Discerning Times and Seasons – A Word by Nathan Shaw
God’s prophetic time clock is ticking. He is aligning the nations for His, and their, purposes. When we prophesy over individuals, churches, cities or nations, it is important to discern the season each is in. In fact, releasing accurate prophetic information, without correctly discerning the season, can cause much harm. It is easy to assume that other people, churches etc. are in the same season that we are in. Succumbing to this mistake can result in giving a wrong word, or even a right word, but with a wrong emphasis.
Natural Seasons and their Unique Characteristics
Cooperating with natural seasons was central to the life of ancient Israel. Natural seasons enable the growth of natural harvests. Spiritual seasons, on the other hand, enable growth and maturity in individuals, churches and nations. There are four natural seasons, each with its unique characteristics:
- During spring, new things spring up.
- During summer, harvest is full.
- During fall, things fall away.
- During winter, everything dies.
Each season requires a unique response:
- You plant in spring.
- You harvest in summer.
- You draw back in fall.
- You weather winter.
In certain ways, natural seasons mirror the seasons we go through as individuals, churches and nations.
Living In Your Season
You can’t manipulate times and seasons. They are God’s domain (Daniel 2:21, Acts 1:7). You can merely discern the season and live in it. Some seasons are short. Some seasons are long. When you are anxious for a God appointed season to shift, you stop living fully in that season. I love the caption that accompanies one of Akiane Kramarik’s recent paintings, “I followed my heart, so it could open a window within a window, season within a season, and light within light.” There are treasures to discover in the season that you are in. Having this attitude means you prophesy and minister from contentment rather than agitation or dissatisfaction (see Philippians 4:11-12).
What season are you in? Make a decision to live in that season. I make a habit of telling myself, “I’m in this season for a reason,” and, “This season is important and I’m going to learn everything I can while it remains.” Knowing the season that you are in has many benefits: You are less likely to fight God’s purpose for your life; you hear God’s voice more clearly; you discern the seasons of others more accurately.
What Can Happen When We Fail to Discern Correct Seasons
Here are a couple of examples of what can happen when a person fails to discern the seasons of others:
A person (or church, or nation) is in a fall/winter season. Everything is falling away and dying. Things are just not flowing and flourishing the way they used to. The tide is out and there is a feeling of emptiness. They receive a prophecy from a person who is in a spring/summer season. The prophecy is full of exhortations to plant, and harvest, and get moving, and take ground. The person receiving the prophecy feels misunderstood, overwhelmed and condemned. They needed encouragement to weather the winter. Now they feel like they are not measuring up to God’s expectations and have somehow stepped out of the anointing that used to be on their life.
A person is in a spring/summer season. Everything is prospering and growing. Whatever they touch flourishes. They receive a prophecy from a person who is in a fall season. The prophecy encourages them to draw back, rest and take it easy. The person receiving the prophecy responds to the word and stops planting and harvesting. The fruitfulness that was to come from this season is greatly reduced.
Know Your Season and the Provision It Brings
God is prophetic. He is a forward thinking God. Each season prepares us for the next one. Provision for present situations is given in previous seasons. This was true of Israel as they possessed the Promised Land. There were three stages to Israel’s journey:
- The deliverance from Egypt.
- The journey through the wilderness.
- The possession of the Promised Land.
Two generations of Israelites were given the opportunity to conquer and possess the Promised Land. Everything the Israelites needed to conquer the Promised Land was given to them during the wilderness season. In the wilderness they encountered God and learned His ways. The first generation didn’t possess the land because they didn’t recognize the provision. The second generation possessed the land because they did recognize the provision. The first generation wanted to escape the wilderness season and return back to Egypt. The second generation were shaped into warriors in the same season. Discerning times and seasons involves knowing the season you are in and discerning the provision within that season.
In Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus addressed seven churches. Although the churches were in the same province, His message was specific for each one. Jesus was sensitive to the unique season of each church. Seasons are part of the process of growth. It is a father’s delight to see his sons and daughters growing, maturing and living in destiny. Our heavenly Father delights when He sees individuals, churches, and nations doing the same. God is training His church to be a prophet to the nations. Discerning times and seasons is a vital part of this job description. It is delightful work because it reveals the perfection and beauty of His ways. The Father’s delight will be displayed in us…and manifested through us.