One who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.  1 CORINTHIANS 14:3

Paul tells us to eagerly pursue the gift of prophecy (see 1 Corinthians 14:1). In response, many believers have spoken judgmental words of correction or demanding words of guidance to the people around them. Perhaps they imagine God as angry and harsh, or as someone entirely interested in obedience and works, so the only words they can conjure up about His will are commands that require compliance.

But Paul is clear what prophecy should accomplish in the life of the receiver. It should strengthen, encourage, and comfort. It should find hope in the recipient’s future or treasure in his or her calling. It should build up rather than tear down, heal wounds rather than create them, pull us forward rather than harping on the past. God’s voice is a balm, not a battering ram. He embraces His children with warmth.

It’s true that God corrects us sometimes, but only as a loving father corrects a child. His discipline always comes with heavy doses of encouragement and comfort, and rarely through the mouth of another. Prophetic words don’t provoke guilt, fuel fear, or expose our sins to others. God much prefers to cover them in privacy.

So we can expect His voice  —especially His voice as it comes to us through other believers  —to strengthen, encourage, and comfort. And when we speak His heart to those around us, our words will be seasoned with these gentle and affirming tones. If we hear or speak words that don’t have this flavor, they are not from God. Those condemning or fearful words we hear inside of us sometimes  —about how we could have done better or didn’t do enough, or are disqualified from God’s blessings, and so on  —are also not from Him. Why? Because God speaks life to us, not death. Whatever He says to us will be strengthening, encouraging, and comforting.

Lord, open my heart to accept the blessings of Your voice, and close my heart to false, condemning words. Help me to recognize the warmth of Your love when it is spoken to me.

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