My husband and I attended a wake this week for a young man who died in the prime of his life after a long struggle with addiction. He leaves behind a wife, two brothers, and parents who are also struggling, with questions like: “Why? Why him and not me, Lord?” Despite a wonderful show of support from family and friends, the situation is heartbreaking. No one should have to lose a child, and no words can touch that kind of pain.
I took a walk yesterday after visiting the boy’s family. Although I have known his parents for many years, I had met the boy only once, in their church. On that day, the Lord had given me a prophetic word for him, which I shared with his mother and then with him personally. At the time, I did not know the extent of what he was going through.
The wonderful thing about prophecy is that no matter how rough life is at the time, a word from God almost always conveys hope. I felt the love of God for this boy and knew that God envisioned good things for him – saw him as complete, competent, and strong in Him.
It is hard not to get excited about prophetic words when they come; they are like Jeremiah 29:11 in living color, with specific and personal applications for us. We feel God’s pleasure; we know that He is unquestionably for us. It is like the feeling we have when a teacher gives us a good grade on a test, tells us he believes in us, that we will become something great someday. Something in our soul responds deeply to this kind of encouragement, longs to become that wonderful person that has been described; could that really be me, we wonder?
I and this boy’s family believed that what was prophesied to him could really be him. That he could overcome the challenges he faced and turn his life around for the better. I know that his mother has stood her ground spiritually and prayed that word over him for many years since. In fact, when I saw his mother a few weeks ago, she told me how much she had appreciated the word I gave her son, and that she was still believing for those good things God had promised to manifest in her son’s life. Her words greatly encouraged me.
But he died.
And as I walked, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why?” Why, when parents who are prayer warriors have battled courageously, do children still fall? Why, when a powerful word is given, do we miss it? Why, when we do wage warfare with the prophecies we are given, do we still sometimes suffer defeat?
This is what He said: “Prophecy is not a guarantee; it’s an opportunity.”
In other words, when God releases a prophetic word to you, it’s an open door. He lets you take a look at your future from His perspective, and promises that if you walk through that door with Him, He will do everything in His power to back His words to you. There are some things He will do, and there are some things we must do. It’s a bit like the cutting of a covenant: each party has responsibilities to fulfill. When you receive a word, you must ask: what is God's part? What is my part?
There are prophetic words for all of us in scripture (See Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6), and there are personal prophecies that we receive through His people as we walk with Him. All are meant to encourage, exhort, and edify us – to help us envision a life of peace and fruitfulness when we do what He is doing. (See John 5:19).
Words of correction and direction may also come, with the intended goal of getting us back on track spiritually - always for our good. (For example, Jonah’s prophetic warning to Nineveh didn’t sound very encouraging on the surface. But it resulted in repentance. God’s heart is always for relationship, not destruction.)
However, most prophecies are not guarantees. They are conditional, based upon our acceptance of them by faith and by our willingness to yield or to seize the opportunities we’ve been given. I believe many of us are quick to accept prophetic words by faith – we even run after prophetically gifted people to get them – but not all of us act on them. Just as faith without works is dead, so prophecy without action becomes a missed opportunity. We have a part to play.
Though we pray, prophesy, disciple, give, and encourage others, the one thing we can never do is take away their right to choose, to make their own decisions based on the promises they are given. Sometimes people choose not to walk with God. Sometimes they walk with God, yet don’t take the steps needed to walk into the better future He invites them to experience while they are here on earth. This is a hard thing to watch from the sidelines, like a dropped catch on the football field or a wrong note in a concert. We cringe inside, we wish it had been different, we wish we could go out and “catch” the ball for them, run the touchdown, correct the mistake.
But we can’t.
In the end, I must both believe and act on what I receive. This is the way the Kingdom of God operates.
Overcoming our own fears, weaknesses, anxieties, or addictions is not an easy task. We need each other more than we care to admit. We need the encouragement that comes through the prophetic gifts, the pastoral gifts, the counseling, teaching and discernment gifts, and all of the other wonderful gifts God has made manifest in His Body. We need each other because without that encouragement, we do make wrong choices sometimes.
We’re at war, a war so evil and intense that precious lives are lost along the way. The enemy meant for me to be discouraged when things didn’t go the way I had hoped for this young man. He meant to quench my hope, to make me doubt God and question His wisdom. But he only strengthened my resolve. I cannot choose for another person what he should do. But the losses challenge me to encourage more, to prophesy more, and to pray more, because I see that our resolve must at least match that of the enemy’s. We must remain as committed to life and hope as he is to death and despair.
We serve a great God whose plan is unfathomable, whose Kingdom is eternal. In Him, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. We will see this young man again in heaven. We celebrate all the ways he did acknowledge God. And we will pray, prophesy, disciple, love, and encourage as many others as God leads to us, in the hope that they will choose to accept their prophetic destinies and live the fruitful lives God is calling them to. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting others with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To subscribe to her free weekly blog, click here.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.