Along the path of discipleship, so full of challenges that require guidance, there will, God willing, be moments of breakthrough. Given that the Spirit is alive and at work in the dialogue of seeker and leader, there will inevitably be moments of inexplicable growth and healing. In these moments, the Christian seeking help can discover one of two things. On one hand, the Christian seeking guidance can discover and foster a stronger faith in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, these moments of power can be claimed by or misattributed to leadership.
Living the life required of us as Christians is impossible without the aid of God’s holy omnipotence. The more we take Jesus and his teaching at face value, the more we realize that upon a foundation of our own strength we are defeated before we have even begun. With this humbling realization, when we actually do experience these moments of power and healing, it’s obvious that God enabled the experience. There are many moments in the life of a Christian where outcomes can be chocked up to mere coincidence. However, there are also moments with no rational explanation for why something happened the way it did or why something problematic has now been completely solved. These moments open the door to questions, and the responses can either find us safe from the pull of the tide or can leave us even vulnerable to powers beyond our strength, feeling even more insecure.
When we get sick, and realize that it cannot be remedied by rest, water or Tylenol, we make our way to the doctor’s office in the search of a cure. Hopefully, for most of us, this yields positive results and we receive the appropriate diagnosis, advice and treatment to fix the problem. Humbly we read the directions, follow the doctor’s orders and await the miracle. What usually follows is exactly that, a miracle.
On my own I will never understand the science behind medicine and how it works. Grasping the sciences has long left my scope of ability, and I admire the people that fully understand things of that nature. What I do understand is that when I begin to take the prescribed medication, I am usually healed of my sickness within the period predicted by the doctor. This, to me, is like magic. But I also understand that, although my doctor understood how to fix the problem, the true source of recovery was within the medication. The power of my healing was in the medicine and not the doctor. The experience of spiritual healing is not unlike a visit to the doctor’s office. In moments where we experience a radical change or breakthrough in our spiritual health, where something incredible happens, we seek an explanation for it.
In a Bible study some years ago I was having a discussion with an attendee, a self-professed non-Christian. However, as much as she doubted the Bible and the claims that it makes, she found that, over the weeks, several inexplicable things began to happen. One particular miracle was that the Bible was not what she at one time perceived it to be. It was not what she expected. Expecting to be bored and unaffected, she was excited and deeply affected. Listening to her describe these feelings in her limited English, I am sure that there were a few things lost in translation. However, the clear point was that she was trying her hardest to define these experiences using any possible explanation besides the Bible. She wanted answers because she knew something had happened but had no logical framework to explain it. The more she tried to rationalize, the more it became evident to her that the answer was right in front of us, laid out within the pages of the Bible.
There are many instances in the Gospel accounts where things happen and people seek explanations, like my friend at the Bible study. We are logical beings with minds designed to be used logically. When faced with something beyond our rational understanding it is difficult for us to let go without finding something to put our mind at ease. It is difficult for many to attribute an amazing breakthrough to the power of God, but as one discovers more about his character, this conclusion becomes more logical than irrational. A sign that a person is coming into the presence of God is that perception of a power outside of their control. Likewise, the sign that a person is in the presence of a trustworthy leader or steward of God’s word is that, at all times, the true source of the power that brings supernatural change is given all honour, glory and praise.
When a person, whether believer or non-believer, encounters God’s presence, and when it’s clear that something rather abnormal and supernatural is occurring, the danger is that some people see this as a moment for opportunistic ambition rather than a moment of praise. When we seek God with the mindset of “opportunity” we are no longer seeking God for who he is. Rather, we are seeking God for what he can do for us and who we can become. This warped view of God produces false teachers and dangerous leaders.
One of the most notable examples of this is in the story of Simon “the Sorcerer” in Acts 8:9-24. For all we know, Simon was a magician who had developed a substantial following by his magic and sorcery. When he witnessed the healing power of Jesus Christ displayed by the apostles John and Peter, Simon saw an opportunity to become even greater in his own right, if only he could attain this powerful new “skill” he saw used by the apostles. Simon was not seeking Jesus Christ the savior and King, so much as he was seeking Jesus Christ “the mantra” or “magic word” that could bring about greater fame and fortune for himself.
In the passage of 2 Peter Chapter 2, referenced when we introduced this series, we are made aware of qualities that usually accompany the “false prophet” or “false teacher.” Included in these characteristics are greed and pride. Peter alerts us to the fact that a false teacher or a leader will always seek his own glory and put his interests before God. At the center of Simon’s desire for Jesus was prideful ambition and not humble submission. There was only room for one superstar in his heart and he proudly occupied that seat. He desired a power that could enhance his own and he desired the praise that would accompany it. To Simon, Jesus Christ was a tool to improve his life, and to use him so seemed entirely logical to a man seeking worldly praise. But as Peter shows, to take such an approach to Jesus Christ is not only false but dangerous.
As a Christian trying to navigate through a landscape comprised of conflicting voices and opinions it is important to stay true to the source of our path. Jesus is the only person that claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life.” He is the only one that ever claimed the healing power experienced by those around him. His name is the only one that possesses something supernatural. Finding healing and inexplicable experiences is something that a person born of the Spirit of God will inevitably experience. The important moment that will define our journey from there on is this: whether or not we recognize that the source of the breakthrough was not the doctor administering advice, but the medication being consumed.
True healing can only be credited to the medicine that was willfully introduced to an ailing body. Jesus declared that he came to heal the sick, and if we are not in awe of him alone as we heal, we have chosen not to be a Christian but something or someone else entirely.