“What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all.” – 1 Corinthians 12:1-5, MSG
When I was a kid, I wanted to be tan. We all look at me now and laugh when I say that, because there is absolutely no way in heaven or on earth that I would ever be tan. I didn’t know I had albinism when I was that young, but I did know fully well that if I went outside in the sun all day without sunblock on (and sometimes with sunblock – and nobody ever believed me that I was getting burnt with the sunblock on until I did some research when I was, oh, say, 31), I was going to get sunburned. I never had a tan phase. I went from white to red to burnt in a matter of an hour or so, and the longer I stayed out, the more burnt I got. Even when the burn would heal over and peel, I wouldn’t be tan. I would go in the reverse, from burnt to red to white, all over again.
Then I wanted long, straight, black hair, like my friend had. I hated my red hair. I am still not crazy about it, thus why it is covered up with this pretty platinum-colored dye (and ask anyone, I look far better as a blonde than I ever did as a redhead). My hair was so rust-colored, it was almost brown in spots, and I could never get it to do what I wanted with it. I never had a hair texture that could be worn long without a relaxer and my mom was opposed to using that kind of stuff on our hair when we were little, so I, being me, spent years trying to have long hair (accepting it would never be black, but not that it couldn’t be worn long), because it was what I wanted.
I am telling you these stories because I think we have grown to covet certain gifts over others in the Body today, just like I wanted to be tan and have black hair, but no matter how covetous of some of them we desire to be, the spiritual gifts of God are given to us by Him, and we get what He gives us. No amount of claiming to have something you don’t have, no amount of hoping to have something you don’t have, and yes, no amount of pretending to play the part of that gift when you don’t have it is going to make it so.
It’s a great thing to desire spiritual gifts, but I think our first mistake is esteeming certain gifts over others. The Bible lists spiritual gifts as being spiritual gifts, and there is nothing in the Bible that sets certain charismatic gifts above the others. The charismatic gifts are open to any believer, at any time, at the choosing of God. This doesn’t mean, however, that every single believer has every single gift. Nor is every single person in church called to be in ministry, or equipped with a five-fold gift, nor do people in the five-fold all have every single five-fold gift within them (but this is a topic for another blog). But, what we have done today is make the apostle more desirable than the teacher; we’ve made prophecy more desirable than discernment; word of wisdom and word of knowledge more desirable than hospitality or mercy; healing more relevant than faith. The competition we have established between the gifts and between the various offices has set a uniquely contentious angle to spiritual matters, ignoring the fact that gifts exist for the purpose of edifying the body….not edifying the individual person.
I had an experience with two people who claim to be prophets last year that left a lot to be desired. These two people made a very similar “prophecy” as pertained to my life, at around exactly the same time. Everything within me rejected the words they both spoke. In fact, the innuendo in what they were “prophesying” was downright offensive in its nature, as they attacked my character and put me down as a person. They were both insistent, however, as to their accuracy. No matter how much I said no, no matter how much I tried to shut them up, they insisted they were prophetically accurate. They apparently forgot that I hear from God myself and being armed with an almost overly cautious spirit of discernment, I know when something isn’t from Him and I will not accept it, no matter how much people might want me to. Was I confused at points, sure – if for no other reason than for two people to call something out the same way at the same time is a little unusual – but we must never forget that we call “familiar spirits” as “familiar” for a very good reason. We always think of familiar spirits as those used with psychics and mediums, but “familiar” spirits are so-called because they know about our surroundings, our atmospheres, and they know how to manipulate us via emotions and issues in order to get us away from God by offering us what we think that we want or need.
One of the false prophets wound up disconnected from me and then disconnected herself from the rest of us, not before causing extreme issue and trouble with her fabrications, but she went on her way. The other one still attempts to contact me from time to time. This so-called “prophet” was off and running with a so-called “prophecy” over her own life that she felt was spoken to her, confirmed, and reaffirmed in many different ways. People were turning her over to this prophecy, stepping out of the way for it to happen, and going through formal steps to execute the process. She made plans, involved other people in it, told people about it, was preparing for it, and was pursuing it – both out of season and out of a sense of decency and order (if it was ever accurate at all, to begin with). She was excited and confident this was a new season for her and she was to walk in it. The connections were made, sealed, signed, and delivered, and she insisted she was following the leading of the Spirit.
Then it was three months later and she called to tell me she was no longer pursuing this thing she’d insisted a short time earlier was from “God.” Instead, she was trying to reconcile things and relationships she’d insisted were over, and go back to the thing she proclaimed to be an over and done with “season.” In my mind, I wondered what happened to the “prophecy” she insisted was true and of God a few months earlier. What happened to all that “word,” all those things she was seeing and sensing in the Spirit, all those things that she insisted and believed were from God – but now, all of a sudden, she now wanted to try and pursue things from a different angle? Was all of that “replaced?” Was it just “temporary?” Or was it, as from the beginning, a matter of things swaying whichever direction her emotions took her in – and not God at all?
People of God, this is not prophecy! It isn’t prophecy that a word is true for three months, you run around and tell everyone about it, you start planning your life around it, and then just as quickly as you picked it up, you drop it off somewhere. Even though no one wants to have discernment, I am SO THANKFUL for a spirit of discernment! Years ago, I would have swallowed such words, no matter how uncomfortable I might have been with them, because someone who claimed to be something “spoke” them. These are not people I can work with, and before someone starts, no, it is not a matter of unforgiveness. No matter how much they might want to try and cover things up or move on to something else, I know I cannot ever accept their so-called “gifts” in my life or in the life of the ministry again. I understand that we all have bad days and sometimes we speak out of the flesh, but you don’t have such a gigantic string of “misses” and then expect people to take you seriously. I can’t accept false prophets around me. I can love them as people, I can forgive them as human beings, but I cannot allow myself to get that close to them again when they are abiding in and actively living and working by false spirits.
The way this all relates to my initial stories: no matter how much I wanted to be tan, I was not going to be tan, because I don’t have enough pigment in my skin to become tan. No matter how much I wanted long, straight, black hair, like my friend had, I was never going to have it. I can cover up my red hair (or whatever color it is thirteen years after I started dying it), I can straighten it if I wanted to, but I am still going to have the same exact hair I have always had underneath the dye and the styling. Somewhere in here, I had to grow up and accept I have the hair I do and I have the skin pigment (or lack thereof) that I do and just deal with it. Getting sunburned and sitting around wearing a black wig was not going to change the truth underneath all of it. Spiritual gifts are no different: we get what we get and we need to learn to make fruitful that which we have instead of trying to chase after and claim gifts we just don’t have. Everybody is not prophetic! Everybody does not have the gift of healing! Everybody does not have a “word” for someone else, especially all the time! We are getting too old and doing this too long to desire the gifts just because we want to “show them off.” In this day and age, God is calling us to grow up and mature, stop wanting gifts that we’ve made “showy” and start developing the ones He has given to us, because those are the ones He trusts us with and expects us to use.
I sense what I would dare to call an arrogance in the church today when it comes to matters of gifts. Everyone thinks they have everything and are all-sufficient just as they are. They seek to use their gifts to promote themselves and their ministries instead of glorifying God. It is almost impossible to work with others today without a sense of competition and a spirit of contention creeping in, because everyone is trying overly hard to advance themselves and their own work. I can’t tell you how many people I know who claim to be prophets or have gifts of prophecy, and I have yet to see or validate anything they have said come to pass. I see too much spiritual bipolar disorder, with people running to and fro on various emotional highs, only to crash down when all the things they have said on an emotional high disguised as the Spirit fail to come to pass.
In the Old Testament, it only took one false prophecy for a prophet to be deemed false and be stoned. Nowhere in the Bible is a gift or the ability to have a gift put ahead of the fruit that one bears in the Kingdom. Nowadays, people claim to be “prophets” and repeatedly feed us false words, over and over again, and we still chase after them, accept them, and seek them out in contrast to God’s commands. We chase after it because we covet it, we covet the word, we covet the gifts. We don’t value the gifts enough to use the ones we have and connect to those with true gifts. Always beware people who claim to be so “gifted,” yet seem threatened by or fail to respond to the gift of discernment. Always beware those who seem unable to accept correction when it comes from an accurate source (yes, we can throw around correction as an evil, confusing force, especially in the wrong hands). Always beware those who seem to use their gifts to lord over others and to puff themselves up, rather than edifying the Body. Also, as a true word of caution: never accept a word if you know it’s not right. Someone could tell me tomorrow, “Go lay out in the sun and you’ll get a tan,” but it would be a lie from the pit of hell. Sometimes we need to remember that we can all hear from God, in one form or another. Maybe if we put the voice of God above those who tell us what we think we want to hear, we’d hear what He has to say to us about running after every person who thinks they are “it.” He’d tell us, none of us are “it.” Only He gets that title. Anyone or anything else who tries to tell us otherwise…is a false prophet.
© 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.