Weighing and Testing
Remember the verse from the last blog?
1 Thessalonians 5
19 "Do not quench the spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecy with contempt 21 but test them all. Hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil."
Below I have attempted to weigh the prophetic elements of last Sunday’s service. My hope is that as you read, it will give you an idea of how we go about weighing / testing prophecy.
What does that mean?
However, a quick definition of terms is in order. The definitions are more for our working purposes at this point, rather than technical, biblical definitions - important as they are.
By ‘Prophecy’ I mean to use the term in its broadest sense. So for our purposes, the term ‘prophecy’ includes all the following …
- The verbal articulation of an impression of what a believer feels convicted, that God is saying, to the church for the churches edification.
- It is a message to the Church from God - but could be for an individual within the church. (1 Corinthians 12: 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.) It follows that if one part is edified, the every part is edified.
- It needs to be weighed because it may or may not be of the Lord or may be a mixture.
By ‘Prophesy’ (Spelt with an ’s’ instead of a ‘c’) I mean the actual act of bringing the ‘prophecy’, the person is ‘prophesying’.
It is important to understand, the we say a person is ‘prophesying’, we are saying, the person is acting in faith in bringing what s/he believes to be a message from God, impressed upon them by the Holy Spirit. We are not saying that their actual prophesying is God speaking, but the person is articulating as best they can what they believe the Lord has impressed upon them for the churches encouragement, and so they are submitting it to the church to be tested / weighed.
Context and Flow
It is important to see prophecy in the context within which it was given.
So it is good to consider, what is the general flow of the service? What was the preach on? Does the prophesy encourage in that direction? Or is the prophecy completely disconnect from the whole service - a curve ball - distraction? It is less likely to be of the Lord if it seems to be a distraction from what was preached.
So, in light of the above we should bear in mind the following ...
The service on the whole, was an expression of ...
- A desire to see God at working in greater measure during our time together, both during the service and in the future.
- A desire to open our hearts to hear anything God wants to say to us
- A desire to open our hearts for God to work in us in any way he pleases.
- Trust in God as our loving father. This is important because it expresses a child-like trust, one that says, "Lord we know we are vulnerable in this, but it is to you we want to be vulnerable and so we are trusting that as we do so, you will protect us, guide us and do us good.” In other words, we are trusting in God's character, as Jesus Himself said, "Which of you father's, if your child asks for an egg will give them a scorpion?” We know that if we are asking our Father for good, He will not do us bad. As we make ourselves vulnerable to God our Father, He will not say, "Oh you suckers, now you have become vulnerable to me and are relying on me to be faithful and protect you and do you good, I will let Satan come and deceive you and let you think it is me". We trust Him, He will not do that.
That all means, even if we got lots of details wrong (and I am conscious of some things), essentially - what happened was an act of genuine faith and trust in God - and Jesus loves that. But that is why we test and weigh it. Not because we are suspiscious, cynical and critical, but because we know Jesus loves it when we act in faith and He often responds - but we also know details etc could be wrong, so we just want to spit out any bones. So we can affirm God’s pleasure in His church in stepping out in faith for Jesus’ sake and the good of the church, but recognising our fallibility we test and weigh. It is all good so far!
The four sub-points under Point 1 above are good. But, if we are to not quench the spirit, we must (a) not despise what happened, (b) we must test it all (c) we must hold on to what is good and (d) reject what is evil. I think we can add to that (e) ignore what is neither good nor bad - just a bit of man’s thoughts getting mixed up in it all.
So, however we felt about the service, 'if we liked it or not' is not so important, but ‘what we do’ following the service is important.
Below I have tried to tease out the actual core - the things I think we can all heartily agree on, that is the main things.
Also you will see, not only the actual prophecy is being weighed - but all contributions - since I’m sure all who contributed felt compelled by Jesus.
There were four particular elements I felt came out of the service.
- Grenville’s message: God expresses His love to us by giving gifts and abilities. He gives us these gifts and abilities so that we can use them, to express God’s love through us, to one another, in order to edify the church. It is wrong to use gifts for self edification and it is wrong to not use the gifts he has given to edify others because we are shy or cannot be bothered etc. We can use the word ‘gifts’ but in reality they are more like ‘tools for the trade’ - the trade being, edifying one another. They are given to us to use for His purposes. They are not like gifts we give at Christmas - where the gift is given, not only to, but also for the person we give the gift to. They are more like tools given to get a job done. This we can and should take to heart.
- Hannah’s testimony: Hannah encouraged the church with a personal testimony. She told us how God used someone in the church to speak into a specific situation in her life, and how it was definitely from God and she really needed to hear it. She wanted to encourage people that if they think God may have given them a word for someone in the church, to be bold and go for it. Hannah’s exhortation was ‘Be bold, be courageous, take those steps of faith, take a risk - don’t let the opportunity pass you by, the Lord will use us to edify one another in remarkable ways and it can make a real difference to people. Without question, we can take to heart that we should be willing to take steps of faith to edify one another - stepping out of our comfort zone and acting in faith and with a clear conscience for the common good. This will mean different things for different people. And it is in keeping with what Grenville brought to us.
- Dave’s prophetic word: “The Lord says; “What do you want me to do for you, ask and I will do it”. This was brought as a prophecy. Which again is consistent with Grenville’s message and Hannah’s encouragment. The prophecy itself is consistent with Bible verses such as Matthew 7:7 “Ask and you will receive”. However, there are many other verses that modify this verse. So just as we would with Matthew 7 - we want to allow God’s wider word inform our understanding. Clearly, the Lord does not give us all our ‘wants’. But often, as James tells us “You don’t have because you don’t ask God’ (James 4:2). So we can certainly take this as a timely exhortation from the Lord to get asking for the things we really want - the deep, enduring and godly desires of our heart. Since this was addressed to the church, we should ask, ‘what is it the church wants?’ Now we are all aware of a very current issue for us as a church - that is our concern for our future. And we have all expressed a desire, a want, to see the church continue and not close. It would seem to me, the Lord is encouraging us to ask Him. Tell Him - we want this church to continue. He wants us to be asking Him. Don’t just want the church to continue - ask God for what we want. Wouldn’t it be terrible if the church closed even though we wanted it to continue, planned for it etc. Then imagine that God told us when we finally see Him, “I know you wanted the church to continue, you worked harder than ever, made and carried out plans, asked churches for money - but you never actually asked me. “Lord, please make the Church continue, please provide all we need, please sustain us. One or two of you did - but not the whole church”. So, let’s reply to the Lord’s question by saying, “we want you to provide all we need to continue”. And tell Him what those things are. Now I don’t want to limit Dave’s prophecy to that, but since it was given to ‘the church’ and not an individual, this is the one thing right now ‘the church wants’.
- Jade’s exhortation “Posture is important. I believe the Lord would have us get on our knees and pray”. This exhortation seems to challenge us to reflect on our praying, to consider the urgency of our situation - now is not the time for being reserved and conservative - but to cry out to God - to throw ourselves upon Him. To overcome pride etc and humble ourselves before Him. To get down on our knees. We will do that for what we really want, for what is really important to us. And since we know the Church is really important to God - it seems fitting that we acquire the kind of posture in our praying at this time. This seems to fit with all the above. It tells us how God wants to ask. Earnestly. Seriously. Passionately. He wants us to really want it so that we are driven to our knees. It reminds me of the famous prayer of the great Scottish preacher John Knox, “Lord, Give me Scotland or I die!” Let’s lay hold of God.
- George exhorted us to read a specific book in light of her experience at Soul Survivor. She expressed that she feels we are too minimalistic. Without wanting to read too much into it, there is a positive and a negative exhortation in what George said - something to do and something not to do. ‘’Do read’ and ‘Do not be minimalistic’. Of course, the real issue is ‘Does the Lord want us to read that book?’ and ‘Was George serving the Lord in telling us we are minimalistic and that it is a problem?’ Or is that just George’s perspective.?
So I have cannot say I have any conviction from God to read the book - perhaps he does and perhaps I will see that when I read it - I certainly intend to read it just because George is raving about it - it sounds like a good book. That we are too minimalistic - I can certainly see what George sees there - but that does not mean it is God’s view.
However - remember, we must see what good there is and hold on to it - and I think there is good for us.
As I have prayed and examined what George said, I would say - let’s hear George’s heart behind the words - I think there we will hear God’s heart too.
George clearly experienced something of a personal revival at Soul Survivor (Which I can testify to). Now she wants others to experience personal revival. George has been stirred by God and wants others to be stirred too. And God did not re-invigorate Georges faith for her to keep to herself - but God wants George’s fire to spread. Her desire is that we read the book in the hope we will be encouraged and instructed as she has been. It seems to me her heart is that we all experience spiritual renewal, personal spiritual revival - which I believe is also the heart of God.
However, she knows we won’t even bother reading the book if we are minimalistic. Whatever the case, it is true that if we are minimalistic in our faith - we must repent.
Consider Paul’s similar exhortation: Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. We must take responsibility to do the things that will fan into flame our love and passion for God and His church. The book George suggests may well help. But it is not a magic wand - we must continually pour upon the flickering wick of our faith the combustive fuel that God provides through His servants, within New Life but also others too, like George Verwer who you all missed :-(
To this end I have heard several people speak of feeling ‘weary’. But the scriptures tell us “Do not grow weary”. We are weary when we fail to maintain our zeal and fervour in the Lord. The `lord is always willing to energise and strengthen us, and He always makes provision for us - it is we who fail to avail ourselves of God’s provision to energise and strengthen us. If we are minimalistic and want God to do it for us while we are passive. We must repent.
All the above from Grenville, and the other contributions are at least consistent with Revelation 3 - the Lord’s words to the church in Sardis which I find to be striking for us …
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
The rest of the verse is negative and I don’t want to apply it to us as it may not be appropriate. But I would say that, if all the above is correct, then there is positive Change the Lord is speaking to us about. In terms of stepping out in faith in acts of love and service. In terms of praying and actually asking God for this Church. In terms of being passionate, earnest, relentless about it - getting on our knees. In terms off ‘shake off any minimalism, passivity, spiritual slumber - be ‘go-getters’ - reading the book, getting to see the George Verwers. The Lord wants us to be that kind of people - which we can be excited about - it is a good plan He has for us.
If that is all the kind of stuff the Lord is after - if my ‘weighing’ is on track with God, then to fail to do those things, to fall short of them would mean the negative elements of the verse above would apply …
I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
But, rather than ‘fall short’, let’s do the exact opposite and ‘excel’. Let’s love more than is required, give more than is required, pray more and more earnestly than is required, do more than the minimum to maintain our zeal. Let’s excel.
What about you?
The exhortation to weigh and test prophecy is given to the Church - not just the Church leader. Where do you think I have missed something the Lord is saying, where do you think I have interpreted incorrectly and why? What would you affirm? What would you add? What would you take away?