I don't talk very much here about some of the more..."controversial"... subjects running around these days. Prophets are a heated subject because, quite frankly, they're often associated with cults and other badness. Leaders of cults tend to call themselves prophets, which is enough to make anyone run away from even the idea of the word "prophet". But the truth is that God has always used prophets- all throughout the Bible there are prophets- in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Prophets were specific- they were special, for lack of a better word. And yet, something happened in the New Testament to the office of the prophet. The Holy Spirit entered the picture, and became a part of the church and the body of Christ. And along with the Holy Spirit, came the Spirit's gifts- one of which is the gift of prophecy.
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12:3-8
And then if we go on to 1 Corinthians, we read that Paul is encouraging us to seek the gift of prophecy more than any of the others.
"Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." 1 Corinthians 14:1
The act of being a prophet, and being able to prophecy to someone is not only a gift from the Lord, it's also something that is available to anyone who desires it. I have had many people come up to me over the years who have said they had something to tell me from God. What is one to do in that instance? Well, first, we need to look to the instructions that Jesus gave us to identify whether our prophet is true or false. That's easy enough to discern.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 1617 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? can19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 a bad tree bear good fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Who is this person giving you a message from God? Is it some random stranger? I'll admit, I would be wary of that one, and I would spend time talking to God and asking him to show me if those words were truly from Him, or if I should discard them. But is it someone you know or interact with? Or maybe it's someone you don't really know, but your pastor may know. That right there may be your number one source of help- ask your pastor about that person, about their character, and what they think of the words they've spoken to you. If it's someone you know, surely you know a little about them, their lifestyle, to know if they are spending time in their Bibles, and in prayer and quiet time with God. By their fruit you will recognize them- those are Jesus's words to us in identifying a messenger from God.
Which brings us back to ourselves. If all else fails, and someone has come up to you and given you a message that's supposedly from God, how do you really know it's something good that you should reflect on and consider. Go to your Bible. What does your Bible say about that particular thing? Honestly, if it's not in the Bible, and not something good from God, I would stay away from it. God would never tell a person to do something that goes against His Word. He would never, for example, tell someone to kill another human being. Or tell someone to steal another man's wife. God will tell us to love, to have peace, to be encouraged and to live an abundant life. His words to us, sometimes through another person, will be words of love and encouragement. God is a God of love and peace, and He loves His children.
I want to add one more thing on these thoughts about prophets. Several years ago, a friend of mine felt really strongly that she needed to tell a friend that she would have a baby by Christmas. This woman had one child already, but had a miscarriage at some point and was struggling to conceive again. The friend delivered this message, and then watched as a Christmas came and went without a baby. I think both women were a little discouraged. But then shortly, a child was conceived, and arrived just a few months before the following Christmas. Sometimes God may have a word for us from someone- but we, as human beings, put a time limit on what they have told us. Someone tells us that we're going to get a new job with better pay and we immediately look for it to happen tomorrow. That new job is actually four or five years down the road, and we just need to be patient. There is also something else we must do.
I like using the job example, because it fits perfectly. How do you get a job? You don't just have someone call you out of the blue and ask if you'd like to work for them. You have to DO something to get a job- several somethings. First, you have to apply for a job, and then you have to do an interview, there may be exams or tests you have to take to show you are eligible for such a job. Then you may or may not get the job. But the point is, you have to DO something. Many times, I think that God gives us words from other people to activate us, to get us out of our seats. How many of us just sit in a chair and ask God what He would have us do? Instead, we should be spending time reading our Bibles, spending time in prayer, and maybe try our hands in various ministries to get a feel for what we're good at- to find what we like to do. Someone doesn't just sit there week after week, and then suddenly decide they are a missionary and fly away to Africa the next day.
The reality is, when we get a message from God, we have a choice. We have a choice to accept the message first of all, and then we have a choice as to whether or not we'll activate that message. You don't hear of missionaries walking around the globe saying "God made me be a missionary." That person made a deliberate choice to accept the call of God on their life and become His servant to unreached peoples. In the example of the job, if God told that person they were going to get a job, and that person never even applied to one place, they are choosing to not activate that message from God. It's ultimately their choice. If God told someone that they were going to spend time getting deep in Bible study, in getting to know God's Word better, and then they never even pick up their Bible, they are making the choice to reject that message from God. A word of prophecy almost always requires a deliberate act to activate it. Sometimes that can simply be a word from our own mouth of "yes, Lord". But sometimes it requires us to do something. Someone who was told they should work with children can't work with children unless they make the effort to get involved with the children's church or Sunday School or kids outreach programs. You can't sit in the back and be an usher one day, and then suddenly you're in charge of the kids programs. That person would have to make the choice, at some point, to get involved and be participatory with children.
I think I've written several thoughts here on prophets and prophecy- I could have easily split this up into several little messages, I think, but apparently more needed to be said on the subject. The main point is that a prophet is not a person to be feared, and their words are not something to be alarmed over. But as with anything else, if you have doubts, or a red flag shoots up, you should always go to God and go to your Bible for discernment. Go to your Pastor for guidance as well, if someone is giving false words to one of his sheep, you can bet he'll want to know about it.
"Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength." Joel 2:22
Do not be afraid, as the prophets today begin to bear their fruit and share it one with another. It is that fruit that will strengthen the body of Christ and get her ready for the days to come.