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Thursday, April 19, 2007

12 Keys for Excellence in the Prophetic Ministry, from the Life of Samuel

In order to provide some inspiration as well as information and prayer points, we plan to begin posting teaching articles and other devotional material from time to time. While we do look, out of necessity, at issues which are political, we also want to help strengthen the Church in our region. With that in mind, we hope you'll enjoy some teachings every now and then. When articles are final, they'll be posted on the Pray Connecticut website in the Articles section.

This teaching is from an ongoing class I've been helping to teach on the prophetic ministry in today's Church. We pray it will bless you.

12 Keys for Excellence in Prophetic Ministry from Samuel’s Life

And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. (1 Sam. 3:19)

(To prepare for this teaching, please read 1 Samuel 3.)

I am always impressed by Samuel, not just by his prophetic ministry but by the impact of his life on his nation. What he accomplished was astounding – he was an anchor of stability in his nation for many years, and kept the people tied to the Lord and the Lord’s ways.

I’m impressed by what he did to lay a foundation for prophetic ministry in Israel. When Samuel was a boy, it says that the word of the LORD was precious or rare – there was no open vision. And yet, without probably having the benefit of what we nowadays think of as prophetic training, Samuel came to a place where his words did not fall to the ground. Not only this, we believe that Samuel founded what became known as the schools of the prophets in Israel. How did he do this when he most likely had no mentors? I think the answer was found in his heart, as well as his giftings. We know it’s God who gives gifts, but there is the human side of the equation in which we cooperate with God’s grace. If we study his life we see that he wasn’t perfect, but this I think makes him more appealing. Let's see what we can find from the Word concerning Samuel’s life which can propel us into excellence in the prophetic.

This passage, 1 Samuel 3, gives us a great capsule summary of Samuel’s commission and also sets forth our goals as prophetic people:

Display excellence in both your character and your ministry: “And Samuel grew…”

Become a person of impact: “…and the LORD was with him…”

Speak words that have an impact: “…and did let none of his word fall to the ground.”

Notice that it is the Lord who lets none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

What are the keys in Samuel's life that made him a person of impact?

1. Take time to minister to the Lord, both personally and with others

And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. (1 Sam. 3:1)

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:1-2)

Samuel ministered to the Lord individually. He did this as part of his ceremonial duties, but we are sure he had devotional times or worship and intercession before the Lord. The Word speaks of him passing the night in prayer to God. The Antioch example is a great example of how leaders must minister to the Lord together. If you are in leadership, even the leadership of a ministry if not the leadership of your whole church, I challenge you to take times where you simply wait on God together, even with fasting. When you do, the Spirit will come alongside with words of direction and even commissioning, as happened in Acts 13.

2. Be quick to respond to authorities and to obey .

…the LORD called, “Samuel;” and he answered, “Here am I.” And he ran unto Eli, and said, “Here am I; for you called me.” And he said, “I called not; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. (1 Sam. 3:4-5)

We know that Samuel probably did not learn this type of obedience from serving Eli the priest, because Eli did not discipline his own sons. Notice the instant obedience of Samuel’s heart. How many children or young people come literally running the first time they are called?

3. Put yourself in a position to listen to the Lord’s Voice.

Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD; for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel answered, “Speak; for your servant hears.” (1 Sam. 3:9-10)

Do we have our own times of solitude and reflection? Are we training our senses? I bet Samuel was fully ready, his ears fully open when the Lord came by again. So let it be with us!

4. Carry on with the normal responsibilities of life in this world.

And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. (1 Sam. 3:15a)

Some of us, if we’d had this type of revelation, would get on the phone and tell our friends. It doesn’t say he slept, he was probably too excited to sleep. But notice that he got up and performed his duties. Be careful that when we begin to have experiences in the Spirit that we leave off doing the normal things of life. We still have responsibilities in this life if we are to function and to maintain a good testimony.

5. Learn to deal well with rejection, and don’t become overly sensitive.

[The elders of Israel] said unto him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam. 8:5-7)

It seems that Samuel took this personally. Many prophetic people have to deal with a lot of rejection in life and we need to bring that to the Lord and let it be crucified. The Lord pulled out of Samuel’s heart the real issue – it had become about Samuel a little bit!

6. Walk with integrity – even in the smallest of matters.

“Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose donkey have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind my eyes with? and I will restore it to you.” And they said, “You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither have you taken anything of any man's hand.” (1 Sam. 12:3-4)

7. Love and pray for those to whom you minister.

…God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way. (1 Sam. 12:23)

8. Learn to speak difficult truths to others in love, as your position may require it.

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22)

Notice I say as your position requires it. If your position does not require you to speak a corrective word, you may enter into great presumption by delivering it. Samuel was the senior prophetic figure in the nation. However, this word still cost him something. By the next chapter, he tells God he can’t go anoint David because if he does, Saul will kill him!

9. Love the whole body and mourn over sin.

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul… (1 Sam. 15:34-35a)

10. Don’t “turn your eyes and ears off” – your own wisdom and experience can fail you.

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.” But the LORD said unto Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:6-7)

11. Have a correctable spirit – and then take heed to the correction.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” (1 Sam. 16:8)

12. Prepare the next generation – individuals, prophetic people, and other leaders.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed [David] in the midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam. 16:13)

And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. (1 Sam. 19:20)

All these who were chosen to be gatekeepers in the gates were two hundred and twelve. These were recorded by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their office of trust. (1 Chron. 9:22)

Let's pursue excellence in the prophetic!

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