I have a good friend who’s been causing quite a stir on Facebook with some unpopular thoughts on biblical interpretation lately. I trust this man’s heart, but I don’t always agree with him. I do always pray about everything that he shares because I know how much time he spends studying the Word of God and sermons from centuries past when the preaching was less polluted with humanism. Sometimes, I find that I disagree with him because what he shares challenges what I’ve always known to be true. I often find in my prayer and seeking that he’s right and I’m … wrong. I had an experience like that this week that I wanted to share.
I’ve been dealing with some issues in my right hip for almost a year now. I’ve spent countless hours on my bed to avoid painful activity, but if I want to eat, I gotta work. I purchased a sacroiliac belt to keep my hip in place and worked through gritted teeth. A month or so ago, I had a week of virtually no pain, so I took off the belt and walked around like everything was normal. Everything was normal for a two weeks.
Then it happened.
My hip didn’t just slip out of place. My spine went with it. I started experiencing excruciating pain in my right leg and knee especially, along with the pain in my lower back from my spine being out of place, and the pain in my hip. I was leaning while standing upright. And I couldn’t walk far without bursting into tears from the pain. This past week, by the grace of God, I was sent home from work two days in a row because I was no good to anyone. I’m a teacher, so I thought I could just get to a chair and avoid the pain of moving until the final bell. But getting to a chair was horrendously painful.
I called my chiropractor last Thursday and he answered the phone … from Navarre, FL. He wasn’t home! Said he wouldn’t be home until the following Monday. Today. I hung up the phone, buried my face in my arms and screamed. The thought of having to deal with the pain four days more without help was unbearable. Little did I know how bad the pain was going to get …
I will spare you the details of sleepless nights and days of trying to get comfortable on my bed. Walking to the bathroom, less than twenty feet from my room, required me to stop halfway there, sink to my knees and cry until the pain subsided enough to keep moving forward. Last evening, knowing I would be seeing the chiropractor shortly after waking up this morning, I knew I had to finally bathe, and because I was up, I went ahead and made something to eat besides toast. I sautéed some veggies, threw a couple eggs on top and steamed them, while running a bath. The trips between the fridge, stove and bathtub were so painful, I had to stop several times, again sinking to the floor and screaming through the pain until it subsided. You might wonder why I didn’t just ask someone to help me. I live with two teenagers. One came upon the sight of me trying to make something for lunch earlier that day and said, “Mom, go sit down. I’ll take care of you.” It was about 12:30. I needed to take some medicine for the pain, which required a stomach full of food.
Around 3:30, I made my own lunch while he was gone.
I kinda gave up on the idea that I have people to help me. When they do, I thank them profusely. When they don’t, I just thank God for every step I am able to take, and every moment that goes by without excruciating pain.
So back to dinner and a bath: I am sharing all of this so you will understand how bad the pain was yesterday. I took my dinner … into the bathroom … and set my plate …
I don’t even want to say it.
… on the closed seat of the toilet. And I sat next to the toilet and clutched the sides while eating my food and waiting for the bath to fill.
Can we just agree that this was the worst moment of my life?
I started to read Acts the other day and got caught on chapter three. I’m sure you can imagine my prayers have bombarded heaven this past week, and my name has encircled the throne of God as my friends and family have lifted me up to the Lord. God is not unaware of my situation. In fact, right now, I have over 100 scriptures pinned to my wall in my bedroom for a book I am working on, and I laid there several days reading through them. One in particular wrapped me in confidence while pain wrecked me.
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Psalm 22:24).
God was hearing me. But He wasn’t healing me. He led me to Acts 3, and left me to wrestle with the story of the man outside the temple who hollered out to Peter and John for money. Peter told the man he didn’t have any money but would give him what he did have: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). He helped the man to his feet, the man straightened up immediately and not only walked, he jumped for joy!
The people saw this and were amazed. They ran to Peter and John, ready to deify them for the miracle they had just witnessed. I can only imagine the disdain on Peter’s face as he said to the crowd, “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his son Jesus … By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:12-13, 16).
This all hit me so hard because I have previously bought into this word of faith movement that tells us to speak to the illness, speak to the demon, speak to the poverty and watch God move. It comes from the scripture where Jesus tells his disciples that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they can speak to the mountain and tell it to move from here to there and it will (Luke 17:6, Matthew 17:20). Over the years, I have shouted at illness, brokenness and demonic activity to little or no avail. You will say to me it’s because I have little to no faith. I will tell you confidently you are wrong. I quit my job once because the Lord told me to, and watched him pay my bills for several years while completely rearranging my life and building my faith. I know God is able, but with all that faith, I still have all these problems. Why?
I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and gradually moved into the charismatic churches. But I have always been very disturbed by the commanding of illnesses and spiritual brokenness with seemingly little to no results. I have taken this frustration to the Lord so many times. He told us to speak to it, right? The problem with the Word of Faith movement is that people are making commands toward money, illness and circumstances with a faith based on their own perceived righteousness. An inner pride that says, “I have enough faith, therefore, I have power over this.”
No, friend. Jesus has power. It is his power and his authority. The disciples didn’t just use his name, they knew him. Jesus told a crowd that in the last days, there would be people say, “Lord, didn’t I cast out demons and work all sorts of miracles in your name?” and he’s going to say to them, “depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23).
You must know more than the name of Jesus. You must know the person of Christ. You must know that the power is not in you or your godliness, but in Christ and his righteousness before the Father. If we want real power back in the churches, real power that can see prisoners set free and the lame walking … if we want the spiritually blinded to see and the dead to be raised, we must relinquish our foolish hold on this prideful idea that we have anything to do with any of this. We must get back to the beautiful, personal relationship with Christ that He desires with each one of us, and we must pray with faith in His name, not in our own abilities, our strong beliefs, or any other thing we have set up in place of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for people who point out our subtle shifts in scripture that create false beliefs. I am thankful for men and women of God who are brave enough to confront false doctrine. I would encourage anyone who feels their long-held beliefs under attack to pray and seek the Father’s face over it, before jumping down someone’s throat in defensiveness. There are men and women of God who have been called to confront lies within the church. They aren’t doing it to hurt you. Trust me, it causes more pain than you know as they wrestle with the Lord, who has asked them to be crucified in public opinions to set captives free. Pray for revelation. Read your Word passionately and diligently and don’t ever assume that the person preaching to you is preaching the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Be like the Bereans, who were considered more righteous because they did not accept everything until they knew it lined up with the Word of God in its entirety (Acts 17:11).
To the men and women called to confront false teaching: be brave! God has a crown of life waiting for you! Pray over what you share and make sure it comes from the heart of Christ. It is easy to become scornful of others who believe fallacies but remember that scripture says that the god of this world has blinded people. Some simply cannot see the truth. Paul says you can have all kinds of knowledge, but if you don’t have love, everything you say and do is worthless. That’s a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13. Pray until your only motive in telling the truth is love for a wayward sheep. Not disdain. Not frustration. Not to be puffed up with divine wisdom. But to love others and guide them into truth.
One day, we will all behold the Lamb of God who was slain for us. Some will stand before him tattered and broken because of the heavy mantle and calling they received to preach to a hardened people. Let us pray He finds them faithful. Others will stand before Him and hear, “Come, thou good and faithful servant.” And they will enter the kingdom of rest because someone was kind enough to confront the lies within the church and set that captive free. All glory and honor to a God who loves us enough to want to spend eternity with such as you and I.