I love the story of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, who had become a Christian and started going to a local Church and reading his Bible (not a bad start!) and he felt more and more concerned with the disconnect between what he experienced in the Church meeting and what he read about from the pages of scripture, so he asked the question:
“er…when do we DO the stuff?”
To which he was greeted by a somewhat perplexed look from the minister and the congregation, “The Stuff?”
“…You know, THE STUFF”…
What he meant was things like “healing” and answers to prayer, “prophecy, words of knowledge, tongues, discernment” -which is there is the Bible but often not sadly not actively pursued in our Churches our the everyday life of many Christians.
The Bible is expectant of the supernatural to be part of the everyday experience of God’s people (both as individuals and corporately).
I once preached that “the only difference between us as the Disciples in the book of Acts is simply time”, God hasn’t changed nor his power diminished… Yet our Churches and my own personal life feels vastly different from the book of Acts, why is that?
Firstly it isn’t safe. I remember someone prayed for me about Allana and I having a baby, and I was really grateful that they did, but it was risky, what if it didn’t happen? Fortunately God blessed us with a wonderful daughter Hope, but on another occasion, we had a miscarriage (early stages) and people prayed that the baby would be okay and it wasn’t. Sometimes we see wonderful answers to prayer, and God does amazing things, and that is wonderful, and other times we don’t see the healings we have sought God for (for whatever reason, and to be honest I don’t really know). It is dealing with the real, the deep, the personal stuff which really matters… It is much safer just to waffle on with a sermon telling us to be nice to everyone, rather than deal with the real and knotty issues of real life.
The Area Dean, Si Jones once said that “when we didn’t pray for anyone nobody got healed, now we try and pray for everyone and sometimes people get healed”.
John Wimber said “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.
Risk of looking foolish or crazy!
Risk of upsetting people!
but also the risk of seeing God do what we can’t do and intervene and tranform the most desperate situations.
I want to be someone that risks praying Godly, knowing he loves his people and has the power to heal and transform.
I remember praying for someone with a really bad back, and suddenly they got really excited, telling me their back was getting hot and was feeling better… I’ll be honest I was more shocked than them. A reminder that I need to pray with expectation that God is going to work.
This morning we had a guest speaker, Andy Bidds, who told about praying for healing for a guy with calipers on his legs, and nothing happened, but in Bidds praying for him this guy really felt God’s love in a really special way, sometimes God does something we don’t expect.
Yet I want to be unsafe, in so much as we talk about real stuff and we pray with faith into real life and risk disappointment in order to have the expectancy of wonder and blessing.
I’m a Vicar, and as a breed we are a bunch of control freaks, but the truth is we are not supposed to be in control, God is, and following a real God who speaks and answers prayer often is a step outside our comfort zone.
The guy whose going to be Vicar at the Church my Dad has retired too, told me the story of getting into trouble from the Chaplain for praying for someone to be healed on a hospital chaplaincy placement at college (the one Sam goes too) the problem was the guy was healed, and so the chaplain wrote a letter of complaint to the college!!
It is safe and more comfortable not to step out the boat, not to believe God can or does these type of things, and pretend that Jesus didn’t say “with God all things are possible” and cross out of our bibles verses like “God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine”. Yet being a Christian is sometimes neither safe or comfortable.
Theologically we are told in scripture we have “the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead” active in our lives, “he (the Holy Spirit) that is in us is greater than he that is in the world” in fact the Bible makes the audacious claim that we will do “greater things than him (Jesus)”.
I want to end with the passage of scripture which changed my view of God doing supernatural stuff, it comes from the story of Abra(h)am and Sara(h) and they recieved a prophecy that Sara(h) would have a child, and her reaction was to laugh and the Lord asks her “why did you laugh?” -If we believe God created the world, raised Jesus from the dead and did what he says he did in the Bible, why can’t he do real stuff in my life and the peoples lives around me.
Lets pray riskily, let’s be bold, and let’s have stories of unexpected fruit.
Even if people don’t receive the blessing we would love them too, praying and loving them will bless them, on one sense nothing to loose, but everything to gain.