My Prayer a Year Later—Here’s Hope!

Among my papers here in North Carolina, I found a prayer that I had written last year.  Reading it was like hearing it for the very first time.  I guess that’s what the passage of a year had done.  After reading it a couple of times, I now remember what inspired the prayer: the death of one of Mom’s friends here, and the fact that there are many people here who are sick and dying.  Here’s the prayer I wrote last year:

Lord, show me my boundaries.  I want to live by faith, and I want to grow my faith, and I want to help others to grow their faith.  Here’s the thing: lots of people accept sickness and death and poverty, saying, “God is sovereign,” and “My suffering brings glory to God.”  But, Lord, I’m not convinced that Your will includes sickness, suffering, and lack for Your servants, Your children.  You know I’m not a “prosperity gospel” person, but Your Word says that you are able to abundantly bless me so that in all things, at all times, and having all that I need, I may abound to every good work.  I don’t see where that leaves room for lack.  And maybe the key is that Your people who do suffer lack do not abound to every good work, but instead to the desires of their flesh—only You know.

And about sickness, Your Word is full of healing.  Only once does healing seem to be refused to one of Your people, but that “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) appears not to be sickness, but literally a “messenger of satan.”  I acknowledge Your sovereignty, and absolutely don’t want to dispute, doubt, or deny that fact.  I only want to know the boundaries.  I want to have faith that heals the sick and raises the dead—and through faith to bring You glory.  But if I’m wrong, if some are denied healing, I want to know that.  How can I build up peoples’ faith if I can’t be sure where the boundaries are?  So please, please, Lord, show me the boundaries between my faith and Your sovereignty.

At the bottom of the page I had written:

Matthew 15:18-20 – Our words defile us

1 Corinthians 11:30 – . . . for this reason many of you have fallen asleep (died).  Communion in an unworthy manner = sickness and death.

In reading this prayer a year later, I remember the anguish I was in.  I want to have hope.  I want to bring others hope.  How can I do that if God refuses healing for some people?  And when I prayed about it, God gave me the following Word of hope:

Matthew 17:19-21 – Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [a demon] out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So it comes back to faith.  I angered some folks when I wrote in my blog in 2012 that the reason they don’t see healing and financial provision in their lives is because of their lack of faith (see Laboring for a God-Given Dream).  And, indeed, when I prayed for Mom’s friend to be healed, she wasn’t healed, but died instead.  That was what threw me into this tailspin.  But I wasn’t wrong.  It is a matter of faith or the lack thereof.

Here’s more hope: If you don’t have enough faith, you can ask for it.  But be prepared!  Asking for more faith is like asking for more patience.  God will answer it by allowing circumstances that test and develop that faith (or patience).  Both faith and patience are among the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are the birthright (re-birthright!) of all believers.  The better thing to do is to ask God for more of the Holy Spirit, which is simply more of God, Himself.  As Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis mine).  And remember, God is good!

Get Over Yourself, Ya Big Whinin Baby!

beach

Oh, poor little me!

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, (Acts 5:41-42, emphasis mine).

This passage always blows my mind, how the apostles rejoiced because they were persecuted.  This was in today’s reading in my “read through the New Testament in 1 year” reading on Bible Gateway.

The first time I wrote about this passage was 2 years ago during my Faith Trip (recounted day-by-day in my book Look, Listen, Love).  At the time I had been waiting for over a week in a nice apartment by the beach in Abruzzo—oh poor little me, right?  Well, it was a struggle for me because I was anxious to go join Jesus is the Answer in Romania.  I had stayed overnight with JITA in Tuscany a few weeks previously in one of their containers.  They travel throughout Europe (and other parts of the world) in tricked-out containers, sharing Jesus under a big circus tent through street entertainment or compassion work (depending on the area).  In Tuscany it was largely entertainment evangelism, but in Romania it would be compassion work.  I wanted to get out and share the Gospel, which I had thought was important for the Faith Trip.  But God wanted to do some interior work on me, which was the true objective of the Faith Trip.  Since the Faith Trip had been His idea, and since He’s, well, God!, obviously, He got his way.  But meanwhile I cried and whined like a big baby.  It’s embarrassing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHome Sweet Container!

So God used this passage from Acts to give me some true perspective.  I thought I was suffering for my faith.  No, darling, here’s what true suffering looks like, and here’s how a saint endures suffering: rejoicing!

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets, (Luke 6:22-23, emphasis mine).

Since that time I’ve gained more understanding about persecution.  Last year I read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand—right before visiting southern Hungary.  I heard Pastor H. Koraćs Gėza speak in a church while I was there.  Pastor Gėza had been a pastor under Communism, and having just read Tortured for Christ, I felt moved to apologize for the fact that my country had done nothing to help the situation of Christians under Communism.  Pastor Gėza responded that Christianity had actually flourished under Communism.  He said that the Church faces a far more dangerous enemy today: complacency.  I realized that he’s right.

I’ve heard of missionaries who told an underground Chinese house church that they’re praying for democracy.  The Chinese told them: “Please stop!  The church is growing under persecution.”

In fact, throughout church history, Christianity has always thrived under persecution.  It wasn’t until Christianity was legalized in the 3rd century under Emperor Constantine that the gifts of the Holy Spirit began to decline.

Even before that, all throughout the book of Judges, you can see that when they enjoyed prosperity, Israel forgot about the Lord.  Then God allowed trouble to come, the people repented and sought the Lord, and the Lord blessed them.  And the cycle started all over again.

So today’s Bible reading was a reminder that when the going gets tough, Christianity thrives, even if Christians are experiencing temporary difficulties, trouble, or persecution.  If we take a moment to consider, everything that happens in this life is temporary.

This morning I got a message from a dear friend who is right in the middle of persecution by people around her and attacks from the enemy, as well.  Here’s what I wrote to her (hope it helps you, too!):

There are 2 times when the devil attacks believers:

  1. When he sees that God has blessed you and used you mightily; and
  2. When he sees that God is about to bless you and use you mightily.

The first comes after the blessing, and the other comes before the blessing.  So when the enemy attacks you, start to praise God for those blessings that have been or are coming.  Nothing makes him back away from you like praise.  And praise salted with tears is precious to the Lord.  He will bless you even more for praise that comes from your brokenness.  Why?  Because praising God in your brokenness takes faith!  Without faith it is impossible to please God.

And remember, it’s all temporary!  Oh, yes, and God is good!