As Mary held that little miracle infant in her arms for the very first time, she remembers the visitation of the angel and all that was spoken to her. As she looks into the eyes of her newborn, her heart senses the special destiny that envelopes her child.
At age twelve, Jesus said something to her that was ever etched upon her heart; "...Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). Mary got a first glimpse of this destiny and she was blessed to be a part of it. However, unknown to the people of that day, a prophet was born among them that had a destiny like no other human on the face of the earth. Yet, as a zealous young boy, He thought He was ready to do His Father's perfect will at that time.
But, like most prophets that are destined to be vessels of God, Jesus had another destiny to fulfill first. He, who was God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16) had to spend some time in preparation before He could ever begin any public ministry for the Lord. Truly the "flesh of God" (Jesus) had to be prepared for such a great task!
Therein lie’s the secret to every anointed, godly and mature child of God. The power and anointing that is displayed among men of old, as well as modern prophets of our day, are in direct proportion to the dedication and time spent in preparation.
Many that experience the power of God when they were born again (John 3:5, Acts 2:38) desire to just enter right into the awesome works of God. But as some of them seek God in earnest pursuit, they soon realize that God takes them down into obscurity for a while to be "formed by the potters hands."
The inspiration of this study is a collection of doctrinal, as well as personal revelations of the deep calling of preparation, sacrifice and self-denial. To be able to say, "I must decrease" is not as easy as some may think; actually it is "the few that find it" who really find out God's destined plan for their lives.
Even though this article is directed more towards "prophets” (leaders) of God. This article could apply to any Christian who wants to be used by God. I use the word “prophet” loosely to describe the character and life style of a person who does a work for God. Even though all believers receive the Spirit of God when they are born again; not every Christian reaches out for the deep, deep things of God. Some settle for just “the born again experience” and that is as far as they go. But those that want to be everything they can be will reach for Jesus even if it cost them everything!
PROPHETS OF OLD
When looking at the lives of the prophets of old, one can not help but see the sober destiny that each man of God possessed. Their lives were very different from others even though they were just common men. They possessed boldness and yet peace at the same time. Their lives were sometimes filled with life threatening pressures from those they had to prophesy against. These prophets of old spent hours in seclusion from the everyday hustle and bustle; yet they always seemed to know what was happening around them.
When we think of the prophets of old, we often think of Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel. Each one of them had a particular function in the Kingdom of God. They were separated at birth and destined to be mouthpieces of God for their respective generations.
Today, many often desire to be like one of the prophets of old. They aspire to the miraculous works that often followed these men of renown. However, sometimes it seems that their miracles blind us to the more important elements in their lives such as prayer, sacrifice and obedience.
Although desiring to be like a "prophet" is a noble endeavor, one must come to understand the gravity in which the process of becoming a prophet will entail. One does not just decide to be a prophet because they want to. A prophet that is destined by God is one who hears a true divine call from God himself. The saying, "prophets are not made, but born" is still echoed very loudly today.
A DESTINED FORERUNNER
Anyone who understands the sacred scriptures at all fully understands that Jesus is the greatest prophet of all. Yet, Jesus himself refers to John the Baptist as the greatest prophet that was ever born among women (Mat 11:11).
To some, looking at the life of John the Baptist conjures up pictures of a wild prophet pointing his boney finger and preaching to the crowds. However, when you look deep into his life you will find a humble, meek and simple prophet of God. John the Baptist was neither arrogant nor was he timid.
The destiny that was placed on his life could be felt by the people around him. He drew large crowds because he had the anointing to do God’s work.
One of his greatest assets was meekness, which today some misunderstand as passive or soft. Biblical meekness means, "the feeling of patient submissive; humbleness; self-controlled; a calm temper of mind; not easily provoked." A humble (meek) person is someone who is under direct control by God. They have control of their spirit and flesh. A meek person can go where ever God wants them to go without resistance or rebellion.
THE WILDERNESS OF PREPARATION
So, where did John the Baptist get these jewels of godly aspirations? How come we never read anything in scripture about the life of Jesus between the ages of thirteen and twenty-nine?? Did the Lord forget to tell us?? (of course not)
The reason is found in the very fact that they both spent time in solitary places of preparation. John spent some of his time in the wilderness in fellowship with God, while Jesus spent his life learning and growing in wisdom among the common folk.
John the Baptist's sole function in the Kingdom of God was to prepare the way for the Lord's earthly ministry. Although we do not have a whole lot of scripture telling us what exactly God did with John in his solitary places, however, we can get a sense of how God prepared him by the message and spirit by which John manifested himself to the public.
For John to of preached the message he did with the anointing he had; he had to of spent considerable time with God. John had to learn and be perfected for the work God had called him to do. There were certainly some things in John's life that had to be worked in and out of him. Jesus was the only one without sin, so John must have had some things to repent of while being prepared. We can be sure that John fasted; because scripture says that he did (Mat 11:18).
God had to bring John through different phases during his life to prepare him. God had to teach him to resist sin, resist his flesh and say no to the devil. God taught him to be meek and lowly. He especially had to sit before the Lord and get instructions on what he was to do. By spending time with God for all those years, John learned to hear God's voice. John basically spent his time "falling on the rock" of self-denial. He had to completely gain control of his flesh and allow God to control him. This took time because John was truly human like we are. He had to be prepared in the "wilderness of preparation!"
What can we say about Jesus? He spent twenty years learning and listening to the voice of God. Sure, He was tempted in all points like we are, but without sin. But scripture says He had to grow and learn too. Jesus spent many of his teenage and young-adult years just listening and learning the voice and will of God.
Before Jesus publicly showed Himself to the people, scripture says that He was "Led of the Spirit into the wilderness" to be tempted of the devil forty days. We must point out here that God led him to the wilderness. The devil did not just happen-by and tempt Jesus. God wanted Jesus to show the devil that He could overcome him by resisting His own flesh and desires before beginning His ministry. When the temptations were over, scripture emphatically states that He "returned in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14) and began His ministry.
Anyone who desires to do a work for God must understand that without going through the "wilderness of preparation" and gaining control of oneself, that they will not see the full work done in their lives. We must have power over our own will before we can display the power of God to others!
THE THREE "P's" OF PROPHETS
One of the greatest assets of a prophet is his ability to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor (1 Thes 4:4). The main reason one would prepare themselves before the Lord, is to learn how to develop character and to be disciplined. There are three areas that I call "The three P's of prophets." These three areas can be easily seen in scripture through the saints of old as well as modern day Christians of our time.
The first "P" I want to bring out is... "Prophets are not possessed by possessions." This simply means that a person is not controlled by the desire for material things or money. There is nothing wrong with material things in themselves. The problem comes in when our lives are driven to pursue them.
Elijah comes to mind when I think of a prophet who was not controlled by what he possessed. When Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy, he offered Elijah money and material things. Elijah refused them of course because he knew it was not time to receive them. A prophet can not let his desires for material things control him. These type of desires can lead to filthy lucre and "foolish and hurtful lusts" (1 Tim 6:9, Titus 1:7).
The second "P" is... "Prophets are not possessed by passion." To better understand the context by which I use the word passion, one only has to consider Demas (2 Tim 4:10). He left the apostle Paul because he loved this present world. His passions were geared more to pleasing himself instead of the work of God.
Our passions, desires and appetites of the flesh can and will keep us from being the prophet of God that we may desire to be. It is a wonderful thing to have passion for God, but when we are governed by our carnal desires, then we cease to be governed by God!
The third "P" to consider is... "Prophets are not possessed by power." I am not talking about Holy Ghost power here, but the ambitions and lust for authority and control.
The biggest snare for a prophet is the desire to be in authority, to be in control, to have the preeminence over people. The lust to be “the boss” has slain many of great men. Prophets are humble men who do not desire the limelight even though God puts them in the forefront. They do not seek a reputation nor do they “Lord” it over God's heritage (sheep)!
In 2 Peter 1:4-9 it says... "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
Hidden in this verse is a powerful ingredient for any prophet of God who really desires the very divine nature of God. And that is the desire and perseverance to escape the corruption that is in the world. It is through God’s promises and divine nature we keep reaching for perfection.
What comes with God’s divine nature is the ability to learn how to overcome worldly aspirations. Prophets who spend enough time with God will take on God's divine nature by denying the lusts of the world.
There are many voices that try to pull us into its worldly grasp. Sometimes these spirits cause us to get off track spiritually. For us to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily besets us, we need to learn how to resist demonic attacks. It is through resistance that we escape the corruption that is in the world.
I believe that our flesh and the devils of this world work as a team. Spirits tempt our flesh and this in turn can corrupt our thinking. The end results of such appetites is of course corruption and sin. It is through God’s divine nature that we overcome and it is also through His divine nature we grow and display His power!
THE ART OF DECREASING
When John spoke those powerful words "He must increase, but I must decrease;" he was explaining to the crowd that his ministry was to decrease as the Lord’s ministry was to increase. He rejoiced to hear and see the Lord’s ministry come to the forefront. However, while he was in prison, I believe in John’s heart that he eventually knew that he would have to disappear from the scene by way of death. This would be his ultimate decreasing!
If you will allow me to use his statements in a spiritual sense, you will see why some men's ministries are so successful. For prophets to be true anointed men of destiny, they must live their lives as "unprofitable servants." They must forget what they want, who they are and remember whose Kingdom this is (Phil 2:1-8). His ministry cannot be the focus of his life. His main goal in life is to exalt and display the ministry of the Lord. A prophets life is stamped with the insignia of "self-denial." He must be that corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 12:24-27).
HIS INTIMATE GAZE
As Peter denied the Lord, he looked at Jesus and stared into His eyes. The look that Jesus responded with was one of compassion and without condemnation. His gaze caused Peter such conviction that he wept bitterly in regret and repentance.
When we look down the road later in Peter’s life, we hear Jesus ask Peter a very deep probing question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Peter, not looking up at Jesus, responded by saying, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” As Jesus tries to get Peter to look His way, He asks him again, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Peter then just quickly glances at Jesus and says, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”
Jesus, not really getting his full attention, asks again, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” This time Peter being grieved, looked Jesus in the eyes and said, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee!” Jesus said... “Feed my sheep.”
The last time Peter really looked into the eyes of Jesus, he saw a gaze that crushed him. This time Peter gazes back into Jesus’ eyes to prove that he loved Him. The Lord gazed at Peter and saw tremendous growth of love and dedication that was lacking at the beginning.
When we spend time with the Lord, His gaze has a way of breaking us and making us whole at the same time. In those intimate times of fellowship, He will look deep in our souls with eyes of compassion. He will cause us to grow into the full stature of Christ through contrition and intercession. There is something amazing that takes place when Jesus gazes into our eyes.
HEARING THROUGH SILENCE
Earlier we talked about Jesus learning the voice of God. In preparation, Jesus' human side had to learn to hear His deity side (God's spirit). Jesus learned this concept because He states in...
John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
Jesus learned to be sensitive to God's voice by listening in silence. Jesus didn't bring God His "grocery prayer list" every time He prayed, but rather, He as a servant learned to take orders. If our prayers are always geared towards talking, we will miss all the instructions that may be there for us. Fine-tuning our spiritual ears for God's heartbeat is developed in silence and sensitivity.
DOING GOD'S BUSINESS
Listening ears, sensitive hearts, meek attitudes of servant-hood and obedience to God's plan will eventually make way for public ministry. The prophet that dies to self and learns to obey God's voice will be able to accomplish God's purpose.
The business of the Lord is not given to just anybody who wants it, but only to those who are called and can be trusted with God's work. The Lord will call to His chosen to lay down their life for the sheep. Responding to that call is a very sobering event in one’s life. Often times called men of God will respond by saying, “Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel!”
There are many "preachers" that stand to preach in our ranks. Some are truly called of God and some are appointed by men. Some have powerful anointed ministries while some are self-willed and controlling.
Prophets that have learned to take God's yoke upon themselves will feed the church of God without destroying the flock. They will speak God's word with power and love. They will reap the souls of men by allowing God's presence to move through them.
Prophets that are truly prophets, will understand their own kind. It can be lonely sometimes to stand alone on the Word of the Lord. Prophets are a breed of people like no other. Sometimes they are misunderstood, hated and even martyred, yet there always seems to be a prophet around.
Most aspiring prophets, who never learn to decrease; look for God in the earthquakes, winds and fires. But prophets that are destined by God have decreased in their own sight to the point that they have learned to live by that still small voice that gently leads them from day to day.
Prophets that are destined are prophets who have ceased to be important in their own eyes. And prophets like that are jewels in God's masterful hands!