Dealing With Prophetic Disappointment

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Recently I wrote about disappointment with prophetic words about revival and how God has surer promises that we can depend on.  What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was that for many people, this brought up a larger issue about disappointment with prophetic words in general, not just about revival. I think what I found was that, for many, prophetic disappointment is real and can lead to dangerous places.

First, for those not initiated, the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit gifting people who are part of the body of Christ to hear what God is saying and speak it forth. God loves to speak to His people, so much so that Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit told the Corinthians (who, by the way were known for the over-use of spiritual gifts) that he wanted everyone to pursue spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). This is still a reality that happens today but everything that the Holy Spirit says should be grounded in and not contradict what God has clearly said in the Bible.

I’ve been part of groups that have believed these truths for the past 20 years and I’ve seen some incredible good come from people sharing things that are clearly from God. I have also seen some people hurt by people abusing the gifts of the Spirit or just through people being wrong about what God is saying. Neither the good or the bad has swayed me, however. Instead, Scripture’s admonition that the gift of prophecy builds the church continues to encourage me forward in hearing God’s voice and sharing it with others.  So how do we navigate prophetic disappointment?

Paul actually gives us the following encouragement in regards to those who are struggling with discouragement around prophetic words:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies,  but test everything; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

There are two areas here where we miss the Lord’s will here: We can despise all prophecy or not test any of it. Each of these is a pitfall that can lead to prophetic discouragment.

Despising prophecy is the first pitfall. It’s actually a form of bitterness of the soul that comes from being hurt. Not only will despising prophecy not profit you as a believer, but the accompanying bitterness can spring up and defile you and others.  The fix here is that you acknowledge that just because people have used the gift of prophecy poorly in your life, doesn’t mean the gift of prophecy is evil or wrong. We have to be willing to allow God to use prophetic gifts to speak into our lives–it’s part of learning to be the church.

Failure to test prophecy is the second pitfall. Not testing prophetic words sets people up for prophetic disappointment. Because New Testament prophecy is given en masse to the body of Christ, there is the potential for error. This is why Paul calls us to test the prophetic and hold to those declarations that actually pass the test.  For many of us, we’ve been so hungry to hear from God in this way that we’ve blindly accepted every word that someone has spoken. This actually sets up ourselves and others for disappointment later. Test everything. Hold to what is true.

The best example I can give you in this arena is Shawn Bolz. Shawn is a legitimate prophetic voice in the body of Christ today and he’s known for giving incredibly accurate words of knowledge.He walks in a powerful prophetic anointing and teaches others to do the same.  But Shawn is well aware of the hurt that has come from failed prophecy. He has repeatedly taught in his classes that a sign of maturity in this gifting is being able to go back and apologize for the places where we’ve inaccurately shared a prophetic word. This is the side of the prophetic most charismatics don’t want to talk about, but keeps us from growing as those who hear from the Holy Spirit.

God longs to speak to us today. If we want to grow in His likeness and mature as believers, we need to begin to open ourselves to His voice.  In order to do that, we must repent of despising the prophetic and begin to believe in it so much that we test the words others give us and hold onto the ones that survive that test.  When we do, we begin a journey of powerfully hearing from the Holy Spirit. This marked the New Testament church and propelled them into amazing things. Don’t settle for less than this.

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

4 responses to “Dealing With Prophetic Disappointment”

  1. John Spencer says :

    Love this. I’ve had to apologise for a time when I misheard God – I latched onto something which was true but only got part of the picture and “made a leap” rather than waiting for the fullness. It was humbling but humbling is good – it reminds us that we are dependent on Jesus, the Truth.

  2. sierraschwartz says :

    Every once in awhile God will put a person on my heart. I’ll pray and send a kind message. Often people are like “how did you know?” No need to go around saying “I got a word for you!…” just be responsive. Good message. We do need more of the fullness of God- the gifts of the Spirit… but balanced for sure.

  3. :-) says :

    Amen Bro. I think we need to remember that we’re all flawed humans and we all make mistakes. I think we just need to try to live believing that our brothers and sisters in Christ love us and wouldn’t hurt us on purpose. It’s important to remember these things so that if we hear something that doesn’t come about, even if it did test out in scripture, that we can just remember that we’re all just dust and we’re all broken. I think it’s not only important to apologize if we were the one who heard wrong but also to forgive and show true love back if we were the one disappointed… The other thing to remember is that sometimes the “when” of things happening is different than we think… I have 5 promises of something from God over the last 24 years and I’m still waiting for those things… My point is that just because something didn’t happen when or how we thought isn’t a reason to not have hope and faith in God for those things. Maybe, He just want’s to see the extent of our belief, maybe it’s purification and endurance.

    Grace and peace,
    Jonathan

  4. gunnarlarmstrong says :

    I agree with most of what you wrote. However, as one of the commenters wrote, many times, it is hard to know when you are wrong. God fulfills his word in ways that may be not what we or the listener expect. More importantly, I think that the problem is really a lack of discipleship, accountability, and laziness/fear. In my experience there is little true discipleship in today’s church, people prophesy willy-nilly with little oversight and accountability, and very few people are willing to step up and challenge prophesies that are not in line with the Bible and the Spirit. In a properly functioning church (this is easier in a house church than in a larger unit), the person will have been discipled. His brothers and sisters know his character, they won’t let him prophecy if he is not genuinely seeking the Lord and walking in humility and is not open to correction. Since it is a smaller group, they will be present and hearing his prophesying and will either be affirming it or will be lovingly stating that he is wrong. And, because they are a small group where people would hopefully be comfortable and not afraid to share — if the prophesy should be harmful in a way that the others are not aware, the person who is harmed will be able to share how the “prophesy” has been harmful to him and they will be able to address it. So, I think, that in a healthy situation, there is much less room for prophecy to be problematic.

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