Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (ESV)
1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
What is your standard for judging something true or Godly? In our culture, we often determine what we will believe based on our own experience of what we consider to be true. This, of course, is central to post-modernity. Post-moderns reject any overarching truth claims in favor of miniature claims of each individual’s experience.
Sometimes this kind of thinking leads people to judge a man to be of God or not of God based on what that man accomplishes. If the TV preacher’s prophesy comes true, if the church growth expert gets a big crowd, if the crusade evangelist has hundreds walk the aisle, then Christians often determine that the man must be from God. How else, they reason, would the person experience such success?
Now, let your mind wander back through the first five verses of Deuteronomy 13. God offers the people a set of very strange circumstances. What if a man claims to be a prophet? What if that man predicts something and it comes to pass? What should we then assume about that man? The answer is this: nothing whatsoever.
The way that we should judge a supposed prophet is not at all based on his success. Perhaps we can prove that a man is not from God if he makes a prophesy that does not come to pass—God was clear about that. However, just because a man predicts something truthfully means nothing. God makes it plain that such a man could very well then turn to the people of God and lead them away from God. No, the way to judge if a prophet is sound has more to do with whether or not his teaching leads the people to obey the commands of God.
So, think through the Bible teachers and miracle-workers you have seen or heard. Don’t judge them to be from God just because of success. Nor should you judge a man to not be from God if his ministry is not huge. Instead, judge a man’s ministry based on the word of God. Is he teaching the word? Is he obeying the word? Is he calling the people of God to the word? If he does these things, he is calling people to God. If he ignores these things, regardless of his supposed flashy success, he is not of God.