I have a confession to make. It is something I have never shared with anyone in my twenty-five plus years of ministry. I frequently use real deal illustrations from my life, but this is the most shocking by far. Okay, here goes. When I was younger, I had a drug problem….my parents drug me to church every Sunday. I am grateful for their insistence, because I went to God’s house, and became planted in the house. From remaining in His house, I have learned (although not perfectly) how to run my house. I like the word “house”. It appears over eight hundred times in the Bible! In the Old Testament, God said, “I am in the house”. In the New Testament, God no longer resided in the house, because one day Jesus looked at us and said, “Hey, you are the house”. Think about it—we are permanent housing for the Holy Spirit and Jesus Himself. A transaction occurs the moment we give Jesus our junk and our funk, trading our guilt for His grace, and our failures for faith. He moves into our lives, resides in us, and makes our heart His home. Therefore, your house and mine should be a microcosm of God’s house, because what happens in His house should reflect what happens in ours. What is a house? It is a holy objective utilized to serve everyone.
You may be thinking, “Great Ed, I get it. All power comes from God, but why do I still feel so powerless? God, where is Your power in this situation?” Faith is the missing link that keeps God’s omnipotence from pouring into our lives. My wife Lisa often says, “You gotta faith it ‘til you make it!” What is faith? Faith is acting like it, even though it isn’t so, in order that it can be so. In essence, the power of God is transformational. When we recognize the need for faith and understand the definition of faith, our faith grows. Then we must realize how it works in our lives. We ask ourselves, “How can this help a weak man or a weak woman like me?” For the answer, we turn to Scripture. Ephesians 6:10 states, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”. Hebrews 11:1 explains, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him”. God’s power, though, is often withheld until we are willing and ready to take a step in faith.
He didn’t jump down from the wall and go toe to toe with them. He didn’t mud sling with them. He didn’t say, “Who are they? Well, let me find it, who said that? Really? He did? She did? Well, I’ll find out. I’ll sit down and talk with them and have coffee at Starbuck’s and surely I can change them.”
He didn’t do that. Do you know what he did? He prayed and he stayed above the fray. Because when you have the right they, the needs based people in your life surrounding you, they will give you the props to stay above the fray and to discover the path God has for your life. That’s what Nehemiah did. You have got to step up. I can’t be frozen in fear. This past July, I had a powerful experience occur in my life. I’d been praying for a man, a very cold hearted man. In fact, he was the coldest man I’d ever talked to about spiritual issues. I’d been praying for him for years and years and years to become a Christ follower. I shared Jesus with him on several occasions, but the response I received was unbelievably hard.
How many of you guys were here last weekend? Lift your hand. All right! Man, if you were not here, wow! We kicked off a little series of talks called “The Table.” That’s why this table is up here. We said last time that the table is the church. We said the church is the table where people come to get fed. We discussed the cuisine. We talked about the context and the conversation. We talked about a bunch of fun stuff.
The Church Is The Table Where People Come To Get Fed, And The Table Has Chairs Around It
Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” The ultimate food deserves the ultimate presentation. In any healthy church, in any healthy spiritual ecosystem, you’re going to have three chairs in it. This one, of course, is for me to sit in. But this first chair represents the mature. A third of a healthy church should have mature people in it. I’m talking about people who are serving and inviting and giving of their time, talent, and treasure. The other third would be those whose faith is fresh; those people who just stepped over the line; those people who’ve just made a commitment to Christ. That’s the other third. The final third in this healthy spiritual ecosystem would be those who are seeking; those who are investigating Christianity; those who have not made their minds up yet. A healthy church is going to be full of thirds, because if the mature are doing what they should do, they’re inviting their friends who are facing the Christ-less eternity to the table. [In turn,] they’re getting fed, they’re becoming brand new believers whose faith is fresh and they are moving into the mature chair. Every time we do anything here at Fellowship Church we think about the chairs. Every time I communicate I’m communicating, I’m talking to the chairs.
“The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; The Lord”—not the faith healer—“the Lord will raise him up.” I think it’s very interesting that James uses a plurality of praying and not just one person. Don’t call for a faith healer. What does it say? “Call the elders of the church.” It’s a ministry of the church. “The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
“Well, Ed, I have prayed for people before and they are sick. I feel like my prayers are just kind of floating around out there.”
“Well, I prayed for someone, Ed, and this person died.”
I had someone last night say that they prayed for their father for years and he died. Well, I have prayed for a lot of people to get saved, to come to Christ and many of them are still going to hell. I don’t stop praying for them.
They said, “We’re in trouble financially. We jumped into a house that we have no business living in. We’re way over our head. We saw this car that was this beautiful gold color, and we got into this lease.” And then they said, “Ed, the payment book is as thick as a Bible and we are in trouble.”
They had been married I think like three or four years and they didn’t have any real financial coaching and they were not living by a budget and they were like, “What do we do?” They were the first couple that I ever dealt with in a counseling session that were just right behind the door of debt. It had been padlocked and they were screaming, “Help!” And I mean, if you’re coming to a pastor for that, you’re in some deep stuff!
Well, I talked to them about what the Bible says regarding what I’m going to talk to you about. I talked to them about a plan. And here is the biblical plan. Let me just rush through it.
He helped me untangle the line and give the fish some slack. So I fought this fish for like an hour. So we’re now going to serve popcorn and watch this entire fight. Settle in. No, we’ve edited it. But there was a giant storm coming in. This is the fish of a life time! Many people fish for decades and never even hook a permit. Again, I was fishing with an outstanding guide.
The fish is finally near the boat. There’s the big permit, and I’m thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is the fish of a lifetime! I’ve got the permit!”
And Prescott is going to grab this powerful fish by the tail. He gets away and I’m thinking, “I need you to come back again.” I think, “Okay, I’ve got him!”
Well, I didn’t realize that the line gets caught on Prescott’s shirt and pop goes the line! I still get teary eyed over that. That hurt.
She has not been healed physically. But let me tell you something, she has been healed emotionally and spiritually. Because, when you see this woman, and if you knew this woman prior to her illness, she is a different person.
Look at verse 15, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.”
Some teach that, if you are sick, you are just one prayer away from being healed. That is not true because, if it were true, then every person that I have ever prayed for in my life would suddenly be healed. That is not a fact. God is sovereign.
I don’t understand it all, but sometimes he heals and sometimes he doesn’t. The people that I know around the world who really have the gift of healing, they usually tell me that about 30% of the people they have prayed for are healed. The others are not. I’m talking about physical healing.
“Now, oil, that’s kind of weird, Ed. Is there some kind of super-spiritual cleansing powers in oil?”
No. Oil represents the Holy Spirit of God. It represents choice and blessing throughout Scripture. It also represents the medical community, because oil, back in biblical times, was used as medicine. So what we say is, pray for divine healing, but also get the best medical help possible.
Sometimes, God has just come through and healed. Other times, he has remained strangely silent. I do believe, though, every time we have a healing service, that healing takes place. I’ll say it once again, I do believe, though, every time we have a healing service, that healing takes place. It’s not always a physical healing. Sometimes it is an emotional or spiritual healing, but there is always a healing.
A couple of days ago, Preston and I visited a woman who is literally on her deathbed. About five or six years ago, we had a healing service for her, prayed for her healing, prayed that this horrible disease would leave her body. It has not.
And they said, “Dad, you look the part. You look cool.” I said, “Thanks.” I think EJ gave me a necklace to wear, so I said, “Okay, we are ready to go.” So we jumped in the car and cruised over, and this festival was wild. All the sponsors had these booths everywhere.
There was music going on. We were walking through one of the booths and this girl who worked at the X-Trials, she was probably about nineteen or twenty, walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, aren’t you one of the skateboarders for the X-Trials?” I started laughing and said, “Excuse me?” She goes, “You are one of the pro-skaters, aren’t you?” I said, “No, I am forty years old, these are my children, and the last time I got on a skateboard, I about broke my wrist in half. No, I am not.”
What was going on there? I’ll tell you what was going on.