Have you heard about Carol? She used to attend this church, River of Faith. She’s now blaspheming the name of Christ…telling people how fake Christianity is, how much we lie, and how unjust our God must be. She went live on Facebook and Instagram and talked for a long time about how evil the God we teach about is, killing people in the old testament, even killing his own son. Hashtagged it #Exvangelical.
Believers flocked to the comments section, labelling her a devil worshipper, a demon, a lost soul, and so on.No one attempted to explain to her the concept of God’s justice, his many chances, Jesus’ sacrifice…Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself…Carol…She was one of us.
Do you know what happened to Carol? I remember because I was there. I was seated at the back row when she was called to the front by Reverend Zephaniah during one Sunday morning service, he said to her, “Be assured that your husband will come home, and your son will be healed.” He told us to raise our hands towards her and pray for her. Carol knelt down and wept. An usher hurried forward to cover her with an African-printed kanga. The keyboardist played Moses Bliss’s Too Faithful, and the choir softly sang along…people spoke loudly in tongues…After a brief pause, Rev. Zephaniah took the microphone and spoke again.
I’ll tell you what he said that caused Carol to question God. I know because I spoke to Carol. But, dear friend, you may be wondering why I’m telling you all of this right now.
When we met last week after a long period apart, you told me about your financial struggles…How you want God to open doors for you, grant you money, and repay those who have laughed at your lack. You said that Jack, your boyfriend of five years had left you, that you had hoped to be married this year. It broke your heart but it mostly made you afraid of being alone while everyone else’s hand seemed to be held.
As I write this, you should be on your journey to Katoloni for your 7-day fasting and prayer. You said you’d return in seven days and get a call from Riruta Homes, the business you desperately want to work for because God is faithful and keeps his promises. You also said that a certain prophet (Wandera? Was that his name?) assured you you would be getting married this year, that you’ll drive your own car this year, that your struggles are coming to an end…only if you pray and believe.
What if you don’t get a call three weeks after you return from fasting, or if you’re still mailing your CV from company to company a month after? Will you continue to trust in God’s faithfulness if two years from now you’re still unmarried? Will you still see God as good? I know your pastor told you that if you did this specific thing, God would grant you what your heart desires…but have you ever considered what God’s heart desires? What lessons does He hope you will learn from what He is permitting you to go through?
There’s a lady I read about, her name was Mariah. She grew up in an area where the Gospel had never been preached. When Maria was thirteen she heard the story of the cross at a Disciples’ meeting and was converted. Soon after she was converted she heard the voice of God tell her to “go to the highways and hedges and gather the lost sheep”. This was confusing to her as the Disciples did not allow women workers. She thought that perhaps if she married a Christian man they could do mission work together.
After a few years, she married Philo Horace Woodworth. She soon had her first son, who brought them great pleasure, but he died when he was very young. Maria then had another son, Fred, who perished, and she herself was on the verge of death due to illness. Georganna, her third child, was seven years old when she became sick. Maria most likely thought to herself, “God, you surely must heal this one.” Georgie suffered for months before succumbing to her injuries. Maria was left with excruciating heartache.
Three weeks before Georgie died a little girl named Nellie Gertrude (Gertie) was born. However, she only lived for four months before passing away as well. Maria herself suffered from poor health and frequently feared she would die. The Etters were left with only one boy and one daughter. Willie, their seven-year-old son, fell ill and died. Within a few years, five of the six Etter children had perished, leaving them bereft and brokenhearted. The oldest daughter, Elizabeth Cornelia (Lizzie), was the only child left to them.
Maria Woodworth Etter is widely regarded as the “Grandmother of Evangelism” due to the significant work she accomplished from the late 1800s until her passing in 1924. After her children died, she ventured out preaching the good news to her small town, and later to large crowds. People came to know who Christ was, and most were healed…through a completely broken woman who believed, even after something that would make most of us think God had failed, that God was good irregardless.
That Sunday when the pastor called Carol forward, he said to her, “God will do that which you ask…God will not let you go through more pain or struggle, your family will be restored and all will be well…” and the church said Amen.
I wish he would have prayed peace over her, the peace that has you praising in the storm, the kind of peace that would have given her an irregardless kind of faith. I wish he would have helped her believe that even then, as she bowed down weeping, that God was still good. That the holiness of God meant he couldn’t sin and therefore couldn’t sin against her.
Carol believes God has failed her because sometimes our notion of God failing is Him following His own plan rather than the one we had in mind.
We don’t always believe that the prosperity gospel, in addition to making people purely focus on wealth, also entails telling people that they are assured of healing, or sudden prosperity, or a child being born. The most important message, I believe, is the message of the presentness of God. Because in as much as we are not assured that all will always be well (troubles and persecutions will come), we are assured that Emmanuel will always be God together with us. And we should cling to the unwavering love of Christ come what may.
Carol’s husband did not return home; he is now married to Janet, a girl Carol raised in her house. Her boy is still in the hospital, and the bills are piling up with each new day. We can talk all day about her heart, how we think it wasn’t really for God in the first place. We can say that genuine faith means Carol should have believed even when she couldn’t believe. Carol, on the other hand, is only human; she was assured that God would make things right by bringing her husband home and healing her son. And yet, God would have made things alright irregardless of where the husband was or what her son was going through. In His own way, at His own time.
I pray you don’t change your mind about God if what you’re desperately hoping for does not come to pass. That you’ll see through all the things the enemy does not want you to see past (your pain, disappointment, lack…), and realise that God is there, He is good and He is working things out for you. In His own way, at His own time.
Do not be afraid of the wind, for the more the wind rages the more you feel that the anchor holds you. You have heard it said that, when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, and then you will get some up. So, Christian, when thou art dry, go to thy God, ask him to pour some joy down thee, and then thou wilt get more joy up from thine own heart. (C.H Spurgeon)
Your victory will come with your song. It is a very puzzling thing to the devil to hear saints sing when he sets his foot on them. He cannot make it out: the more he oppresses them, the more they rejoice. Let us resolve to be all the merrier when the enemy dreams that we are utterly routed. (C.H Spurgeon)
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Paul of Tarsus).
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habbakkuk).
I pray you an irregardless kind of faith.