Last week I read a fascinating passage by Pastor/author Bill Johnson, and I want to share it here.
“Disappointment is inevitable for everyone pursuing this miracle lifestyle. It is also the biggest stumbling block for those who desperately want to see the ministry of Jesus restored to the Church. I had an interesting conversation recently with my friend Don Milam. He is an unusually well-read individual. He told me that when he studied the lives of many atheists and existentialists, he noticed that nearly every one of them believed for a miracle for a dying family member or friend and did not get it. Their coping mechanism became a belief system that got rid of the ‘God is personal, powerful and at hand’ part of the equation…I have seen pastors do this a lot. They become practical atheists, people who have a belief in God, but approach a problem the same way an atheist would – without a miracle-working God at the center of their answer…why did Jesus raise people from the dead? Because not everyone dies in God’s timing. If we have the Father assigning people to die and Jesus raising them from the dead, we have a divided house. Those who believe that everything that happens is God’s will are contributing to the perpetual immaturity of the Church…learning to live with the unexplainable is one of the most necessary ingredients for the Christian life, especially for those pursuing the authentic Gospel …”*
In those 227 words, there are three themes I encourage you to commit to prayer and consideration.
The most obvious theme is Johnson’s point about disappointment, and his friend’s subsequent observation. In my comparatively limited exposure to “atheists and existentialists,” I have noticed and pondered the same theme. From friends, co-workers through the years, and relatives-of-relatives, that insight has been validated to me, personally.
This validation also brings up a significant observation to me – and I think it could be helpful to others: these people had hope. They held their breath, stepped out in what we might call “faith” and what they might call “taking a chance” – but their expectation was deflated and laid flat.
We are created by a miracle-working, miracle-breathing, intrinsically miraculous God…we are made in His Image…why wouldn’t we have the default setting to seek and believe in the miraculous? That should bring great encouragement to us all, as we minister “outside the walls”….it is not as if these “outside the walls” people have “no faith” for a miracle….but our viewpoint can be changed to see an open-heavens perspective: that particular person has had the Spirit of God tugging at him/her since whatever traumatic event occurred, and He has been active in positioning that person so that they may have hope reignited and turn into a fire – a blaze – for Him.
The second theme I see involves working through a problem-solving process apart from a “miracle-working God” at the core. Our God – my God, your God, His impartation of Himself to each of us – is present and available through every situation, every crisis, every devastation. And although it sounds like harsh wording….it is expressing His great love to point out the danger and entrapment of becoming a “practical atheist” as we follow and surrender to Him in our own lives. The degree to which we fall into that “practical atheist” category, then, significantly impacts how we are able to represent Him to the lives of those around us whom we touch, hug, bless, present Him as a seed to plant in someone’s life and have great expectation that there will be a harvest of transformation.
Thirdly, I am captured by Johnson’s statement, “Those who believe that everything that happens is God’s will are contributing to the perpetual immaturity of the church.”
As a young Christian, I remember having divided “godly people” into two groups – those who believed that God had predetermined my choice of cereals for the morning, and those who believed that God had no divine Preference as to whether or not I even ate cereal in the morning.
And that is where it seems both individuals and the church body, at large, often pivot…stand… advance….or retreat.
This is not a “free will” discussion. But I do think it ties into Johnson’s observation about “perpetual immaturity,” and also his statement that “learning to live with the unexplainable is one of the most necessary ingredients of the Christian life, especially for those pursuing the authentic Gospel.
227 words. The sharing of some provocative concepts. I encourage you to be reflective….and be challenged….*The Essential Guide to Healing, Equipping all Christians to Pray for the Sick, Bill Johnson & Randy Clark