Oct 12, 2007

you asked for it: 'cuz i gotta have faith

My buddy Doug has a juicy topic here: "People a little more in the Pentecostal camp than I like to "proclaim things in faith", saying that they believe that God is going to do X or Y. When X or Y doesn't happen. Then what? Did they not have enough faith? Did God fall through on them? Did they have no business asking for X or Y in the first place? Is God not supposed to be our sugar-daddy in the sky? D-Fresh"

I covered some of this in the miracles post, so let me add a short story and additional thought at the end.

Just after my wife and I were married, we served in a little church in a little city in the middle of nowhere Indiana. (Sorry about that, Derek)

In the process of signing on we learned that the senior pastor's wife had cancer... something that was very sobering for many in the church. It was obviously something that at times was conversation, while on other occasions very much an elephant in the room. It was rare that we would see her on a Sunday morning, even though the house/parsonage was located on the property.

One day in the middle of it all, the pastor proclaimed that his wife would be physically healed - that her cancer would go away and she would come back to a normal life as she had before. Well, let me tell you something, sir... suddenly that little country church seem to take on a life it never had as his loud voice echoed a hope that we all wanted to taste the reality of... "certainly God will do this."

We prayed... we believed... we prayed some more... we believed some more. If only we would have enough faith... "certainly God will do this."

We busted out the oil... the elder board came and prayed over her... we sang songs about God's healing... "certainly God will do this."

Only... He didn't.

One day Carol passed away and on to be with God.

For quite a few, there was this nagging question... "Why?" Those older in the faith had an "I knew it," in the spirit, while others younger in their faith asked, "Does God even care? What does that say about prayers and faith?"

Then the explanation came.

God "had" healed her, but it was by taking her on to be with Him in heaven.

This messed with everyone even more.

By the way, this wasn't a Pentecostal church. (Maybe that was our problem.)

I share that story because the running theme I see in this area with God is that whether it's the issue of miracles or grace, God always gets to make the final call. That doesn't mean He doesn't desire the dialogue or our request in prayer, but we have to remember that there is a goal He has in mind for all of creation and at times someone's loss may mean another's gain. We see this in everything from how one person's death who is a biological donor can save many, many lives to how those attending a funeral can place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the difference is instead of saying, "God will" we should say "God can, as He wills." For instance, I "can" drive my kids to Disney World today... will I? That's another story. Even if my kids claim that I am with all the passion, I still get to make the final call. Sometimes their persistent asking wins out (mostly for Chuck E Cheese and Smoothie King - we haven't yet been to Disney World with them). This happens not because they guilt me into it or nag me, but because I love them and truly do want to see them maximized in all their joy.

Sometimes, though, that money/effort is earmarked for something else... something better, even if they can't see it, and so as a loving father I have to say no.

Many who argue the "name it/claim it" stance often quote this passage from Matthew 18:18:

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Another way it reads in the original Greek, though, is as follows:
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.
You will often find the former listed in Bibles with a footnote that the latter is "another way" of reading it. So whether or not the original language indicates the tense here as periphrastic-eternal (meaning, all that's been "bound" already has) or should be taken as literal-present (meaning all that is to be bound is dependent upon us asking for it), in either case the intention is to say that Peter is to act according to heaven's instructions.

By the way... yes, that's a Bible verse involving something said to Peter.

Perhaps we can still pray in the same context with the same hope and God-empowered/Jesus-provided/Spirit-guided authority, but that was a conversation with one disciple in particular.

Perhaps a whole other topic just started right there. ;)
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Really great post. This addresses one of the "biggies". I always heard that God answers every prayer in one of three ways: Yes, No or Wait. But if the answer is wait then eventually it turns into a yes or no...

brian said...

Yea and sometimes that wait isn't anything we see until heaven. Maybe even then the answer is "you don't get it and probably won't."

Heather said...

i'm likin' these "you asked for it" posts.
this is a hard issue. i'm not a fan of the "name it and claim it" ideas, but in my life i have had times (i'm thinking of one in particular) where i felt a peace that God would answer my prayer even by a specific time frame--and he did (although i didn't realize he had for several months after that!), times when i felt ignored, and times when i felt like he gave me the complete opposite answer.
i guess powerful and effective doesn't mean "get what you want."

Robert said...

you sure do have a giftedness mister thank you for engaging in such a meaty thoughtfilled series here. Do you want me to pray that you will be put on TBN??? lol jezz keeding btw if you get a chance take a peek at my place and my post on realized eschatology send me an email of your thoughts cant wait to read your next installment of you asked for it

Tony Myles said...

Intriguing commentary here, guys.

- Barbara: I like that summary... sometimes I've found he doesn't answer prayer with anything other than silence. In those instances I wonder if He wants me to defer to the last thing He said.

- Brian: I like that!

- Heather: I'm liking this series, too. And it sounds like we've had similar experiences with God's different responses.

- Robert: I will happily stop on by! But please... no TBN. ;)

Russell said...

Tony- Great post. I had wrestled with this topic for a while too. But it just clicks when one realizes the woman's healing came in the form of admission into heaven. How selfish we can be sometimes, assuming the best thing we've got going is our own physical lives here on the planet.
I recently spent a week speaking on prayer at a summer camp, and the biggest thing I learned was, "What if prayer changes us more than anything else?" And your story is a perfect example of that... Again, thanks for sharing.

The Momma said...

I've been on the fringe of a group that had the same thing happen to them (believed someone would be healed in this life and then came death.) It can be a faith shattering event. Very shattering.

Thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post on my question. As ussual, a helpful and faith strengthening post.

Could I extend my question a bit?

What about when things drift in to the realm of the prophetic. It weirds me out, but biblically, people can still have that gift right?

For example, in the middle of a church service the Holy Spirit speaks to the minister while they are in the midst of delivering a message and tells them "I have a message I want you to speak to a specific person in the congregation. I want you to speak to person X and tell them about Y (insert a personal, intimate detail of their life, perhaps from long ago...something that only God could have revealed to them because no one else could have known). Tell them that they need to do Z, and that this is the reason that God brought them here today to hear this message.

I've been witness to this type of thing recently, and I'm wrestling with it. As you know Tony, spiritually, I'm sort of in a state of recovery, and I'm very wary of putting that much stock in someone else's proclaimed special connection with God. Further, being of "good Wesleyan heritage", stuff like that "ain't supposed to happen" at church. But, then as I read scripture, it's in there (i.e.- see I Cor. 14).

What say you?

Tony Myles said...

I've had at least one, maybe two experiences in my life where someone "prophetically" spoke into my soul... meaning, it wasn't just them saying something but it was me receiving it - as if the Holy Spirit had set up some tin can communication between that person and myself.

Other times, though, I've seen people say that God told them to do something or say something... and I didn't buy it.

We see in the Bible that prophets did two things - forthtelling and foretelling. The former dealt with the ripples of choice - i.e. "If you keep on doing that, then this will happen..." The latter dealt with supernatural insight about the future - i.e. Messianic prophecy.

Does God still use people to do both? I believe so... but I think it can get showy at times and I don't think God's into that per say.

You mention your Wesleyan heritage... be careful not to limit what God can do through His church (because you're never "at church" but rather "are" the church). You might find the heritage you're talking about is less Wesleyan and more "your experience with a particular upbringing from people who believed in Wesleyan theology"

Because Wesley could probably tell you some things about a time on Aldersgate when God supernaturally spoke to him. ;)