FALSE PROPHETS OF ‘SUCCESS’
“I prophesy that all your financial burdens will be lifted today! You will never know poverty again and those who have been against you will come and honour you before the end of the year. Success will be yours from now on! Just type a big ‘I RECEIVE IT’ and your blessing will start to flow!”
There are many, many messages like this in Christian Groups on Facebook. If you are attracted by the message above; if you believe the message above, then you have let yourself be deceived. You are not living by the word of God; you are ignoring the word of God as you follow after a ‘short cut’ to fulfil your own personal desires for blessing and money. These words do not feed faith in God – they feed our own desires! It is bad enough that men are misusing the name of the Lord to make empty promises, to raise false hopes, to deceive people, but what is heart-breaking is that many, many thousands of Christians really believe this nonsense and these lies. They type ‘Amen’ or ‘I receive it’. One post showed the picture of a new car, another post a picture of a box full of money, and they are asked to ‘claim’ this if they want it by typing ‘Amen’. And hundreds of people (Christians?) type ‘Amen’ thinking that the Lord will provide this for them because they have ‘claimed’ it! The love of things – of money and outward blessings has made people leave the Word of God. Instead of feeding people with the word of God, these false prophets are stirring up the love of things and greed, and they are feeding this greed with these false promises and unbiblical methods. Of course we can pray that the Lord will bless others deeply and meet their needs and God ‘is able to do exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or think according the power that works within us.’ And we can encourage each other with the word of God, but these false prophecies by their methods lead people not to wait patiently on God, not to put their trust in Him, not to trust in His word but to chase after those things they long for to get them as quickly as possbile! And this is what the Bible tells us about. Paul says,
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;” (2Tim 4:3).
And we are now living in such a time! You see what the apostle Paul is saying? Some believers, because of their own desires and lusts, will look for and follow after ‘teachers’ that will tell them what they want to hear! This is exactly what these ‘preachers’, ‘prophets’, ‘evangelists’ and ‘apostles’ are doing, feeding the carnal lusts of believers who don’t want to live by the word of God.
I shall explain why these are false prophets in a moment. I am writing this because it may be that you follow this kind of thing because you see others do so. Or maybe you have questions about this but are not sure because some well-known preachers are promoting this. Or maybe you are young and just now sure. Or perhaps there is still some sensitivity in your conscience for the word of God to reach you. Well, for these believers I want to give a Biblical basis for their faith and to warn them against following such deceptions. My prayer is that some will turn away from these lies and not be blinded by them, because the result of this kind of teaching is that, “they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2Tim 4:4).
The other thing I want to point out is that we should not be surprised about such things. I have already quoted 2 Timothy above. But Paul makes clear that those who look on the ‘outward things’ and who are impressed by people who make themselves appear important by their ministry, such people make themselves ready for deception. They are ready to receive ‘another Gospel’, another ‘Jesus’ and another ‘spirit’. And he is talking about believers! He is talking about Christians who were saved under his ministry! It wasn’t that they were possessed by demons; it was because they had the wrong attitude and it was because of their wrong attitude that the devil could deceive them.
“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? … But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ… For if he that cometh preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself,…” (2 Cor.10:7; 11:3,4,20).
Paul is very clear about the preachers who were leading them astray! You can read about them in 2 Cor. 11. If we listen to people who exalt their own ministry by claiming to be some kind of prophet, then we are in danger of receiving ‘another Jesus’ and ‘another gospel’ – the prosperity gospel – and another spirit. I am not fighting about words. I am not trying to turn you to another kind of teaching. I want to direct our hearts and minds to the word of God and to live by the word of God.
So why are these people wrong who promise or prophesy to you that things will change in your life? Because there is nothing like this in the Bible. They have no power or authority from the Bible or from the Lord indiscriminately ovyo ovyo tu to tell people (who they do not know) that they will now be successful in many areas of their lives, just because the prophesy or promise it or because people type ‘Amen’! Like men in 2 Cor.11, the might say they have been called and empowered by the Lord to bind and release things in heaven and on earth. You cannot be called to do something that is not taught in the Bible! How many people will read their Facebook posts? Hundreds? Thousands? Are they saying that everyone who believes their words will have success, joy and victory this year and shall be free from poverty for ever! It is a lie. They promise all sorts of things – financial success, visas, job promotion, a new house, health, joy, a new anointing, being popular with other people, etc. etc. Of course people want these things. That is why they become trapped by these empty promises. To some extent we can liken these false prophets to the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day. They prophesied ‘blessing, blessing’ and ‘peace, peace’ quite randomly out of the imagination of their own hearts in order to please the people, but of course they were simply deceiving them with the consequence that they wouldn’t listen to the word of God. So both together – prophets and people – ignored God and His word and in the end refused to listen to Him. The people just longed to hear and to have ‘blessings’ and to have ‘nice word’ spoken to them. Very much like today.So the first thing I want to say is that you cannot promise these things to people you don’t know! A test of a true prophet is that the things he prophesizes will come true. Without a doubt, these extreme promises will not come true in the lives of the many people who believe such posts. If certain individual believers are blessed it is because of the goodness and grace of God in their individual lives, not because of those false promises. But basically these vain promises will have no effect apart from making people feel better for a short time! If people are blessed, it is because of other reasons – and we will look at these reasons in a moment!
I challenged one person who was ‘prophesizing’ such things. He told me he had been given power to bind anything in earth in the name of the Lord and this was the ministry the Lord had given him. I told him that I visit villages in Tanzania and I meet many really poor people. I told him that life was difficult for them and that it was not their fault that they are poor. So I invited him to come with me to visit these people and to ‘prophesy’ prosperity and success for them if he has this ministry of ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’. Of course, I knew he wouldn’t agree because I know, and deep in his heart he must know, that his words or prophesies will have no power in the lives of those poor people. He answered that he didn’t want to use his ministry to promote or glorify himself, so he wouldn’t come with me. This confused me. How is it that to make a prophesy to thousands of people who you do not know in different Christian groups on Facebook is not to promote yourself, but to visit a few ‘real’ people who are poor is to promote yourself! This did not make sense to me, but of course it was no surprise! It is EASY to make these promises and prophesies on Facebook because no one can really check if the lives of the people have been changed in the way that was promised! People who have jobs in cities usually have better opportunities also to improve their lives, so changes in some lives can come from such opportunities rather than from these false promises and prophesies.
This person also said that if people live in poverty, the causes of this poverty are in the ‘spiritual world’ and you have to deal with the spiritual reasons first. Now I do not agree with this but if this so, then I am again confused, because he had told me that as the Lord’s disciples we have the authority to bind and loose anything on earth. So why can’t he come and use this authority to bind the spiritual causes of this poverty? But on the other hand, his answer proves what I have been saying above. Namely, you have to know something about the background of the people you are ministering to before you start promising them specific things or praying for them! How can he or others promise people things on the internet when they know nothing about the people? It is complete confusion and deception. Paul tells the Philippians that He that has begun a good work in them shall complete it in the day of Jesus Christ (Phil.1:6) How does he know this? He says that it is right that he feels this way about them because he ‘has them in his heart’! What a wonderful thing this is! Paul loves these believers and is praying for them and is able to communicate encouragement and the word of God to them – because they are in his heart! The apostle John prays for Gaius (3 John 1:2), “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Again, John is saying these things to someone he knows and please notice, he prays this; he is not prophesying. Of course we can pray for people, but these people on Facebook go further than praying. They say, ‘I prophesy…’. Why do they do this? Because they want to create an expectation in the reader that this is really going to happen! A prophecy is something that comes true! It is a strategy to deceive people. Even though such people want to encourage others, they are still deceiving people because this strategy of promising / prophesying people success in every area of their life without reference to the word of God, without any reference to the spiritual condition of the people they are speaking to, without any knowledge of the thousands of people that will read your post, is unbiblical.
Moreover, they promise impossible and totally unbiblical things to people they don’t know, like, “The joy of your salvation shall never dry up.” Really? That depends on your spiritual walk before the Lord, not on someone pretending to prophesy it on Facebook! “I decree you access to divine wisdom.” You decree it? You cannot! God has already given us access to His wisdom! If we ask Him in faith He said He will give us wisdom liberally! (James 1:5,6) “Your prayer life will never be troubled again.” Again, this depends on you walking spiritually and living spiritually before the Lord. “Receive an outpouring of the spirit of obedience.” Obedience is something the Lord expects from us because of His grace towards us and because of the Spirit He has already given us! It’s not a spirit that is outpoured! “All those enemies that fight against you shall be destroyed.” The word of God teaches us to love our enemies, not to seek their destruction! These false prophets are saying things that are completely unbiblical. They are just pulling things out of the air, anything that comes into their minds that they believe will tempt people into their web of lies.
The second reason why these kinds of posts on Facebook – or anywhere else – are wrong is because of what I have just said above, namely, they do not present people with the word of God. They present people with what they naturally want and ask them to ‘claim’ it. This is nowhere done in the Bible. The blessings of God for a Christian come from what God has done for us in Christ and from believing, loving and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. Nowhere in the Bible does a prophet suddenly make promises that anyone who claims it will now have success in their business, will soon have a miracle that will surprise them, will never know poverty again etc., without any reference to the context of the lives of those people! You cannot find this nonsense anywhere in the Bible.
Someone else told me that such ministries are there to encourage people who may be feeling discouraged. This brings me to the most important part of why this method of ‘encouraging’ people is a deception and fits into the category of 2 Tim. 4 which I quoted above. These posts on Facebook generally do not use the scriptures of the Bible to encourage people. As I have shown in the examples above they make general statements about the success people will have in every area of their lives. For example, “I prophesy that from now on success will begin to follow you and shall never depart from you in the name of…”. This ‘prophesy’ does not contain any scripture or any truth from the Bible! It promises great things without any conditions at all! Success for the rest of your life is there for you – just believe it and claim it! This is deception.
If we want to encourage believers then what is better than the word of God? God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” “He makes a way where there is no way…”. “Lean not to your own understanding but trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation.” What better encouragement can we have than God’s own words? Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are Spirit and Life.” (John 6:63). But these ‘prophets’ avoid using the life-giving words of God. Why? This answer is simple. Because the scriptures direct our hearts to God (not to things), to put our trust in Him, to wait patiently for His provision for our lives! The word of God also tests our faith and love. “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or no. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Dt.8:2,3). The word of God directs our hearts to love and trust God more than outward things. The word of God does not feed our greed or desire for things.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content… But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Tim 6:6-11)
The Bible doesn’t teach us, ‘Seek success and believe for success with all your heart and you will find it!’ It teaches us simply and powerfully to seek first the Kingdom of God! We can see that the word of God does not stir up our desire for earthly things! It doesn’t promise us the things we want to have. It assures us that God is with us and that He will provide us with all we need, not all we want! The reason that people like these kind of false ‘prophecies’ and are drawn (kuvutwa) to them is because they offer an easy short-cut to the things we would personally love to have now! We are not told or encouraged to meditate on the word of God and to believe Him, instead, we are presented with a quick fulfilment of what we want by just ‘receiving it’ or ‘claiming it’ or typing ‘Amen’.
I hope you can see how all those false promises are contrary to the Word of God. The great error and deception is that they rob us of godly contentment. Rather than making us content in God they stir up our desires for success, riches, ‘blessings’ and for earthly things. Paul testimony was this, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)
Is this your testimony? Does your contentment come out of your relationship with the Father and the Son? Is Jesus truly enough for you when things are difficult? Are you loving Him with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and trusting Him to lead you, bless you and provide the things you need at the right time? Then you will not be drawn by or led astray by those empty promises. In Christ you will know that God the Father has already blessed you with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ! You live in Christ and Christ lives in you and He is the greatest treasure you have!
THE SIN AND IDOLATRY OF FORTUNE-TELLING
We live in dangerous days! The scripture says that the end will not come until there is a ‘falling away’ first (1 Tim.4:1). And there are many false teachings today which are leading believers away from the word of God. Some people go one step further than what I have mentioned above. God has specifically forbidden his people to tell fortunes as the heathen do (Dt.18:14; Isaiah 2:6; Micah 5:6; Acts 16:16). In Europe for example, people read newspapers or magazines to read their horoscope. There are fortune-tellers who say they read the stars and then tell people what is going to happen in their lives during that week, month or year. What is amazing is that people who say they are Christians are copying the heathen who use these forbidden practices!
People are offering what they say are prophetical messages for the coming week, month or year – just like heathen fortune-tellers. This is not just deception but it is a terrible sin. Let me tell you that no one has a prophetical message from God for you on Facebook or any other place on the internet about what is going to happen in your life this week or this month or this year. That people can, or do believe in such a sinful practice shows how far we have strayed from the Bible! We never find anything like, ‘This month you will see your business prosper’, in the Bible. Again, these kind of lying prophecies are put on the internet for anyone to read – as though this will be true for anyone with a business! People who do this or believe in this are following ‘another spirit’ and ‘another Jesus’. That anyone should try to justify this kind of sin shows how blinded they have become by the spirit they are following. We are called to love God and trust Him with all our heart! The Bible says, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Mtt.6:34). Why do you want to look into the future? You are sinning against God and you are sinning against your own soul. Of course there is prophecy in the Bible, but it is specific to a person or a group of people in a specific context. It is not general announcement for anyone to read and apply to their lives randomly! It is a confusion, deception and sin.
This article is written to warn those who may have fallen victim to this sin and deception and hopefully to turn their hearts to Christ and His Word!