The gift of prophecy should always reflect the giver of the gift. A prophetic insight or encouragement should always resound with love, for God IS Love. Therefore, to recognize the voice of God is only part of the equation. To understand and respond to how God wants us to deliver a word is important, too. The delivery IS part of the package, and of course we want the package opened by those God intends it for, to feel His heart for them, and His heart is a heart of love.
I had been thinking of letting my immigration law qualification go when an old client and current friend asked me many times to help him. He wanted help with some of his parishioners. He leads an Arabic Anglican Church here in my hometown. Most of came from the Middle East, as refugees. Many were from Iraq, although others were from elsewhere in the Middle East.
I said ‘no’ many times to my friend. I simply did not want to step back into refugee work. It was upsetting and difficult, and I had no desire to go back into that emotional quagmire. I deftly avoided it at all costs until I felt God’s insistent desire for me to return. Two strong words kept resonating through my spirit.
I responded by trying a little harder to squirm off the altar of dying to self. But God can be persistent, stubborn even, so, regardless of the fear of failure, I eventually did what I was told.
One of the first people I helped was a Syrian man. He arrived by boat, spent time in an offshore detention centre, and now lived in Australia as he waited for his case to be decided. When I met him, he was one of the ‘fortunate’ ones. He was free to live in Australian society, pending his refugee claims.
While he waited for his claims to be processed, he arranged for one of his brothers, an Australian citizen, to sponsor his wife and 3 young girls. He had left them behind in Syria, and all four were waiting in an overcrowded refugee camp in Erbil, Northern Iraq. They had no male protection (culturally essential) and his eldest daughter was nearly 13 years of age – the culturally ‘acceptable marrying age.’ His concern for his eldest daughter made my Syrian client incredibly distressed, fearing for her physical safety.
While I can’t say too much more about the case and circumstances, I can tell you that this man met someone that was a part of my friend’s church community. Even though he was a Muslim, the church community loved and cared for him so well he explored the Christian faith. After some time, he committed his life to Christ. This was how my friend came to know about his plight and asked for my help.
It was at a meeting with him I met another of his brothers. This brother had also fled Syria by boat years prior. They kept him in an ‘onshore’ detention centre, but the Government granted him protection, and with it came Permanent Residency.*
His brother was younger than my client. Gentle and well read, he had done his best to make a good life in Australia. He worked hard in what I think may have been various low-skilled jobs.
We were tired after hours of clarification. It was a long, tedious process for us all. As I finished the meeting, I summed up in the way I always do with my refugee clients. I confirmed that getting a protection visa was like winning the lottery – therefore, they should pray for the case. My client nodded enthusiastically in agreement, but his brother looked at me. He said,
‘After everything I have seen, after everything I have experienced, I am an atheist. I do not believe in God. I am no longer a Muslim and I have no interest in a God that demands people believe in Him, and they then do such terrible things to each other. There is no interest in me for a God that allows such terrible things to occur.’
The sadness and bitterness of what he had been through, what his country had been through, was clear in the anguish that flashed across his face.
‘I understand why you would feel that way,’ I said.
I leaned into the heart of God for him.
‘It would tempt me to feel the same way. I believe in a good God. The God I believe in does not condone violence. The God I believe in grieves for how we treat each other. What has happened in Syria and in Iraq was not His will.’
I briefly explained God gave us free will. He loved us so much He refused to force us to believe in Him. Love forced is not love at all, I explained. A loving God does not demand love, which would be manipulation and control.
I said, my God loved us so very much that He sent His one and only son to die on the cross so that we could choose to believe or not. He wanted us to come to Him, and He paved the way for us to come.
I said the God I believed in gave the freedom to choose to believe or not to believe. However, He wanted us to know Him, so He desired us to believe, to accept the gift of a relationship through His son. My God loved us so much that He died in our place, for us to be free to choose.
I went on.
‘We are to respect and honour those that do not choose to believe. We are to love them, regardless, and we are not to force or manipulate them into believing what we believe. I believe my God’s heart breaks as He witnesses the cruelty in so many places around the world.’
To be honest, I can’t quite communicate what came out of my mouth, but the Holy Spirit rode forth on my words. As I spoke and told him about my God, and His love, and how He provided freedom to choose to love Him, the brother’s face softened, and he quietly looked at me.
‘I would like to believe in a God like that. He sounds too good to be true.’
‘You have been through so much and I understand why you would want to reject God for the pain and suffering and injustice. But whether you believe is a matter of eternal life and death. Therefore, it is very important you explore this thoroughly, just as your brother has.’
‘I would like that,’ he said.
‘I like to read and I like to think.’
He asked if there was something he could read. I promised him a copy of ‘A Case for Christ,’ by Lee Strobel and encouraged him to seek more clarification from my minister friend at his brother’s church.**
As we said our goodbyes, I offered to pray for him.
He agreed, and so I laid my hand on his arm and prayed. Inviting the Holy Spirit, he suddenly looked at me in astonishment.
‘I feel heat. It’s hot, I feel all hot.’
He looked hot and was suddenly sweating profusely.
‘Now that is God,’ I said.
‘That’s the Holy Spirit. God is letting you know He is real, and he is inviting you on a journey to find Him. He is pursuing you because He loves you.’
I promised again to send him the book and encouraged him to search out the truth of who Jesus was, is, and is to come.
I affirmed God is always good, and I said my goodbye.
We are called to convey the message of Jesus Christ with love, respect and honor. Recognizing the voice of God in our lives is the first step. The next is to know how to communicate the message. We do this by asking God how the package needs to be delivered, what form it should take. We do not compromise our message; but we customize it, so those who hear it may receive it well. Culturally, this man needed another man to lead him, not a woman. I had gently discussed and recommended books. I showed the love and power of God through prayer. Beyond that, I knew I needed to be culturally sensitive. In the same way, we need to customize our prophetic encouragement so it is a gift for the receiver, and in order that it reflects the giver of the gift – Love. The prophetic gift truly becomes a gift when we give a prophecy away to another. To package it so the receiver is able and willing to receive it is part of the gift. To know how to deliver the message is what we need to grow into. In this way, all those who come into our influence will taste and see that…
God is Good!
Though I am free of obligation to anyone, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), to win those under the law. To those without the law I became like one without the law (though I am not outside the law of God but am under the law of Christ), to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some.
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
* Note: culturally, this man needed a man to lead him, not a woman. I believe we need to be culturally sensitive to those we reach out to in the name of Christ see above mentioned scripture.
© Beth Kennedy 2023
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