Today’s guest post comes from Ekemini Uwan, an MDiv student at Westminster Theological Seminary. You can find more of her writing at Christianity Today, Huffington Post Black Voices, Reformed African American Network, and Sistamatic Theology.
Swiftly and without warning, the end of the year has come upon us. It is the most wonderful time of the year yet, for some of us, it can be equally dreadful. Wonderful, because we are still basking in the intrinsic hope the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ brings into this fallen world. Dreadful, because this is the time of year that our social media timelines, news feeds, and even television commercials teem with declarations from false prophets who boldly prognosticate about the impending new year.
They “decree and declare”—through memes no less—that 2016 is your year! Deceptively they tell their followers to simply “Claim riches, health, and prosperity! Bind death, destruction, and poverty. Do this and 2016 will be yours!” Never mind that they said the same about 2015, 2014, and so on. God is doing a “new thing” in 2016!
What lies! These false prophets give no thought to James’s admonition:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-17)
False prophecy is always rooted in self. It is hope in the temporal, and is void of any gospel hope that lifts our gaze from our circumstances and onto the One who changes the times and seasons (Dan. 2:21). Such prophecy tickles itchy ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4) and leaves those who hunger for its fruits spiritually malnourished.
If one were to do a cursory study on false prophets and false prophecy, you would find an unholy triumvirate of pride, arrogance, and deception that binds them together. In their pride, they falsely prophesy for their own selfish gain (2 Pet. 2:3). In their arrogance, they think God’s delay in punishment is a dismissal of their sinful deeds (2 Peter 3:3-7). In their deception, they prophesy lies saying “peace” when there is destruction all around (Jer. 6:14-15).
After weighing their actions, I echo the prayers of the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12 saying:
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
How easy it is for me to justify myself by pointing the finger at others because I don’t sin in that particular way! Or do I? As I examine my heart and place it in the sieve of the Word, I find that the threefold cord of pride, arrogance, and deception are latent in my heart. I, too, am a false prophet, though not in the traditional sense of the term. To be sure, false prophets deserve the condemnation and judgment that is described in Scripture. It awaits all those who refuse to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. Certainly, I am not twisting Scripture nor leading people to their eternal destruction. But I am wreaking havoc in my own heart.
According to Ed Welch, worriers are false prophets because they live in the future. I readily admit that nothing brings me more anxiety than the inevitable dawn of a new year. I wasn’t always like this, but the optimism I felt in my youth has begun to dissipate with each passing year. When did it start? With my father’s death in 2001? Was it my Aunt’s untimely death in 2014 that quenched the final remnant of optimism that remained? Perhaps it was the loss of dreams and deferred hopes that has left my heart sick (Prov. 13:12). I don’t know where the road turned, but this is where I am. And it is where I prefer to remain because cynicism is easy and it requires nothing of me.
Oh, but the Holy Spirit’s irresistible grace and love will not let go of me! He calls me to relinquish the pride that fuels unbelief in my heart and causes me to doubt God’s goodness toward me. He requires me to crucify the arrogance that leads me to worry and prognosticate doom and gloom over my future – as if by doing so I can add a single hour to my life (Luke 12:25). He calls me to cast off my deceptive prophecies about a bleak future when my whole life has been a grace-case study chock-full of evidence to the contrary. Despite my deliberate attempts to dwell in my self-manufactured pit of despair, the Spirit woos me and beckons me to believe once again, dream once again and hope once again.
But not in a New Year. And not in the smooth words of false prophets and charlatans. No, but in the One who makes everything beautiful in His time (Eccl. 3:11). In the One who exists beyond space and time and yet holds me in His hands (Psalm 31:15). Jesus calls: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) And with the mustard seed of faith in my heart I reply, “yes, I believe, but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).