When Not To Call Down Fire
James and John had their own leading on what should have happened to the Samaritan village in which they were all just rejected. They had recently been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They had seen Elijah and were perhaps remembering how he called down fire and destroyed the 850 false prophets. So, with that fresh in their hearts and minds, they felt justified in asking Jesus if they could call down fire.
However, Jesus silenced their emotions that day and spared the city from their desire call down fire and burn it to the ground. Remember, they were both apostles, both martyred for the cause of Christ, but they both got it wrong on that particular day. To glean from their experience, we recognize that we have to be so careful not to allow our feelings to get in the way of the Spirit’s leading. Left to themselves, the apostles’ erroneous leading on that day could have devastated and even ended the lives of many. Jesus would have none of it.
It’s an awesome responsibility to lead in any capacity, but it’s even more so when you are endeavoring to help God’s people discern His will. Why? Because it is so easy for our mind, emotions and will to get in the way.
Prophetic Freedom and BondageIt is a wonderfully liberating and powerful thing when God speaks directly into your life through a humble vessel as the Apostle Paul recounted in 1 Corinthians 14. Francis Frangipane said it this way, “The power released by a humble, accurate, new covenant prophet can be a revelation of the Lord Himself, causing people to fall on their faces in worship (v. 25). I have often been encouraged and guided by a prophetic word. Confirmed prophetic words, as Paul wrote Timothy, are spiritual weapons. They help us “fight the good fight” ” (1 Tim. 1:18).
A brother once told me that when he was 14 years old, he had an unusual experience with Jesus. He shared the experience with his Dad, who then sent him to his pastor. Immediately the pastor, upon hearing the boy’s testimony, said he was destined to become a pastor and should begin studies to that end as soon as possible. For 30 years, this man lived in the sincere, but false, expectation spoken to him by this pastor. He knew he wasn’t called in this way, but his mentor had so much influence over him that he couldn’t shake his words.
It wasn’t until he came into a personal revelation of who he was in Christ that he was set free of this yoke. He realized, as John the Baptist said,
“I Believe the Lord Is Saying…”When I believe there is a fresh “word” for someone, I have learned to begin this way, “I believe the Lord is saying…” or “I feel like the Lord would want you to know.” Because to say “thus saith the Lord” and not be utterly and absolutely clear that it is the Lord, is, by definition, using His Name in vain.
An important note:
“Where words are many sin is not absent.” (Prov 10:19) To say it another way, if someone always has a “word” to share, be very cautious of the validity of the word. The Lord gave us the Bible as our roadmap and His Spirit as both instructor and guidance counselor. Because of this, most of our decisions will (and should) come out of the Word of God and prayer as the Holy Spirit helps us. Again, I urge caution. If someone is continually speaking “words from the Lord” over you, recognize that things may be getting spiritually “off” and trust God for wisdom and mercy in navigating the situation.
How to Know What’s Right – Hold On to What’s GoodTwo Apostles speak directly to the issue. First the Apostle Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…” (1 Thes. 5:19–21) Then John, who years before wanted to call the fire down, now as an aged Apostle writes, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jn 4:1–2) Jesus is faithful to mercifully train us and teach us over time.
Both of these passages are calling for the same thing: For God’s people to “test” to see if the “word” spoken over them is, indeed, from God. These scriptures were written over two thousand years ago and Jesus warned that in the last days many would be deceived. To combat that deception, God’s people desperately need greater wisdom to discern what is truth. If, after careful testing, the word is from God, then you can “hold on to what’s good!” If not, lay it to the side.
How Do You “Test” A Word?There are very clear biblical and practical tests to vet, if you will, a “word” spoken over your life. Any believer seeking God’s true guidance should be aware of and utilize these tests.
- Word Test: Is it supported by God’s Word? For instance, if someone spoke a word over you that you were going to be very rich in the next year but you would have to steal from your company’s account to do so, that would be wrong. Why? Because the Bible says, “Thou shalt not steal.” If a “word” opposes or contradicts God’s Word, it is erroneous and there is no need to pursue it any further. It doesn’t pass the first test.
- Spirit Test: Does it bear witness to your spirit as well? “His Spirit will bear witness with your spirit.” (Romans 8:16) Because of this witness, you will have a sense of the “rightness” of the prophetic word (or direction.) That’s why God gave you the Holy Spirit, to be both your instructor and counselor. As one man said, “you’ll know it in your knower.” Also, check it out with the leaders in your church and others you trust in the Lord, especially if you are new to the faith. This is an added layer of safety and assurance.
- Kingdom Test: Do you feel the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit in regard to what was spoken to you? “For the kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” (Rom 14:17) If it’s of the Kingdom of God, and the Spirit of God is speaking to you, you will ultimately be filled with both the joy and peace of God about the word and His will. Even if the “word” doesn’t appeal to your flesh or isn’t at all what you expected, your spirit will bear witness to His Spirit and the joy of the Lord will be your strength.
- Unity Test: Does the word promote unity in the Body of Christ?
Jesus prayed that we would be one so the world would believe. Unity, therefore, is imperative for the world to come to Christ. That’s why this test is so important. Any word, big or small, that is of God instinctively leads us to seek unity and oneness with other brothers and sisters in Christ. The fruit of unity will tear down “dividing walls of hostility” and any prejudices that may exist. It behooves you to consider if the word causes you to be too inclusive or too exclusive. Does it promote an elitist mentality where you feel “your” calling is far superior to the callings of others in the Body of Christ? Does it secretly cause you to think that others just simply haven’t arrived at your level of calling or revelation? If it does, great pause should be taken because it doesn’t pass the unity test.
- Practical Fulfillment Test: Did the word come to pass as declared?
If someone told you and your wife that you would be pregnant by this time next year, were you? Did it happen? If not, the “word” didn’t pass this most basic and obvious test and he or she may have spoken “presumptuously.” “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.” (Deut 18:22)
To this point Frangipane says, “The restraints I suggest are not to hamper the prophetic but to place prophets as background players on a stage where the Word of God is the main attraction. One prophet may have a genuine warning yet miss completely the timing of his insight; another ministry knows something will happen on a certain date but isn’t sure of the details. Remember, when Paul urges us to “let the prophets speak,” he also counseled, “and let the others judge” (1 Cor. 14:29 KVJ). Do not be afraid to let your witness be judged, and if you question a prophetic witness, don’t be shy about humbly saying that you don’t bear witness.”
Don’t Throw Any StonesIn the Old Testament, if your prophecy didn’t come to pass they would stone you! (Deut 18:20) Before you throw stones, remember, we’re all in the process of learning and we are all under a New Covenant. God’s gifts, including “prophecy” and “word of knowledge,” are honed over time. You may have been on the receiving end and embraced a word that wasn’t yours. Furthermore, you may have given a word and perhaps realized you spoke out of turn. In either case, be merciful, especially if it didn’t come to pass. Again, Francis Frangipane says, “If you have felt manipulated or wounded by false prophetic words, whether concerning the Lord’s return or an imminent disaster or a personal word you were given, I pray you will not lose faith or become cynical. I urge you to heed Paul’s words: “Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:20–21).
Don’t Allow Yourself to Become BitterGod names Himself Jehovah Rapha, “The Lord Our Healer,” at a very unusual spot in Scripture. At a place called “Marah,” which means bitter, He is healing neither blindness, palsy or leprosy, but a bitter heart. Moses, in response to a grumbling, complaining and thirsty children of Israel, threw a stick into bitter water and it became sweet.
It’s time to be set free!The same Jesus that called Lazarus back from the dead, went a step further. Once Lazarus was alive, yet still bound in his grave clothes, He declared “Loose him and let him go.” Jesus desires life and freedom for all of His children. Many of God’s people need to be set free from the bondage of an incorrect word that has incapacitated them for years. May today be that day for you!
A Simple Prayer of Freedom
To gain your freedom, you could pray like this: