Prophetic Discernment

I’ve often written about prophetic ministry, but there is a theme that I often run across in people that I’ve never addressed before. People are either skeptical or have been burned by prophetic ministry in the past. Nearly without exception everyone falls into one of those two camps. By the grace of God, I have been able to overcome both of those things and walk ankle deep into the waters of the prophetic ministry. A little by myself and a lot with the help of prophetic friends.

Prophetic ministry is difficult because it deals in the subjective. We Western, scientific-minded people struggle with the subjective. We want concrete. Data. Science. We want objective truth. That’s why America has by and large rejected supernatural ministry for the last 100 years. That has changed greatly in the past 20 years in large part because so many once-skeptical Christians have seen for themselves supernatural ministry. Healings, dreams, visions, etc. They’ve experienced it and that changes things.

We Want Easy, God Wants Our Attention

But prophecy always has been difficult and it always will be. Why? Because it lives in the land of the subjective. Paul tells us that when a prophetic word is given, others in the congregation must judge it (1 Corinthians 14:29) Arrrgh! There’s no objectivity in that! That makes it difficult. And we like easy. We Americans, by golly. We have microwaves. And toasters. And broadband internet.

But God intentionally doesn’t let us off easy. He forces us to go through the steps required to discern true prophetic words and true prophetic ministry. The easy solution for so many for so long has been to write off all prophetic words and all prophetic ministry. That’s just as bad a problem as to accept all prophetic words and all prophetic ministry. Neither uses any discernment, as we have been called to exercise.

Our skeptical nature, as Americans, isn’t bad. I actually see it as a good thing. When I approach supernatural ministry, especially prophecy, I go at it with a very scientific mind.

If it’s God, it will be clear. If it’s not God, that will also be clear.


Keep It Simple

That simple formula has saved me from so much grief, guilt and pain that I can’t tell you how happy I am to be a very skeptical person by nature. And yet, I have more prophetic stories than most people I know. I believe that God has not made discerning prophetic ministry all that difficult. He has just made it painfully difficult for those inclined to expend no effort to understand.

When Jesus spoke in parables, He did not do so to make it easier for people to understand. On the contrary, He did so to make it impossible for others to understand. Jesus spoke with such obscure brilliance that the only reason we understand what He was saying today is because His explanations are recorded. And they were recorded because people asked Him what He meant. And that was the point all along.

Jesus was putting in plain sight eternal truth for all to see, but for no one to perceive, unless they came to Him for the answers. The same is true with prophecy. Discernment isn’t hard and it should never cause us to be in the limbo of doubt and guilt that I have seen so many people languish in. If we seek the Lord and it doesn’t seem like Him, then we can walk away from a prophetic word with a clear conscience.

And often times, when a prophetic word is from God, there’s not a lot we must do about it. Many times, if it is truly the Lord, it will most certainly happen. That’s not 100% true, but I’ve found it true most of the time.

I’ve had many prophetic words that confirmed what I was already feeling led by God to do. Sometimes I’ve had prophetic words correct me for things I’ve done. Sometimes warnings to change course. In those cases, it was clear it was God because someone came to me with a word they couldn’t have known about unless a mutual friend told them. And I always have great confidence in prophetic words when the only mutual friend who knows the story is God Himself.



And for those small percentages of prophetic words that we do discern in prayer are from God and require us to do something to make them happen, I heard a wise man explain that one time. The level of clarity from God determines our responsibility to obedience. If someone tells you, “I feel like God may want you start tithing.” That may or may not be God, but the risk is low. Since that’s something He’s already told us to do, there is no harm in following “prophetic” instruction like that. But if an angel shows up in our bedroom one day and tells us to go somewhere and do something, I’d highly encourage you to do it.

Jesus laid out a clear principle. To those whom much has been given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48) The corollary of that is if you’ve been given little, little is required. If an angel appears to you and tells you something, I’d chalk that up to “much.” If a friend gives you a friendly encouraging prophetic word that you’re not sure about, we’ll say “little.”

If you’ve been burned by prophetic words, most likely it’s because someone gave you a “little” word and forced it upon you like they were Gabriel himself. Guilt, shame, discouragement and confusion follow. But I’m here to tell you that if some travelling prophet comes to town and tells you to sell everything, move to India and feed the poor, I’d wait on that. That is, unless the Lord was already calling you to do that. Or if two other unrelated people tell you the same thing in a matter of days.

Remember, clarity determines obedience. Don’t jump because someone says to unless you’re 100% sure it’s the Lord. Spare yourself the emotional trauma. Be a little skeptical. God’s a big guy–He can take it (I think He requires it, actually), so long as our heart is in a place of always trusting He is good. Skepticism apart from knowing He is good is not good, so don’t go there.

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