Father Marcus is a seriously devoted priest who cares deeply about the Lord and about the souls in his flock. One of his parishioners, Maria, is newly diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She’s suffering terribly, treatments aren’t working, and after she spends an hour weeping in Marcus’ office, he is very grieved for her and feels strongly led to give her hope that God will heal her. So he does. He tells her not to give up on the idea of receiving a miracle. Then he prays for her right then and there, lays his hands on her, and really believes that God is going to grant the healing right then. Why else would He be impressing on Marcus so strongly that Maria is going to be healed?
But when Marcus prays, nothing happens. Maria goes home. A week passes. She’s much worse and Marcus is feeling bad that perhaps he led her astray by urging her to hope for a miracle. While he’s wrestling with doubt, a well-known healer named Hank comes to town. Marcus knows that Hank is a pompous glory hog who doesn’t care in the least about honoring God. He’s even heard Hank laughing about how easy people are to dupe. Hank has gotten rich after years of conning people into giving him large sums of money in exchange for Divine healing. While Hank is in town, a desperate Maria goes over to him for healing. She drops hundreds of dollars into the offering plate, Hank picks her out of the crowd, lays his hands on her, says his usual dramatic prayer, and Maria is instantly healed. She’s ecstatic and she tells everyone how the great healer did what Father Marcus couldn’t. When Marcus finds out, he feels confused and hurt. Why would God choose to exalt a jerk like Hank and leave Marcus looking passed over?
Then there’s Pastor Shane. When shady miracle man Darren comes to town to put on one of his famous shows of healing and anointing, Pastor Shane warns his flock to stay away. Darren is not the real deal—he’s a con man who uses shills and phony testimonies to trick people into forking over the cash. Darren’s been asked many times to produce evidence that any of his people were truly healed by him, but he always claims that there are just too many people to keep records on. Meanwhile, Shane knows that Darren’s a wicked man, and Shane feels strongly convicted by God to warn his flock. But despite Shane’s warnings, many of his parishioners go to see Darren at work and much to Shane’s dismay, several of them come away legitimately healed. They aren’t just small miracles, either. One man has his hearing restored. Another his eyesight. A woman’s tumor disappears. Another woman’s baby is cured in the womb. Now many of Shane’s parishioners are saying that their pastor is just jealous of how anointed Darren is, and that’s why he spoke so harshly about the man. Shane feels bitter and humiliated. Why would God punish him for obeying?
Can you identify with Shane or Marcus? Has God ever set you up to look stupid while He publicly exalts some irreverent rebel? Why does God work through rebels, anyway? Why does He allow false shepherds and demon worshipers to look like powerful miracle men? When Yahweh started dishing out the famous ten plagues on Egypt, the sorcerers who Pharaoh kept on staff tried to imitate the miracles using their dark magic. Their point was to mock Yahweh’s power and prove that He was not superior to the gods of Egypt. Obviously Yahweh would never bless such shady intentions, right? And yet after the water in Egypt turns to blood, we read:
“Using their tricks, the magicians of Egypt did the same thing.” (Ex. 7:22)
What is this? And how about the apostle Paul? Yahweh knows that there is nothing sincere about Paul’s conversion to Christianity. He sees the way Paul is bossing Him around and leading the other disciples astray. Paul rejects that Jesus is God, and he rejects the idea that Jesus raised Himself back to life (see The Great Offense of Paul: Rejecting the Divinity of Christ). Instead, Paul says that Yahweh—who is the only real God—raised Jesus, because obviously a mere mortal could not raise Himself (see Who raised Jesus from the dead?). And as Paul goes around soaking in the glory for being Paul, why on earth would Yahweh choose to exalt him? And yet we find God frequently using the arrogant apostle as a prop in miraculous healing sessions. One time He even arranged it so that anyone who touched a cloth that Paul had touched received healing.
God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)
When a man’s already arrogant, how is this kind of exaltation going to help him turn around? But wait—who said God was interested in getting Paul to course correct? And when did God ever say that He will only perform miracles through sincere believers?
Clearing up the confusion and distress that surrounds the issue of God exalting His enemies begins with us Christians recognizing that we’ve put a lot of restrictions on God that He never said were valid. This theory that God would or should only work through serious believers is a fabrication of our own egos. But why do we cling so fiercely to this idea? There are two main reasons. One comes down to basic pride: we want to be the ones in the spotlight. But the second reason is theological: we view God’s miracles as evidence of His favor.
In our previous scenarios, Father Marcus and Pastor Shane are good men who really care about honoring God. Yet they both end up feeling dismayed in their personal relationships with God after Divine power flows through irreverent rebels. Why is this? Because Marcus and Shane are associating miracles with Divine approval. And once they believe that association is valid, they can’t help but conclude that God is commending the rebels and rejecting them. Here’s where both men need to examine their logic process and ask God to show them where the deception lies. When you know that pleasing God is your sincere desire in life, yet you end up feeling like He’s upset with you, you’re putting your faith in a lie. It is soul attitude which God judges us by, and He delights in the attitudes of Marcus and Shane. So why aren’t they able to connect with His delight? Because they’re putting their faith in a lie, and that lie is that God expresses His pleasure with someone through miracles.
UNLEARNING THE LIES
Anytime we stand on the outside of a person and try to assess God’s opinion of them, we are guaranteed to go astray. What can you see about a person from the outside? You can see the circumstances of their life: their health, wealth, and popularity. You can listen to them describe their inner world, although there’s no way to know how honest they’re being. The world is filled with folks who claim to be a lot happier than they are. But suppose a man really is experiencing a cheery frame of mind because he’s rich and popular and in good health. So what? What does any of this prove about God’s view of him? When did God ever say that His opinion of someone could be discerned through their earthly circumstances? When Joseph was thrown into jail for refusing to commit adultery, was God punishing him for taking the moral high road? Of course not. Joseph took a really gutsy stand and greatly honored God in doing so. But God never said that when we honor Him He’ll instantly reward us with earthly perks. As serious Christians, we should know better than this. Abel honored God, and what was his reward? Getting murdered in cold blood by the evil Cain. Elijah greatly honored God in the famous contest on Mt. Carmel only to then plummet into suicidal despair. Clearly it was demons who were bombarding him with fears about Jezebel killing him, yet who was it that let the demons discourage him with such intensity? God, of course. Demons can’t touch us without God granting them access, and He sure let them drag Elijah down into the dumps. And how about Job? A guy loses everything in one horrible moment, and his response is to desperately reach for submission:
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the Name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21)
Who talks like this in the face of such epic tragedy? Certainly not a man who has been taking a casual approach to spiritual growth. Job was hardcore committed, and what was his reward? Getting tortured physically, emotionally, and mentally until he was nearly driven mad. And let’s not forget the four jerks who God brought in to heap condemnation onto Job’s head 24/7 while he sat on his ash heap.
As humans, we want comfortable lives on earth. There’s nothing wrong with this—it’s a desire that God has programmed into us. We care immensely about the state of our earthsuits. We want mental peace, physical health, emotional joy and material abundance. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but there’s plenty wrong with trying to pretend God promised somewhere that He’d give them to us if we made the right spiritual choices. God never made any such guarantee. On the contrary, He’s gone to great lengths to preserve biblical records for us which will steer us away from the erroneous assumption that His pleasure with us can be measured by our earthly circumstances. Abel is the first example we have of any human honoring God, and look what happened to him. It’s time for us to start admitting what God has always taught us: that plenty of times He arranges for the good guys to get kicked in the head while the bad guys thrive.
If Marcus and Shane had a firm grip on the fact that God judges them by their soul attitude, then their confidence in God’s approval of them wouldn’t be shaken by what God chooses to do in the lives of other people. When Marcus prays for healing and God says no, Marcus could accept God’s will without reading personal rejection into it. God certainly was not rejecting Marcus by refusing to do a miracle through him. When Marcus asked for healing, it wasn’t the right time for such healing to occur. But God wasn’t angry with Marcus for asking, nor was He rejecting Marcus personally by not doing the miracle.
False beliefs cripple faith and kill joy. The continuous unlearning of false beliefs is a central theme in spiritual growth. When we first start out in the faith, we’ve got a ton of wrong beliefs about God, and if He pointed them all out at once, we’d be hopelessly overwhelmed. The complete truth is simply too shocking for us fragile humans to grab hold of all at once. We need to be eased in one revelation at a time, and this is what God does for us. He spreads out the really distressing revelations and gives us time to digest each one. And just when we think we’ve got a good handle on who God is, He’ll cause some new false belief to surface from the depths of our theology. We’ll never come to the end of learning with God, and this is a good thing. But to lessen how much time we spend in the midst of faith crises, we need to learn to recognize the signs that God is ready to start correcting yet another error in our thinking.
When Marcus and Shane find themselves feeling despondent and hurt after God heals their parishioners, they need to recognize that negative response as a sign that something is not right. There’s no need to feel down spiritually when we know we’re pleasing God with our sincere devotion. When we do feel down, it’s because God is intentionally arranging circumstances that will draw attention to one of our false beliefs about Him. His purpose is to then help us identify that specific wrong belief and teach us the countering truth.
A MULTI-TASKING GOD
So why does God do miracles through rebels? Why does He do miracles through sincere believers? Why does He often refuse to do miracles through anyone no matter how hard we pray? Why does He sometimes encourage the use of props and other times not? Why does He inflict people with diseases and possess them with demons? Why does He sometimes promise things and then not deliver? Why does He warn us to stay away from something, and then bless those who don’t listen? The answer to all of these questions is the same. God is giving us all opportunities to draw nearer to Him. When we embrace the opportunities, He rewards us. When we reject them, He disciplines us. The problem is that we have such narrow ideas about what His rewards and discipline look like. We also forget to remember that God is a multitasker who is accomplishing many different agendas at the same time. To get a feel for how this works, let’s look at Shane’s situation from God’s perspective.
God is very pleased with Pastor Shane because Shane sincerely loves God and he also says what God tells him to say from the pulpit. Shane seriously seeks God’s guidance before every sermon—he doesn’t just join in popular trends in the main Church. Because Shane is so obedient, God has used him as a powerful instrument in the lives of countless people, but Shane doesn’t realize this because God purposely hides the many fruits of Shane’s labor from him. God is protecting Shane from getting puffed up on pride by not allowing Shane to see the powerful impact his God-led words are having on his flock. From Shane’s perspective, his impact is minimal. When he preaches, he sees yawning and people checking their watches and texting on their phones. A lot of times it’s hard to press on, but he does because God’s convictions are so strong.
Well, Shane’s fabulous obedience has earned him continuous rewards, and those rewards have come in the form of spiritual insights. Shane isn’t rich by any means. His budget is tight, his house is in need of a lot of expensive repairs, his car is a bit of a clunker, his marriage is a struggle, and his kids are going through a phase in which they’ve decided it isn’t cool to be Christian. But while Shane’s earthly circumstances don’t look that great, God is always teaching him and Shane is amazed at how much his beliefs keep changing. He feels like he knows God far better than he imagined he ever would, and he’s got a lot of joy and peace on a deep soul level. No one else can see it, but Shane knows it’s there and he’s far more content with his life than people would expect him to be because he finds his relationship with God to be so satisfying. Then God tells him to strongly warn his flock not to associate themselves with the false healer Darren. Shane delivers the sermon with his usual passionate dedication, and his flock seems surprised. Shane is relieved when the whole thing is over because he finds it uncomfortable to bag on someone else in public, but he had to obey God. When he later hears that a bunch of his parishioners went to see Darren, he’s discouraged. When one of them says, “Pastor, after you made such a big deal out of it we got curious so we just had to check it out,” he feels more discouraged. When the reports come back that some of his parishioners were healed, he now feels betrayed by God. So what is God doing with Shane?
God is very pleased with Shane—so pleased that He’s been giving Shane much more insight than He gives most Christians. Shane’s getting invited closer in all the time, and now God wants to increase Shane’s soul peace by working on some insecurities that He knows Shane has. God knows that Shane still believes on a core level that miraculous power is a sign of Divine favor. Because of this, Shane feels very threatened by the idea that God would ever perform a legitimate miracle through a mere conman. God wants to start working on this issue with Shane, so He brings the phony healer to Shane’s community and arranges for several of Shane’s own parishioners to receive real miracles. Up until now, Shane’s been telling himself that all reports of real miracles through fakers must just be lies. But God knows differently, and He wants Shane to stop feeling threatened by God working through spiritual rebels. By thrusting evidence of real miracles in Shane’s face, God is challenging Shane to rethink the idea that Divine miracles are evidence of Divine favor. They’re really not, and once Shane understands this, his soul peace and joy will become that much more secure. When it comes to God’s agenda for Shane, this whole upsetting experience is about rewarding an obedient soul with new insights that will result in greater security with God. It feels bad at first—but if Shane is willing to engage with God, he’s going to end up with a great gift.
But then there’s Joe. Joe is new to Shane’s church and he doesn’t know that Shane is the real deal. From childhood, Joe was taught that pastors are God’s favorites and that they have more access to God than Joe could ever hope for. He’s been taught that it’s wrong and dangerous to ever go against what a pastor says, and he’s been very discouraged from ever thinking God would give him a conviction that counters what a pastor has said. Well, Joe is now at a point in his walk where he’s really trying to get closer to God. In response to Joe’s eagerness, God has been teaching Joe to stop viewing pastors as His equivalents. God steers Joe into Shane’s church on the very day that Shane is adamantly warning people not to go see the healer. The message stirs up the usual fears in Joe that he should never dare to go against what a pastor has said. But then God starts telling Joe to go see the healer anyway. Joe has a work injury that just won’t heal and it’s been a real burden. Joe would never presume that he’d qualify for any kind of healing, and he feels totally unauthorized to ask for such a thing. But God just won’t leave him alone. He’s gets on Joe’s case so heavily that Joe becomes afraid not to obey. Joe really wants to know God personally, but it’s so hard to think that God would really heal him. And it’s hard not to feel wrong for going against what a pastor has said to do. But the fear of missing out on more of God finally drives Joe to the healer’s convention where, much to his shock, he actually gets healed.
For Joe, this experience is loaded with positive lessons which all center around the theme that God really does lead Joe personally in life, and that He doesn’t view Joe as some lesser member of His flock. God has used the obedient Shane to set up an important growth opportunity for the obedient Joe. Both men are being rewarded for their positive soul response to God, but is this how Shane sees it? No. To Shane, Joe looks like a rebel who got rewarded for blowing Shane off. Yet that’s not at all what happened. Shane doesn’t know where Joe is at with God, and he doesn’t realize that God has actually used Shane to really bless Joe. Do you see how ironic this is? Shane sees the evidence of something really exciting happening in Joe’s life, but he interprets it as a personal slam because he doesn’t understand what God is doing. God isn’t going to explain to Shane what He’s doing with Joe, because it’s none of Shane’s business. But the point is that Shane is totally wrong in his assessment of what is happening because he doesn’t have all of the facts and he’s underestimating God’s skill in accomplishing many positive goals out of a single situation.
But then there’s Brianna. Brianna has been attending Shane’s church for a while. Brianna also has a history of rebelling against God, which is why God plagued her with some intense trials two years ago to get her desperate enough to start looking for spiritual guidance. Then He steered her to Shane’s church where she’s been exposed to all kinds of inspired teaching thanks to Shane’s obedience to God. But has Brianna been listening? Not so much. She did at first, but then God scaled back the trials and she scaled back her interest in pursuing Him. Now she goes to church for the social perks and views Shane as a rather narrow-minded radical. On the one hand, she knows he’s the real deal and she likes to maintain access to him in case an emergency arises. But she’s decided that Shane’s level of commitment is too much to bother with, so she’s coasting and pretending not to hear anything that the Holy Spirit says to her.
Then comes the day when Shane rails on at length about some healer who Brianna heard was coming to town. Brianna’s curiosity is piqued. She’s never seen a healer in action before. After the service, she talks some of the other ladies into going with her to check it out. She doesn’t care about honoring God, she just wants to see some drama. When she attends the convention and sees a bunch of people healed, she’s excited. She decides that this is the kind of Christianity she’s interested in. She wants drama, not endless lectures on pleasing God. A highly social person, Brianna talks with people at the convention and God intentionally hooks her up with a group from a church at which getting drunk in the Spirit is a regular thing. When the convention is over, Brianna leaves Shane’s church and joins the folks who are into Holy Spirit freakouts. Now she’s loving life as she goes from one adrenaline rush to the next, her extroverted nature is in heaven, and she’s telling everyone that her new church is far more fabulous than boring old Shane’s.
So what is God doing here? Well, He’s fed up with Brianna’s consistent defiance, so He’s moving her away from positive influences and surrounding her with negative ones. This is a form of Divine discipline. The theology being pumped out at Brianna’s new church is packed with lies about God which are going to lead her far astray. God is intentionally blocking Brianna from coming closer to Him right now—in fact He’s shoving her away by filling her life with tantalizing deceptions that she just can’t resist embracing. God has been very patient with Brianna but His patience has limits and Brianna has now begun a new descent into serious misery.
But what does Shane see? He hears that one of his consistent attendees blew off his instruction, went to the convention, had a grand time, then changed churches where she’s way happier. If Shane tries to assess this situation with his own limited view, he’ll find it very discouraging. But if he had all of the information, he’d see that God has just done him a favor by removing a bad influence from his flock. Are you getting a feel for how different things are from the Divine perspective?
We could talk on and on about the many things God is doing at Shane’s church, but now let’s give Marcus some help. Marcus is a sincere priest who God is very pleased with. Like Shane, Marcus’ personal life doesn’t look particularly blessed. He’s single, he lives in a modest apartment, and he’s too humble to think he’s an awesome shepherd, but the truth is that God has been using Marcus powerfully for many years. The man is so obedient and so sincere, that he’s like soft clay in God’s hands. All God has to do is whisper what He wants and Marcus rushes to respond. God is thrilled with Marcus, which is why He is constantly teaching Marcus new insights and drawing Him closer in. Like Shane, Marcus has some wrong ideas about God expressing His favor through Divine miracles. Marcus also spends a lot of time feeling burdened by carrying around the troubles of his flock, and these are two issues that God wants to work on with Marcus. His goal is to help Marcus gain more joy, peace and confidence in his own walk with God, so God brings in Maria to sob all over Marcus with an issue that God knows Marcus finds especially distressing: fatal illness.
Because Marcus is such a sensitive and caring soul, he hurts when his flock is hurting. When people cry in front of him, he feels a heavy weight on his own heart which he then has a hard time getting out from under. Marcus’ compassion is good, but he’s overdoing it. He’s not enjoying the freedom of knowing that God is always taking the best possible care of all souls everywhere. Marcus honestly thinks that God wants him to share in the miseries of others when this actually is not at all what God wants. God wants Marcus to learn how to be a compassionate listener without taking on troubles that don’t belong to him. Maria is an excellent exercise in practicing this. When she tells her story, Marcus is deeply grieved. God then starts telling Marcus that he needn’t be so upset because God is taking care of Maria and everyone else. And now to prove to Marcus just how able He is to help people without Marcus’ assistance, God announces to Marcus that He plans to heal Maria miraculously. He tells Marcus to share the good news, which Marcus does. Marcus then assumes that God is going to do the miracle through him. It’s a wrong assumption, but God doesn’t correct it. Instead, He lets Marcus go through the motions of trying to help, only to have nothing happen. Marcus then feels confused and distressed when Maria leaves. Here’s where God wants to work with Marcus in learning how to be content with only doing the little bit that God has called him to do.
When Marcus is presented with a problem, he tries hard to get a solution. His motivations are admirable, but he’s burning himself out and not understanding that often God only wants him to play a very minor role in helping others. God wants to teach Marcus how to do just a little bit, then walk away confident that he’s done what God wanted. Marcus has a hard time with this—right now he feels like it’s on him to fix things and that he can’t be joyful until his parishioner is out of trouble. God is using Maria to help Marcus practice separating his life from someone else’s. After Maria leaves unhealed, God starts talking to Marcus about letting go and trusting God to take care of his flock. Marcus is listening, but it’s a hard lesson, because he feels like he’s failing in his shepherding duties to not mourn with those who mourn. And yet Marcus isn’t failing at all—he’s burning himself out by doing too much. Maria’s grim situation is a tool that God is using in Marcus’ life to help push the priest towards greater peace and rest.
Then Marcus hears that the phony healer has healed Maria. Why has God done this? Well, Marcus really struggles with having confidence that God is handling things. So God is now flaunting His ability to take care of people through any means that He wants. He doesn’t need Marcus’ help to fix Maria—He’s God, He doesn’t need anyone’s help. The positive lesson here for Marcus is that he can learn to stop feeling like it’s on him to solve problems. In Maria’s situation, his assignment was merely to listen and offer hope of healing. That was all God wanted him to do, and since he did it, God is pleased with him. But Marcus is now assuming God isn’t pleased with him because he’s assuming that God was rejecting him by not doing the miracle through him. Marcus is now trying to figure out where he went so wrong that God would choose to work through a snarky rebel instead of one of His devoted followers. Here is more opportunity for growth. God is going to teach Marcus that His favor can’t be assessed by miracles. God’s pleasure is based on soul attitude. Since Marcus’ attitude is great, God is very pleased with him, and Marcus needs to learn to stand on this instead of trying to measure God’s favor by external actions.
Marcus is really pleasing God as a shepherd, yet he’s always plagued with guilt that he isn’t doing enough. God is using Maria’s situation to teach Marcus to stop focusing so much on outward acts and pull the focus back onto inward attitude. He’s also made sure to bring a healer to town who Marcus knows is a lemon—that way God can underscore the point that His favor can’t be assessed by outward actions. These are huge lessons, and Marcus is listening, but he’ll need many rounds of practice. We don’t change our core beliefs overnight—it takes time. Yet the very fact that God is bringing all of these lessons to Marcus is a reward for how well Marcus is responding to Him.
So what about Maria? Well, God has an entirely different agenda going on with her. When God first struck Maria with the illness, it was about submission. He challenged her to give herself into His hands and accept that it might be time for her to die. Maria refused to accept this and she refused to submit. Instead, she accused God of being cruel. Maria has backwards priorities: she’s extremely invested in her earthly life and doesn’t place much value in being with God in eternity. After Maria rejects God’s first invitation to draw much closer to Him, God gives her another invitation which is not as great as the first one. This is when God tells Maria through Marcus that He will heal her after all. It would have been far better if Maria had submitted to God without the promise, but she wasn’t willing to do that. So now God says He’ll heal her, but as she drives home from seeing Marcus, God tells Maria that He wants her to wait for His clear instruction before she tries to obtain the miracle. Maria agrees, assuming that God’s instructions will come right away. Then she hears about the healer—surely this is what God meant. But no, God strongly convicts Maria not to see the healer. He says this is not the method He has in mind. Here God is giving Maria a new opportunity to offer real submission to Him, yet once again, Maria refuses to obey. Instead, she goes to the healer in an effort to circumvent God. Displeased with her rejection of such important invitations to come closer to Him, God heals Maria at the convention. Why? Because He knows that once she has her immediate problem fixed, she will forget His Name. She won’t go around praising Him, she’ll shove Him aside and eagerly return to her obsession with meaningless things. God heals Maria as an act of discipline: He is withdrawing invitations for her to come closer to Him right now. Maybe He’ll give her another chance later on, but Maria has made very foolish choices here and she’s doing damage to her future relationship with God. Our choices have eternal consequences, so yes, it is very important that we obey the first time God calls us.
While Maria is singing and dancing about her recovery, Marcus is down in the dumps. But Maria just got shoved further away from God, while Marcus is being pulled closer in. Is this what it looks like to a third party? Not hardly. It looks like Maria scored while Marcus got embarrassed. Yet this isn’t at all how God sees it.
But now what about the phony healers in these cases? Why is God letting them thrive in their shady business ventures? Well, both of these men are hardcore rebels who God stopped drawing closer a long time ago. They’re both in big trouble with God, but while they’re wasting precious time, God is using them mightily to dole out both blessings and discipline in the lives of many people. Joe was very blessed by the healing he received, while Maria was intentionally led astray by God through the healing He gave her. God used the irreverent drama of one healer’s show to lead Brianna astray as well. So these two healers are of fabulous use to God, and He’s using them to further His own agenda in countless lives even while the men themselves are storing up severe consequences for themselves in eternity.
You see, no one gets away with anything in God’s universe. When we dig our heels in and refuse to repent and submit to God, we always end up sorry. Just because the lightning bolts aren’t falling the moment some phony healer is publicly mocking God doesn’t mean that God isn’t responding to the situation. God always responds, and as we’ve been demonstrating in these scenarios, some of His most devastating forms of discipline can look and feel deceptively pleasant. To be cut off from further spiritual illumination is the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. And to have God then start taking back the wisdom He’s already given us—that’s another terrifying thing. These things are happening to rebellious believers all around us, but because epic spiritual losses don’t show on the outside, we don’t appreciate the terror of what’s happening. We focus on irrelevant details like how much money and fame a man has. We see healers cranking out the miracles and we get jealous and feel passed over. And yet what is the real value of having God use you as a prop in His show when He Himself isn’t talking to you?
Communion with God is the treasure for humans: that is the prize that can drastically improve the quality of our existence. God’s power does not have such an effect on us. His power is on display all around us every day in this incredible world He has made, but does this instantly draw us closer to Him? No, most of us aren’t even thinking about it. It doesn’t matter how many miracles God performs in, around, and through us. Unless He reaches out to us on a personal level and draws us closer to Himself, we have nothing. This is why longing to be a channel of God’s power is such a useless, shortsighted goal, and yet look at how many Christians pant after these things. Why? Because they’re only interested in the drama, not the relationship, and their foolishness will be its own miserable reward.
God will work through anyone He wants. It doesn’t hamper Him in the slightest if a fellow hates His guts or knows nothing about His existence. He doesn’t need our devotion or faith or anything else to make His power flow.
God is far too interested in our spiritual development to squelch sincere desire in Him with distracting shows of power. This is why He so often refuses to work miracles through the truly devoted, because He knows that such drama easily swings sensual beings like us off course. If you’re someone who God has worked inconsistently through, or if you’re feeling passed over because He won’t work through you in a particular situation, it’s time to move the focus off of the power and onto the relationship. The relationship is what matters, and now is the time for you to practice trusting that God is going to do what He knows is best to cultivate His dynamic with you. If He won’t heal through you right now, it’s because there are more important issues at hand. Those are the issues you want to be focusing on, and you get there by asking Him to help you learn everything He wants to teach you.
Keep the focus on the relationship. It’s what’s going on inside that counts, not what’s happening externally for the rest of the world to see. Your relationship with God is a private, personal affair. Plenty of Shane’s parishioners thought he was off base the day he preached against the healer who could really heal. Maria figured that Marcus wasn’t as dialed in as she thought, since he couldn’t pull Divine power out of the air. People are foolish, and they think foolish things. But what do their opinions have to do with you and God? Don’t let silly gossip and mean rumors and ignorant fools slow you down in your own walk. Pursue intimacy with God and ask Him to make you all that He wants you to be. Then you’ll end up with something far better than a record of miraculous interventions.
When God Sets You Up to Look Stupid: Help for Humiliated Christians
Trained Shills & Blind Trust: A Winning Combination for False Shepherds
Shepherd Burnout: Help for Pastors
The Laying On of Hands
The Power of a Righteous Man’s Prayer
Praying for the Sick