Prophecy is a Gift that Keeps on Giving
In recent months our pastor preached a series on spiritual gifts, a subject often rife with controversy and criticism over the excesses often associated with prophecy and speaking in tongues.
He has pointed out an overemphasis on tongues is the opposite of what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:6: “Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you by revelation or knowledge or prophesying or doctrine?” (MEV).
I know. I’ve seen some of the excesses myself. In a couple of churches I visited once, the pastor encouraged everybody to speak out loud in their prayer language. The resulting cacophony sounded like non-sensical babbling; at one they prompted a friend’s son to say, “You people are nuts” and walk out the door. Years later, he remains out of church.
It’s that kind of out-of-balance practice that has turned many people off to tongues and prophecy. Yet, as our pastor says, if they’re not important, why does Paul devote a whole chapter to them?
While many charismatics and Pentecostals have made tongues a required sign of Holy Spirit baptism, they too often ignore Paul’s urging in verse 5: “I desire that you all speak in tongues, but even more that you prophesy” (emphasis added).
Until I attended a regional denominational meeting this summer in Toledo, Ohio (75 miles from where I grew up), I hadn’t desired the gift of prophecy.
Once I saw it in action—without someone thundering, “Thus saith the Lord” or wearing their prophetic gift like a badge of superiority—I developed a deep appreciation for what a blessing it represents.
The man who delivered a series of prophetic statements at this meeting is a missionary in South America. He delivered them in such a quiet fashion that at first I didn’t realize what was going on. Were I quicker on my feet, I would have pulled out my phone and taken notes.
Fortunately, the presentation was recorded and the audio files ended up on my laptop. The items he described seeing during prayer for our key leader included:
- The Lord establishing churches in our conference like a tree with deep, solid roots.
- A spirit of peace being poured out on leaders and pastors so that—instead of getting caught up in all the turmoil, mess and antagonism swirling through society—our churches would help establish peace in place of turmoil.
- God pouring out a spirit of intercession and a desire to go deeper in prayer and intimacy with the Lord.
- God using us to bring freedom to others. He spoke of seeing barbed wire, similar to a concentration camp, and God using us to set captives free. He also talked about seeing street lights by a road and how churches and pastors would illuminate the way, even on the darkest of nights.
- The final thing the missionary saw was a long train, like those that transport goods to market: “I saw God using to transport spiritual resources to different places. Bringing resources in and taking them out.”
Desiring the Best
I realize none of this may sound too amazing. Ordinary, even. It is likely one of those “you had to be there” moments. As soon as the missionary finished, I turned to my pastor and in reference to his series said, “Now that was a prophetic word.”
It was then that I understood why Paul encouraged the Corinthians (and all of us) to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially to prophesy.