How often does this happen to you: you’re minding your own business, and suddenly God points out someone’s fault to you? Sometimes, it’s a dream or a vision; sometimes it’s suddenly becoming aware of what’s going on around you.
I’m hearing of how God is speaking to people – regular people, people without position or influence – about how individual believers are experiencing trouble or lack from pastors and church leaders.
Clearly, sometimes this is just disgruntled people speaking out. People do that. Why would God point out the failure of pastors and other leaders of local congregations? And so many people dismiss this phenomenon as “not of God,” as if this disgruntlement is the only motivation here. And so people who talk about unlovely things that God has showed them are often labeled as gossips and malcontents or fleshly believers.
Have you read Ezekiel 34 recently? Why don't you read it again, keeping this trend in mind. It’s not a lovely conversation. God himself is calling pastors and leaders to task about how they’re treating the sheep, the believers that they’re called to care for! And he’s not doing it gently. This is obviously a matter that God cares very deeply. But Is God actually gossiping?
Some people – generally people who are enamored with the prophetic or who aspire to be a prophet – read this passage, or hear this complaint from God, and then feel the need to go prophesy it. I understand how “prophesying” what God said is a defense against being labeled (yet again) as a gossip or a malcontent.
But think about it: God tells them something in private, and they feel the need to shout it from the mountain tops. I’d like to suggest that this is not the smartest thing to do.
Actually, I recommend starting with a question, not an action, and this is where it becomes a little tricky; not just any question will do.
We very often are used to beginning with a question from our souls:
■ Our emotions are part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our emotions flare up, and ask questions like, “How could they DO that?” or “That’s icky, why would God show me icky stuff; this must be demons talking to me!” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward accusation of one sort or another.
■ Our minds are also part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our thoughts flare up, and ask questions like, “Where is this in Scripture?” “How does this line up with other principles I live by?” “How do I think I should deal with this?” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward confusion.
■ Our will is also part of our souls, and so when we see, hear or feel something harsh or unflattering, it’s easy to let our choices flare up, and we make choices like, “I must tell someone!” or “I must warn them!” and so it’s easy for the enemy (or my own flesh) to turn it toward manipulation and self-importance.
I’d like to suggest that when God shows us uncomfortable things by the Spirit, that we respond to him with our spirit. In fact, I suggest – and I encourage this as a regular practice – that we ask the question of Acts 16:30: "What must I do?" God, you’re showing me this for a reason. What do you want me to do with it?
Talking about someone’s sin without working toward a solution is pretty much the definition of gossip, and I’m pretty sure that God’s not actually a gossiper. If he’s sharing it with you, he expects you to do something with it. If we stop listening before we get to the application, then we’ve left God in an awkward place, leaving both him and ourselves open to the accusation of gossiping. He’s trying to partner with us, but we run off before there’s been any real partnership.
In fact, it’s not unusual for God to bring up a problem with you specifically so you can help him solve the problem. Ezekiel 22:30 (in context) talks about how God sometimes tells people about icky stuff specifically so that they can “stand in the gap” before Him on their behalf. That’s very often the primary role of intercessors: hear what’s weighing heavily on God’s heart, ask how he wants us to respond, and then respond that way.
I’d suggest that the vast majority of the time, when God shows us something un-lovely, he’s asking for us to bring the thing back to him and ask him to do something in that place. He’s bringing it up so we can pray.
Why does he invite us to get involved? Why doesn’t he just go do it himself? He can’t, not without going back on his own word. Psalm 115:16 says, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.” Stuff in the realm of Heaven is his responsibility; stuff on earth is our responsibility.
This responsibility started back in Genesis, chapter 1; that’s pretty early. In v28 he assigned rulership of physical creation to Adam & Eve. If he steps in and does things without consulting with the delegated rulers of the planet (the race of Adam & Eve), then he’s stepped outside of the way He himself set things up to be done. Who can trust a leader – divine or human – that gives us responsibility for something, but keeps the authority for doing it to themselves? That’s not smart.
The ministry of intercession is a very important ministry. When God shows you a problem, begin by asking him for the solution to the problem. “What must I do?” is a really good starting place.
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