I have a local friend (let’s call him Hank) who has recently decided to get serious about his faith. On the one hand this is always good news, he had been a believer for many years and lived a life no different from non-believers until just recently. Getting serious about what he believes and attempting to live the life of a believer is a good thing.
On the other hand, however, is the means by which he’s going about this. And not all of it is good. More prayer is something most of us wish we were engaged in. Hank has gone from next-to-zero prayer to six hours each day of prayer. Again, in and of itself the prayer isn’t bad—it’s great. But the prayer has immediately become a source of pride for him. He notched it up to six hours because he knows no one who prays that much. It has become a point of pride, he wants to know if he prays more than me. Yes. Yes he does. Now it’s hard to reach six hours except he prays in tongues for the good majority of it. A hero of his quit his job to pray every day, and prayed so much his jaw hurt. This is essentially the standard for which he’s striving.
Now while the gift of tongues has become a point of pride (as somehow this specific gift tends to do), finding himself in a new church where almost everyone speaks in tongues took away something he thought made him special. He now is seeking out the gift of miraculous healing.
Again, this is nothing to give me pause in and of itself. Seeking gifts from the Lord is not inherently something to be wary of, especially those intended for the building up of the church. Using the gifts of the Lord to commune with him is also a wonderful thing if that’s actually what’s happening. The problem is when prayer is really just self-absorbed meditation—I have reason to suspect in this situation it may be. And then when, in seeking the power of the Holy Spirit, you become like Simon seeking personal gain and power (Acts 8:18), you have something else entirely.
So with Hank, I keep pressing in about the gospel. Reminding him that prayer does not make him righteous, and he is startled to be reminded this, though he already knows it. I keep reminding him all of this is supposed to make him more in love with his savior, not a famous Christian. But I understand what the draw is—the world remembers famous Christians.
He stands and heads to his computer to show me videos of some of the people he wants to be like. He’s searched online and found Benny Hinn. And a few other personalities with things to… um… give you pause.
His current great desire is to throw huge “gospel” meetings and do well-performed faith healing.
I wish he could have seen things like the Toronto Blessing and the Lakeland Revival up close. Such meetings are enough to leave an impression—the little bit of good (and God at work) mixed in amongst the foolishness.
In the Acts passage, Simon is rebuked and immediately seems to notice his folly. I suppose I could rebuke Hank, to tell him to seek the Holy Spirit for who He is, not the power He possesses. But it would be a lot easier to do so if my motivations were always so pure.
Instead the best I can offer is a reminder to Hank as well as myself, that a famous Christian is not what the vast majority of us are called be. Servants, humbly doing His will, and fading out of the limelight is where we probably belong. More glory for Jesus, and less for us. We must decrease so He can increase.