“The word of God is living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). We read the Bible not just for connection with God and spiritual wisdom but also to discover our “now words” to live from and to fight with.
We live from God’s word – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)
We fight with God’s word – “And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,” (1 Timothy 1:18).
Timothy was to “wage the good warfare” through the prophetic words he had received. Prophetic words are personal promises and directions God makes real to us.They will often seem to contradict our current circumstantial and emotional state. They will speak of greater things for us in the future (Romans 4:17). These words can come to us through people, angels, dreams, visions, unusual coincidences, or other ways. They will be consistent with the truths of Scripture, but they will highlight certain Scriptural principles or ways of God which we are to specifically focus on as we consider who we are and what our future holds.
Our Bible reading is to be the main source of our hearing personal prophetic words. As we learn to read the Bible prophetically, we will receive needed life and power. I spoke on this in a previous blog, “SWORD: The Five Levels of Bible Reading,” but I want to go deeper here.
How do we read the Bible prophetically?
Ask and believe for revelation of where to read and what are to be the most important take-aways from your reading.
Focus on the stories in the Bible of God’s interaction with people. This would include the Gospels, Acts, and much of the Old Testament.
Don’t feel the need to read a lot of Bible content. Slow down and meditate on what you are reading.
Write down one sentence truths that stand out to you.
Note the testimonies of spiritual breakthrough or encounters. The word “testimony” literally means “do it again.” And Revelation 19:10 says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Every testimony we read or hear has a prophetic message for us to believe.
Reword the truths and testimonies as if you were giving a prophetic word for yourself or others.
Note which prophetic words come most alive in your spirit and are confirmed through more Bible reading, dreams, prophetic words given to you by others, or in other ways.
Let’s do an example of this by considering Acts 27, the story of the Apostle Paul’s being a prisoner on a ship that shipwrecks. For the sake of space, I will not post the entire chapter here, but I will share four truths that stand out to me.
Verse – “And Julius (the keeper of the prisoners) treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care” (vs 3). Truth – In difficult seasons of our lives, God gives us favor with key people to fulfill our purpose. Prophetic word – In every season of your life, God will give you favor with key people to fulfill your purpose.
Verse – “Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul (vs 11).” Truth – Our good advice will not always be received, but like Paul, we eventually will be heard. Prophetic word – People who have not listened to you in the past will start valuing what you say.
Verse – “When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete” (vs 13). Truth – Good circumstances are not always the confirmation that a choice is right. Prophetic word – You will know when something that looks good is not a direction you should go.
Verse – “Then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take [heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship’” (vs 21-22). Truth – Our “ships” may not last, but God will still get us to where we need to be, Prophetic word – Even though you have lost something that was supposed to give you protection, forward movement, and provision, God will still get you to where you need to be.
There are many ways to approach Bible reading, but if we don’t allow God to speak a “now word” to us and for others, then we are missing one of the most important aspects of our interaction with the Word. I explain in greater detail the concepts of this blog in my podcast here.
One final note: this message will help our teaching and preaching become more relevant and powerful. As we mix prophetic words and insights into our speaking, people’s faith will grab hold of what we say and bring transformation into their lives.
For more on topics like this, listen to my podcast by clicking the link below.
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.