By Keith Green
It all started in a small Bible school that my wife, Melody, and I went to during our first year as believers. One of the teachers had recently been to a seminar where the speaker had gone through all the aspects of each of the gifts and callings on men and women of God. He had talked about teachers, administrators and so on.
The teacher in that class was very excited about sharing all the aspects and characteristics of a prophet to the class. He started reading his notes from the seminar he had been to, and he read things like, “Prophets are very moody, they are often hard to get along with, they see things in black and white and might seem to lack compassion. They are often considered to be rude and brash, but inside they mean very well, and only want to share the truth – but they don’t seem to mind if they step on people’s toes while they do it.”
While our teacher was reading from these notes, I’m sure he didn’t notice the smile spreading across my face from ear to ear. Why, everything he was reading fit me to a tee! I just couldn’t believe my ears … at last, I had found my calling!
To top all this off, when our teacher was through reading, he turned to the class, pointed his finger at me and said, “My friends, we have a prophet in our midst!” Well, that was it – I was hooked. That’s all I needed to hear! It took the Lord about another five years to completely deflate my head from the delusions that innocent and well-meaning Bible teacher helped to promote in my life. A lot of what he shared was true, but it certainly needed a good deal of warning to go with it.
The Prophet Syndrome
This article is sort of a confession. You see, I have struggled with the problem of being labeled a “prophet” for the past six years, and that’s quite a long time, considering I’ve only been a Christian for about seven. I must admit it has kind of a nice ring to it – the word prophet – but I think it causes a lot more trouble than it’s worth.
Because we at Last Days have a nationally-known ministry, many people show up at our door from all over the country and want to see first hand what’s going on. From time to time though, someone shows up with a “word from the Lord.” (I’m not trying to be sarcastic. We’ve had some pretty interesting characters show up at the door.)
We had one guy show up and when we invited him to eat a meal with us, he said that God had told him not to eat. We asked him, “How long?” He said he didn’t know, but he wasn’t supposed to eat. Another time, we had a guy with long robes show up who said that God told him to come and tell all the ministries around here that the Garden of Eden was in the state of Georgia!
These are some extreme examples of something I think is a very common problem in the church today – young people (usually men) who believe that God has raised them up to tell people what is wrong with their ministry or their lives, or both! These people are usually hurt, independent, talkative, stubborn, unteachable and unyielding. I know, because I have been one of them!
What is a true prophet?
God does speak to His people today – not just His special ones – but to all His people. He speaks to them in many ways – through the Holy Spirit who lives in them, through men and women of God in their church and around them, but mainly through the Word of God, the Bible. Whenever the Holy Spirit gives us guidance, it will always line up with the Word God, or it isn’t from Him.
As I was studying His precious Word over the past year, it suddenly dawned on me that my whole view of myself and my calling was all backwards. So many people had told me that I was a “prophet” over the years that I believed “they must be right.” I saw myself as a spokesman to my generation in the church – not the spokesman, but one of a number, chosen by God to be used to correct and exhort believers to obey God and thus win this world for Jesus.
It’s not that I no longer believe that I’m called to do that, it’s just that now I see that every believer is called to do that – to call all Christians everywhere to obey God and win the world for Christ!
The main thing that God has shown me through all this is: I’m not called to be a prophet, I’m called to be a CHRISTIAN – a servant of the living God! That is the HIGHEST calling that anyone can realize. And the most beautiful thing has happened in my heart. My whole goal in life has completely changed – the only thing that I want to achieve, is to have the Lord tell me when I stand before Him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Not, “Well done, thou good and faithful prophet.”
To be a Christian, to live up to that wonderful word – that is my ONLY goal. After all, Paul starts out that meaty book of Romans with these words: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.” Not “… an apostle of Jesus Christ, called to be a servant.” No, Paul had his priorities straight – he knew what went first!
A lesson to be learned
I’m sure you know someone in your fellowship who has all the earmarks of being a potential “prophet.” They don’t beat around the bush, but they say exactly what’s on their mind. They aren’t very popular, but they don’t care because they believe that they’re “being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” They’re always finding fault with almost everything and rarely have a kind word to say.
And the thing that usually happens to these misguided souls with all the rough edges is that somebody tells them, “Hey! I know what you are, you’re a PROPHET!” And then they say to themselves, “ Wow! That’s why people are so down on me all the time! Why that’s just the way they treated Elijah and Jeremiah!”
And then they start getting “words from the Lord” and all the rest that comes along with being a “prophet.” The saddest thing about all this is whenever someone is brash, obnoxious, or loud, we label him a “prophet.”
But you know, deep down inside, most of them really do want to please God, but now they’re so insulated from criticism and protected from rebuke (because they think they’re a rejected “prophet”) that no one can help them or reach them. And unless God intervenes in their lives, they cannot be used in any long-term way because of their unteachable, uncorrectable spirit.
One of the main problems for them is that most of what they see as wrong, really IS wrong! But they have little love or grace to share the truth with – they just aim their big cannons and BOOM! They blow their hearers to bits.
I’m not trying to say that what I wrote or preached in the past was wrong. It’s just that some of it could have been said a little differently – and with a lot more grace. Even so, if the Lord says to speak out on an issue, I’ll be glad and ready to do it – but I must do it as a servant, not as a prophet. That is Jesus’ way.
Hallelujah for the freedom that comes with repentance! Oh, how He makes us new, forgiving us and changing us into His glorious image!