The first time I ever prophesied I was about 16 years old. I was part of the leadership for a local youth group and I was invited up on stage to pray one night. While I was praying I heard these words well up on the inside, “If you’ll get real with Me, I will get real with you.” Prophesying is down played today, just like the Bible warned against (1Thess 5:20). But those words have stuck with me all these years. I know what God meant when He said that. And it’s that most of us, when you get right down to it, are not really dealing in reality when it comes to our relationship with Him. It’s kind of fake. Kind of imaginary. It just has the feel of one-sidedness. Almost as if deep down, we don’t even really know if we believe there is a God, but we carry on somehow convincing ourselves otherwise.
Some may be offended I’m even saying these things out loud. But I don’t think it does anyone any good to avoid talking about it.
After seeing a lot of my friends and family fall away, or fade off into oblivion concerning their Christianity, I think it’s finally time that this be addressed head on:
God feels fake for a lot of us because the majority of Christians have never actually benefited from believing in or serving Him. Now, I understand the churchy cliches’ about how we shouldn’t serve God for our own benefit. Or how we should just be happy that we’re not burning in hell (and we should), but the reality is, there’s a lot the Church has downplayed in this area and it’s been to our own detriment.
God is a Pragmatist
From the very beginning when God first spoke to Abraham it was about giving him land and making him rich (Genesis 12:1). Later, it was the same promise for the Israelites. In fact, God creating Covenant was an introduction to a legal partnership with Israel which involved all kinds of material and observable benefits. If you read in Deuteronomy (chapters 27-28) you see that tangible blessings were God’s way of manifesting His end of the Agreement. The Jews had a palpable way of knowing if they were holding up their end of responsibility.
Then we go to Proverbs and find a book packed full of practical wisdom on how to avoid tragedy, how to stay healthy, live long, and be rich (1:33, 3:15-16, 22:4).
In the New Testament, Jesus is going around manifesting signs and wonders in response to faith in Him (Matt 8:9-13, 9:2, Mk 5:34).
In Acts, when the Jews saw the Gentiles filled with the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues, they knew He was at work (Acts 10:44-47).
Over and over again, we see observable ramifications due to actual encounters with God.
What am I getting at? God has always expected certain actions from man, and in response, He has promised to act.
In a lot of ways, that makes God a pragmatist.
A pragmatist is someone who is concerned with measurable results. They don’t like being tangled up in ideas that don’t produce definitive outcomes.
On the other end of this spectrum are idealists. Most believers really fall into this category. An idealist likes to be occupied with things that might seem right, or feel right, in theory—even if there is no tangible reality or benefit behind them.
We pray. But our prayers are generic. So generic that our culture has begun to switch out praying for someone with the words, “our thoughts are with them.” What does that even mean?! Prayer has become so indistinct and ineffective in our minds that the whole concept has been reduced to little more than an abstract thought.
We witness. But there are no signs or wonders to accompany the message. Instead of the people being filled with fear and awe in the presence of the Living God, they’re filled with dread hoping and wishing that we stop talking so they can get away.
We go to church. But most of us walk away with nothing. When we say, “it was a good service” at best it means it gave us a good feeling. It made us feel nice. At worse, it means we lied and can’t even remember what it was about.
Obviously there are exceptions to what I’m saying—but by in large, I just described the majority of our experiences. And the truth is, most people are not going to continue down this road forever. People crave substance. They crave real. And you know what? That’s okay because God does too.
What is Normal?
I used to think this was normal until one day someone told me about a guy by the name of, Smith Wigglesworth. I found out that there were multiple reports of people literally being raised from the dead under his ministry.
You know what my response was when I first heard this?
“Was he a witch?!”
Imagine that! Being so programmed to expect so little, that any manifestation of the supernatural, I automatically assumed was from the devil!
Then I began hearing about others. People who essentially just said, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” And would live as though the book of Acts never had a conclusion.
And that was when God and I had the talk.
I told God one day (and since then, I’ve told Him this multiple times), “I can’t do this. I can’t live normal. What I’ve experienced can’t be all there is to Christianity. If you’re real—-The same God I read about in the Bible—- then I refuse to settle for average things. I’m not going to put up with it anymore. I want what I read about in this Book. And I won’t accept anything less.”
Some people are afraid to talk that way to God. But I was just being 100% honest.
Then things began to happen:
Crazy answers to prayer.
Even supernatural knowledge of events before they took place.
But you gotta be serious about it. What I’ve found from my own experience is that the devil will try to intimidate you and make you back down. And if you don’t have resolve, things will go right back to normal.
Several years ago my youngest daughter, who was about three years of age at the time, became the sickest I have ever seen her with a severe respiratory infection. I recall it went on for weeks with no sign of improvement. We eventually had to take her to the doctor who prescribed some strong antibiotics. I had previously prayed for her to be healed and having seen no improvement, like most Christians, I sort of just shrugged it off and accepted it. The medication tasted so badly that I was never able to get her to take it. She’d try and then would spit it up. There was one particular evening when the symptoms were real bad. After putting her to bed I sat in my living room in the dark thinking about the situation. It occurred to me that when I had prayed for her, having not seen any sign of improvement, I essentially rolled over for the devil and let him have his way. I became furious and I decided I wasn’t going to put up with it. I grabbed my Bible, and armed with a handful of passages about our authority over the enemy, I paced my living room floor for what seemed like hours, doing just what Christ did in the wilderness, quoting God’s Word. I knew the devil was getting beat up because Ephesians 6 says God’s Word is an offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit used in our warfare against him. After some time I stopped and finally said, “devil, you better get your hands off my child. Otherwise this is just a taste of what I’ll do to you tomorrow night.”
I went to bed and forgot about it. It wasn’t until about halfway through the next afternoon that I realized that she had shown no symptoms the entire day. And they never returned!
But if I had done what most Christians do, I would have settled for that attack from the enemy. Maybe even concluded that God wanted her to be sick. And, yeah, she would have recovered eventually, but there would have been unnecessary suffering and things would have stayed normal.
It all starts with what you’re willing to be satisfied with. Don’t be afraid to get painfully—-brutally honest with God. This was all His idea anyway. He is the one who brought up healing. He’s the one that brought up miraculous answers to prayer. He’s the one that told us to expect and believe for the fantastic. So why would He be upset because you brought up what was His idea in the first place?
Have that talk.