I am keenly aware of the skepticism of many when it comes to the claims of people like myself regarding the validity today and the life-changing power of prophetic ministry. So let me tell you a story. Today, August 18, is a very important day in my life as a Christian. And it provides an important lesson for us concerning the nature and operation of the spiritual gift of prophecy.
In March of 1993, my friend Jack Deere invited me to a conference in Houston, Texas, hosted by Calvary Community Church. On the last night of the conference, a prophetic minister called me out of the audience and delivered a ten-minute prophetic word of encouragement. The text he used was from Isaiah 58. In the course of his message, throughout which he had been speaking of my ministry and how God wanted to use me, he paused. He said, “Sam, I know you have thought, ‘Who’s going to take care of me? If I give my life to pastoral ministry, if I deny myself and take up my cross, who will watch over me?’ Sam, the Lord says to you, ‘I will guide you personally. I will guide you personally; I will take care of you. I will guide thee continually.’” This very pointed application of the first phrase in Isa. 58:11 was then followed by the rest of the verse: “. . . and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
I’m very much aware of the context of this passage. The focus is God’s appeal to Israel concerning the sort of fast that pleases him, as well as their responsibility to minister sacrificially to the hungry and homeless. But I also believe there is a principle underlying its original intent that applied to me in the present day.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what was said. I thought it was nice. But I couldn’t make much sense of its application. After all, this was March of 1993. I was committed to the ministry in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where I had been pastor for eight years. I had no intention of leaving. Our family was happy and the church was prospering. Leaving was the farthest thing from my mind. Immediately after the meeting, Jack came to me and said, “Sam, you may not understand fully what was said, but get a videotape of it and write it down. It will probably take on new meaning in about five months.” As it turned out, Jack’s advice was right on target, almost to the very day!
Upon returning home from the conference I was almost immediately invited to join the pastoral staff at Metro Vineyard Fellowship in Kansas City. Within a week, after much prayer, I said yes. Now, let me jump forward five months to August of 1993.
Moving day was August 18, 1993. It was one of the most demanding and depressing days of my life. Making the decision to leave our church family in Ardmore was among the most difficult I had ever made. When the time finally arrived for us to say good-bye, it was almost more than I could bear. We had spent the day before helping the movers load our belongings and saying our farewells to family and friends. We were scheduled to meet the movers at our new residence in Kansas City at three in the afternoon. It was very early Wednesday morning, August 18th. I was depressed and worried that I had made a terrible mistake. I was fearful of the new responsibilities, both financial and occupational, that I was to assume upon our arrival in Kansas City. Ann was tired and apprehensive. Our daughters were just tired.
Melanie, our first-born, was in the car with me. Ann and Joanna were in the mini-van following closely behind. As I reflected on what this move entailed, I almost lost control of myself. It’s as close as I’ve ever come to experiencing a nervous breakdown. I was loudly weeping and on the verge of hyper-ventilating. Melanie was obviously concerned about her dad, and distracted herself by opening a going-away gift she had received from the principal of her school. It was one of those verse-a-day calendars that people set on their kitchen counters or on their bed-stand. Needing more than a little encouragement, but with no expectation I’d receive any, I said, “Well, Melanie, this is as big a day as we’ve ever had. We’re moving to Kansas City. What’s our verse for today?” She opened the calendar and turned to August 18th.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the verse for that day was . . . Isaiah 58:11! This was the precise verse the Lord had given me as a special promise at the conference in Houston, virtually five months to the day (as Jack Deere had “unwittingly prophesied”). I felt like I had been hit with a bolt of lightning. Slamming on the brakes, I jumped out of the car and ran back on the shoulder of the highway to Ann who was probably thinking that I had changed my mind about the move. I shouted, “Ann, you’ll never guess what has happened. Today is the day. We’re moving. We’re stepping out in faith. And look at what verse is for today!”
I have no idea how many thousands of verses there are in the Bible. But I do know there are 365 days in the year. You tell me: What are the odds of that one verse appearing on that one day? They are astronomical, no doubt. But to a God who controls the universe and speaks through his people whom he has gifted prophetically, it is a mere trifle. To me, it was stunning, supernatural confirmation that indeed we had heard the Lord correctly and were doing his will.