“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, ‘Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.’” Amos Chapter 7:14.
I was asked a question via Facebook last night. The question was this: “Is the Scottish saying, ‘What’s for you will not go by you,’ true or false?” I am not sure what you would say in answer to that question. I gave an answer but I have been thinking more about the question since and that thinking has become today’s rather longer than usual blog. On the whole, I think that well known phrase seems more like fate than faith. It could produce almost a carelessness or a wrong sort of spiritual passivity. Can we miss out on the fullness of what God wants for us? It seems to me that the clear answer to that from the Bible is “yes.” However, to put things positively, if we stay close to Jesus, listening to His voice and staying close to His mercy when we get it wrong, we can be sure that God will work out all that He plans for us.
One emphasis that I find in the modern day church, or at least in that part of the Body of Christ with which I am familiar, is a great stress being put upon “destiny” or “calling.” I am not sure that emphasis existed in quite the same form when I was a young believer. I was encouraged to believe that there was something I could do to serve Jesus with my life. I found that a humbling and life giving thought. However, nowadays, I think these things are often spoken of in such grandiose terms that it can bring people into a state of anxiety or even produce narcissism: “What if I miss my calling?” “What if others can’t see my calling?” The gift of prophecy was not common in the days of my youth. In fact the gifts of the Spirit were not much talked about. I am so thankful that generations younger than me are now more likely to grow up believing and experiencing these gifts. However sometimes in the operation of spiritual gifts, it is possible to begin with the Spirit and end in well meaning, well intentioned flesh! By the way that can happen with those who preach and teach as well, even those committed to expository preaching! It is a fault common to charismatics and non-charismatics alike. None of us are innocent here! The result is that people often go beyond what God really wants to say and the fruit of that is fear, nervousness and bondage at worse or frustration and resentment when these prophesied purposes do not come to be. It can lead to an anger against the church, or its leadership when there is no recognition or opening made for me to move into this prophesied purpose.
I have something very simple to say to you if you are carrying this frustration or nervousness. God knows where you stay. He can find you. Be faithful where you are right now. He can call you, so just stay close to Him and you can be sure that with regard to destiny, no man or woman or circumstance can thwart you. I love the verses quoted at the start of this blog. Amos was a shepherd, or herdsman, but God took him from following the flocks to being a leader of Gods people. (By the way not everyone is called to be a leader as is the common teaching gaining ground today. It is not biblical and is just plain wrong. Let’s not go down that side track today though.) Can you get my main point? What you are doing right now might seem to be completely different to something that is yet to be in the purposes of God. Be faithful. He can find you. He knows where you stay.
Let me give you some suggestions to think about to save yourself from fear or frustration. They are not a hundred percent law as it were, but think about them carefully and think carefully before you disregard them.
1 – What has God put on your heart to do for Him? Don’t follow a prophecy that does not confirm something that God has said to you. If God has not yet planted even a seed of what is being prophesied over you in your own thinking and wondering, then at least wait upon the Lord to see if there is any witness of His Spirit to what was “prophesied.”
2 – Don’t allow just anyone to prophesy into your life. It is all a bit complex. Genuine prophets can seem like nutters at times. That was true in bible times and it still is. BUT, being odd is neither a qualification nor the only mark of someone that God wants to use to speak into your life. We seem to have got to the stage that we are more likely to listen to someone the more odd or eccentric their behaviour is, the more unusual their dress or hairstyle or manner, or the more peculiar the physical manifestation of the prophetic becomes. More shaking means more God… Wrong! More gold dust means more God…Wrong! More volume means more God…Wrong! I am saying this as someone who has known what it is to shake, rattle and roll in the Spirit. I have been in meetings where gold dust and supernatural oil and fragrance were manifest, resting upon me and upon others, but these things are not an absolute authentication of everything about a message or a messenger. We need to be open minded when God is in the midst and moving by His Spirit in sign and wonder, but not so open minded that our brains fall out completely. Never give up the necessity and right to weigh things up.
3 – Don’t put more weight on the words of a wandering prophet who may seem to know things from God through supernatural knowledge than on the words and advice of faithful servants of God in your local church. At the same time, I am not saying to dismiss the wandering prophet. They are welcome to minister in my church or into my life if they have a relationship with me or with other church leaders I know and trust. If there is no such relationship, well I have adopted the approach of the late great Steve Hill; They have to produce a letter form their pastor to show they are under the authority of local church leadership back home and a letter from the treasurer of their home church to confirm their financial commitment there!
4 – “Have you told God you are willing to lean into His calling upon you?” That was a question that Rick Hayes, who will be known by many of you who read this blog, once asked me. It may sound very obvious, but actually I had never said to God, “I am willing,” to a particular aspect of His call on my life. I followed Rick’s advice and the wheels of that aspect of my destiny started turning within the hour… and have kept turning.
5 – Don’t try and force an opening and don’t manipulate things. I hear a lot of talk nowadays about how we need to be “intentional.” However have you realised that there is a passivity that honours God too? There is a passivity of the wrong type as I mentioned in the first paragraph, but there is a passivity that is part of truly following Jesus. It is interesting that the fullest calling upon Jesus required Him to be purposefully passive. As the cross approaches there is a change in the way the story is told. Up until the movement towards the cross, Jesus is always the active one, the initiator, the subject or prime mover of an action rather than its object. Indeed at times He seemed intentionally active in a way that frightened those who were following Him. However, though actively and intentionally embracing the cross, as it approaches He also then becomes the object rather than the subject as it were. People do things to Him, and like a sheep before its shearers He opened not His mouth. He “purposefully passively” gave His back to those who stuck Him and His face to those who plucked out His beard. Intentionality all the time is unlikely to get you into the will of God. ( I have just updated this post as I felt a strong physical anointing of the Spirit upon that last sentence. That means someone really needs to hear this.) Intentionality all the time may get you into your own will. Neither will passivity of the wrong type or all the time get you into the will of God. That is more likely to get you into what others think is the right destiny for you rather than into the good things your Heavenly Father has for you to walk in. So, yes, we need “intentionality.” But we need every bit as much what those who really understood spiritual life down through the centuries unanimously tell us… “intentional passivity.” The Bible calls that either “trust” or “waiting” upon God. Not perhaps such “in” words as “intentionality” but having no place for such concepts is not a good idea.
Well, that is more than enough for today. As I say, these are not laws. There are exceptions to every rule… but please don’t insist on you always being the exception to the rule. I am trying to tell you in these blogs a way that works. I am trying to help you to learn from my mistakes. I suppose I am sharing bread that has nourished me over the years. In fact to be more accurate, today I am maybe giving you a recipe that works if you want to bake some bread yourself. Not all recipes work out. It is good to have a teachable spirit. In fact if we don’t have what is for us may well go by us.
Yours in the love of Christ
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