Sermons

This is a collection of Michael White’s sermons, from CityLIght Church in New York City.

Praying in Faith

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Praying in Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/22/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

This is seventh installment of a series on prayer preached at CityLight Manhattan. For previous installments, please visit intelligentcharismatic.com.

The Role of Faith in Prayer

We’ve taken the last six weeks to establish that prayer is important. We’ve talked about personal prayer and corporate prayer; praying what God shows you, and the power in the laying on of hands. We’ve spoken about fervent prayer, and even praying in tongues!

Prayer is powerful! But the power of prayer is lost if we don’ pray in faith. Here is my question as you read through (and/or listen to) this message: When you pray, do you believe it will happen?

If you want to see your prayers answered, you have to learn what it means to pray in faith. Are you ready?

My favorite Scripture passage on faith is Hebrews 11. This is the Great Hall of Faith. This chapter tells the story of men and women who have grabbed hold of what it means to pray in faith, and seen their lives absolutely transformed as a result. But before the testimonies even begin, Scripture defines faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Heb 11:1

Faith is the substance of your prayers. It is the active ingredient that truly matters. Faith is the evidence that what you are praying for will come to pass! When someone asks you, “How do you know God will do it?” Your reply can simply be: “My faith is the evidence, and I know the promise of God is coming!” If you don’t have faith, you have nothing; but if you have faith, you have everything you could ever need.

For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. – Heb 11:2

Anybody who ever got anything from God, got it by faith. We’re going to look at some specific examples. For now, it’s important to know that faith works; and if it worked for the “elders” (i.e. people who didn’t have a written record of God’s faithfulness), it will work for you (someone who does)!

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. – Heb 11:3

The creative process that jump-started our universe happened by faith. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). Then God spoke. He said, “Let there be light” (v 3) and there was light. God spoke over something that wasn’t shaping up to be what He desired it to be; and everything changed! The same pattern will happen in your own life when you speak (i.e. pray!) in faith. Things that seem shapeless and void will suddenly take shape according to God’s word; but you have to speak by faith!

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. – Heb 11:4-6

Let that last statement sink in. Let it ring out over your prayer life. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” If you go to God, you have to first believe that He is; and as you make the conscious decision to trust a God you cannot see, He will reward you with a tangible manifestation that He is there.

Look at what faith did in the lives of other heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. – Heb 11:8

When God called Abraham to leave his home (Gen 12), Abraham didn’t have any proof that his destination would be better than his current location! But he had his faith. God often calls us out of our comfort zone, but gives us limited (i.e. partial) information as to where exactly He is calling us. We know what we are leaving behind; but we don’t always know what we are getting in return! That is faith: making the decision to trust that God knows best.

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. – Heb 11:11

Sarah didn’t have a Bible to rely on! She didn’t have memory verses about men and women in Scripture who had been healed. All she had was her faith. God spoke; and she listened. She made a decision to trust God; and as soon as she had faith, she received “strength to conceive seed.”

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. – Heb 11:17-19

Do you remember what God called Abraham to do after he and Sarah had their baby? He told Abraham, “Take now your son…, whom you love…, and offer him…as a burnt offering” (Gen 22:2). Imagine what Sarah must have thought about God’s command! But Abraham obeyed by faith. He trusted that God knew what was best. Faith helps us to respond with obedience whenever we are tested; because it reminds us that everything we have to give comes from God anyway!

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. – Heb 11:24-26

Faith empowers us to refuse to live in comfort, and instead step out on the word of God! Faith reminds us that the fruit of obedience is more desirable than any treasure we can gain on earth!

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. – Heb 11:29

It was faith that enabled Moses to lift up his hand (Ex 14:21) so the people of Israel could pass through the Red Sea. It was faith that sent the waters crashing back down on their enemies.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. – Heb 11:30

It was faith that caused the walls of Jericho to come crashing down. What obstacles stand in the way of God’s promises over your life? What impediment is He willing to move when you make the decision to simply believe?

The Importance of Faith

There has been a common theme in my meetings with our church members lately. Our people are going through some stuff. We have men and women who are facing immigration trials in real threat of being forcibly removed from the United States. We have people contending for financial increase who need the money to survive!

Whenever you face an impossible situation, here is what you need to remember: nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37)! You have to keep your eyes on Jesus. You cannot afford to think about all the what-ifs: What if God doesn’t come through? What if my miracle doesn’t happen? What if God isn’t real? Get all of that out of your head! You have to have such tunnel vision that you refuse to even so much as think about anything other than the fullness of God’s promises coming to pass over your life.

If you want to have results, you have to have faith!

When Faith Fails

Do you know what happens when we focus on the what-if’s, instead of the promises of God? Doubt creeps in. And doubt is the most damaging, destructive force that can ever impact your prayer life. Look at the contaminative effect doubt has on our relationship with God:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – Jas 1:2-8

Life is not easy! You will go through trials that test your faith! But your responsibility is to keep your eyes on the promise of God: even when it seems impossible, and especially when it seems irrational.

God will give you what you need! But you have to ask in faith. If you doubt, you are “double-minded” (v 8). That means God wants you to have the mind of Christ so you can pray like Him (2 Cor 2:16); but when you have doubt instead of faith, unnecessary blockages materialize that can interfere with what God wants to do in your life.

Faith is the key ingredient that causes the answers to your prayers to materialize. Even if you have all the other elements in place – you know your word, and you take time to pray – your efforts will not bear fruit unless you mix them with faith!

When you doubt, you can get so scared that you actually talk yourself out of doing what God has called you to do. In 2014, God called me to write a book. He downloaded the vision for every single chapter in a matter of days. I felt the burden to write it: it felt like something had been deposited in me that I had to get out! But then doubt started to creep in. I had only been a full-time pastor for one year. What business did I have writing a book? I was only twenty-seven years old. Who did I think I was writing a theological dissertation? There were so many doubts! But I had to choose faith over those doubts.

I pushed through those doubts, and I wrote that book.[1] I had to have such tunnel vision that I forgot about all the what-if’s! I had to protect my faith by intentionally blocking out any discouraging thoughts that worked their way into my mind. And I’m glad I did. The book has been such an immense blessing to our church community. One of our members sent me the following message yesterday:

“I feel like you were reading my mind while I was walking through the words of your book – every question & doubt that I have was clarified.”

Wow! It wasn’t easy; but it was worth it!

I was sitting on the couch last night talking with my wife about this message. I asked her how many times she had been through a situation where it was almost impossible to keep her faith. I wanted to know about her struggles to keep her faith in the midst of trying circumstances.

Before she was pregnant with Clive (our first son), she worked with a woman who was also trying to get pregnant. Try as she might, her co-worker could not conceive. The process had been going on for years. The woman was considering in-vitro fertilization. She was researching all her different options to try and conceive. So she printed out a copy for Rachael, too. “Just in case.”

Imagine my wife’s faith-battle as she tried to continue to believe for conception as someone without faith printed out a packet of information on IVF and left it on her desk. My wife made a decision: I am going to believe, instead of doubting! She threw all that information right in the trash; and not long after that, we were pregnant with our happy, healthy son!

When doubt rears its ugly head, you cannot afford to let it breathe. Cut it down immediately. Put your eyes back on the promise of God! He will do what He said He will do; but you have to have faith!

When You Have Faith

Here is what happens when you silence the doubt, and give voice to the faith:

Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” – Mk 11:20-24

When you have faith, mountains will move! Whatever things you ask for in prayer, you will have them!

The disciples marveled at Jesus. They wondered, What is it about this Man that makes His prayers so powerful? So He told them: “Have faith in God” (v 22)! Do you want to know what made Jesus so different than you and me? FAITH! He had a perfect relationship with God, which led to perfect faith in God. Jesus had a perfect understanding of who God is, and complete confidence in everything God would do.

But I Don’t Have Faith

So what do you do if you don’t have the faith required? Should you go home and repent, and wish you were a better, stronger Christian? Absolutely not! Whenever you need faith, all you have to do is ask for it.

Do you know what the disciples did when they didn’t have enough faith?

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” – Lk 17:5

They asked Jesus to increase it, and He gave it to them!

Do you know what a man who needed a miracle did when he didn’t have enough faith?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24

He asked for help, and Jesus helped him! If you don’t have faith, don’t panic! Don’t beat yourself up. Simply ask God for help:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matt 7:7-8

Pray In Faith

God will do everything He has promised. When you pray, stop giving yourself an easy way out. Don’t waste time planning what your life is going to look like if you don’t get an answer to your prayers. Don’t waste time rationalizing a reason why God might not show up.

Faith is built as you wait for God’s promises. Guard it with all your heart. If you need more, just ask! Pray in faith, and watch God come through.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://amzn.to/2yHLw2u

Praying in Tongues

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Praying in Tongues’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/15/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast, please click the play arrow above.

A Necessary Introduction

Praying in tongues can seem weird. Instead of avoiding it, let’s just acknowledge it. What was your first experience with tongues? Let me tell you mine.

I grew up in a church with a very conservative worship expression. There was no raising your hands in worship, no dancing, and certainly not even talk of praying in tongues. So imagine my shock when I walked into a Spirit-filled church for the first time as a young adult, shortly after moving to New York City.

The service started gently enough. The worship team – a full band – started playing, and I actually liked the music. Two songs in, I was wondering if what I had heard about Spirit-filled churches was all wrong. “Be careful,” people told me. “Things can get a little weird,” my friends cautioned. But this was nice!

Three songs in, I heard something. It started out as a grumbling: like people whispering in a language I couldn’t understand. Four songs in, it got louder. Now I heard something coming from a couple behind me, definitely audible, and making me uncomfortable. Five songs in, I couldn’t take it anymore. Two people behind me were yelling in tongues at the top of their lungs, and jumping up and down. I stared at them, hoping they would stop; but instead, they got louder.

I left immediately after service, avoiding awkward handshakes with the “crazy” people all around me. I went home, and I prayed. “God, what was that?” I made a vow to never go back to Spirit-filled church. But then the Lord spoke to me in prayer. Do you think a whole congregation of people has it wrong? Or is there something in YOU that needs to change?

That day was the start of an incredible journey God has taken me on to discover the power of praying in tongues. It definitely got off to a rocky start; but from that day forward, I have been searching the Scriptures to discover everything the word of God has to say about praying in tongues.

Praying in tongues can seem weird. Every time I preach on “tongues,” I know there are people in the sanctuary who simply won’t come back. But just because something is weird, doesn’t mean it’s not from God. Just because a message isn’t immediately palatable to people who have never heard it before, doesn’t make it any less true.

Tongues Is A Gift

First, we have to establish that “tongues”[1] is a gift. The Apostle Paul includes “different kinds of tongues” in his description of nine “spiritual gifts” in his letter to the Church at Corinth:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. – 1 Cor 12:1, 3-11

Tongues is a gift, not a reward. A reward comes when you do something to earn it; but a gift is given when you position yourself to receive it! Here is why that is important: I know many Christians who think they have to earn the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (the two go hand in hand). But God is not holding back His Holy Spirit for the moment you get your act together. He has already “poured out His Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). The Holy Spirit is already here! All you have to do is open your arms and receive.

The Power and Purpose of Tongues

Here is why you need the gift of tongues:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. – Rom 8:26

There will be times in your life where you simply don’t know what to pray. Sometimes, an obstacle you are facing will seem so overwhelming that you simply don’t know how to tackle it in prayer. And do you know what? That’s ok! That is what praying in tongues is for!

When you pray in tongues, you are making the decision to open your mouth, but the Holy Spirit is deciding what to pray. So is it you, or is it God? YES! You are opening your mouth, and God is praying a perfect prayer through you.

The Apostle Paul refers to praying in English (or your primary spoken language) as praying “with understanding,” and to praying in tongues as praying “with the spirit” (1 Cor 14:15). When you pray “with understanding” (i.e. in English or your primary spoken language), your prayer has to pass through the filter of your mind. It is subject to influence by your thoughts, will, and emotions. But when the Holy Spirit prays through you (i.e. when you pray in tongues), there is no filter. You have a Scriptural guarantee that the Holy Spirit is praying perfect prayers through you. He helps in your weaknesses, and makes intercession for you with groanings which cannot be uttered.

So next time you encounter a situation so complex that you don’t know how to pray, try praying in tongues! Whenever you come up against an obstacle that seems too scary to face, try speaking in tongues!

When should you pray in tongues? All the time. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

I pray in tongues more than you all… – 1 Cor 14:18

He unashamedly admitted that he prayed in tongues more than anyone else he knew in the church; and we see the fruit of it in his life. Here was a man whose handkerchiefs and aprons (Acts 19:12) healed the sick! But you can’t walk in the power Paul demonstrated, without praying the prayers he prayed.

Some Christians see praying in tongues as something you should do at the end of your payer time, when you run out of things to say in English. I couldn’t disagree more. I like to start my prayer time by speaking in tongues. As I do, God will start to show me what He wants to pray for through me. As I pray in tongues, He will show me the faces of people in the church whom He wants me to lift up in prayer. He will start to remind me of the promises He has spoken over my life. He will start to fill me with faith to believe for the impossible, every day of my life! When I start off praying in tongues, God will show me what He wants me to pray “with understanding.”

There is power in praying in tongues:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. – Jude 1:20-21

Praying in tongues – or “in the Holy Spirit” –is the way we “build ourselves up” on our “most holy faith.” Praying in tongues is the way we keep ourselves in the love of God, and keep our eyes on Jesus! The implication is there is “building up” that God wants to do in you, that can only get done when you release His perfect will over your life by praying in tongues!

Why Don’t We Talk About Tongues More?

If praying in tongues is so important, why don’t we talk about it more in church? I believe the short answer is: pastors and churches are afraid you won’t come back. It is a subject that is difficult to explain and easy to misunderstand. What’s more, many people have had bad experiences in churches that pray in tongues, so many pastors and leaders don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole!

Most people with bad “tongues” experiences fall into one of two categories. First, you may have been exposed to tongues in a way that completely caught you off guard and took you by surprise. I know a woman whose friend had invited her to church dozens of times. She finally said yes; but when she showed up, the pastor decided to throw his sermon out the window. Instead, he preached a message in tongues. Then, he “fell out” (i.e. fell down) under the power of God and started rolling back and forth on the floor. A few seconds later, everyone else in the church did the same thing. Can you imagine her terror as a first-time guest?

Second, you may have been frustrated because you know about tongues and have been seeking the gift of tongues, but for whatever reason it has proved elusive. I know many Christians with this experience. I remember a woman in a discipleship group who had been wanting to pray in tongues for years. One night, visiting a friend’s home, she found herself in a Bible study, surrounded by well-meaning Christians who wanted to see her baptized in the Holy Spirit. So, fifteen people surrounded her, started praying in tongues, and expected her to do the same. But nothing happened! She really desired to speak in tongues; but she felt so much pressure from the people around her to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and start speaking in tongues that her prayer changed from, “Lord baptize me in the Holy Spirit,” to “Lord, get me the heck out of here!”

The topic of “tongues” has definitely caused some heartache and pain in the church! So instead of revisiting the subject from a Biblical perspective, we throw it out altogether. We seek the first seven “spiritual gifts” (see 1 Cor 12, above), and then avoid the last two. But just because a principle has been abused does not make it any less true.

Why We Need to Talk About Tongues

There is a whole generation of believers growing up in the church that does not understand the power of praying in tongues. We need to change that. At the end of our lives, you and I will be accountable to God for truths we passed on to the next generation, as well as any truths we kept to ourselves. I, for one, do not want to be held accountable for withholding any Biblical truth that God wants His people to embrace!

That is why we preach on finances at our church. Yes, some pastors and televangelists have abused the principle of Biblical prosperity. But that doesn’t make the principle that you “reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7) any less true! If I don’t talk about giving, and encourage you to tithe, there are blessings God wants to give to you that won’t come into your hand (see Mal 3:10).

This is why we practice prophecy at our church. Yes, some people – ministers and lay people alike – have abused the practice of prophecy. I’ve heard of men in the church telling ladies who are not interested in them, “But the Lord told me you are supposed to marry me.” What a disgusting abuse of a gift God meant for good! But just because abuse has taken place, doesn’t mean the gift of prophecy should be thrown out altogether. In fact, Scripture reminds us to, “Purse love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1, emphasis added).

The same is true for praying in tongues. After my first run-in with aggressive tongue-talkers at a Spirit-filled church, I almost never came back. But look what God has done! If I had avoided the truth that praying in tongues is powerful, there are things that God never could have accomplished in my life that are now done!

Abuse of Biblical principles doesn’t mean we should throw them out; it simply means we need better instruction. It means we need to teach the people in our churches to know and love the word of God for themselves, instead of learning what to believe from other people!

Holy Spirit Etiquette

Did you know God devotes an entire chapter of Scripture to Holy Spirit etiquette? He tells us where and when exercising certain spiritual gifts is appropriate. I highly recommend you read through all of 1 Corinthians 14 and see it for yourself. It will allow you to better interpret whether what you are seeing in church is “genuine.” It will also allow you to better evaluate when and where to use the gifts God has given you in your own life.

Here is an excerpt:

Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. – 1 Cor 14:13-15

Listen to what the Apostle Paul is saying here. When he prays in a tongue, his spirit prays, but he doesn’t understand what is being prayed. So what should he do? Does he throw out the practice of praying in tongues altogether because he doesn’t understand what is going on? Of course not! He doesn’t have to choose either praying in English, or praying in tongues; he embraces both as 1) powerful and 2) from God.

But look at the warning the Apostle Paul also includes:

Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. – 1 Cor 14:16-19

By and large, corporate worship is not the place to speak in tongues. Why not? Because guests – unbelievers, or “the uninformed” (v 16) – will have no idea what is going on. If we do things in our Sunday service that unchurched people won’t understand, we are placing stumbling blocks in front of them. How many first-time guests do we have to send running for the exits before we start to operate with a little discretion?

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I am not saying for one moment that we should ever back away from the Biblical truth that all believers should speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is powerful, and you need the gift of tongues if you are going to go out and do everything God created you to do! But we have to be able to explain Biblical truths in language unchurched people will actually understand.

How to Receive the Gift of Tongues

If you’re convinced that praying in tongues is Biblical, and you want the gift of tongues, you need prayer. Don’t worry; this is the easy part. The difficult part is getting past the mental and emotional blocks that immediately materialize as soon as we mention “tongues.” Actually receiving the gift is easy.

The Biblical way to receive the gift of tongues is to ask for prayer. Believers receive the ability to pray in tongues as a by-product of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The pattern we see in Scripture is as follows: a believer who has already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit will 1) lay hands on and 2) pray for someone who hasn’t, and the Lord will impart the baptism in the Holy Spirit, along with the gift of tongues.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8:14-19

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” 

So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”

So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. – Acts 19:1-6

So, are you ready to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues? Ask someone who already speaks in tongues to lay hands on you and pray. Believe that as they do, you will speak in tongues.

But what if nothing happens? What if I have been trying to speak in tongues for years, and I still can’t?

Relax! Your story is unique. We aim for the Biblical model because that is what we see in Scripture. We also have to acknowledge, however, that God works through different people in different ways.

I spoke in tongues for the first time when I was sitting in my seat in worship service (at the same Spirit-filled church I ran out of only months before)! I had gone up for prayer a couple weeks prior, but I didn’t speak in tongues. I was nervous because 100 people were staring at the back of my head, waiting to see what would happen. I was on-guard because I didn’t want to feel forced to speak in tongues. I wanted a real, authentic experience with zero manipulation and no hype! So God honored my desire. I didn’t speak in tongues that day I got prayer; but I did speak in tongues several weeks later, while I was sitting in the pew and minding my own business. Your testimony is unique; so don’t assume it will happen for you like it happens for someone else!

For a more extensive discussion on praying in tongues, please see the Intelligent Charismatic book.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Please note that for the purposes of this resource, I am going to refer to “tongues,” “praying in tongues,” “speaking in tongues,” and “the gift of tongues” interchangeably.

Prayer that Works

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Prayer that Works’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/8/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Prayer that Works

Have you ever been through a period in your life where it felt like every prayer you prayed worked right away? When I first gave my life to Jesus, I experienced this. I prayed for a promotion at work, and I got it. When a family member was going through health complications, I prayed for healing and she received it. I met the woman of my dreams, and I prayed the relationship would work (she is now my wife)! It was like every prayer I prayed was immediately effective.

I’ve also been through times in my life when it felt like prayers went unanswered. So, what is the difference between effective and ineffective prayer? What was the difference-maker in times when I saw one answer to prayer after another?

The Bible tells us there is such a thing as “effective” prayer. The implication is there also is such a thing as ineffective prayer. So wouldn’t it be a good use of our time to discover the difference?

What Makes Prayer Effective?

Here is how James encouraged the early church to pray:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. – Jas 5:13-18

There are several important points in this passage. First, prayer works. Prayer is the remedy to suffering, sickness, and sin. Second, prayer produces. Prayer produces joy, healing, and forgiveness. Third, there are different types of prayer. You can pray for yourself, or you can “confess your trespasses to one another” (v 16) so other people can pray for you!

But let’s hone in on verse 16: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” To “avail much” means to get stuff done. In other words, the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman!) works! We all want prayer that works, don’t we? So what does it mean for our prayers to be 1) effective, 2) fervent, and 3) righteous?

1) Effective. The dictionary defines “effective” as “successful in producing a desired or intended result.”[1] Our prayers should be results-driven. We should pray specific prayers that have a measurable (i.e. objective and quantifiable) impact. When you prayed for a raise, what dollar-amount did you ask for? Did you get it? What was your salary (or hourly wage) before you started praying, and how did it change as a result of your prayer? If you can’t measure the impact your prayer actually has, how will you know if it really works?

2) Righteous. Scripture tells us that in order for our prayers to work, we have to be righteous. So what does it mean to be righteous?

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Cor 5:21

To be righteous means to believe in Jesus: not just that He was a prophet or an important historical figure, but that He is King of kings and Lord of lords! When you make Jesus Lord of your life, you become the righteousness of God. You don’t just have His righteousness, leaving you in a state where you can lose it; you are His righteousness, which leaves you in a state where your position to pray effective prayer is guaranteed!

3) Fervent. We saved this characteristic of “prayer that works” for last because I believe it’s the most difficult to truly understand. In English, we define “fervent” as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.[2]” This is where we sometimes get lost as the church. We think fervent prayers have to be emotional. The more passionate intensity we display, the better! When we see someone who is crying and weeping as they pray, we think, Wow, God must really be moving in that prayer.

But emotional intensity does not always translate into prayerful efficacy. Showing more emotion doesn’t necessarily make your prayer more effective. In the original Greek translation of James 5:16, the word we translate as “fervent” is actually the Greek word energeo.[3] which means “to be operative, to be at work, or to put forth power.” This is where we get the English word energy. So “fervent prayer” gets things moving. Energeo prayer creates power that is derived from the effective utilization of resources.

Let me illustrate this with an example. When I was in college, my parents took me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday. We went to a restaurant called the Grist Mill. The restaurant was situated right on a river; and at the back of the restaurant, there was a giant wooden wheel. As the water from the river flowed over the wheel, the wheel started turning. Back when the restaurant was a mill, the turning wheel would power a mechanism that would grind grain (i.e. grist).

In other words, the mill was powered by harnessing the energy of the water. This is how fervent prayer works. It’s not that you’re using more energy than necessary. That would be a waste! You are not a generator, trying to produce powerful prayer on your own. Fervent prayer means channeling something powerful that God has already given you, and maximizing the impact it has on the work that needs to get done!

You see, God has already given you His word. That is the wheel; when you put it to work as He intended you to use it, things will start to get done in your life. The Holy Spirit is moving like those waters at the mill. He is ready and willing to put motion to your prayers! But you have to use the word to harness what the Holy Spirit is doing!

Do you see it? Fervent prayer doesn’t necessarily mean praying with passionate emotional intensity; it means harnessing the move of God’s Holy Spirit by praying what God wants you to pray, instead of what you want to pray for yourself. It means using the word of God to harness the move of the Holy Spirit!

Elijah Prayed

Whenever I see someone pray powerful prayers in Scripture, I take note. Scripture says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months” (Jas 5:17). What made Elijah’s prayers so special?

Elijah was a human being, just like you and me. In other words, what made his prayers so special was not something inherent about his physical makeup or character composition. It was not some extremely rare character trait or part of his nature. He was just like us! But how many times have you ever held back the rain? He was a human being just like us; but there was something Elijah was doing that made his prayers powerful and effective.

Scripture tells us how Elijah declared the drought James describes:

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, – 1 Kings 17:1-5

The pattern we see in verses 2-5 allows us to interpret the boldness we see in verse 1. Here was the pattern in Elijah’s life: Elijah received the word, and then he did what God told him to do! He didn’t declare a drought because he thought it would be cool if it didn’t rain! He didn’t have plans to go to the beach! He had the word of God: Elijah, I want you to go to King Ahab and declare a drought. So then he went out and declared what God told him to say.

This is fervent prayer. Elijah got a word from the Lord, and went out and declared it by faith. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t stop to wonder what would happen if the result to his prayers didn’t come. He simply made a decision to partner with the Holy Spirit by using the word of the Lord he had been given. He was harnessing the power of something moving that was bigger than him, and declaring effective prayer based on the strength of that movement!

Last week[4] we talked about “praying what you see.” God will show us something in His word (the written word, or logos). He will show us something in prayer (the spoken word, or rhema). Our responsibility is to take that word, and declare it by faith. We participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing by using his word to get God’s work done in prayer.

Once Elijah had God’s word, he knew his prayers were as good as answered. Here is why:

For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. – Psalm 138:2

God exalts (i.e. holds) His word above His name. The Jewish people would not even utter or record the name of God because they had such a reverence and an awe for God’s power. Yet here is God saying, if you want real power, use my word!

When God declares something, it is as good as done! And fervent prayer means taking what God has said, and declaring it by faith!

The Question You Have to Ask Yourself

Here is the question you have to ask yourself as you read this: are your prayers based on the word of God? Or are they emotional appeals based on your feelings?

If your prayers are based on emotional appeals, there is no guarantee they will be answered. But when your prayers are based on the word of God, you can declare them with complete confidence, just as Elijah did!

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. – 1 Jn 5:14-15

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://bit.ly/2mgQome

[2] http://bit.ly/2mglNFq

[3] Strong’s G1754

[4] http://intelligentcharismatic.com/pray-what-you-see/

When the Church Prays

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘When the Church Prays’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 6/24/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

The Call to Pray

Last week, we talked about the power of personal prayer.[1] God’s promise is that when we repeat His word back to Him, “…it shall not return to [Him] void” (Is 55:11). Our prayers are powerful. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov 13:21)! There are things God wants to do on this earth that cannot get done unless we open our mouths and start to pray!

Your highest calling in life is to pray. When we pray, we get God’s work done. Even more important, we build relationship with Him. Have you ever tried to build relationship without conversation? It’s impossible. If you want to be close to someone, you need to communicate with him or her! And if you want to be close to God – to know what makes His heart beat – you need to spend time in prayer.

This week, we’re going to expand on the power of prayer. Specifically, I want to talk about corporate prayer. I want to show you what happens when the church starts to pray together.

It’s time we – the church – take our mandate to pray seriously. Other major religions clearly understand the importance of prayer in a way we have forgotten. This week I had a long conversation about religion with a man who comes from an Orthodox Jewish family. He told me that, in his family’s synagogue, you are expected to attend three prayer services every single day! When you wake up, you come to pray. When it’s lunch time, you go to pray. On your way home from work, you stop to pray! And these are not just short prayers; these are hour-long prayer meetings where ten or more people are present. What would your life look like if prayer was that important to you? What would our church look like if prayer was that important to us?

Our family lives across the street from a mosque. Whenever I wake up early, there are always groups of people in that mosque, praying. It forces me to ask myself an important question: if we had a 4am prayer meeting at our church, how many people would show up? If other major world religions focus so intently on praying in community, how have we – the carriers of the Good News – lost our focus? What would this city look like if the church passionately embraced our call to spread the Good News that Jesus died for our sins: not only through church services and evangelistic outreach, but also through prayer?

There are certain things that happen when you pray in community that simply cannot happen when you pray alone. Jesus explained this to His disciples in Matthew’s account of the Gospel:

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” – Matt 18:18-20

When we agree, it is done. But you can’t agree if you’re alone! That means there are things God wants to accomplish that will not get done unless we come together as the church and start to pray.

Corporate prayer doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It shouldn’t be a demonstration for your friends to see how anointed you are, and how much Scripture you have memorized. It should simply be a declaration of God’s word, followed by spiritual agreement: partnering our faith so that God’s will can come to pass. We live in an age where division is more prevalent than unity. Are you ready to help change that?

What Corporate Prayer Does

Corporate prayer is effective. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what we can accomplish by praying together, but it will get us started:

1) Corporate prayer establishes protection.

When God’s people were living in exile, God raised up a man named Ezra to lead them back home. Ezra was a scribe who was, “…skilled in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). But here was the challenge: the world at that time was unsafe. Israel had no army because they had been scattered throughout the nations. They had no means of protecting themselves because their ability to fight and defend had been hamstrung by the Babylonians. So when Ezra led God’s people back home, he was leading what appeared to be a helpless, defenseless caravan.

So what did Ezra do? He called the people to pray.

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. – Ezra 8:21-23

When the people prayed, God listened. When they responded in unity, God moved in response to their prayer! They not only made it to Jerusalem; they rebuilt the city into a remnant for God’s glory. They began reconstruction on the temple so corporate worship could take place!

In our household, prayer is a must. We pray together all the time. As soon as everyone is awake in the morning, we start to pray. I plead the blood of Jesus over our children and declare they are going to have an amazing, faith-filled day and hear the voice of God. Before anyone leaves the house, we stop to pray. We declare that whoever is leaving will be protected, and that whoever stays in the house will be safe and sound. When someone returns home, we pray and thank God for their safety! Before we go to bed, we thank God for another day alive and for the sweet sleep we’re about to have.

What’s the point? There is power in prayer! And my wife and I want to teach that to our children at a young age. Your prayers don’t have to be long; they just have to be powerful! Prayer works. So get together with your church, your family, and your friends, and start to pray!

2) Corporate prayer inspires repentance.

Ezra returned to Jerusalem to find life for God’s people in complete disarray. God’s people were lost in sin. Because there was no corporate worship happening, the people had been overwhelmed by the dominant culture of that day. They were doing whatever they wanted, and the consequences were disastrous.

Have you ever seen this in someone you know? They move to a new city, absolutely in love with Jesus; but if they can’t find a good church family, over time they start to change. Their love for Jesus dwindles, their prayer life erodes, and they stop reading the word. That is the state in which Ezra found God’s people when he came back to Jerusalem.

So do you know what Ezra did? He called everyone together to pray:

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.” – Ezra 10:1-3

Corporate prayer inspires repentance! Ezra didn’t have to tell God’s people what to do; he simply invited them to pray, and the Holy Spirit told them what to do! An entire people group was inspired to change their ways because of the power in corporate prayer.

Your city is not going to change unless we start to pray. This nation is not going to change unless we start to pray. This world is not going to know the love of Jesus Christ the way God wants people to, unless we start to pray!

3) Corporate prayer activates freedom.

Acts 12 gives us a particularly powerful example of what can happen when we get together and start to pray. Peter, a leader in the early church, was in prison. James, the brother of John, had just been killed (v 2); and it looked like Peter was next! So what did the church do? Did they plan a rally to make politicians aware of their plight? Did they take up a special offering to hire a lawyer to defend their leader? NO! They simply started to pray.

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. – Acts 12:5

Peter was in trouble! But when the church got together and started to pray, everything changed. Look how God answered the church’s prayers:

And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. – Acts 12:6-10

Peter went from bound to delivered as the result of corporate prayer. Whom do you know in captivity? Who in your life is struggling with sin? Who in your life is trapped in a situation (s)he can’t get out of? How is that all going to change in an instant when you get some like-minded people together and start to pray?!

The early church wasn’t even aware how powerful their prayers were. When God sprang Peter from prison, Peter showed up at the prayer meeting that had activated his freedom:

So … , [Peter] came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”

Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. – Acts 12:12-16

The disciples were praying; but they didn’t even believe their prayer would be answered! The very answer to their prayer – a freed Peter – literally showed up at their front door; yet they were so unaccustomed to seeing their prayers answered that they didn’t even believe it was true. I pray the modern church would never be caught off-guard like that. I pray you and I would never be caught unaware like that!

God is faithful. Your prayers work. We don’t have to be taken by surprise when the answer to our prayer shows up at our front door. We can simply make a decision: I believe my prayers are effective, and I am going to use them. We can get together and start to pray; and in response, God is going to move!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Open-Your-Mouth.mp3

Dealing with Darkness

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Dealing with Darkness’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 6/3/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Demonic Forces Are Real

Satan is real. Demons are real. Demonic forces are real. I believe it is the responsibility of every Christian to know how to deal with them. I say “deal with them” intentionally. You don’t have to “fight” demons because Satan is already defeated. Jesus defeated him – and all his minions and devices – two thousand years ago on the Cross! So all we have to do is assert the victory He already purchased for us at Calvary.

Demons are real. I know this because we see Jesus casting them out all throughout Scripture. Here are just a few examples:

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.” – Matt 8:16-17

Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. – Mk 1:34

When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ. – Lk 4:40-41

If demons weren’t real – and demonic forces didn’t exist – why would Scripture spend so much time talking about them? Notice, by the way, how easy it is for Jesus to deal with the forces of darkness. He “cast out the spirits with a word” (Matt 8:16). He “cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak” (Mk 1:34). He “laid His hands on every one of them…and demons also came out” (Lk 4:41).

Jesus didn’t need any special technique, a 10-step prayer model, or a training course in deliverance. He simply needed to be Jesus; and the demons came out, “…because they knew Him” (Lk 4:41). And do you know what? Christ is in You! And that means you can deal with darkness exactly the same way Jesus did.

People ask me for prayer in this area more than you might think, especially at our East Village location. The East Village and Lower East Side have a history of Santeria and Bruheria: both of which are essentially forms of witchcraft. I’ll often have people approach me after service – very tentatively, I might add – to tell me they see a “dark figure” in their room when they go to sleep at night. Or, maybe they simply “feel a dark presence” in their apartment. These are demonic forces at work!

Don’t believe me? For the New Yorkers: take a ride on the Q train, or any of the trains that pass over the Manhattan Bridge. Notice what is spray-painted on every single supporting beam leading into the Lower East Side: the names of pagan gods like Baal. People who practice Bruheria are trying to take territory in our city that rightfully belongs to Jesus. Are we going to let them?

We pray for deliverance in the Healing Rooms all the time. All our Healing Rooms volunteers are trained in deliverance. We use a 10-step deliverance model developed in Argentina by Pablo Bottari.[1] We need to know Satan exists; and we need to be prepared – not afraid – to deal with the dark forces he controls!

Why Don’t We Talk About This In Church?

I was originally going to title this message, “Demonic Deliverance.” But “Dealing with Darkness” sounds so much less threatening, doesn’t it? We live in a world where messages – even church sermons – need to be carefully curated so as not to scare or offend.

When I say “deliverance,” what is the first thing you think of? Does the movie The Exorcist come to mind? Do you picture some demon with terrible oral hygiene spinning its head around 360 degrees while some priest looks on, helplessly, unable to deal with the situation? I bet you don’t think about the verses above, where Jesus simply tells demons to leave, and they do!

The bottom line is: we don’t talk about deliverance in church because it’s scary. We don’t want guests to be scared, or to think we’re weird. It’s much safer to preach a nice, fuzzy, feel-good message that doesn’t involve acknowledging that forces of darkness are actively working in our lives.

But we need to talk about deliverance in church. Here’s why.

What We’re Missing

When we don’t 1) talk about deliverance and 2) teach people how to walk in deliverance, we (the church) are doing you (the body of Christ) a huge disservice. Let me give you an example.

In Matthew 17, Jesus heals an epileptic boy:

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. – Matt 17:14-18

How would we have dealt with this boy in our church today? Would we have searched for a medical explanation? Given him an MRI to figure out the cause of the seizures? Prescribed him a sedative or an anticonvulsant to make sure the seizures didn’t happen again?

Or maybe we would have searched for a psychological explanation? Sent him to counseling? Taken him to the psychiatrist to see if we could prescribe him medication?

But MRI’s don’t detect demonic activity! And prescription medications can’t cast out devils! And this is the problem. Jesus knew immediately that the boy in Matthew 17 was not suffering with a medical or psychological condition; he was dealing with demonic affliction! So He tailored His response accordingly.

If we fight demonic affliction with medical cures of psychological treatment, nothing is going to change. Yet how often do we do this? If someone “isn’t right,” we send them to a therapist instead of asking God, Is there something demonic at work here? When someone suffers from seizures we send them to the hospital, instead of asking God, Are there spiritual forces moving here? We need to recognize that demonic forces are real – and that deliverance needs to happen – if we ever expect to make a difference as the church!

Our Intellectual Condition

As the church in the United States, we think we’re so smart. In the Western world, we just pretend demons don’t exist! We are so intellectually oriented that we have developed theories and theologies as to why demons aren’t real. We assume that if we ignore things that go bump in the night, they will just go away!

But travel to any other part of the world – Africa, the Middle East, Latin America – and everyone will acknowledge that demons and witchcraft are real! Just because you choose not to believe in something doesn’t mean it isn’t real! And simply trying to ignore Satan will not make him go away!

Ignorance is the enemy’s favorite weapon. Right now, Satan is wreaking havoc in our cities because we are pretending he doesn’t exist. Right now, Satan is causing division in your relationships because you are pretending he doesn’t exist. Right now, Satan is tearing apart entire churches and fracturing denominations because we are pretending he doesn’t exist!

You Don’t Remember Me?

I had dinner with a friend recently who told me about his experience with demonic deliverance. He has a friend who is on his second marriage. This man’s first marriage ended in divorce. His wife grew up in Latin America. They met while they were young, quickly fell in love, and got married.

But a few years into the marriage, things started falling apart. The man’s career came to a screeching halt. The couple was fighting again and again and again. He did a little digging, and found out that his wife grew up practicing Santeria. She actually had a voodoo doll and would cast spells over him – thinking it would help instead of hurt! So here is his wife, cursing him and inviting demonic influence into their lives and their marriage; and here he is, wondering why things aren’t working out!

Things didn’t work out, and they got a divorce. Years later, this same man got remarried. Several years into the new marriage, the same problems started again. This time, the man went and got prayer. His leader at church told him to pray specifically against demonic influence in his marriage.

So one night, he’s sitting at dinner with his wife, and they get into an argument. He starts to pray, Lord, show me what is happening here. His wife turns to him and says, “You don’t remember me?” It was the same spirit that infiltrated his prior marriage, trying to work its’ way back in!

But this time he was prepared. He cast out that devil, his wife is saved, and he is still married to this day. But the point is: what would have happened if he hadn’t been trained to deal with it? What would have happened if demonic activity “just didn’t fit” into his theology? The enemy would have had a field day ruining his marriage – and his life – and nobody would have been any wiser!

Like it or not, this stuff (i.e. demonic activity) is real. Like it or not, we – believers – have to be prepared to deal with it.

But here is the Good News: even though it is real, you don’t have to be afraid. You see, Jesus already paid for your deliverance with His blood. He already died to take the enemy captive, and to set you free!

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… – Eph 2:1-5

The Simple Cure

Any time you encounter demonic interference or resistance in your life, there is a simple way to deal with it. Let’s take the example I mentioned before as a case study. Pretend you live on the Lower East Side, and every night before you go to bed, you see a dark figure in your room. You don’t know what to do, so you hide under the covers and hope it will go away. Here’s how I would deal with that demonic presence if I were in your shoes.

1) The Blood of Jesus

The blood of Jesus is the most powerful substance in the universe. I would start by pleading (i.e. professing and declaring) the blood of Jesus all over that apartment. I would pray as I walked, covering every square foot, thanking Jesus for the sacrifice He made for me on the Cross. I would thank Him that His blood sets the captives free! Scripture tells us just how powerful His blood is:

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. – Rev 12:10-11

You don’t have to be afraid, because you have the blood!

2) The Name of Jesus

The name of Jesus is the most powerful word in the world. I would walk around that apartment and declare, in the name of Jesus, that no demonic force is welcome to be in that place. Here is the confidence Scripture gives us in the power of the name of Jesus:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Phil 2:9-11

Whenever you feel a “demonic presence” in your apartment, or a “demonic influence” in your life (at work, in your relationships, etc.), declare the name of Jesus out loud! Nothing – and no one – can stand at the name of Jesus. Every knee must bow.

You don’t have to be afraid, because you have His name!

3) The Anointing

You have the anointing – the manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit. So don’t be afraid to use it! Isaiah prophesied about the power of the anointing:

It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil… – Is 10:27

The anointing destroys the yoke of oppression and bondage that Satan wants you to wear. If I lived in your Lower East Side apartment, I would literally anoint every doorpost in that place with oil. I would pour some olive oil in a boil, bless it in the name of Jesus, and then put a dab in the shape of the Cross on the corners of every doorpost. I would declare, “The only Spirit allowed in this apartment is the Holy Spirit!” I’ve seen the power of this prayer, because I’ve done it in my own home. And do you know what? It works!

Your Relationship with Jesus

Your ability to effectively deal with demonic forces hinges on one crucial element: your relationship with Jesus.

In Acts 19, we see a story of some men who tried to cast out demons without a relationship with Jesus. They saw the disciples delivering people, so they wanted in on it. It didn’t go so well:

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. – Acts 19:13-16

What was the difference-maker here? Why could the disciples cast out demons, but these men couldn’t? These men were magicians, not believers. They tried to use the name of Jesus without knowing Him. Look at their words: “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches” (v 13). They didn’t say “We exorcise you by the Jesus we know,” because they didn’t know Him!

Without Jesus, you are lost. Satan will have access to you, and there will be nothing you can do about it. But in Christ – when you give your life to Him, and His Holy Spirit lives in you – you have nothing to fear! You have His blood, you have His name, and you have the anointing – the manifest presence of His Holy Spirit – and that is all you will ever need!

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. – Jas 4:7

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://globalawakeningstore.com/product/prayer-and-deliverance-card-english/

Holy Spirit Help!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Holy Spirit, Help!’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/27/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Asking for Help

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. – Jn 14:15-18

God has asked you to do great things. He has called you to live a live of service to Him. He created you to have an amazing destiny. Last week, we talked about the role you have to play in your own destiny. We must not only be hearers of the word, but doers also (Jas 1:22). This week, I want to not only look at what we are supposed to do; I also want to dive in to how we are supposed to do it.

Did you know that Jesus gave you everything you need to be like Him? In fact, He gave you all the resources you could ever require to do “greater works” than even those He performed:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. – Jn 14:12-14

But how can we possibly perform “greater works” than Jesus? All of us want to be like Jesus; but not many of us know how to do it. Follow His word? Yes. Love other people? Yes. But as we attend church on Sunday and listen to sermons that often typically become modified-self-help talks, we neglect the most critical component of transformative change: leaning on the Holy Spirit.

Lord, I Can’t…

Have you ever prayed that prayer? Lord, I can’t. Have you ever grappled with the reality that God has called you to do something that you simply aren’t capable of doing?

Every single worthwhile endeavor I’ve ever undertaken in my life do started with a struggle in which God was calling me to do something, but I felt incapable and unprepared to do it.

  • I got married at age 24. People told me I was too young. My wife and I met when I was 22, and we got engaged after our 23rd birthdays. I didn’t know squat about being a good husband. But the Holy Spirit helped me. He taught me the importance of listening. He taught me how to discern what my wife really needs in a given moment. He taught me how to sensitively respond with grace, instead of with anger. I wholeheartedly believe that I was not ready to get married before I walked down that aisle. But as my wife and I held hands, read our vows, and said ‘I do,’ the Holy Spirit did a transformative work in us. He made us ready for the relationship God had called us into, even though we felt unprepared.
  • I became a dad at age 27. If I thought I wasn’t ready to be a husband, I was definitely not ready to be a father. Growing up, I had one older brother and no younger siblings; so I never had to help raising a child. In fact, I had never even held a newborn before we had our son, Clive. I had a brief stint in babysitting when I was in middle school, but it ended terribly (one customer fell off a couch and bumped his head; another jumped into a pricker bush during a game of soccer and had to get stitches). I was not ready; but the Holy Spirit did a transformative work in me before we had our first son, and fatherhood is now one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced!
  • I was 27 when we launched Sunday morning services in Manhattan. I didn’t mind public speaking; but I was not ready to become a pastor. I remember walking and praying one day on my way home from work, thinking to myself, “God, you’ve got the wrong guy!” And do you know how He responded? It was precisely the sensation that I didn’t feel ready that would prepare me to be ready at the right time! The Holy Spirit did a transformative work in me before we had our first service, and we now have a thriving community at CityLight Manhattan with multiple services every week!

Of course you don’t feel qualified to do what God has called you to do on your own! That is why you need His Holy Spirit to help. If you felt qualified, it would mean you weren’t dreaming big enough! It is precisely that recognition that you are unqualified that will make you qualified. When you don’t feel good enough, lean in to God and ask the Holy Spirit for help!

Here is what will happen when – in every moment you feel unqualified – you ask the Holy Spirit for help:

 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever… – Jn 14:16, Amplified

Jesus will pray to the Father, and He will give you a Helper – the Holy Spirit – to help, wherever and however help is required! No matter where you go, He is with you forever. No matter what you need, He supplies!

You Need the Holy Spirit

You need the Holy Spirit. You can’t do life alone. You simply cannot live up to the calling God has on your life without help from the Spirit of the Living God. And I can prove it to you.

Jesus needed the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One. Jesus is God; but He chose to walk the earth as a Man. For the first thirty years of His life, Jesus performed zero miracles: zilch, nada! But then He got baptized. At His baptism, He had an encounter with the Holy Spirit; and from that moment forward, everything changed.

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Mk 1:9-11

From that moment on, Jesus performed miracles everywhere He went. Even in Nazareth, His hometown, where He was rejected because people did not believe in Him, “…He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mk 6:5). So what happened?

Prior to an encounter with the Holy Spirit, Jesus performed zero miracles; but after an encounter with the Holy Spirit at His baptism, we have over forty miracles recorded in the Gospels. In addition, Scripture says there were many more that were not recorded:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book…. – Jn 20:30

When Jesus had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, everything changed. And if He needed the Holy Spirit to do what God called Him to do, how much more do you!

What the Holy Spirit Does

The Holy Spirit is available. He is ready and willing to help you walk out God’s calling, every single day of your life. So why would you ever try and do anything without Him?

This is by no means an exhaustive list; but here are a few ways the Holy Spirit is willing to help you every single day:

1) He strengthens you when you are weak.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man… – Eph 3:14-16

As we bow our knees to God, we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit.” As we rely on God instead of ourselves, He will give us the strength we need to do what He has called us to do! If you try to be obedient to God without the Holy Spirit, you will burn out and fail; but with the Holy Spirit working through you, you cannot help but succeed!

2) He comforts you

Remember what Jesus told His disciples He would do after the Resurrection:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever… – Jn 14:16

“Helper” is the Greek word parakletos,[1] which can be translated “Comforter.” Whenever you are going through a tough time, the Holy Spirit is available at a moment’s notice to comfort you in the midst of your pain. God already knows what you are going through! So why not allow His Holy Spirit to comfort you, as only He can?

3) He teaches you the word

I’m all for Bible school. I am currently studying in seminary. But did you know the Holy Spirit is a better Teacher than any professor?

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. – 1 Jn 2:26-27

You need a good pastor to care for you and “watch out for your soul” (Heb 13:17). It’s good to come to service on Sunday and hear an amazing message! But the most transformative teaching that can ever happen in your life will take place as you read God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit “teaches you concerning all things.”

            4) He guides you as you navigate life!

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just teach you Scripture; He teaches you “all things:”

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. – Jn 14:26

Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t know what to do? In those moments, the Holy Spirit will teach you what to do. He will speak to you about God’s best for you, in the midst of life’s crazy moments. He will bring to remembrance the word of God and help you apply it to your life, so you can step out and honor God with your choices and actions!

The Holy Spirit gives you wisdom when you need it most! He guides you when you need direction!

Don’t Do Life Alone

What major decisions do you have in front of you? What major battles are you facing right now? When you step out your front door and into real life, what is the one thing you are most afraid of confronting?

Ask for help. The moment you do, God’s Holy Spirit will rush into your life and change everything. All He needs is an invitation. Are you ready to give Him one?

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Strong’s G3875

Genuine Faith

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Genuine Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/6/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Genuine Faith

What does it mean to have genuine faith? How can we know if our faith is genuine?

Scripture introduces the term “genuineness of faith” in 1 Peter 1:3-9:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9, bold added

In order for faith to be genuine, it has to be tested. Just because your life is not perfect, does not mean that God isn’t good!

Peter encourages us that God has given us a “living hope” through the Cross (v 3). No matter what happens during out life on earth, we have an “incorruptible” inheritance in Heaven (v 4): one that cannot be stolen, and cannot be lost. We should not be discouraged, then, if our life on earth is not perfect! We are not living for a reward here on earth, but rather for an eternal future in Heaven.

Common Misperception

What happens when you give your life to Jesus? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean your life will be perfect? When you become a disciple of Jesus, does it mean that your life will be easy?

Sometimes in the church, we paint a picture that once we give our lives to Jesus, all our problems will disappear. That creates a stumbling block that can be difficult for some Christians to get over. When something difficult happens, we lose hope. We wonder if God is really who He says He is. We wonder if He is for us. We wonder if He even exists at all!

Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean your problems will go away; it simply means they will fade away because God’s presence will be so big! God will give you a hope in Heaven that overwhelms your problems here on earth.

Did I Do That?

Just because you are going through something difficult, does not mean you did something wrong. We see this clearly in the Book of Job.

At first, Job had it all:

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. – Job 1:1-3

Job was upright! He was blameless. He feared God, and shunned evil! He had happy, healthy kids. He was rich! In fact, he was the “greatest” (i.e. wealthiest) of all the people of the East.

But then calamity came. Job lost his children. He lost everything he owned. Then he was afflicted with painful boils all over his body: an outbreak that could easily become a terminal illness. But did Job’s affliction come because he had done something wrong?

Soon, Job’s friends arrived to help him sort things out:

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. – Job 2:11-13

At first, Job’s friends sat quietly and mourned with Job. But they couldn’t keep quiet for long. In Job 3, they started to speak up. One by one, they told Job how they really felt. You must be here, they argued, because you deserve to be here. You lost it all because you messed up! You did something wrong!

This is retribution theology. Retribution theology says that if you’re doing well, it means God is happy with you! But as soon as something goes wrong, it means God is angry with you. But retribution theology is not the Gospel. Retribution theology is Old Covenant, not New Covenant!

Job’s friends were just plain wrong. They had no idea what they were talking about. God would make that clear to them in the end:

And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” – Job 42:7

Just because something goes wrong in your life, doesn’t mean God is mad at you! Just because life is not perfect, doesn’t mean you did something wrong!

Do you know why Job suffered? It wasn’t because he did something wrong. It was because Satan attacked his life (see Job 1:11). We have an adversary – Satan – who is trying to shake our faith. The only question is: will you let him? Will you let Satan rob you of your relationship with God when something doesn’t go according to plan? Or will you cling to the Cross, and proclaim that God will work it all out for good in the end?

Life Is Not Perfect

Chris Quilala is a worship leader with a band called Jesus Culture.[1] He grew up in Bethel Church in Redding, California. He has spent his entire life worshipping God. But did you know his life has not been perfect?

Chris and his wife, Alyssa, lost their son in December, 2014. Out of nowhere – with no warning – their son stopped breathing in the final stages of pregnancy. Alyssa delivered the baby’s body, but their boy was already in Heaven with Jesus.

This was a Job moment if I’ve ever seen one. Here was a man who was righteous. He lived his life for God, and it showed! But then, out of nowhere, calamity came. Did that mean he had done something wrong? Did that mean God was mad at him?

Jesus Culture released their next album in January, 2016: a little over a year after the tragedy. Here is what Chris said on one of the tracks:

“My wife and I lost our son, as you know, back in December. While we were believing for a miracle, things didn’t quite turn out how we expected. But for us, the journey ahead of us was: can we still proclaim the truth? That God is our healer, that God is the God who raises the dead, that God is good.

“And so as we continued on from losing our son, it was really important for us to keep the truth of who God is in front of us. So we started writing song: songs about God’s miracle power. For us it was really important to proclaim that: even though we didn’t quite see what we had expected, and what we were praying for; but we still know it’s true.”[2]

What an amazing response to calamity. This is genuine faith! If anyone had an excuse to question God’s goodness, it was Chris and his wife! Yet in the midst of tragedy, they didn’t back away from God; they pressed in all the more. Will you worship God as the God of miracles, even if you haven’t seen your miracle yet?

Thorn in the Flesh

The Apostle Paul was a man of great faith; yet even he had problems:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 12:7-10

Paul had a thorn in the flesh. He was going through something, and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away! We don’t know what this “thorn” was; but we do know it was a tool Satan was trying to use to “buffet” Paul: to make him less effective and knock him off course.

He pleaded with God three times to take his suffering away; but for whatever reason, the problem persisted. But Paul didn’t let it phase him. He didn’t back away from his relationship with God. He pressed in all the more! He relied on the grace of God like never before; and God showed up in his life like never before!

Paul was going through something painful; and for whatever reason, God wouldn’t take it away. But Paul made a decision: I’m going to praise God anyway.

What is Genuine Faith?

Genuine faith doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. Faith in Jesus doesn’t mean all your problems will disappear! It simply means you make a decision to worship in the face of those problems. It means you abandon the perception that God is serving you, and embrace the invitation to serve Him!

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Pet 1:6-9

Will you make the decision to worship God, no matter what?

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://jesusculture.com/

[2] Let It Echo, Track #6, Jesus Culture, released 2016

How Miracles Happen

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How Miracles Happen’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/22/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Have You Ever?

Have you ever seen a miracle? Have you ever seen a body healed by the blood of Jesus? Have you ever seen an afflicted person delivered in the name of Jesus?

I have. I have seen a five-week-old girl with a life-threatening liver disease healed. I have seen bone spurs shrink bank into feet as I have prayed. I have seen crooked spines straightened from scoliosis. I have seen a woman come into our church for prayer leaning on a cane, and then walk out of the church with the cane in her hand.

Have you ever seen a miracle? Jesus saw miracles everywhere He went; and I believe as His disciples, we should see miracles everywhere we go too!

Unusual Miracles

The Book of Acts tells us about “unusual miracles:”

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. – Acts 9:11-12

Sometimes miracles happen the way we expect them to. Several years ago, we had a woman in our church who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. As she sought the Lord in prayer, she felt His perfect peace to go through with treatment. She underwent radiation, and took communion every day as the doctors walked her through a healing process. Today she is completely healed: not only free of cancer, but also running marathons and competing in Ironman competitions.

But other times, miracles happen in unusual ways. We once had a woman at our church who was attending a party with our worship team. Everyone went up on the roof to catch a view of the city; but somehow her finger got closed in the giant steel fire door that opened up on the roof from the stairs. The entire tip of her left ring-finger was severed. She went to the ER, with the fingertip on ice. Doctors told her they couldn’t re-attach the fingertip; instead, they wanted to tuck her finger into a small incision in the palm of her hand to encourage her body to re-grow what had been cut off. But she felt perfect peace from God to deny the surgery, and to trust Him to restore what had been lost. God completely restored her finger. Today, looking at her finger, you cannot tell anything had ever happened!

Are you waiting on a miracle? Everyone’s miracle happens differently. Some happen the way we expect them to, through treatment and visits to the doctor. But other times, God works “unusual miracles” in our lives. When He calls you to do something unusual – or irrational – to get your hands on the miracle you’ve been waiting for, will you be ready?

Naaman the Syrian

Naaman knew what it was like to follow God’s instructions – no matter how strange they seemed – to get his miracle!

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”- 2 Kings 5:1-4

Naaman had it all! He was the commander of the Syrian army: a great and victorious one at that! But he had one problem: he was a leper. If he didn’t get his miracle – quickly – his body would deteriorate, and he would die. But he had hope: a Hebrew slave knew a prophet in Samaria who healed by the hand of God.

Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, ‘Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.’ And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.”

So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” – 2 Kings 5:5-8

The king had never seen a miracle before; but Elisha had faith that God could do anything.

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” – 2 Kings 5:9-10

These were simple instructions! But Naaman wasn’t ready for an unusual miracle! He thought his miracle would come the way he expected it to. He thought it would come with a dramatic demonstration from heaven. But God was asking Naaman to trust Him.

But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. – 2 Kings 5:11-12

Lucky for Naaman, his servants talked some sense into him before it was too late.

And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. – 2 Kings 5:13-14

There was nothing special about the water in the Jordan. Plenty of other people had gone swimming and never been healed! But God sometimes uses unexpected methods to heal. He doesn’t need us to understand how it’s all going to work; He simply wants us to trust Him that it’s going to work!

Naaman made a simple decision to trust God, no matter how his healing came. He didn’t just dip in a river; he was baptized in the Jordan. Because he trusted God, even thought the methods seemed ridiculous, he was completely healed! Are you willing to trust God for your miracle, no matter how unusual it seems?

King Hezekiah

Hezekiah was a great and mighty king; but sickness came for him at the end of his life, and he had nowhere to turn except to God:

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”

Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. – 2 Kings 20:1-3

Hezekiah got some bad news! But instead of getting a second opinion or trying to find a cure, he cried out to God. Lo and behold, God answered.

And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’”

Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. – 2 Kings 20:4-7

A lump of figs?! Did these figs have some medicinal property that nobody knew about? Of course not. But God works unusual miracles. Sometimes He will ask you to do seemingly simple, or even silly things, to get your miracle. But when you listen to Him, it works.

God didn’t need Hezekiah to understand how a lump of figs was going to heal him. He simply asked Hezekiah to trust Him. And as he did, “…he recovered” (v 7). Are you willing to trust God for your miracle, no matter how unusual it seems?

Woman with the Issue of Blood

Luke was a Gospel writer; and he was also a physician. He tells the story of a woman with uncontrollable bleeding who was healed by radical faith:

But as [Jesus] went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on phgbysicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. – Lk 8:43-44

All this woman needed was a touch from Heaven! But it took her twelve years to figure out that she didn’t need to try a new treatment, or the latest potential cure; she just needed Jesus. As she reached out to touch Him, everything changed.

And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” – Lk 8:45-48

Now we love to read this woman’s testimony and think she got her miracle right away. We take her experience and make it a template for our own healing, and wonder why we aren’t healed immediately when we come to Jesus, just like she was. But we can’t forget that this woman had just gone through a twelve year process! She had looked under every stone, and dug up every root; and it wasn’t until she found herself in a place of complete reliance on Jesus that she got her miracle.

God is not a God of formula; He is a God of faith. Your miracle might happen immediately; or, it might take twelve years. This is the tension we have to embrace as we wait for God to come through on our behalf. Yes, He heals immediately; but yes, He also might ask us to go through a process to develop the faith we need for a miracle to take place!

Trust God

God is a God of miracles! So, what miracle are you waiting on? I can’t tell you how He’s going to do it; but I do know He can do it. Don’t try to predict what your miracle will look like. Simply make a decision to trust God, and do what He says.

No matter how long it takes for your miracle to come: never give up!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.