Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Triumphalism - is there ever a place for it?

I'm one of those sad people who believe that God really is the 'Lord of All' and that with one word (although I prefer Jeremy Begbie's 'one chord' or 'one note' - how great to think God 'sang' it all into being) caused everything that is to be. After all, if the Big Bang was 13.7bn years ago then the scientific question has to be what or who caused it! (I'd also be interested to hear how we find ourselves in the right place (as the third rock from the hot thing) to live with all the conditions (temperature, gravity and more besides) to actually support life and the chance of that life being is another great issue to discuss one day too!).

But, what really gets me going is those people who love to greet their neighbour with the:

'God is able'

cry in the morning;  for if a loud shout is a pain and a vexation I'll leave it to you to guess at what order of magnitude this is magnified by!

'Our God is able, ALL you need to do is merely rebuke satan and he will flee,' they cry.
'The power of God is in you to rebuke illness, just claim it and you will be healed!' 

And the sadness is that in all reality that words are true, but not as they understand or use them!

I believe that God heals - in fact in my time as a God-botherer I have prayed for blind people and they saw (I'll have to tell you that story some time) and I believe that when we call upon the LORD, He hears and acts. The problem is that more often than not it is the Christian who 'live with a thorn in their side' who more often than not will quote the Hinns, Meyers, Cerullos and others of the glam Christian Evopersonality types that cause me the most trouble, for they take authority over what is with (or within them) when they should be letting it humble and temper them. They live in victory and yet exist in chains!

You probably know the type - one minute they are limping along and the next they are singing hallelujahs and claiming everything in sight - binding this and claiming that and living in the freedom of God for a few minutes before they swing back the other way. The problem is that their problem wounds others and  makes God look like a woman buying a hat (I know this first hand as my mother usually left with the same thing she cam in with!).

Let's be just a little rational about this and understand that:

i. The Apostle Paul had his problems and so too, will we. I don't think it is always valid to rebuke stuff and bind, cast out or claim in the name of Jesus' to overcome all of ours. What we need is to pray for peace, acceptance, solution, people to come alongside (it's called being a paraclete) and (most of all) God's presence, inspiration and strength.

ii. People die because that is what we do - it's a human condition! When people ask why 'n' died, especially if they were Christian, I have to explain that:

a. If being Christian meant we didn't die a mortal death, then everyone would be in Church.

b. All the time we get is what we get and we need to live it well for tomorrow we may not be here - so 'carpe diem' (or as my predictive texting once had it: 'Carpet Firm'). Be the best you can be today for tomorrow might not come!

c. Death, and illness, are always with us - now I have prayed and seen healings that can only be regarded as miraculous - and I have prayed and watched people make promises, claims and be disappointed (and wound many). 

We need to pray intelligently, listening to God and praying with Him - not ordering Him to do as we command (the clue is that He is God not a blessed genie!).

The trite -'All you need to do is claim it in God's name - rebuke it and it will be gone!' is great, especially when you can see the reality of it in the witness of the person making that statement - but sadly, too often that is rarely the case. 

Our God is able to do the very best for us at all time and in all situations - but when we place ourselves in certain places, the outcomes are limited and the opportunities for redemption when we have painted ourselves into a corner are few an far between.

Now I really like to remind myself of the 'Pain in the flesh' personified - the Apostle Paul and his words in 2 Cor 2.14 (ish - using the Message): 

'In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God.'

The over-reached and realised eschatological wonderland that is triumphalism is a curse.

It is a curse spoken over those with problems because obviously they name it, claim it and yet never feel it and this begets the question, 'Why can't I live up to being a Christian and stand in the victory?'

It is a curse spoken out against God for when these well-meaning (aren't they always?) people call upon God and nothing happens they make Him out to be like Baal in 1 Kings 18 with the result that others ask where He might be - 'Is He on the toilet or otherwise indisposed?' they mock.

In Jesus the final victory is won, but this doesn't mean we won't have to face battles now. We do have authority but we also have discernment and wisdom and the Word (living and written) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and these (and more besides) come together to make us a force to be reckoned with, unless we shoot into the air (and wonder why some around us fall)!

One of the biggest buzzes I ever had was to realise that anyone can resist satan but we have even more clout and authority because 'He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world! We have riches in heaven and riches on earth and we need to discern which we store up where. Too often our possessions possess us. Although we stand before those who oppose us, in ALL things we are more than conquerors (and I've buried a number of obviously healed people - they just still had the disease that killed them!) and we indeed will overcome (as the spiritual tells us).

We aren't fatalistic or defeated but neither do we proclaim, or claim, what obviously isn't.

It is OK to be depressed.

It is OK to be ill.

It's even OK to have terminal illness (and I have had some good teachers on this subject for my role is to help people die well).


Where people make great claims in the lives of others when they don't come near in their own - when they preach about walking in the light when it's obvious they aren't - when they don't see how they don't have a job, or a partner, or a house or a new car or whatever when they are 'a child of the Living God', then they've lost the plot and are in need of a size nine commando boot up the bum!


When they do as for the wrong thing OR tell God what He needs to do OR claims what isn't as if it were in His name - they are wrong, wrong, wrong! (was that clear enough?)

We are indeed in a perpetual victory parade - a parade which I am led to understand relates to the parading of one's defeated foes - and one which has before it an empty cross and a broken and powerless sin (for if the penalty is gone so too is the power!). we live to demonstrate that the hold that sin had over us is no more we lead in triumph (sin behind us and satan humiliated) with Jesus before us (for we know who we follow) for we too are His friends AND servants (hallelujah?).

We have much and many blessing are ours but we need the maturity and understanding (which I don't think the glam Christian Evopersonality types will always make ours - well not unless you send a donation anyway!) to understand what is in the overarching and what is in the now. You can rebuke your headache or you can stop drinking or have an earlier bedtime or stop banging your head against brick walls (real and metaphorical) or just take an analgesic. I'm not against praying - just what, why and how we do it and it hands power to anyone but God, if it wounds others, if it causes others to doubt their salvation or faith than all I can says is this:


I pray that we will all develop the maturity and discernment to learn when we should be praying for something or claim something as if it is when perhaps that's more about us than God; I pray we will learn to learn that illness, weakness, loneliness and need aren't signs of defeat or oppression - after all what gives us the right to prosperity or healthy lives - we were only promised an eternity of being whole and with Him and if you can read this, it hasn't started yet ;-)



Anonymous said...

So you'd rather live in poverty and sickness rather than live in the prosperity and health God promises us.

You are a false teacher

Phillip said...

Seems anonymous is one of the "name it and claim it," crowd. I can only say amen to everything you wrote. Don't know if you have ever read Philip Yancey's "Prayer: Does it make any difference." (Worth reading)

UKViewer said...

I can only pray, I never claim great results for prayer, but have great hope that the prayers will be answered as God thinks expedient!

I believe and trust in the power of prayer. My wife has been very ill and many prayed for her. She has said that she felt surrounded and comforted by that knowledge and it is contributing, along with medication, rest and care to her recovery.

God works in ways that we might not comprehend at the time, but will see his work in other ways in different ways from what we ask for or expect.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Heretic, false teacher and all-round nice guy.

Sorry to offend but if you call upon the Lord in such a way as to make Him look like He's on a par with Baal you will also find that this lad(y) isn't for turning (as St Margaret of Thatcher once said).


Revsimmy said...

Rock on, Vic. I thoroughly agree with you, so doubtless I, too, am a "heretic" and "false teacher."

"heretic" = "I disagree with you and I'm obviously right"
"false teacher" = "I disagree with you even though you have spent years studying and thinking about this stuff and have many years of applying it in pastoral situations - and I'm obviously right" ]

DrJ said...

This is my paraphrase of a little tale I read recently:

A Vicar was visiting one of his blind parishioners, and found her a little tearful. When he asked why, she explained:
"I have been blind since birth, and I am well used to it. But some people have been telling me that if I only had enough faith, I could be cured."
The vicar asked if she had the usual white stick and advised:
"Next time one of those people talks like that, hit them over the head with your stick, as hard as you can. Then tell them that, if only they had enough faith, it would not hurt."

On a rather more directly scriptural note, Pete Grieg reminds us in "God on Mute" that our salvation rests on an unanswered prayer one night in Gethsemane...