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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
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Sophia Network, UK
The title of this article has a question mark. Maybe what God has been doing through the ‘Florida outpouring’ is not limited to one place at all. Maybe what God has done is to wake the Church up to a foundational principle of the Christian faith – what it means to relate to him.
Much has been written about what has taken place in Lakeland, Florida, mostly to do with the personality (and behaviour) of Todd Bentley. Given the media culture in which we live, that is to be expected, I suppose. But it is unfair to make this Florida outpouring solely about one person. Our focus should be upon God and not those individuals who God has chosen to enable such events to take place.
As I reflect on the past five or six months of watching, listening, experiencing and wanting all that God is doing, I recognize that my thinking has changed a lot. Also, my relationship with God has changed too. At first, I was skeptical about the Florida Outpouring. I didn’t want to think about it. Then, I began to move on to a more selfish desire – thinking about what I, as a blind person, may be able to get out of it for myself. Finally, I found myself being led into a deeper relationship with God through the events.
Is this really God?
My own scepticism and disregard for the Florida Outpouring can be put down to personality and cultural differences. That, and the way the media were reporting the events. Being British, skepticism comes easily enough! That came twice as easy when I thought about the hype and manipulation that the Florida congregations were subjected to. It took a while for me to understand what was going on. It was probably only when I visited for myself that I was able to begin to see through the culture and hype to what God was actually doing there…
Being blind enabled the process from scepticism to selfishness almost be a natural process. Listening to the descriptions from others of the miracles that were taking place helped me to accept what was happening. Only then was I able to embrace God in the events rather than focussing on the personalities.
What’s in it for me?
Soon enough, the desire for God to heal me started to dominate my thinking. Although I kept telling myself that it would be for God’s own glory if I was healed, there was still more of me in those prayer times than the seeking of God’s will!
When the rate of miracles increased, I began to wonder more and more about, “What if..?”
What I wanted more than anything was the development – the re-creation – of a new eye-socket. It took some time for me to realize that I needed to seek after God, not my own personal gratification. I came to that point just before getting on the plane to Florida. I realized that I had been thinking too much about Todd Bentley – and not enough about God! I would only meet with God if I could put the issue of my own healing to one side…
As soon as I got to Lakeland, I realized that what I had thought of as hype or manipulation was actually excitement about what God was doing. Standing in the lines to go into the venue each evening in Lakeland, the expectancy of God to do something that night was palpable. Never before had I experienced such a number of people so excited – purely for the reason of meeting with God!
It’s just as well I had managed to shift my focus away from personalities and on to God before leaving the UK because, on the first night of my visit, it was announced that Todd Bentley was going to be taking some time on holiday! The response of disappointment from many hundreds – even thousands – of others suggests that they had not yet arrived at the same point as me. There were many complaints and some even withdrew from events, thinking it was not worth going if Bentley was not going to be there.
But regardless of whether Bentley was there or not, it was clear for any visitor to Lakeland to see what was happening. Before any televising of events, a large amount of prayer took place each evening. The focus was obviously on the presence of God – not the miracles or the TV coverage. The worship was further proof of this. Clearly, this was a God-centred event.
My enjoyment of many worship experiences I have had as a Christian seemed to be based on how much – or little – I liked the worship band or worship leader. This was not the case in Lakeland. “Freedom” is an overused word when it comes to worship. But here, stood in a tent, surrounded by thousands whom I didn’t know, I felt freedom; freedom to enter into the presence of God without constriction, or it being controlled in any way shape manner or form. The best way I can describe it is that I had been given a vehicle, told the destination was that relationship with God, but allowed to explore the best way for me personally to get there.
Many people were either partly healed or totally healed of various things during my week in Florida. There were many who were able to do things that previously they certainly hadn’t been able to do.
Was I healed? No! But I certainly believe that the process of my healing has started, and maybe it is a progressive healing rather than an instant miracle.
The tent has now closed, but meetings continue in local churches as well as in a whole variety of places around the world. What is God doing after Lakeland?
My feeling is that God is redressing a situation where the Christian faith had become a concept rather than a lifestyle based on a real, meaningful relationship with God. For me, the worship challenged much of what is spoken about today in church, as it drew people into the presence of God and enabled them to relate to him in whatever way was appropriate for them. The challenge was not to chase after what God has for us – building our ministry or church or gaining personal healing – but rather to chase after God himself. If we get that right, everything else flows from there…
Jesus said in John 14.12 that whoever believed in him would do even greater things than he did. God has chosen to use people. Maybe the people he has chosen would not have been the choice that we ourselves would have made. But we are not God. The challenge is for us to stop looking at personality and spend our energies looking for what God is doing.
Many have been healed. Many thousands have come to faith over these last few months. For that, we should all rejoice, rather than losing ourselves in skepticism or bitterness.
Ultimately, it is all about God. How he decides things are going to happen is not for us to question. All we are meant to do is be obedient, not attempt to be God, but be in relationship with him.
Andy Wilson is a youth worker in the UK. If you want to read his Blog about the Florida Revival and his experience of it, log on to http://www.floridajournal.blogspot.com/