"What are you trying to do, Lord, kill me?"
. . .
How God Tests His Own
By: John Sandford author of "The Elijah Task"
Lately many Christians have complained to us that prophets have come and have laid on them great prophecies of grand ministries to which the Lord is calling them - but nothing has happened! Unless it is that everything has gone in reverse, and trials and tribulations have befallen them. This morning the Lord made it clear to Paula and me that it is time to bring some wisdom and counsel for the comfort and instruction of His people.
First, whenever the Lord elevates through mighty prophecies - duck! If the word is truly from Him, He must prepare your heart. That means, through humbling and testing. He has to purge out of you whatever would defile the ministry or prevent its execution as He intends. The subsequent time of suffering means He has chosen you and trusts you to let it work its full weight of glory in you (II Corinthians 4:17).
Second, quickly humble your heart. Wait for confirmations. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established" (II Corinthians 13:1bNKJV). The Lord may confirm instantly or wait a great while. Do not act until He confirms. Please hear it again: do not act until he confirms! The Devil may be tempting into presumption, and at the same time the Lord may be allowing that in order to reveal to you any weak spots that need to come to death on the cross. Or, the Lord may be simply testing your willingness to be patient, humble and obedient to His counsel. Humbling your heart is vital because Satan copies all things, knows the Word as well, and can send his kind of confirmations that are just as false as the promises!
How are you going to know the difference? Thereís no guarantee you will! For this reason the Scripture declares that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 8:12-17 says: "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly. I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me."
I have been down many blind alleys that I thought had been definitely confirmed. Here are a few sign posts:
1) If your heart leaps with joy and you feel elevated and canít wait to do whatever is prophesied, watch out. It may be that the prophetic word has appealed to your flesh. Pride may be rising. This doesnít mean the word could be false; it means you may be! Your flesh is in the way.
2) Examples abound in Scripture of how the Lord breaks and humbles His own after great prophetic words. Letís look at one: the life of Joseph. God gave him two great prophetic dreams - which he quickly and naively shared with his brothers. They hated him because their father had given him the multi-colored coat that signified authority (that rightly should have gone to Ephraim). Already angry and jealous because of Jacobís "unfair" favoritism, the sharing of Josephís dreams of elevation over them was just too much. They sold him into slavery, tricking their father into thinking he was dead. Had that happened to us, we might have been tempted to think, "Well, thatís that! So much for great dreams and prophecies! It must have been a false word." Or, "Look at what the Devilís doing to me! Whereís God when you need Him?"
But through years of humbling Joseph, in patient and loyal servanthood, God prospered him, and he was given more and more responsibility and trust. Weíd be tempted to think, "At last the prophecyís beginning to come true. Wait till my brothers hear about this!" But God wasnít done preparing Josephís heart. Now he had to go to prison, falsely accused by his masterís wife - because he was too righteous to betray his trust and sleep with her.
God's Perfect Providence
Note the progression: first he suffered for his own thoughtlessness with his brothers, and then he suffered betrayal and prison when he had done everything righteously! When God gave him those dreams, did He expect Joseph to act wisely, or did He know just what Joseph would do and what would be the result? Okay, so he suffered for his foolishness. But did God not know that Joseph would also suffer when he chose to act righteously under temptation? Did He know that these things would humble, chastise, and purify Joseph so that the fullness of His prophecies could be accomplished? Godís providence and timing are perfect. In due season, the prophecies happened exactly as foretold. But Joseph had to be humbled and crushed so that Godís will could be done.
2) Flesh is sweaty and tense. If youíve been gripped, you may feel mightily stirred to act, and become possessive and defensive about your "ministry." Whereas a true call received maturely will be accompanied by a restful sense of peace - and a willingness to lay it all on the altar. Deep peace will undergird. Even if the task is so big as to seem impossible, there will abide a sense of restful dependency. If itís that big, you will know - if anything happens - it has to be the Lord. But watch out for the ways your flesh (and the devil) will prompt you to "help Him do it." Itís easy to do too much and tough to wait on the Lord - whose timetable is certainly different from ours.
A good example of one who received elevation and anointing from God, but did not try to get ahead of the Lordís timetable, can be found in the life of King David. An eighth child, a mere shepherd boy, he was found and anointed by the great prophet Samuel to become king over all of Israel. But he didnít rush out to try to make it happen. He didnít ride triumphantly into Jerusalem declaring God had found Saul unfit and he was now the "fair-haired child of God." Instead, he came under the existing authority, soothing the torments of Saul with his harp and voice, then serving as the royal armor bearer, then captain of thousands. Youíd think God had found a worthy servant and could just move him smoothly past all the trials into fulfillment. But God knew his immature heart had to be prepared for high office through suffering. Now the very king he loved and served so faithfully sought to destroy him in jealous rages. The king was obviously mentally unbalanced, but David refused even to dishonor him, much less to kill and displace him.
Under Authority First
What both Joseph and David had not only to understand but to embrace in every level of their hearts is that in order to be given authority, one must come under authority, even when the authority is palpably wrong, and violently destructive. So many immature prophets and servants today think that because theyíve gotten the "fresh word of God, right off the holy griddle" and their leaders are obviously bumbling, theyíve inherited the right, even the duty, to oppose and maybe depose. Paula and I have ministered to literally hundreds of frustrated would-be prophets and wannabe leaders who have not understood this. They grumble and complain against authority, and wonder why their mighty prophecies arenít coming true. See it. Know it. Expect it. God will not allow your mighty prophecies of elevation to be fulfilled until you have been crushed enough to learn to respect and obey authority. Remember, Hebrews 5:8 says of Jesus, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."
Look closely at who is giving you that wonderful prophecy, and who is confirming it. God can give a true prophecy through a rascal, but the chances are slim. If the prophetís character doesnít manifest Jesusí nature, be very skeptical; that wonít be a sign of lack of faith, but only prudence which the Lord will approve.
If a true servant, or even a weak one, presents a word, remember that if the word they bring is truly from God, even if it is strange and new to your mind, the Lord will have been preparing your heart to receive it. There most likely will be an accompanying sense of recognition. Your heart says, "Yes, I knew this." But donít leap. Wait for confirmations, and make certain that signs, fleeces and words are unequivocal, in no way ambivalent or unsure. Our foolish ambitious minds and hearts can see "sure" signs that arenít there at all.
Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend
True friends will often give you hard words, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6). Jobís comforters may applaud and encourage you to plunge ahead full steam (they want to bask in your glory, proud of and idolizing you - and will also be among the first to turn against you when things go wrong). Set yourself to hear the reproaches and warnings of friends. "He who hates reproof will die" (Proverbs 15:10b). On the other hand, donít be a people-pleaser who turns from a true calling just because trusted friends donít approve. Paul didnít give up going to Jerusalem when Agabus prophesied captivity if he went and friends pled with him not to go (Acts 21). If a command has been clear and confirmed, obey it no matter what, always remembering to remain attentive to the Holy Spirit for the "hows" and "whens" in order to keep from stumbling.
God Himself may allow a false or misguided prophet to give you a false word to test and humble you! For example, in 2 Chronicles 18, King Jehoshaphat was about to ally himself with King Ahab to go up against Ramoth Gilead. All the prophets were telling them to go - God would give them victory (vs.11). These were false words. Were these false prophets or were they true prophets who had gone astray? We donít know because the Bible doesnít say so. It does say God bid a lying spirit to "go and do it" (vs. 21). It should be noted that God Himself did not give a false word but He allowed a demon to give one that would test Jehoshaphatís humility.
God Send a Misleading Word?
God might send a true prophet with a purposefully misleading word. Next, they called for Micaiah, who immediately said, "Go up and succeed, for they will be given into your hand" (vs14). But Jehoshaphat was a truly humble and wise king and reminded Micaiah he had told him always to speak the truth to him (vs.15). Micaiah then gave the true word that they would be scattered without a shepherd (vs. 16). Hear this: God appears perverse to the perverse and true to the righteous, "With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure; And with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself astute" (Psalm 18:26) [the footnote says íLiterally, twistedí, and other versions say íperverseí]. Why? God Himself is of course always true and righteous and never gives false words. But He may let us have the word or circumstance our perverse hearts desire, to bring us to the end of our rope and make us aware of something of eternal consequence, or to test us.
If we think a moment, this isnít too hard to understand. How many times have our children pestered us to let them do something we know is not good for them, until finally we have said, "Okay. Go do it." We were actually hoping they wouldnít. Our reluctant permission was a test of their common sense and their obedience to what they knew in their hearts we didnít want them to do. We are pleased beyond measure when they decide not to do that foolish thing. But if they choose to go ahead and do it, we know theyíll learn the hard way what listening to our advice would have taught the easy way. God is a far better Father than we, and acts in the same way, only infinitely more wisely. Be careful of your hearts. That word youíve been hearing may be only a reluctant permission. Check with friends who know your heart. Humble yourself. Wait. I remember one time when I seemed to be hearing a word from the Lord giving me permission to do a certain thing - but I had checks in my spirit about it. I waited, and prayed for the Lord to purify my heart. Iíll never forget how in a little while I could actually sense a smile of relief and approval from the Lord as He said, "Okay then, donít do it." I had passed the test. It was all over and done with.
to Test Your Heart
The Bible is clear that God Himself may send a true prophet with a word that is only meant to test us, a word that isnít really His first will! That glorious prophecy you received may be one way the Lord, Who loves you, may be testing your heart. It may be a word that promises much - with no real intention from the Lord behind it - to test and humble you!
Or, it may truly be Godís will, and an elevation to you who have served well over a little and are now being set over much. What are we to do? Subject all prophecies to immediate relinquishment on the Lordís altar. Lay them down instantly. If they are true and meant to be, after you have sufficiently humbled yourself, the Lord will pick them up and give them back to you, refined and adjusted to who you are in Him.
This week, as we were meditating on these things, the Holy Spirit said to us, "I test My children to see whether they will stand in humility, obedience and loyalty. Often, first invitations or words are but mere tests. The arrogant leap to grab onto what pleases their flesh and exalts their self-importance. The wise and humble wait for confirmations, and for God to speak again, words that clarify and make more sure and certain. I have sent many words like Micaiahís and, as in the case of the lying prophets (in that same chapter), allowed some false words in order to test My children to see how they will react (see Deuteronomy 13:1-5, especially vs. 3). Did they leap with joy and pride at the first word, or did they wait and take lower places, only to be elevated later? "Do I lead into presumption? Remember what Jesus told you to pray: íLead us not into temptation.í I test My children. It was not that My prophets were false nor that I did not speak through them. But to test the hearts of My beloved."
The Lord continued, "Few have understood this. I am teaching you today a valuable lesson. Wait always for a second word. I often offer something to My children, hoping they will not receive it, that I may bring a better. Arrogance causes men to leap at a first opportunity. Ambition causes men to leap at that which gratifies the flesh. Learn to recognize the true, the second offer that comes when the heart has been truly humbled. [that "second word" may be merely a refining of the first - or add glorious and needed details] It will always be the best. Rest in Me. More tests come. I am preparing your hearts."
So. Youíve been given a glorious prophecy. What do you do?
Lay it on the altar. If itís a true word, when the time is right, God will give it back to you. It wonít be easy, and if you find yourself crying out, "What are you trying to do, Lord, kill me?"
...just remember, the answer is "Yes."
A word from Steve Shultz on "The Elijah Task"
Steve Shultz: "John Sandford's book, THE ELIJAH TASK was the first and most brilliant book I ever read on the prophetic ministry. It is THE book that most effectively introduced the Church to the Prophetic ministry. THE ELIJAH TASK is essential to ANY study on Prophecy and Prophesying in the New Testament Church. If there ever was a FATHER to the prophetic movement, it is John Sandford.
Priced at just $10.99, here is the essence ofhere is the essence of THE ELIJAH TASK:
" . . . Ahead of its time when it was
originally published, The Elijah Task is a best-selling classic with a
powerful spiritual message that is more timely now than ever. Through this
compelling book, John and Paula Sandford put forth a clarion call to prophets
and intercessors the world over with end-time passion and urgency.
"Sound biblical scholarship provides the basis for this extraordinary study of the prophetic office which God is restoring to the Body of Christ. The well-known authors show how prophets are called and trained, and they fully describe the proper discharge of the prophetic ministry.
"The Elijah Task is a handbook for prophets and intercessors, and for all who seek to understand these vital ministries. Its anointed description of the power and the ways of intercession is unsurpassed, and the Sandford's teaching on prophetic listening to God is extraordinarily practical and insightful."