Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
1 Corinthians 14:1
When the Lord admonishes us in First Corinthians 14:1 to desire spiritual gifts, especially that one may prophesy, He knows the great benefit this gift brings to our lives. The word “desire” in the Greek is zeloo, which means “to be zealous for, to burn with desire, to pursue ardently, to go after intensely.”
The prophesy of Acts 2:17-21, which directly quotes Joel 2, is even more true of this day than the day of its declaration. Peter gave this as part of his sermon at Pentecost, which was a partial fulfillment of these words. We are entering the days of the greater fulfillment or fuller expression of this word:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The Shepherd’s Voice
There is an invitation given to us to live prophetic lives, under the leadership and in direct communion with our Commander-in-Chief. Jesus declared, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” ( John 10:27).
What a beautiful illustration Jesus used here. In biblical times, shepherds of different flocks would put their sheep into a common stone pen at night to protect them from devouring animals. In the morning, to take their sheep out to graze, the shepherds would call for their sheep to come and follow them. The sheep would know the voice of their particular shepherd and follow him out to the proper pasture. Similarly, we are called to hear the voice of our Shepherd with accuracy and walk in full obedience.
Living a Prophetic Lifestyle
The greatest reason to pursue a prophetic life is to foster an intimate, unified communion and fellowship with the Lord. Song of Solomon 5:6 declares, “My heart leaped up when he spoke.” Indeed our hearts are awakened in love by the sound of His voice.
We receive encouragement and edification when we hear the voice of God, and we are to give these virtues to others when we give prophetic words (see 1 Cor. 14:3,12,26).
Comfort to our hearts and others is imparted through revelation. Isaiah 40:1 says, “'Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” Getting God’s perspective is very encouraging and consoling.
We receive divine direction for our lives as we press into the heart of God for His will and ways. When Peter had caught nothing when fishing all night, Jesus came and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4-5). Peter replied that at Jesus’ word, he would obey. He then caught a huge haul of fish.
Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Hearing the words of the Lord builds our faith and enables us to step out in obedience fearlessly. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” An Old Testament example of the faith-building work of prophesy is recorded in Ezra 6:14 in relation to the rebuilding of the temple, “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel.”
Similar to building faith, living a prophetic lifestyle enables us to succeed or prosper in those things we put our hands to on which the Lord is breathing life. John 15:7-8 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Abiding in the words of God leads us to bear fruit. And Second Chronicles 20:20, said to be the verse of “20/20 vision” states, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”
Effects of a Prophetic Lifestyle
Living a prophetic lifestyle helps point us to a greater truth or a higher realm of reality. King Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel, “God is a revealer of secrets” (Dan. 2:47). The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (see Rev. 19:10). In the Greek, “testimony” is the word marturia meaning “witness or historical attestation.”Another way of asking what this means is, “What does God say about that?” For example, if a doctor’s report says one has an incurable illness and preparations need to be made to die, there is a need to get into the words of God and find out what He says about that. He is the final authority and source of truth.
As we will see more later, the prophetic gift can be used to bring the lost into salvation. First Corinthians 14:24-25 says, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
The prophetic has been used constructively to bring correction and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to hearts. Nathan the prophet came to David after the Bathsheba incident, prompting David’s repentance. Jeremiah came to King Zedekiah to prophesy the judgment of God, the impending fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, and implored him to surrender to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. King Zedekiah, unlike David, remained unrepentant and did not heed the word, and all that Jeremiah prophesied came to pass.
The Words of God
Jesus declared in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” The words of God create life. How did the world come into existence? God spoke! When God speaks vision to us, we become “pregnant” by the spirit and we help bring His will into existence with our cooperation.
The words of God sustain life. Hebrews 1:3 says God is upholding all things by the word of His power.” His word sustains life on earth, as we know it. His word sustains us. Some of the best prophetic words we can get are the ones that say something like, “Keep going. You are on the right track. Don’t give up.”
The word of God releases life. The words of God speak life to our heart, life to God-given dreams, and are originated and backed by the Spirit of God.
Hearing the Voice of God
Technically speaking, Father God is in Heaven and Jesus is seated at His right hand (see Eph. 1:20; Heb. 8:1).The part of the Trinity with us here on earth, inhabiting or abiding within every true believer, is the Holy Spirit. He is our comforter, counselor, teacher, guide, leader, source of power, anointing, giver of gifts, and fruit bearer.
Additionally, part of the role of the Holy Spirit is to speak to us. Jesus states this in John 16:12-15: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit represents the Father and Son consistently. When we seek to “hear” from this supernatural realm, we do not listen outwardly but rather inwardly. The Hebrew word for prophet is naba, meaning to “bubble up.” The prophetic words bubble up from the Spirit who tabernacles in our innermost being.
Mark Virkler’s Four Keys
The teachings of Mark Virkler changed my life dramatically. Mark, a former Baptist minister, took a year out of his life to learn how to hear the voice of God. That time of study brought him to four simple keys from Habakkuk 2:1-2: “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision….”
Key #1: God’s voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts. Where we may be expecting God to speak to us in an audible voice or booming inner channel, more often He speaks in spontaneous thoughts, visions, feelings, or impressions.
Key #2: Become still, so you can sense God’s flow of thoughts and emotions within. “I will stand my watch (on my guard post)….” Dialing down the busyness of our minds and our lives is helpful to tune into the sweet stillness of the Spirit’s Presence.
Key #3: As you pray, fix the eyes of your heart upon Jesus. “I will…watch to see what He will say to me….” Turning our inner attention to the Lord, opening the eyes of our heart or understanding awakens the divine flow from within. Ephesians 1:18 speaks of the “eyes of our understanding [heart] being enlightened.”
Key #4: Journaling, the writing out of your prayers and God’s answers, brings great freedom in hearing God’s voice. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write [record] the vision….’” Tapping into a flow of the spontaneous words and vision of God helps when it is recorded. Testing the words later to ensure that they align with scripture and the character and nature of God are necessary.
Test the Words You Hear
Bill Johnson, senior leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California said, “Learning to discern the voice of the Lord and the voice of the accuser is imperative to dispelling confusion.” We can hear what others say and what our culture says, but when we get into the Presence of God and hear what He has to say, all confusion leaves, peace pervades, and we know the will of God.
John Arnott, founding leader of Catch the Fire Ministries and a spiritual father to me, has said many times, “We need to trust the Lord’s ability to lead us more than the enemy’s ability to deceive us.” When learning to hear the voice of God, we will make mistakes. To hear God is both a gift and something we develop. Similar to a child learning to walk who will fall down many times but will get back up again only to soon be running with confidence, we need to go through growth steps, refusing the temptation to quit. We also need to be humble and teachable in the prophetic, repenting if we spoke a word wrongly, being open to correction and willing to admit if we are wrong.
Ways to Test What You Hear
Scripture teaches us to judge the prophetic (see 1 Cor. 14:29). Whatever is of the Lord will pass His tests. Here are some tests to determine if what is received by revelation is indeed from God or not.
- Whatever we believe is of the Lord will be consistent with the logos, the written scriptures, of God.
- It will be according to the love nature of the Lord since God is love (see 1 John 4:8).
- Since it is the Holy Spirit who speaks to us, His words will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:22-23). Anything we hear that makes us nervous, anxious, or lacking peace can be judged as not from the Spirit of God.
- All true words from the Lord will be consistent with the testimony of Jesus (His witness, His words) as Revelation 19:10 declares.
- The words of the Lord will be confirmed through others who hear His voice. Directional words should be acted upon only if there is sufficient confirmation.
- Words can be judged by whether or not they come to pass. One gains a proven track record in the prophetic if words they have spoken come to pass. John and I do not allow just anyone to prophesy from the stage of the church we pastor. We do allow those who we know have both the character and proven track record to prophesy with our blessing.
- The Father’s words will also be in some way edifying, exhorting and comforting as First Corinthians 14:3 Even when we are corrected or confronted to come higher in character and deeds, it will give us hope and take us ultimately to a place of edification.
- Another test, which sounds simplistic but has much truth: everything negative is from the enemy and everything positive is from God. Even when God is convicting us or correcting us, He is still positive and life giving in His approach.
His Thoughts Toward Us
Psalm 40:5 states, “Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” Similarly, Psalm 139:17-18 says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand.” God’s thoughts toward us are more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore. That is astounding!
Many times, I have walked a beach and thought of this passage. Imagine a desert and how much sand is in it. One handful alone of sand is said to contain approximately 10,000 grains. Yet God’s thoughts toward you outnumber the sand. When we endeavor to hear His voice, we simply tap into those thoughts. There is never a shortage of His thoughts toward you. We never have to convince God to speak to us. He is an extremely communicative Father. Jeremiah 29:11-13 tells us the nature of these thoughts. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
“What Do You Want to Say?”
Take the time to position yourself right now to hear the voice of the One who loves to communicate with you. Dial down the busyness of your mind, tune into the spontaneous flow of thoughts that come to you, fix your eyes on Jesus, and simply ask, “What do you want to say to me?” Record what you hear, even if it starts with one word or phrase. From there, allow the words to flow. His thoughts toward you are flowing, as numerous as the sand. Receive them.