One of the most disturbing phenomena in the Church in the last few decades is this unending craze for the miraculous.
It is so disturbing that both the pulpit and the pew are either promising someone a miracle or looking for a miracle. It is believed that the demonstration of the miraculous is a sign that God is in the midst of his people.
Indeed, the Bible rightly captures it that some will not believe if they do not see signs and wonders. The same Bible tells us that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. But only one sign will be given to it, and that is the sign of Prophet Jonah (talking about Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days. It is interpreted to mean Jesus’ death and resurrection.)
Not peculiar to this generation
So, this craze for miracles has to be situated in a context. But then, it is not peculiar to this generation. In Jesus’ days, thousands were thronging after him just to experience the miraculous. It became more exciting when the vast crowd saw Jesus perform the miracle of the multiplication of bread.
They started looking for him everywhere. But the irony is that of the thousands that were thronging after him, only a few settled for the truth at the end of the day.
Just like it happened in the time of Jesus, many are looking for some miraculous interventions in their lives. They don’t want to follow process. They have been sold the dummy that they serve a God who exists to do their bidding.
He is their God. But He must serve them. They command God rather than pray to him. They tell God for instance that he has to do certain things for them, give them all their desires even when they don’t delight in the Lord, kill their enemies and grant them every bit of their strange imagination.
Our prayer meetings and daily church activities are all about ourselves. We promote self, pray self, and glorify self in the name of God. As a matter of fact, we give the impression we serve a God who invariably is the one serving us.
The Christianity we brandish
The Christianity we brandish and try to sell to people is that which is about changing people’s circumstances and not changing people’s lives. That is why our billboards and flyers scream: Come and receive your miracle.
The invitation to our meetings is about coming to meet a God that will give people food, give them children, and give them jobs. That is not different from a herbalist who promises riches to his clients.
It is always next level. Sometimes you ask, next level of what? The average Christian believes acquiring and increasing material prosperity is a sign of being loved by God.
We want the next level of material prosperity but nobody thinks of the next level of fellowship with God.
The one who prays for more material prosperity has zero prayer and study life. He is not sad that he could not wait on the Lord for one hour. But he is sad he got a query in his place of work.
The Pew and pulpit in mutual deceit
Both the pew and the pulpit are indeed guilty of this unfortunate trend. The pastor knows he has to do some razzmatazz to get attention and to get traction.
The pew on the other hand is looking for one quick fix. Some are so audacious that they ask God to go and draw money from the pocket of others and deliver it to their own purse. They know what is right. But they would rather want God to defy process on their behalf
They pray endlessly for a miracle that only ends up delivering more money to pockets of miracle merchants.
The irony about this phenomenon is that both the congregation and the pastor are always in a game of mutual deceit.
A hypothetical case in point
If not, a congregation will not pander to a pastor who talks about a 24-hour miracle on the condition of a seed of N24,000.
The pastor comes to the pulpit and tells the congregation that those who want to see God’s goodness in the year must give X amount of money as a seed to provoke God. (wondering what that implies)
He is careful to tie that seed to a strategic number. He calls for a seed of N24000 with 2k representing every month of the year. And he goes on to say 12 represents double grace plus extra and that his listeners have to give 24k to tap into the grace of double grace. Whatever that meant.
The gullible listener is carried away by the frenzy of the moment. He keys into the declaration and subscribes to the miracle product. This performance is repeated yearly.
Out of the multitude that comes to church one or two will experience some unusual lifting. Pray, is it not simple logic that in a congregation of 20000 people, some will sure get some lifting even if they are rubbing shoulders with the devil?
Such people become the brand ambassadors of the church. They come to share testimonies. The testimony then becomes the anthem of the church. It becomes a reference point to attract other miracle seekers.
Unfortunately the gullible church person does not see it that way. He believes the God of his pastor has done it again. Yes, it is God who did it. He is God who intervenes in the affairs of men.
God already provided all we need
But the truth is that the God they claim to serve in ignorance does not squeeze money from his children before he blesses them. As a matter of fact, Adam was created, and put in a made world.
He did not have to think of what to eat, drink and wear. All had already been created. When he fell out with God, the love of God still sought him out and provided a covering for his nakedness.
He is the father of all. His rain falls on both the just and unjust. He is not, and would not wait for our peanuts before he blesses us. A thousand people who have not stepped into the corridors of the church; who have in fact disparaged him still get his favour.
As a matter of fact, the God we serve is the one who died for the whole world in the state of the world’s sinfulness.
The Bible notes that he who freely gave us his son, how will he not freely give us all good things? The implication is that if we give some money or do good one way or the other, we are not doing it to curry his favour.
We are doing it because of our love for him. We are doing it because it is our nature to be a giver. Our gifts in the place of worship are in no way to buy his favour.
The balance about giving
But then the balance is that there are instances where God gives us instructions to do certain things. Such instructions are what we get in the place of personal devotion and our walk with God.
If the pastor peradventure has cause to give such instruction, it will resonate with our spirit. And such actions are not ritualistic. They are not what has become some sort of tradition in some churches. They sometimes come when we least expect.
We have to settle the fact that God does not in any way encourage any form of manipulation. Let him give not grudgingly or of necessity says Apostle Paul.
When Jesus says give and it shall be given to you, it has nothing to do with God. In the first place, we can’t give God anything apart from our worship.
That statement has to do with human transactions. That is why he says, men shall give to your bosom. It is a natural law that has nothing to do with God dispensing his blessings.
He literally needs nothing because he created all that we have. In the real sense, we don’t give to God, we actually give to ourselves.
But then, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25: 31-41 that when we give to the poor, we have given to him. God is represented in humanity.
We need also to understand there is absolutely nothing wrong when the church genuinely calls for support. The problem is this attempt to spiritualise our call for support.
No reasonable person would ever think church events come at no cost especially when such event takes place in a covered space. The church obviously needs money to run. But when we feast on the ignorance of people in the name of calling for support there is cause to worry.
What manner of miracle
It becomes more disturbing when we use the miracle bait to collect money from people. The question however is: What manner of miracle does a believer need? By definition, miracle is divine intervention in the affairs of man.
We need to understand that God performs a series of miracles that we hardly talk about. The breakthrough in science and medicine are all miraculous interventions from above. Even your sleeping and waking up every day is a miracle.
God gave people the wisdom to do drugs and provide technology that makes life easy. We don’t need a miracle that will part a sea except in some strange instances. The wisdom to build bridges has solved that problem. Philip does not need to disappear again from one point to another to preach the gospel. The airplane has solved that problem.
When Timothy was sick, Paul did not have to pray for him. He simply told him to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. He knew there is a solution and would rather not waste his time praying for what God had already made provision for.
And that does not mean we can’t pray when we are sick. Ultimately it is God who still heals the sick whether through drugs or prayers. It is amazing that when we are hungry, we don’t pray that God will miraculously fill our stomachs. We just go look for food.
There are a thousand and one things that we don’t need to call God’s attention to because he has already made them available. But even at that, there are instances when God has to demonstrate his power.
There are a number of such interventions in the Bible. Jesus performed many miracles as he was led to do. But some people did not experience miracles during Jesus’ earthly ministry because of their unbelief.
There were quite a number he did not even bother to pray for. Yet, there were instances where all those who came his way experienced the miraculous.
The point is, miraculous interventions are largely the prerogative of God. The lame walk, the blind seeing, the dead coming back to life.
Miracle of a changed life
But those miracles are far too cosmetic than the miracle of a changed life that treats every mundane thing with a pinch of salt.
It is such a miracle that made a woman like Fanny Crosby to glorify and serve God in her blind and deformed condition. It is that miracle that makes Pastor Nick Vujicic become a megaphone for God’s kingdom despite being born without arms and limbs. Such miracle is what made Timothy Obadare serve God tenaciously in his blind condition.
The miracle we need is what will blind our eyes to material things and make us serve God regardless of our condition. That miracle gives us boldness and confidence in our poor state and makes us smile when things are not rosy. It gives us hope. It is not moved by circumstances.
We need to stop placing undue emphasis on people coming to get something from God. But rather our message should focus on people being transformed from within. It is that transformation that will make them love God without condition.
We have gone far too deep in inanities. It is time to wake up to the reality of what is already settled in the Scriptures.
By Gbenga Osinaike
Well-thought-out and thought-provoking. If only the Church of God would listen to this Lonely Voice Crying in our Bewilderment and do something with what it is saying, there will emerge out of this ashes of defeat a victorious Army.
Believe it or not, this is about the most liberating and edifying message I have read or listen to from the mouth of a an African minister in this new year. How I wish I can afford to print out ten million copies, hire an helicopter and distribute them across the length and breath of Nigeria.
Incidentally lone voices like this are not appreciated in Nigeria because of decades of negative orientation and brain-washing of those who had been making waves before Bro. Gbenga. Incidentally, as said by the acclaimed 20th Century prophet, A.W. Tozer, the voices of the parrots behind the pulpits had drowned those of the turtledoves.
The thrust of the message reminds of a program I attended in Gboko about six years ago. The theme had a sub-topic that Signs and Wonders are not the gospel. Incidentally, this morning, I read a passage by a Chinese preacher that the essence of the gospel is not the signs or the wonders but the thrust of Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension; that the siigns are merely to authenticate the messenger.
For crying out loud, in my opinion, it takes religious buffoonery to believe all these strategic hours’ miracles, seed sowing, first- fruits, provoking God, challenging God, making declarations,…. the list is endless. One needs only to put all these deceptions side by side with the messages and practices of the apostles to realize the gaps and the inconcruency.
For instance, the Lord of the entire universe told us that the seed, wherein these commercial preachers collect money, is actually the word of God, not cash [ Luke 8:11]. No one gave or demanded or tied money in any guise to receive God’s favour or blessings, material or spiritual except the likes of Gehazi and Simon the sorcerer.
The first fruits apart from being a practice under Judaism, was never money but farm products in spite of the fact that money was in vogue in that dispensation, in form of Shekels, Gerars, Bekas, etc. One needs not be far from being a good Sunday School student to realize that first fruits signify both new converts and also those who will resurrect, with Christ as our first fruit [I Corinthians 15: 20,23, 16:15]. Even the seemingly harmless offerings we collect religiously was not practised by the first century Church, from the backdrop of the fact that offering under the Mosaic dispensation were animals, so the apostles encouraged the brethren practise cheerful, voluntary and uncoerced givings [ 2 Corinthians 8: 4, 11-13; 9:6,7 ]. Incidentally, many of us preachers seem virtually still Old Covenant prophets. Is it not even presumptuous and dare-devil audacity for any child of God to be dishing out decrees, or the so- called declarations, not based on revelations, rather than pray, beseech and supplicate. Some even go the extra mile to command God based on the unintentional faulty rendering of Isaiah 45: 1b in KJV, the popular “Command ye me” which ought to be “Command ye me?”. What audacity!
Bro. Gbenga, may God grant you greater grace for more of this refreshing message. I recollect that I mentioned to you before that quite often, after reading the Editorial in your ChurchTimes, I usually feel I have had enough nourishment. God bless you, sir.
Thanks so so much sir for your incisive contribution and for the compliments. We pray always for more of His grace and that our eyes of understanding may be enlightened. You have always been an inspiration. We appreciate you, sir.
Thanks, bro. God bless you real good