For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

The city in which I grew up is known to receive snow any month of the year. In fact, it did so earlier this month. This may see crazy to those of us who live in warmer places where snow comes less frequently or not at all. But growing up in Alberta, Canada, I’ve always been fond of the expression: “We have 9 months of winter and 3 months of tough sledding.” That is a joke, but it speaks to the reality of the sometimes harsh and long winters. Snow is a certainty every year, any month of the year at times.

The reality is that the earth needs rain and snow as much as we need the word of the Lord. The farmers complain when they don’t get enough precipitation because their crops won’t grow without it. In the same way we need the word of the Lord for our lives.

The good thing about the word of the Lord is that it will not return empty to God. His written word continues to fulfill its purpose in a myriad of ways to bring people into an intimate relationship with Him. His spoken word into our hearts, minds, and spirits rejuvenates the soul and gives direction and purpose that are necessary for spiritual life itself.

Years ago, actually about 20 years ago now, I received a word from someone that I was prophetic. We both had arrived at the same verse in Isaiah, “A voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’” (40:3) I didn’t know what it meant other than this was the answer the Lord was giving me as I was asked to reflect for a week on my encounter with the Lord that had shook my world upside down. I was told that I was prophetic. What did that mean? To someone who had always pursued healing, I was receiving a gift I did not ask for, even though I had a hunger to hear from God.

Fast forward 20 years. I have the privilege of being part of a prophetic ministry department at Bethel. This is something I never could’ve dreamt or imagined 20 years ago. My life was so different back then. We were just coming off the mission field. Who knew it would lead to California, a state I had never desired to visit, let stand, live in? Now we have lived in California almost 20 years.

The word that was spoken to me revealed something new to me about my identity and purpose, even though I could not see it back then. God’s word has a way of doing that. It caused me to pursue that which God said I was. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, there were many twists and turn in the road, and some sleepless night too as God accomplished in me that which He purposed by His word. He’s not done with me yet.

Sometimes it takes a while to see what God’s word intends to accomplish. But this we know: it will not return to Him empty, it shall accomplish that which He purposes, and it shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it. Take courage! Be patient! Just as surely as snow comes in Canada, God’s word will not return to Him empty.

By Ralph Veenstra