In part 1 of this article I argued that the Bible most naturally suggests that the gift of prophecy is one that God will give until Jesus returns. And I argued too that all Christians should therefore certainly choose to obey the commands in 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39 to eagerly desire this gift.
In part 2 I listed some objections that are made by those who say that Christians should not seek to prophesy today. And I gave what I believe are good answers to those objections.
SOME PERSONAL TESTIMONY
In this final part I will say something about my own experiences of prophecy. I have seen God build up my faith by the use of this gift. And I want to tell other Christians about this.
Although I eagerly desire to be able to prophesy myself, I haven’t yet been able to do this. But I have benefited from the prophetic ministry of others. I have heard numerous Christians give prophecies that I am sure, or in some cases fairly sure, were from God.
To be fair, at times I have also heard what I believe were false prophecies. Sometimes when this has happened, I have felt that the prophet was probably a fake Christian and someone to be avoided. At other times I am sure that the person was a devout and genuine believer who was nevertheless making a mistake.
In what follows I want to concentrate on prophecies that I am convinced were genuine. The fruit of them has been good. They have helped me grow in my Christian faith.
Some prophecies that I have experienced are rather personal in nature. I don’t intend to share those. Others have not yet been fulfilled. And I don’t want to talk about them either. But that still leaves a few that I feel comfortable sharing.
For some reason, in the last 20 years or so I have not had much contact with Christians or churches who were using the gift of prophecy. And during that time there have been only a few occasions on which someone has prophesied to me. None of these examples is really something I want to share here.
In the first 10 years I was a Christian, however, I experienced a lot of prophecy, from several prophets. And during that time I had a close, older Christian friend who had an especially strong prophetic gift. All of the following prophecies are ones that he gave me:
Learning New Testament Greek
In 1989 my friend, whom I had only recently met, prophesied to me that God wanted me to learn New Testament Greek. I had never considered doing this previously. Nor was my friend just giving me advice that he thought might be useful. He was telling me what he believed God was saying to him prophetically.
After the prophecy, I began to pray about whether this prophetic word was from God or not. And little by little He showed me that it was.
The result is that I spent more than twenty years of academic or semi-academic work based in large part around New Testament Greek. And during that whole time everything about this work seemed right for me. I am sure that the prophecy was from God.
It should be clear that this prophecy, which related only to my own personal circumstances, in no way threatened the supremacy of Scripture. And I received direction from it that I think it would have been impossible for me to have gained from the Bible alone.
In 1991 my friend prophesied that I should go to a city,
, in north-west Urumqi , to meet an old
Christian man and learn from him. This
came out of the blue. I had never heard
of China and I had had no intention of going to Urumqi . China
I should also point out that this came out of the blue for my friend too. He had never heard of
either. Nor had he ever been to Urumqi or did he have any
contacts there. China
Anyway, after I was given this prophecy, I started praying about this, asking God to show me if it was from Him.
A few months later I happened to meet a Chinese Christian couple in
. Bearing in mind the prophecy, I asked them if
they knew of anyone who lived in Scotland . They told me that they knew of just one
person, an old Christian pastor! Urumqi
Between the time of the prophecy and meeting this Christian couple I can’t remember if I asked anyone else if they knew of anyone in
. But if I did, it was only a very few people. I say this in case someone might suspect that
I had been asking dozens of people, so that by probability I might have been
more likely to meet someone who knew an old man in Urumqi . That wasn’t the case. Urumqi
Over the next few months after meeting the Chinese couple God directed me to a Christian organisation that was sending a party to
. I also had no money for my trip, and I saw
Him meet my financial needs to go there.
To cut a long story short, in the summer of 1992 I went to Urumqi and I met the pastor,
Huang Qingzhi. Urumqi
By the time I got to
many months had
passed since the prophecy was first given to me. And I had seen the hand of God guide and help
me in various ways. So I no longer had
any doubt that this prophecy was from God.
Because the prophecy had said that I would learn from the man I met, I was wondering what I was going to learn from this old saint. I expected that he might say something concrete that was valuable for me to know, or something like that.
I spent about an hour talking to him through a bilingual fellow Christian. However, it was not what he said that I remember so much as the moral fruit in his life. He was one of the few people I have ever met who seemed to be utterly humble, incapable of any pride. He was also very peaceful. And He spoke without bitterness of spending seven years in prison for his faith during
’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. Most importantly, he gave a strong impression
of his life being for one purpose, to follow Jesus. China
I often think of that old pastor and make it my goal to imitate the moral fruit that I saw in his life. I am sure that God led me on this trip to the other side of the world. He used it to show me the importance of dedication to Himself and humility. And He also used it to strengthen my faith by meeting all my needs, financial and otherwise, along the way. This whole adventure was started by means of a prophecy given to me.
Again, it should be clear that this prophecy was no threat to the supremacy of Scripture. What is more, it would surely have been impossible for me to have received God’s leading to go on this trip to
simply by reading the
Freedom from oppression
I remember a time many years ago when I was being counselled by my friend. Sitting there in the room, I was suffering from strong demonic oppression with the demon pressing on my mind with confusing thoughts. I really was feeling terrible.
My friend then prophesied, ‘You need to forgive someone.’ I immediately knew who I needed to forgive, although previously I had not been properly aware that the low-level feelings of bitterness I held towards the person in question were something that God was particularly concerned about.
Anyway, then and there I chose to forgive that person. And I believe I could sense God helping me to do so. The feelings of bitterness left and have never returned. Importantly too, as soon as I forgave, the demonic oppression lifted as well and I had peace of mind.
The prophecy on this occasion helped me to turn away from the sin of unforgiveness. It also brought me blessing and relief.
I should note too that my friend had no idea that I felt any bitterness towards anyone about anything. He didn’t give me advice that he thought might help my situation. He gave me a prophecy from God. And it produced good fruit.
Once again, it should be clear that this prophecy in no way threatened the supremacy of the Bible. It is true that in this case it didn’t give me information that I couldn’t have gained from Scripture itself. After all, the Bible teaches us plainly enough to forgive people. Nevertheless, for some reason I had lost sight of this to a certain extent. And the prophecy on this occasion helped me to put biblical teaching into practice.
Growing in holiness
I can remember phoning my friend and telling him that I was struggling spiritually. I didn’t give any details, but he got a piece of writing that he had near to hand and read it to me prophetically. It ran as follows:
‘You have been trying too hard and it has upset you. Be still and know that He is God and that His power is flowing into you.’
This hit the nail of my problem right on the head. I had indeed been trying in my own strength to do things for God. And the words of the prophecy helped me.
I should stress for the benefit of those who might doubt whether this was a genuine prophecy, that for me to have felt the way I did on that day was unusual. It is therefore not the case that my friend could have guessed from knowing me what the problem was. I have no doubt that God spoke directly to me through this prophecy.
Again, it should be clear that a prophecy of this kind in no way challenges the supremacy of Scripture. And even though the insight in the prophecy is something that can be found in the Bible, it still helped me to live out biblical principles. It also encouraged me.
Encouragement to endure
On one occasion my friend prophesied to me the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
‘16 Therefore we do not lose heart. But even though outwardly we are wearing out, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary and light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs it all, 18 while we keep our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’
Over time I came to the conclusion that this prophecy was indeed from God and that it was very relevant for my life as a long term word from Him. Through the years I have suffered a lot. And these words been an encouragement to me in some very difficult times that God was with me and that the glory in heaven will be worth going through it all.
It should be clear that none of the examples of prophecy that I have mentioned even remotely threatened the supremacy of the Bible. Some were used to help me live out biblical teaching better than I was doing. And others gave me specific direction for what God wanted me to do that I couldn’t have gained from reading the Bible itself. As I look back at these prophecies, everything about them seems right. I am sure that they were all from Jesus.
As well as the few examples I have referred to, I have also experienced many other prophecies from various prophets that have also been very helpful for me. God has used prophecy to keep me away from sin, encourage me and lead me in a number of ways.
CONCLUSION TO THE ARTICLE AS A WHOLE
There are many Christians like myself who have experienced the blessing and benefit of the gift of prophecy. This is a powerful gift that God is giving and using today for His glory and for the good of people.
Those who claim that God doesn’t speak in this way today are making a very serious mistake. Either they have not properly considered this issue. Or they cannot or will not hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. Far from standing by the teaching of Scripture, they are actually setting themselves against its teaching. And they are also missing out on something wonderful.
Let me end where I began, with 1 Corinthians 14:1. As we have seen, this verse reads:
‘Pursue love, and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.’
This is a command that is for every Christian alive today as much as it was for those in
in the mid first
Let all of us, then, who are following Jesus as Lord, be faithful in heeding what the Spirit says in this verse of Scripture. We dare not disobey it.
So how can we practically obey this command? Well, we can pray that God would give us the gift of prophecy. And for some of us, it may be good to seek out people who are experienced in gifts of the Spirit, those we feel we can trust, to ask for their help and guidance. The more of us who can use spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy, the stronger God’s church is bound to become.