Prophets, Decoys, and Ducks

I haven’t been duck hunting in a long time. But I remember a little irony. Wherever there were ducks above, there were usually plenty of decoys below in the water. The same seems to be true in many Christian circles. Though there are genuine prophets with clear God-given prophecies, right below them, there are many more decoy prophets who can draw your gaze to their shiny prophetic promises.

There are many decoys to avoid with the explosive emergence of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles in the last few years. It concerns me to watch believers strung from one prophecy to the next, idly waiting on God to make them a celebrity preacher or evangelists. Can the calling of God come through prophetic words? Yes, it often does. But the nature of desires to receive prophetic insight has shifted from wanting to hear God’s voice to hoping for a palm reader’s promise of personal fame and success.

I think of the prophecy God gave to the Apostle Paul through Ananias at the beginning of his ministry. Paul was told that he would be “a chosen vessel” to witness about Jesus “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” God added to this promise, saying, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name.”

Though I’ve heard many prophets make similar statements of promise. I’ve never heard prophecies about suffering for the gospel’s sake. The tragedy is that many sincere disciples are often misguided for years with the prophecies of “you’re going to be a great man or woman of God who will be famous and world-changing.” Because these prophecies are usually vague and ego-stroking, I’ve found recipients are often left waiting indefinitely for their prophecy to catapult them into transformational success.

I’ve had the same sort of prophetic words given to me. Though this kind of encouraging “word” can feel inspiring, it is rarely prophetic. Most of the time, it’s encouraging at best, and it is flattery at worst. There is only one person who will “change the world” and get the glory. His name is Jesus. Anyone who aspires to take Jesus’ glory, even with the most sincere of motives, seeks a treasure that is not theirs to acquire. My challenge to the “you’re going to change the world” prophecies is that they often give hearers the excuse of waiting on God to make them great while the community they live within is going to Hell. So, the next time you are longing to get a “prophetic word,” you may want to ask yourself if you are seeking to feed your ego or if you want truth that will lead you to obey the commands of Jesus.

If you are longing for affirmation and spiritualized excuses to build your kingdom of comfort, there are always decoy prophets and prophecies on lake YouTube that will satisfy your itching ears. But if you want to hear from a true prophet, find one who will call you to suffer for the gospel’s sake and compel you to lay down your life today to impact people this week for Jesus.

We cannot escape the fact that there are no shortcuts to becoming effective in God’s kingdom.

Reconsider Paul’s radical encounter. Did Ananias’ prophecy set him on a fast track to apostleship? No. After his conversion, Paul found himself learning the gospel message for three years in a desert before returning to Damascus to make disciples. After this, he returned to his homeland of Tarsus to disciple believers until he was discovered by the apostle Barnabas. As far as we know, Paul ministered unnoticed for thirteen years before the other apostles even heard about him.

I write this to make the point that a radical prophetic encounter or word in no way can infuse into its hearers the discipline they need to follow Jesus.

Paul, led by the Spirit, served the church with great zeal and self-sacrifice with little notoriety. The contrary seems to be true today. Many want the church to serve them with great zeal and self-sacrifice. The era of the celebrity Christians is gone. We’ve seen too many trainwrecks of debauchery and corruption when ministers are given an unchallenged ride on the popularity train.

If you want to be on the fulfillment side of a prophetic word, it’s simple. Find a way to serve in your community, at your job, and in your network of influence. Find a way to show people the extravagant love of Jesus. You’ll be amazed at how your sacrifices can bring you to the end of yourself and others to a new beginning in Jesus.

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