John and Carol Arnott are the Founding Pastors and Presidents of Catch the Fire (formerly known as the Toronto...
Prophetic words build faith in a person’s heart so that in the future they will see miracles take place. Around 1978, long before revival began in Toronto, I was visiting The 700 Club in Virginia Beach, VA. It was during a very difficult time in my life when everything that I held dear had fallen away and come to nothing. There was a prophetic minister there whose name I can’t remember who gave me a word: “The problems in your life right now seem as though they are boulders blocking your way, but as you go forward trusting God, they will sink down before you and become stepping stones in a pathway leading to blessing and fruitful ministry.”
"A true prophetic word imparts vision, and carrying vison in your heart brings hope."
The anointing of God was on those words. They were very encouraging for me and restored hope in me for better days ahead. It strengthened me to keep going on in faith. I left with a new realization that God was with me and cared about my situation. It imparted fresh vision to me, the stuff miracles are made of.
Why does God think it is important to give us words about the future? A true prophetic word imparts vision, and carrying a vision in your heart brings hope. Satan, the enemy, relentlessly tries to defeat us with discouragement, but God wants us to carry the hope of health and blessing. He wants us to be encouraged with the life-giving excitement of peace and possibility.
There are several different ways we hear God. One is through reading the scriptures. Another is through the gift of prophecy operating through mature believers in the Church. Perhaps the most powerful kind of prophecy is the one you receive from God directly, for yourself. When we have had revelation about the love of God, and our hearts have learned how wonderful and caring He really is toward us, then we can draw near to Him and begin to listen to what He might be saying to us. Jesus promised to speak to us personally. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,” Jesus said in John 10:27. If you are not hearing His voice, are you one of His sheep? Or is it that you have trouble listening?
"God knows the importance of the thoughts and the intents of the heart."
I believe that everything in this life begins with a thought including hearing from God. If our thoughts are negative and full of hopelessness, they will become tools of the devil to bring us discouragement and defeat. We feel like quitting, giving up, doing nothing and in some cases, backsliding from fellowship with Jesus and returning to a life of sin. We will end up doing the very negative thing that we are “seeing” in our hearts.
If on the other hand, our thoughts are full of vision and expectant hope, then we engage our feelings, faith and resources, and begin taking action toward finding a solution to life’s problems. God, knowing the importance of the thoughts and intents of the heart, wants to speak vision and truth into each of us to produce faith and fruitfulness.
In 1 Corinthians 13:13 we read, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is primary, but everything we receive from God, we receive by faith. Vision will generate hope, so that faith can take us forward. This is why God wants to put a dream or vision in our hearts. It is an important function of prophecy. If there is no dream and no vision, then hope and faith are not operating either.
Years ago while attending a conference in Vancouver, Canada, God spoke a clear prophetic word to my heart about going back to Toronto. At the time we were happily pastoring in Carol’s hometown of Stratford, Ontario, yet I was seriously considering planting a second church in nearby Cambridge. I was excitedly talking to a friend about the possibilities and opportunities of all this when immediately God spoke clearly to me, “No, I want you to go home to Toronto and plant there.” Suddenly, I could see the great need that existed in all the high-rise residences across that vast city. I had been so glad to get away from them only a few short years before. Now God had given me a vision and a love for starting a new church plant there. That word propelled me many times when we wrestled with the practical issues involved in such a move.
Carol and I often wonder what would have happened if we had not obeyed the urging of God to go back to Toronto. Would there have been a place for the world to come to receive the Father’s blessing? This is why hearing from God and obeying Him is so important.
Prophetic ministry occurred throughout Old Testament scripture. In Israel the office of prophet was different from that of a New Testament prophet. His word became the only voice of God to the nation. Samuel, Elijah, Elisha and others gave direction, pronounced blessing and judgment on the country.
"Scripture teaches that we can all prophesy."
New Testament prophets revealed Jesus through their words speaking edification, blessing and insights on coming events with the purpose of encouraging the body. This began on the day of Pentecost and continued throughout the New Testament and is our model for church today. While we are not all prophets, the scripture teaches that we can all prophesy (See 1 Corinthians 14). In Acts 11:28 one named Agabus prophesied by the Holy Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. In Acts 21:10, the same man prophesied the arrest and trial of the apostle Paul. In verse 8 of this same chapter, we read of Philip the evangelist’s four daughters who were prophetesses. Obviously, the early church had a place for this kind of ministry. So how should prophecy function in a local church today?
No one wants bogus prophetic words that come from the human spirit with its agendas and fleshly ideas, or even worse, an occult word from the enemy. It is important, therefore, that prophetic leaders receive healing from past hurts, are full of integrity, and that they are willing to allow for their words to be tested. If prophetic words are given publicly, then they need to be tested publicly. While there is room to learn, when well-meaning “prophets” get it wrong (1 Corinthians 14:31), the issue needs to be addressed by the pastor.
"When God speaks into a person's life, it imparts awe."
In our meetings, I insist on a “no dates, no mates, no babies” policy, especially for those who are learning and developing their prophetic gifts. That means that I don’t want people who we don’t know and trust or who are beginners foretelling the date something will happen, or the person whom they will marry, or that they will soon have a baby boy. I don’t encourage these people to give directional words, either; but we should focus rather on giving words of edification, exhortation and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3). Scripture admonishes leaders to judge prophecies as part of watching over the flock of God and protecting them from words that could be potentially damaging.
When a loving, edifying word comes from the heart of God to a person, it will spark their faith, and they will be encouraged to believe God’s promises to be fulfilled in their lives. When God speaks into a person’s life, it also imparts awe. It touches the emotions. It is not just theological truth now, but it really is Immanuel, God with us. The person realizes, “God has taken note of me and come into my circumstances.”
Ever wonder why there is this admonition in scripture, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies, but test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)? It is because we sometimes back away from the supernatural expression of what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. Perhaps we have had a bad experience with it and now we are afraid; but as we see prophetic words restore life to a congregation by bringing hope and vision, it will encourage us not to despise but rather love these words that prove to be so helpful. And when a prophet makes a mistake and is humbly open to correction with a teachable spirit, it also gives us peace and freedom to trust them again for the next time, allowing all of us to learn by his or her mistake.
Prophetic words that are given in humility, coming from a clean heart, can have tremendous power to build up all of us. This is the kind of word that rests in our hearts, that we can wrap our faith around and then believe God for the impossible.
This archived article was written by John Arnott for release in Jul, 2002. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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