time, God can test our faith, arrange circumstances so that He ensures the most glory for Himself, grow and mature character in us, deepen our patience, fill the gap between longing and fulfillment with His own Presence, and tie up details with a bow. Sometimes, a prophetic word was indeed the heart and mind of Jesus for a particular situation, but time has not yet proven its accuracy. If you surrender the thing to God, act on the character issues required, and stand fast in prayer – time is on your side. Rest in Him while you continue to wait on Him.
Invitation and not pronouncement. Prophecies are invitations from God, and not, necessarily, pronouncements. Many times I’ve seen God call something out in a human heart that the human had never (or only lightly) considered. Those people that responded to the word with faith – the kind of faith that invested with “watering the seed” – enjoyed the fruit of that word, in time.
People that don’t respond with faith and obedience don’t reap fulfillment.
If we don’t apply ourselves with the character requirements, accountability, faith and obedience God requires…then we can say “it was not an accurate word” – but we may discover the problem was with us, not the word.
Relationship is required for trustworthy revelation. Jesus prioritized relationship with Him. See Him first, and then trust Him to release the right revelation, at the right time, through servants (or methods) He chooses. The prophetic “package” includes revelation, interpretation, and application. Revelation is what He releases (through His servants, through dreams, through that “inner knowing”, through His Word…), interpretation is how we are to understand what we hear, and application is what we do with what we hear. In our local ministry, we are very firm about keeping all revelation under authority. Why? Because you need the protective measures of loving authority, and caring community around you to properly walk out a prophetic package. You may receive revelation, but you interpret it incorrectly. And/or, you may apply it clumsily. Every single one of us is most in danger when we abandon the healthy accountability of the local church and its accompanying Godly relationships. Accurate, life building prophetic ministry requires relationship first with the Shepherd of our souls, and secondly, with those who bow the knee to Him. We need people around us who have paid the price for wisdom and counsel so they can help us interpret and apply revelation in our particular circumstances. God designed it this way. Lone wolves are unhealthy, vulnerable wolves.
There is nothing more helpful than to walk through life in the company of a group of people who pursue God with all their hearts. When committed to such a group of people, we can rest assured that whatever revelation comes our way, the collective love and discernment of God’s friends will help us see truth from falsehood. We can trust that they will speak the truth we need to hear, help us with faith and obedience responses, call out growth in Christ-like character and provide the protection we need.
It is only in living our lives in humility, transparency, accountability, and submission in a healthy local church that we can accurately discern whether prophetic words given to us are truly from the heart and mind of Jesus, for us, in this particular situation.
There is no “easy” answer for testing prophetic words. It takes the whole package: God’s presence, His Word, and His church to discern the real deal from falsehood. The rewards are very much worth it. So much so, I wouldn’t choose any other way.