We’ve all eagerly hoped for a spiritual leader to pray for us and impart something transformational into our soul. Unfortunately, the hope for a five-minute prayer of power has caused many to miss out on the substantial impact of the prophetic act of impartation. Consider these two often-cited examples as we investigate this practice.
Paul & Timothy
1. Impartation comes from those who know you well.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he says, “do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.” (1 Timothy 4:14) Paul affirms that Timothy’s gift is a result of the elders’ approval of his calling to do ministry. Although his gift isn’t defined, it is most likely referencing his call to pastor the church in Ephesus. Paul essentially is recognizing the authority of those who knew Timothy. Their “eldership” over him proved to be the source of his gifting.
2. Secondly, we can see Timothy’s calling is the result of long-term, meaningful relationships. Paul highlights this truth in his second letter to Timothy. He credits Timothy’s mom Eunice, and his grandmother Lois with building the foundation of faith that was needed long before he arrived. The impartation of a spiritual gift from Paul to Timothy was in conjunction with the generational transfer of a godly heritage. Timothy’s gift was not the result of a weekend conference filled with prophetic buzzwords. It was cultivated with his character by those who invested in his life. We do not see Paul imparting a gift to Timothy after briefly meeting him at a weekend conference in Ephesus.
Timothy’s gift was the result of being in a healthy relationship to godly authority. When sincere evangelist, prophets, or other leaders promise that they can impart to you a spiritual gift by laying hands on you, while citing this passage, they are making a claim that is not true to the text.
Anyone can stir you to do great things for God, but it is only those who will sacrifice their own lives in discipling you whose insight you should value. Don’t fall into the trap of being an enthusiastic weekend evangelist or conference hopper and equate this with being discipled. Discipleship happens in the local church, under the loving leadership of men and women who have been effectively and faithfully serving Jesus for years.
Elijah & Elisha
2 Kings 2:9 “And so it was when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a have a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”
The imparting of prophetic gifting from Elijah to Elisha in the Old Testament is commonly referenced. We read of Elisha asking for a “double portion anointing.” I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve seen people wait eagerly in line for hours hoping to have some renowned leader lay hands on them to acquire a double portion anointing. If you want to get what Elisha received from Elijah, then you should consider a few points of importance.
First, we can’t overlook how Elisha began his journey. When Elisha was beckoned by Elijah, he forsook his livelihood and family wealth to follow him. He paid the price of financial security for the opportunity to serve Elijah.
Secondly, Elisha was discipled for years before asking for the impartation of Elijah’s spirit. How long did he follow Elijah before he received his double portion anointing? He labored seven to eight years with him. That’s right. Elisha didn’t merely respond to a persuasive offering speech and give a one-time, tax-deductible donation to seal the deal of receiving a double portion anointing. No, he had access to Elijah’s anointing because he made a costly, life-long decision to follow him.
There are no shortcuts to getting an impartation. If you don’t do the hard work of humbly being a discipled, you may find yourself trapped between a desire to do ministry and the lack of character to sustain it.
From one social media post to the next, you can regularly find dozens drawing unsuspecting believers to the little anointing they wield. Most are merely hoping to validate their ministry by the crowds they can gather. In the end, un-discipled ministers tend to guide young believers into the busybody work of building their ministry. Young believers follow because the desire for supernatural power lures them. True disciples, on the other hand, are not identified by the power they demonstrate, but by the honor, they show to other disciples. (John 13:35)
A warning to disciples
Let me conclude with a warning Jesus and the Apostle Paul gave to the early church. In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
The phrase “am Christ” in the original language means an “anointed one.” As an indicator of the last days, which is the context of Jesus’ statement, we are warned that many anointed people will emerge drawing to themselves followers.
Paul uses the same language phrasing as Jesus (χρηστολογία) and writes in Romans 16:18 that these self-proclaimed anointed ones “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Paul also warns us that we should “mark them” because they “cause divisions and offenses…”
Impartation, although it is an excellent practice, seems to have devolved into a practice to lead may astray. If you are eagerly pursuing a means of short-term promotion to do ministry or advance to the next level of anointing in your life, let me be blunt in saying there is no shortcut. Impartation is the result of long-term, healthy discipleship.
If it took Jesus three and a half years to impart His nature into His disciples, then it is ludicrous to think a ministry personality can zap you with great spiritual gifting in five minutes of prayer. Impartation takes time, personal sacrifice, and willingness to be taught.
Every believer experiences growth through the same process as the first-century disciples. They were tutored under spiritual leaders for years. They learned humility, received correction, and rejected superficial promises of a supernatural fast track.
These time-tested lessons of integrity set the disciples up for impartation. Promises to receive impartation in any other way may prove to be a spectacular show, but it is just that- a show and nothing more.
We all feel the urge to fulfill the work of reaching the lost. Urgency, however, should not lead us to bypass the process of true discipleship. Do the faithful work of being discipled and have authentic men or women of God impart into you the character they have cultivated.
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