I was surprised. I was disappointed. I had been sharing with an acquaintance what God had been doing through my ministry over recent months. He was delighted as I briefly told him about some folk who had committed their lives to the Lord. However when I mentioned some physical and emotional healings that had taken place, it was as though shutters came down over his eyes. I thought, “He doesn’t want to hear about these healings.” I was surprised because he was held in great respect among the different denominations. But as I later reflected on the incident, I could not remember him making any provision in his ministry for praying for people for physical or emotional healing. I began to think about other Christian leaders who loved to preach the gospel but who never prayed for the sick and needy in services.
Recently I read the words of 2 Timothy 3:5, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. The passage mainly refers to the end times when people will turn away from God and false teachers will worm their way into churches. But I wondered whether many of us in ministry have actually seen much of the power of God in our ministries. Could it be that some of us in ministry are “denying” the power of God by not making provision for praying for the sick and needy as we minister? To see the power of God come on people as you pray for them and to see some of them instantly healed makes you realise how powerful is the power of God. Or to see the incredible change in people as they are born again and become progressively renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Or to hear people who were healed in a Healing Service come back after seeing their doctor who told them they were definitely healed but there was no obvious medical explanation for their healing. Every healing is a demonstration of the power of God and of the incredible love of God for His people.
There are many folk who come to our churches today who wonder where the power of God they read about in the Bible has gone. Some of them move on to other churches where there have been reports of people being healed. In the thoughts of such folk why should they hang around in churches when God doesn’t appear to be doing anything, and where ministers don’t seem to have any expectancy that God will move in power. I have known some people who received marvellous healing through a ministry outside their local church who, when they have shared with their own local minister what happened, have been mocked and told not to share the news of their healing with others in the parish. Is it any wonder that some of those people moved on to other churches where healings were expected, appreciated and glory given to God for the demonstration of His love and power in their healing?
Some years ago a preacher was contrasting the life of the church in Acts with life in the modern church. He made this point. In Acts, God was seen to “interfere” in the life of the church. (Echoing the words of the late CS Lewis who called the Lord, the “Transcendental Interferer”.) In the modern church, the preacher stated, congregations would not expect God to interfere and if He did, they would be highly resentful. It was an astute perception. Many church leaders today are obsessed with doing things decently and in order (which is a noble aspiration) but leave no room for the Spirit of God to do what He wants to do in the congregation. It could be seen as a modern form of “quenching the Spirit”.
St Paul wasn’t afraid of the power of God. He reminded the Corinthians that when he ministered among them, they heard his words, but they also witnessed the power of God at work in their midst, 1Cor 2:4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. He knew that God’s kingdom was not characterised by talk only but by the power of God, 1Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
He certainly prayed for his followers to know the power of God in their lives and ministries. Looking at Ephesians alone we see how he prayed for his readers in Ephesus. In Eph 1:19-20 he prayed that they might know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. He wanted them to know God’s resurrection power in their lives. His power that also seated Jesus at His own right hand in glory. How might they come to know that power? He tells us in Eph 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being. An inward strengthening by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul’s thoughts moved to a Doxology in which he reminded them that they could have no idea of the magnitude of the power of God at work in them, Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. No matter what they asked for in prayer, He could do more. No matter what they imagined the power of God to be, it was beyond their imagination. And this power was at work in them now as believers. They needed to be reminded as to what they already possessed in Jesus. It was more than they could ever imagine.
Why then do we not hear messages celebrating the power of God available to the people of God as they seek to live in this world? There may be many reasons but how sad it would be if one of the reasons was that today’s preachers have not known the power of God in their own lives and ministries. Well I don’t want to be critical or judgmental because none of us have tapped into all God has for us in His Son. But it would be helpful for all of us as preachers and teachers and believers to pray a prayer like the following. “Lord Jesus, I want to be all You want me to be in Your plan and purpose for me. I want to minister in the power of Your Spirit so that You can do in me and through me what You wish. Remove all the blockages in my life that would prevent me from being filled with the Holy Spirit and filled unto the fullness of God. I want to be able to say with St Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) I ask these things in Jesus’ name and for His sake, AMEN.
Blog No.137. Posted by Jim Holbeck. Sunday 26th January 2014