”Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
– Hebrews 12:1-2
Received wisdom tells us that the future is a nebulous, blurry thing. We think of our current circumstances as a solid rock, a firm place to stand, imagining negotiating our way forward through fog, across uncertain terrain. It’s a mindset that makes actually thinking about the future something that fills us with dismay — it’s just so out of focus, or so far away, that we can barely make it out. How do you prepare for something that you can’t see?
Part of the problem is that we can be easily discouraged about who we are in the here and now. The world can give our spiritual identities a serious pounding over time, and that solid rock we’re standing upon can feel distinctly like quicksand. Scouting the path ahead while we feel as though we’re floundering can be a dizzying and uncomfortable prospect, and it can sap our will to move onwards and upwards.
God sees our problem, and typically, has come up with a perfect, and perfectly elegant solution to it. Faced with an uncertain future, He simply provides a promise and an outcome: He removes the uncertainty from the equation. Faced with a murky, unstable identity in the present, He simply invites us to get excited about how we will develop towards the outcome that He has spoken over us. God makes the future now, and the present the shape of things to come.
Any vision of the future that we received must have a significant impact on who we are right now — that means that prophecy isn’t just about what will be, but is also about what is. We are in Christ, and the prophetic part of His nature within us empowers us to interact with our own futures, in fellowship with God in the present. Through prayer and worship, we’re able to explore God’s plans for us on a creative, imaginative level. God’s promises aren’t pie in the sky: they’re intended to be realized in our lives. In a very real sense, that future He sees for us is His present, and when our sanctified imagination touches upon the future that He describes to us, we’re actually dreaming the Lord’s own vision as He sees things — seeing what He’s seeing, thinking what He’s thinking, experiencing what He’s experiencing. That place of favor isn’t some barely possible possibility, but something real, something that can be grasped.
When God highlights scripture to us, He’s often creating a personal, relational link for us to seize and identify with: telling a story that’s intended to hit touchstones within us, the building blocks of our identity in Him. God understands the power that inspiration can have to transfigure attitudes and perspectives — it’s why He made a part of Himself a transformative, visionary Spirit, after all. When you’re gifted with a word that is illustrated with a parallel outcome from scripture, you’re being gifted the character of that chapter and verse — their story becomes your story. For example — if given Numbers 13 and 14 and the story of Caleb, you’re being gifted an encounter with God on a similar level as ‘the man of a different spirit’. When you partner with the Holy Spirit, you’ll be working together to cultivate whatever identity the Father chose to gift to you.
God has designed our future in order to make our present utterly brilliant, and prophecy is the art of delivering that brilliance to us: bringing God’s voice from future to present day to illuminate the path we have to follow. From the moment that prophecy is spoken to the moment that prophecy is fulfilled is a process of becoming, of blossoming. Everything we are between those two magical moments should be sacrificed to training to make the most of this most glorious gift. It’s our proving ground, where we cultivate the faith, focus and favor to move in the Spirit at greater and greater levels, swelling to fill a capacity that the Father saw in us from the very beginning.
Fundamentally though, everything begins and ends with God. Jesus is both the author and the finisher of our faith, remember? That’s like being both the writer and director of the film of our lives — God is the auteur, originating the creative kernel, shaping it into the outline of a narrative, then carefully shepherding it to full realization as the finished product, a cinematic triumph. The premiere of that movie is our finishing line: that’s the moment of fulfillment that He intends for us to reach, and when we begin with a glimpse of the finished product and are allowed to work our way back towards the present, we properly understand our own personal narrative and how it was constructed. We can then partner with the Holy Spirit to get from the moment of creative spark to the moment of divine fulfillment. God created us in His own image, and using His own imagination — it’s perfectly in keeping with His character to use our own imagination to rehabilitate our self-image.
So, if the outline of our story is already written, isn’t it time that we understood it, stepped into it and began partnering with God in the unfolding process? Read through the words spoken over your life, and list the words and phrases that stand out for you. Those descriptions of identity, those promises — they all belong to you. Dream a little; imagine yourself becoming the person that they describe. Write it all down, and begin a whole new chapter.