“Think about what you’re thinking about and pay attention to the effect it’s having on your heart. Test it by 1 Corinthians 14. This will tell you if what you’re hearing is from God or not.”
Last night, I dreamt I was speaking this over a group of people who were very discouraged and confused. I could tell they had been listening to all the wrong voices and instead of feeling uplifted and strengthened, their gaze was turned downward. The window shades in this room had been drawn – blocking out the sunlight. Their shoulders were slumped and overall, they had a posture of defeat. I knew that something they had heard was trying to convince them they were unqualified to do what they knew they were called to. Many of these people had been wounded by the fiery darts of rejection and they just didn’t have the energy to keep trying to be what they thought they needed to be to feel accepted. They were exhausted.
As I continued speaking to them, I kept bringing them back to 1 Corinthians 14, and slowly the window shade just disappeared and the room filled with light again. This was the verse I kept repeating:
“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
Prophecy reveals something that was previously hidden, but that God has known about us all along. It can refer to something about our current condition we may not be aware of, and/or reveal something about our future. When this revelation comes, it is targeted at either our body, our soul or our spirit. (Edification builds up our spirit; Exhortation prompts us to physical action, and Comfort ministers to our soul. But more on that in just a moment.) God knows where we need help the most. And ultimately, revelation is meant to help us know that God sees us, He knows where we’re at, and He’s revealing something to us that will help us avoid or abolish any obstacles and empower us to move forward so that we can accomplish the divine purposes of heaven for our lives.
However, it is important to note that lies are also prophetic in nature, but they are, of course, the counterfeit. Their purpose is to get us to believe something false about our current condition and/or our future that will keep us from accomplishing the divine purposes of heaven for our lives. Discouragement and condemnation sets in when we start believing these false reports about where we are or where we’re going. So it’s important that we learn how to test what we are listening to and what we are believing. And one of the simplest ways to do that is to test what kind of effect these beliefs are having.
When God reveals something to us about our current condition or about our future, it will have one or all of these three effects: edification, exhortation and/or comfort. And as I mentioned earlier, Edification focuses primarily on building up our spirit; Exhortation prompts us to physical action, and Comfort ministers to our soul. Let’s look at these a little bit more closely.
To edify means to build up or strengthen. It is the act of one who promotes another’s ongoing growth in wisdom, piety, happiness and even holiness. Vines Dictionary puts it this way: “promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example…”
So ask yourself, is what you’re listening to building you up and making you stronger in your spirit and in your character? Or is it a voice that keeps pointing out all your previous failures, highlighting the things that supposedly disqualify you? Is what you’re listening to drawing you towards God, or causing you to look down in shame? Are you believing that even if you’ve stumbled a couple of times, His grace is sufficient to help you get back up again and overcome whatever it is that is trying to knock you down? Or are the voices saying, “You’re just too messed up. This is who you are and you’re never going to make it”?
Test what you’re listening to. Test what you’re believing. What kind of effect is it having? Because even correction from God edifies, causing us to see that His grace empowers us for righteous living.
Secondly, revelation (or a prophetic word) will exhort, which means to summon persuasively. “Urging one to pursue some course of conduct.” Typically whenever we see an exhortation in the Bible, there is a physical response needed to comply with the exhortation. (Romans 12:1 is a great example of this, “I exhort you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice..”)
Exhortations are meant to move us to action, to get us going, to overcome any physical barriers, apathy or excuses that would prevent us from accomplishing the goal. So when it comes to what you’re believing about your ability to physically do what you are called to do….what are you believing? What voices are you listening to? The voice that energizes you to action? Or the voice that keeps telling you you’re lazy, or you’re not strong enough, or you’re too overweight, or you’re too old…(the list could go on and on, couldn’t it?).
Revelation from heaven, on the other hand, will stimulate us with energy like Elijah to run ahead of chariots, to run to win like Paul, and to have the spirit of Caleb into our golden years as we boldly say, “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.” (see 1 Kings 18:46, 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Joshua 14:11 for each of these examples) Exhortation will get us up and going – believing that with God, all things are possible.
And lastly, I think it’s safe to say we all know what comfort feels like. Revelation from heaven can also minister comfort to our soul (our mind, will AND emotions). Comfort calms emotional distress, solves intellectual quandary, fuels us with divine will-power and gently reveals the true source of our emotional wounds and heals them – all of this, so that we can get back up and keep moving forward. So ask yourself, is what you’re listening to comforting you? Or is it paralyzing you in the place of distress?
The difference between where we are today and where we can be in our future comes down to what we are believing. What voices we’re listening to. This is one of the reasons I love the revelatory ways of God. He reveals the truth about who we are, where we are, and where we’re going. And He says, Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own…unsearchable things you do not know…great and mighty things…things which have been confined and hidden, which you do not know and understand and cannot distinguish. (Jeremiah 33:3 multiple translations) In other words, God is saying, if we will just call to Him (and silence all the other distractions and voices competing for our attention) He will cut through the lies floating around and show us the truth by giving us revelational insight, revealing things to us that would otherwise be inaccessible or isolated.
So friends, especially to those of us who have felt like we’ve been going through a season where the shades are drawn on our windows, let us test what we’re listening to. Test what we’re believing. Is what we’re listening to edifying our spirit, building us up, and sharpening our character? Is it exhorting us? Summoning and energizing us to physical action? Is it comforting our soul? Calming our anxieties and healing our emotional wounds? If not, we need to stop following those other voices. Yes, I said following, because voices are not just heard, they’re followed. (My sheep hear My voice and another they will not follow.) Instead, let us turn to God and ask Him to reveal the truth. The truth about who we are, where we are, and where we’re going. The truth about how much bigger our God is than any obstacles we could ever face. For friends, you will know the truth and it is the truth that will set you FREE. (John 8:32) It’s time to arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
-Linda G. Riddle